Monday, June 9, 2008

It's Good to Be the Queen

Off harp topic: Saturday, Joanne Taylor--Colorado Spring's very own Queen of the Blues--and I did a piano/guitar duo gig at Venue 515. Here are some pics (once again, provide by Lilian Critchlow). Click a pic for a larger view.

Harp Blowdown III: Picture Perfect

The 2008 Blowdown is now one for the books. Here it is, though, one more time, in pictures (courtesy of Lilian Critchlow). Click a pic for larger view.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Just a Feelin': John Lee Played Harmonica?

In yesterday's GO section of the Gazette, you might have read:

"An exhibit of historic photos, such as this one of blues great and harmonica blower John Lee Hooker, will be part of the Pikes Peak Big Harp Blowdown at Venue 515 in Manitou Springs.

Honestly, John Lee is not the first name (probably not the 5oth either) that comes to mind when I think of blues harmonica greats.

Well, thanks to your friend and mine, Google, it does appear that on some occasional, John Lee was blowing the Mississipi Saxophone, as evidenced by this photo:

Furthermore, you can see and listen to him on this clip from the American Blues Festival, circa early 60's; a mini harp blowdown of its own, featuring Big Mama Thorton, Big Walter, John Lee, and JB Lenoir.

Now that's the feelin' I'm talking about.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Confessin' the Blues

Yeah, I must confess: there are so many great blues harmonica players in Colorado, to put on a show that features just three of them is nothing short of a crime. A true Blues Harp Blowdown ought to run 24 hours; that way, we could showcase all the excellent blowers in this state.

To those of you--and you know who you are--not on the bill, you "Know it Ain't Right" and I hope to have "One More Chance With You" on a future gig.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Crazy Mixed Up World

I never knew Darth had it in him:

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Blues Photo Show Preview

Here are a few samples of Lilian Critchlow's blues photos, which will be on display and for sale at the PPBHBIII:

For more info on Lilian, visit her web site:

Monday, April 21, 2008

Swiping Harmonicas Leads to a Better Life

I'm not one to promote stealing as a way to better one's life. However, in the case of one man, I think I need to make an exception.

Brecksville - John Feckanin never left home without his harmonica.
The Brecksville resident, who died Feb. 19 at age 88, played little ditties at taverns, nursing homes and flea markets. He often carried along lots of mouth organs to sell or give away.
"I think he thought everybody in the world should play the harmonica," said his wife, Ann. "He never read a note of music, but he was just very talented."
As a child growing up in the North Broadway area of the city, Feckanin became fascinated with his older brother's harmonica. At age 11, he swiped it and began teaching himself to play some tunes.

Read more about the impact of the harmonica on Feckanin's life.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Blues With A Feeling

Man, if Ronnie Shellist gets down like this in his living room, just think what he's like live in person.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Al(l) Ready to Blow

One of this year's performers: some Al Chesis for you. Things get really interesting around the 5:45 mark as Al goes for a stroll.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Ronnie Shellist and a Bit of Dazzle

Here's a little taste of Ronnie Shellist, who will be at this year's Blowdown:

Friday, April 4, 2008

Can't Be All That Bad if Even Honest Abe Did Some Blow

Hamonica trivia: According to this article, even Abe Lincoln himself was occasioned to blow:
Why, even Honest Abe Lincoln wasn't above playing a tune or two on the harmonica when the occasion demanded, as Carl Sandburg related in Abraham Lincoln: The Prairie Years . . . part of his massive study of the 16th President.

According to the story, Lincoln had just finished a particularly hard day of vote chasing during his 1858 campaign against Stephen Douglas for an Illinois state senate seat. And there he was-off by his lonesome, scrunched down in somebody's battered old farm wagonplaying a quiet tune to revive his spirits . . . when someone happened by.

"Say! Mr. Lincoln!" the surprised citizen called out. "What are you doing here playing that mouth organ, when Stephen Douglas is out there in Peoria right this minute campaigning with a brass band?"

"Let Mr. Douglas have his brass band," said the Illinois rail-splitter. "This harmonica will do me just fine."

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Off the Wall

Or should I say, hang this one on your wall?

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Press Release

Mojo Productions
For Immediate Release


The Facts:
What: Pikes Peak Big Harp Blowdown III, featuring Al Chesis, Ronnie Shellist, and Steve “Homeboy” Williams
When: Thursday, June 5; doors open at 6:30 PM, show starts at 7:00 PM
Where: Venue 515, 515 Manitou Avenue, Manitou Springs
Tickets: $12.00, $10.00 for Pikes Peak Blues Community and BAC Members
Bonus: Musical Journeys, a photo exhibition of important and influential blues, R&B, and rock artists, by famed music photographer Lilian Critchlow.
More Information:

Colorado Springs is invited to tap into the blues by experiencing the Pikes Peak Big Harp Blowdown III (PPBHB III). Taking place Thursday, June 5, from 7 PM until 11 PM, at Venue 515, 515 Manitou Avenue, Manitou Springs, this blues harmonica summit will present live on stage three of the region’s top harmonica players. PPBHB III presents a one-of-a-kind opportunity for local blues fans to hear some of the best blues harmonica players the Front Range has to offer. And, as if that's not enough, you'll be treated to some world class blues black-and-white photographs by Lilian Kaiser, whose work has appeared in The New York Times and Rolling Stone.

Hosted by guitar player Joe Sciallo and his band, PPBHB III will feature the following performers, all local to Colorado:

Al Chesis - Al has played blues harmonica in Colorado since the mid-1980's after moving to Denver from Washington, D.C. He has shared the stage with Canned Heat, Tommy Castro, and Homesick James, and has toured locally and nationally with Muddy Waters' son Big Bill Morganfield. Recently, Al has backed Pinetop Perkins, Steadyrollin' Bob Margolin, and Willie "Big Eyes" Smith.

Ronnie Shellist - Ronnie has dedicated his life to blues music and studied harmonica with some of the greatest players in the world. In 2005 he had the pleasure of opening for the one and only BB King at the Pikes Peak Center in Colorado Springs. Ronnie currently plays with the Shuffletones based out of Colorado Springs and Denver.

Steve “Homeboy” Williams – Steve has played in the top bands around Colorado for years, including the Bijou Street Blues Band. Though he has been in semi-retirement of late, he's sure to bring out the same kind of energy that enabled him to share the stage with the likes of two blues legends, John Lee Hooker and Muddy Waters.

"Three great harmonica players on the same bill--it doesn't get any better than this if you love the blues,” says Joe Sciallo, guitar player and event organizer. “We’ll get these guys in the same room, just like they used to do in Chicago in the old days, and see who's left standing at the end of the night. Colorado is really lucky to have such kick-ass harp players. ”

Bonus: You're invited to partake in the rare opportunity to see Musical Journeys, a photo exhibition featuring some of the most important and influential blues, R&B, and rock artists of our time, captured in never-before-seen intimate portraits by famed music photographer Lilian Critchlow, whose works have been published in Rolling Stone, The New York Times and many other publications. For more information on Lilian Critchlow, see

Admission to the Pikes Peak Big Harp Blowdown is ten dollars for Pikes Peak Blues Community and BAC Members, twelve dollars for non-members.

Monday, March 17, 2008

No Magic This Year

Just got off the phone with Magic Dave. Due to conflicts beyond his control, or the misalignment of the planets, or Karma, or just plain poor planning on my part

Little Big Slim Fat Magic Memphis Mojo
Harmonica Sonnyboy Dave, Jr.

AKA (in Dallas)
Late Check-In Shiny

AKA (in Hartford)
One Note Joe

AKA (in Philly)
Harmonica Joe

will not be at this year's Blowdown. Fill in your own explitive deleted.

However, scuttlebutt is that MD will be "summering" in Colorado Springs, so stay tuned for potential gig postings.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

One More Chance With You

Just in: Little Walter inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. And all he gets is one graf:

Hard-drinking blues player Little Walter died at age 37 in 1968, but not before putting his indelible stamp on the art of mouth-harp playing, including being one of the first blues harmonica players to run his harp microphone through an amplifier, pioneering the use of electronic distortion in popular music.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Blowdown I: "Really Sucks"

As you all recall, I'm sure, we held the first ever Blowdown at the Encore Dinner Theater (now the Tajine Alami restaurant) in Manitou Springs. Packed house. I was amazed at the turnout for a bunch of harp players. I remember sweating bullets when the PA crashed after the first couple of tunes. I think we had everything, including the stage lights, plugged into one electrical outlet. Once we reconfigured plugs and killed the stage lights, smooth sailing. K. did a nice writeup in the Indy. Best line: "It must really suck to be a harp player."

I'll have to dig up some recordings I made that night and post them.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

What Do You Say... the end of a long harmonica solo.

Thank God.

More here.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Remembrances of Blowdowns Past

Blowdown II was held on a snowy night, as I recall. Not too many in attendance. Nevertheless, the blowing was awesome.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Monday, February 4, 2008

Contract Has Been Inked

Mark your calendars. The somewhat annual Pikes Peak Blues Harp Blowdown for 2008 is on:
  • When: Thursday, June 5
  • Time: Doors open ~6:30 pm, Show @ 7pm
  • Where: Venue 515, Manitou Springs
This year's line-up includes Steve "Homeboy" Williams, Magic Dave Therault, Al Chesis, and Ronnie Shellist.

Stay tuned for details.