Was the harmonica the first instrument you started playing?
**no I tried piano & then guitar first but found the ONE in the harmonica.
It's not the most glamorous of instruments and most people think a harmonica is a simple instrument but there are a lot of different types tell us about them?
**There are so many types/makes of harmonica.Diatonic , Chromatic are some of them. I use harmonicas by Hohner & also Tony Danneker. They come in many keys, so not quite so simple as it looks. The harp is like every other instrument, it is a means of expressing yourself, communication.
Who are the masters in your opinion?
***I guess that many of the greats have never been heard because early recordings were so rare. The guys that have touched me are Sonny Terry, Big Walter Horton, both Sony Boy Williamson & Noah Lewis.
A lot of harp players drag around their own mics and amps. What's that about when you can turn up with your gear in your top pocket?
**Exactly, the acoustic sound is King, just like in the folk clubs. However the trend has been to compete with the amplified guitars etc. you need to "crank up the sound". This only works if you have first mastered the acoustic sound , as the amp does "what it says on the tin" & just pushes the sound out,. So, if its a poor sound acoustically then it will be a loud poor sound amplified.
You started out semi pro in the northeast how did you make the transition to a professional harmonica player?
** I actually always had a dream to be a professional harp player but with a wife & child to support I had to "get a proper job" as my Dad said I was a fully qualified painter & decorator in the day & used to play the folk clubs at night.When I got the call from Peter of Red Lightnin records to record our first album, then my dream came true.
How did you end up playing alongside Buddy Guy and Brownie McGhee?
** hard hard work. A guy called John Steadman was organising tours for many of the American guys visiting the North East & I ended up supporting many of my heroes...no money but what a thrill & a true lesson in Blues
Who would be present in your dream jam session (past and present)?
**great question ..so many
Blind boy Fuller, Big Bill Broonzy, Muddy Waters, Otis Spann, Willie Dixon, Odie Payne & Sam Hopkins...my oh my what a band!
When you did the single with Pete Waterman you used an alias was that because you thought you would lose credibility on the blues scene?
**No, quite the opposite.I thought by doing this with Pete, it might open some different doors. To be honest I just do my thing, what ever comes my way is a bonus.
There doesn't seem to be many younger harp players, Will Wilde springs to mind, why do you think that is?
**Well music is a fashion . In the 40's & 50's if you didn't have a harp player the band was not "in the groove"
At the present guitar is king, so I incorporate the harp to fit into the groove.
Any advice for harp players starting out?
**Dad's wise old words "Get a day job" ! No seriously ,if you believe then go for it.
You rarely see female harmonica players why do think it's so male dominated?
**Not sure about this...I have taught & heard many great female player. I don't think its a sexist thing. Big Mama Thornton (who wrote "You aint nothing but a hound dog") was a great player and also Annie Raines (who was taught by my good friend & fellow harp player Jerry Portnoy)
Irrespective of genre which musicians have made the greatest innovations in your opinion?
***Sonny Terry, Little Walter, Muddy Waters, Eric Clapton & Bruce Springsteen.
Today the late sixties are regarded as the golden age of modern music, how do you feel about that?
** I think all the different decades have made a difference. Personally I would say the 30's /40's /50's, going from acoustic to electric blues were the golden age.
Have the modern entrepreneurs and businessmen like Simon Cowell stifled creativity in music or have they created a new area in entertainment?
*** No comment In case any of them come a knocking
The blues is always going to be around just as jazz and folk will be but has the blues exhausted itself in terms of innovation and development?
**What goes around comes around. Blues is the Mother & Father of Jazz, Soul, Rock & Roll. For me its a way of life & will never die.
What plans have you got for the future?
**The latest CD is out now on Secret Records SECCD206 entitled "Mind Games", so out on tour performing & pushing this little gem. Just doing what I have always done. Playing what I feel & feeling what I play.