ROOTSTOCK, Sacto, CA—Hot Licks on a Hot Harp, YIKES!

Lip Blistering Harp Leads

I Open for a Festival

This last Saturday I opened at a festival in Sacramento, CA.  It was just a whole bunch of fun!  I like peeps.  I like peeps having fun.  I like to have fun with peeps that are having fun because of the music I am playing.  This is what it’s all about!

The festival is called Rootstock and it is the first on of what I hope to be many more.  I was actually invited to play at the first one that never happened around three or four years ago.  I was exceedingly disappointed that it never got off the ground.  But here it is back and very strong.  Mike Strauch, is the promoter, I have played for him before, and I like what he promotes.  His vision includes all the music I love:  Country, Outlaw Country, Rockabilly, Rock ‘N’ Roll, Country Blues, and Roots Music of all kinds.

The show was at the Horseman’s Association grounds.  With horses, riders, horse plops and everything.  Reminded me of my younger years.  Kids were running around, there was a jumpy, great chili, hot dogs, beer and a DJ named Slim who had the biggest collection of 45rpms I have ever seen, and a really great collection of roots music.  Just fun!

Without a Band I do my Lead work with My Harp

When I perform without a band I play my Martin HD-28-V straight through the PA system and do my leads with a harp.  Nothing fancy, but I can make some noise, and blow Rockabilly riffs on the harp.  The Martin has a huge sound and I beat out a strong rhythm on it.  The harmonica is a seldom seen instrument when it comes to Rockabilly.  I usually think of lead guitar or piano doing the heavy lifting.  But Billy Lee Riley had harp on much of his early stuff and it sounded great.  So I thought why not, it’s more apropos than whistling, which I do on a few songs.  The harp is so different in the roots milieu in which I hang that it gets folks all worked up, and that’s not all bad.

I play the regular positions with it.  1st for country, 2nd for blues, and 3rd for the minor stuff.  I get some help from my friend Charlie Musselwhite whenever I’m in over my head with some harp problem and usually get more information than I need.  Still, an email from Charlie, gives me ideas for stuff to learn that keeps me busy for years.  Stuff that’s probably obvious to a real musician, but to me it’s priceless.

The Hazards of Live, Outdoor Performances

Playing harp and an acoustic guitar in the direct sun is just plain brutal.  There’s no other way to say it.  First the guitar changes tune second by second.  Second, so does the harp.  Third what they do to their related tunings is just obscene.

However there is another issue that arises when playing harp out doors:  if they sit in the sun, they will fry the hell out of your lips!  I learned this years ago when I was playing on a patio at a biker bar on the Russian River in Guerneville, CA.  Hotter than a pistol, and I reached down to pick up a harp to put in the rack and I noticed it was warm, but when I started to blow, it seared my lips.  Man O Man!  I hadn’t even thought about what happens to all that shiny metal just sitting out in the sun.  I think it was around 100 plus degrees and the harp so hot it burned my lips.  I just had to play it anyway.

Well, it was probably around eighty-five to ninety our there at noon, but I was aware of the hot-harp factor so I was careful.  Nonetheless, I couldn’t find a place to keep them out of the sun and they were  hot.  Not blistering, but uncomfortable.  The truth of it is that then you are up front and there is an audience, you just can’t complain or whine about the circumstances.  Well some do, but they come off very much the not-so-professional entertainer in my book.  So I just played and took my lumps and we all ended up having a great time.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I love my life!

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