From: Winslow Yerxa <;>;
Date: 06 Nov 95 14:31:49 EST
Subject: Starting Out, Popper


Keith Carl wonders, of John Popper:

Does he actually know what he's playing?

Yes, he does.

Either he has an extreme leval of proficiency or he's just
screwing around.

I think it's a canny mixture. it's funny, I keep reading that he
repats the same licks. While his overall approach does need some
variety to avoid becoming tiresome (It was I who originated the
one-trick pony comment in a review of Save His Soul), the fact is
that the specifics of what he does are full of variety. It just
sounds similar becuase it goes by so fast. Yet even his approach
to speed as a tool shows considerable variety from tune to tune,
at least on FOUR, which I think contains his most mature
and best-paced harmonica work (check out the build on Brother

One last Popper comment (it's funny; the copious barrage of his
playing seems to inspire a correspondingly copious barrage of
verbiage on the the list). That post of his (from about 2 yrs
ago) seems to offend some harmonica players. But those offended
by it often quote him as saying the **opposite** of what he
actually says. He says he's not into gunslinging, and yet he is
characterized as being a gunslinger - his main stated reason,
however ill-informed, for no attending harmonica conventions.

And to create some context: the whole reason for this post in the
first place was that someone online had posted a false story
about a three-way headcutting contest between him, Howard Levy
and Bruce Willis. This was John's reply, to deny that report
(hence the somewhat indignant tone behind the peace-love
language) and to affirm his opposition to gunslinging.

His linking of headcutting to the uniquely "warped and defensive"
attitude of harmonica players is another of his pet ideas that is
somewhat misconceived - the link, that is. There's plenty of
harmonica martyr attitude out there, though it's not nearly as
widespread as John believes. I get the impression that he had some
very negative experiences with harmonica players at an
impressionable age when the teenage testosterone and rebellion
anxieties were running high (you know the experience - you're
trying to establish your own competence and identity, and every
bit of "should" or "shouldn't" advice comes across as some sort
of attempt at predatory identity molestation) and just hasn't
re-examined them fully. Give it time.


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I began collecting data about the microphones used by blue harp players before there was an internet. I began organizing it into in the late 1990s. I accumulated more stuff than I remember. This is some of it.

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A collection of songs and riffs that I’ve worked out over the years, plus some libraries of stuff I’ve converted to tablature. I’ve included most of the notes and instructions that helped me when I was learning to play blues harmonica.

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