Short Stories

Harmonica visitors submit fiction or non-fiction short stories based on experiences that involve the harmonica or harmonica playing. If you would like to have a short story included in our collection, please note the procedures for submission in the bullet points on the Short Stories main page.

"My First Blues Harp"

Back in 1969, as young America was swept up in the Vietnam controversy, with the majority flocking to the ranks of the "doves" and a silent minority enlisting in the ranks of the "hawks," I was 15 years old and safe from the clutches of the draft board. I was also swept up in desire to become a musician, and was already learning how to play the electric bass.

My record collection was growing as my interest in music. I flirted with a Marine Band harmonica, but wasn't happy with the free-reed sound, which reminded me of the accordion. Bernie, one of my oldest and closest boyhood friends, was learning how to play the accordion. He never tried to convince me of the coolness of that instrument. Although the accordion was not something that we spoke of much. To this day, there has never been any doubt that Bernie's decision to play was made for him, by his old-world German parents. Then I heard about the Blues Harp.

At last...There was a harmonica that would capture the raw blues sound recorded by the 1960's music heroes, such as the Rolling Stones, the Yardbirds and the Beatles. $2.75 was the tagged price of the Blues Harp, and to recreate those wild sounds, $2.75 would be a bargain! Ah, but what a major disappointment it was to blow into that Blues Harp. It sounded so much like a Marine Band. It wasn't until a couple years later, after acquiring a taste for the sound of British bluesman John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers, and playing in a band with a harp player that I discovered my primary problem with the harmonica...I did not know how to play it! I didn't know anything about technique and I probably knew less about style!

That was nearly 30 years ago. I don't remember which course of action placed me in the right direction but I do remember getting hooked on "Blues City Shakedown" from the vinyl LP record "Looking Back" by John Mayall. Looking back, I don't know if I should laugh and tell this story...or be embarrassed and hope that nobody reads this...
Patrick McKenna

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