HARPIN’ IN CLARKDALE Blues Harmonica at its Best
Recently I returned from Clarksdale, MS where 40+ “campers” were enrolled in a week long musical experience that is hard to describe.
Jon Gindick, the harmonica teacher of fame, put together one of the finest instructional classes I have had the pleasure of attending. There was not much time to sleep or eat (no one wanted to) with the ongoing intense instruction from mid-morning to midnight.
With the gods of the harmonica world on hand; Adam Gussow, Jimi Lee, Jon Gindick and others, we harped for hours on end and learned how the masters of the harpoon make those sounds that bring you simultaneously to tears and your knees.
Some folks were raw beginners and others play with their own band, but the feeling of true sharing of information was unusual and appreciated. The opportunity to play with at least 3 different bands and be the front man was a thrill I will not soon forget.
The setting was the Hopson Plantation, a working cotton plantation, where you enter another time and place. A tranquil and comfortable environment meant for relaxation. The inspiration for so much of the music we call the Blues came from here. Muddy Waters, Sam Cooke, Ike Turner, Bessie Smith and many others perfected the Blues in this high holy place of music.
Morgan Freeman, the actor (Bucket List, Lean On Me, Shawshank Redemption) owns a club—Ground Zero—in Clarksdale and we all got to play on the same stage where Eric Clapton once stood bending guitar strings and creating his blues sound. That was pretty neat!
The harmonica, considered a toy to many and not a true instrument to others, has had a revival recently. Pete “Boneman” Johnson, a jazz trombone player said, “I play harp and other instruments and I defy anyone to tell me that the harp is not the more complex and difficult instrument to master.”
If you are interested in playing a musical instrument, consider the harmonica (no one knows why we call it a “harp”). Go to some of the internet sites that teach harp and soak-up some of the knowledge. Until recently there was little sharing of harp knowledge and almost no way of imparting that knowledge, but Youtube has changed all of that. You will find Gussow, Gindick and Lee on YouTube, so take the opportunity and blow the Blues. We will be glad you did.
CHECK-OUT THIS YOUTUBE VIDEO FROM CLARKSDALE. I AM THE FOURTH HARP PLAYER TO COME ON STAGE (the guy in the dark blue sweatshirt). WE HAD A LOT OF FUN! THANKS TO DADDY RICH (the bass player) FOR THIS YOUTUBE CLIP. Go to Youtube and put this in the search box; ” HARMONICA TRAIN JAM CAMP BLUES CLARKSDALE DADDY RICH.” A scratchy, noisey audio clip will come up, but who cares. Man, its the Blues!
BE SURE AND CHECK OUT THE STORY I WROTE ABOUT CLEMSON’S ORIGINAL BLUES CLUB “THE LITTLEJOHN GRILL” ON MY SITE OR google “LITTLEJOHN GRILL”.
Glad another group of harp players learned a bit from Jon Gindick’s hands on harmonica camp. I had thoughts of trying to make it to the Mississippi workshop, but just couldn’t make it work. Jon’s books were some of the first that I learned from almost 20 years ago. Nice that he has taken it live and on the road. Anyway–
Well Rick it was a swell time for everyone! Jon is going to do it again next year, so don’t delay. Keep harpin’ and thanks for the comments. Anyone else want to add to the comments?