From: Ben Board <;bjmb1~ermes.cam.ac.uk>;
Date: Tue, 7 Nov 1995 12:09:49 +0000 (GMT)
Subject: Popper, via: Being A Harpist, But Not A Bluesman?

Harpers all,

Sorry, it's another inch on the current thread concerning ol' JP... I
write as an English Harpist of a few years who spent a long time playing
fairly mediocre harp (at least in my opinion - people told me that they
thought I was good, but I was mildly unhappy with the harp I was playing)
with little direction. To be perfectly honest, harpist or not, I'm
actually not an enormous fan of many bluesmen. I guess this is probably
due at least in part to under-exposure - I have a few cheesy blues
compilation albums which certainly have some amazing harpists on (notably
Little Walter) playing some amazing harp, but I then go and borrow the
album from my blues-head friend and discover that there are a dozen songs
which (and I cringe before I use the phrase, as I hate it)...All Sound The
Same (TM). I really hope that this doesn't grant me automatic Philistine
status, I like to think that I do have a good degree of musical
appreciation (Computer Scientist or not!). However, I've heard albums by
Carey Bell, SBW, Little Walter et al. and yes, there have been a good few
songs on each, but I do get tired of the straight-ahead blues form after a
while. Now I quickly want to stress the obvious motto: each to their own.
I hope it goes without saying that I respect that a great many people do
appreciate this style. I indeed originally started learning the harmonica
after buying one of these cheesy albums and falling in love with Duke by
LW - I wanted to be able to play like that! (Don't we all....) BUT (he
says, finally getting to the point) I soon grew tired with that form. So,
imagine my suprise and delight when the Spin Doctors release 'Two Princes'
(great song - oops, sorry, gave my teeny bopper personality away there!),
I buy the album, and there's track six, with THE most amazing,
unprecedented, totally original, magnificently skillful (and yes, the
fastest) harp solo ever to grace my ears. Yes, the cameo solo that JP
played on this album Changed My Life. Duke could wait - I wanted to play
that. And here I am, two years and all the later, with a successful band
and vastly improved harmonica playing. Not to mention a great deal more
motivation, a real target and icon to work towards, unlimited more scope
in the style of harp which is now available and the public consider
appropriate (when was the last popular (i.e. Billboard) song with any sort
of decent harmonica which wasn't directly blues-based? I think we may
find people crawling out of the shadows with all-new harp styles, safe in
the presence of a successful precedent).

My thanks indeed go out to JP, who has changed my playing beyond all
recognition, and given me so much more enthusiasm for my instrument. I
do believe, whatever you may think of his playing, that his contribution
to the harmonica has been as important as that of any harmonica legend.

Just my tuppeny's worth.

Ben

- ------------------------------------------------------------------------
Ben Board, bjmb1~ermes.cam.ac.uk
3rd year student, Computer Science Tripos, Cambridge University
Cambridge, England.



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