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SPAH Diversity At it's Best  

How many types of Harmonicas are there? I say as many as needed for the many types of music it is used for. Harmonicas come in all shapes and sizes, it is mind boggling.  At SPAH each year all types are showcased.
A Diverse group of players from around the world come to perform, share, learn, teach and just hang out with other players - like a pilgrimage of epic harmonica proportions!

1:Diatonic:The standard 10-hole major diatonic harmonicas come in all 12 keys of music and allow you to play a complete 7-note major scale of the key of the harmonica.

2:Chromatic: The chromatic harmonica has a button on the side, which when NOT used, allows you to play a normal major scale in the key of the chromatic. With the button depressed, you have all the missing half-step notes in-between the major scale notes. This allows you to play in any key and any type of

3:Tremolo harmonicas are Diatonic models constructed with double holes (sometimes 8, 10, 12, or more sets of double holes), each containing two reeds tuned to the same note, one tuned slightly higher than the other. Since both reeds are either blow or draw, when played, both will sound together and the slight difference in tuning creates a vibrating or tremolo effect. "Octave harmonicas are similar to Tremolo models in reed layout and musical range. Instead of having reeds tuned to the same note, however, each double hole has one reed tuned an octave apart from the other. The resulting sound is stronger and full bodied, but without the tremolo effect. 

4+:For players that do not play chromatic harmonica, but may have the need for additional notes and scales in their playing, they can pick up a special tuned (actually re-tuned from the standard major scale tuning) diatonic. Tunings include: natural minor scale, harmonic minor scale, major scale 2nd position tuned (Lee Oskar calls them "Melody Makers" and Hohner calls them "Country tuned"), and "high octave" (key of "G") and "low octave" (low D, Eb, E, F, and F#) tuned. 

5:Bass harmonicas, The Bass is actually two separate bodies, with one placed above the other, with the two held together by hinges on both sides, allowing you to angle the two mouthpieces in towards each other, or out away from each other.

The bottom row has all the natural notes - it's just a C major scale, running from E to E.

The top row is not in C# as you might expect. It's in Gb. Why?

Well, the primary activity in most simple bass lines is to play the root and the fifth of the chord. it's easier to move between these notes if they're on the same row. Most chords have perfect fifths. The C scale does not give you a perfect 5th above B (F is a diminished 5th). B doesn't even occur in the C# major scale, so this would be a poor choice. The B major scale would not give you a perfect 5th on (or Bb), so that's out, too.

It just happens that the C scale and the Gb scale in combination give you all the perfect 5ths on one row or the other.

here is the layout for the regular bass:

F Gb Ab Bb B Db Eb F Gb Ab Bb B Db Eb


Note how the hole placements are staggered, to put the flat/sharp notes in between the natural notes.

6:Chord harmonicas, Chord is actually two harmonicas hinged together. The player has access to 48 chords. The top section plays major chords on blow and 7th chords on draw, while the lower unit plays minor chords on blow and alternate draw chords between augmented and diminished. This model also uses windsaving valves to maximize airflow to its 384 reeds! 

 7:Polyphonias have a blow and draw reed, which are tuned to identical tones. They contain all 12 chromatic notes in a single line, allowing users to play notes in rapid succession without redirecting airflow. They are also capable of playing glissandos, a technique where successive notes are played seamlessly to create a sliding sound.
and miniture 4-hole many listed and played here by Ken.


Big Walter Horton  

 Walter Horton was born in Horn Lake, MS (April 6, 1917), but his mother soon moved to Memphis where Walter taught himself how to play the harmonica at five years of age. He later learned more about his instrument by working with harp players Will Shade and Hammie Nixon.Walter was the master of the single note and his characteristic walking bass line (usually with a deep tone and selection of notes that is unsurpassed) is instantly recognizable. As an accompanist, he had few equals. His backup harp was always unobtrusive yet bright and fresh -- enhancing whatever else is going on. Give Big Walter a chance to solo and you were in for some of the most tasteful lines Chicago-style harp has ever produced. He made a specialty of playing entire tunes (often in blues style) on the harmonica ("La Cucaracha," "Careless Love," "I Almost Lost My Mind," etc). This might sound trite, but give them a listen. You'll see. In the late '20s, he performed and recorded with the Memphis Jug Band (1927) and generally worked the Southern dance and juke-joint circuit as well as Memphis street corners. Horton moved to Chicago in the late '40s, but was often to be found back in Memphis for recording dates with Sun and Modern/RPM labels. He claimed to be blowing amplified harp as early as 1940, which would make him the first. Johnny Shines recalls that Sonny Boy Williamson (Rice Miller) used to come to Walter for lessons. He also says that he used the name "Little Walter" before the Little Walter Jacobs did, but gave it up to JacobsJacobs acknowledges that he "ran" with Big Walter in Memphis during the 1940s. Horton later called himself "Big Walter" to distinguish himself. The term "Shakey" came from the way he moved his head while playing.

As for harmonicas, he used Hohner's Marine Band. He was just as comfortable playing first position (A harp in the key of A) as with the more standard cross harp (D harp in the key of A). He did not do much with chromatic harmonicas. Although Big Walter could play in the style of other harp players (and was often asked to do so), he has no credible imitators. He is one of a kind.

He recorded four sides in 1951 for the Modern/RPM label under the name "Mumbles," but was not fond of that moniker. It was not until 1953 that he really left Memphis and relocated to Chicago to work as a sideman with his friend Eddie Taylor. He soon joined the Muddy Waters band (replacing Junior Wells, who had been drafted into the military) and played withMuddy for about a year.

Over the next few years, Horton worked with Chicago blues artists such as Johnny ShinesJimmy Rogers, and Otis Rush -- both in the Chicago blues clubs and at record studios. He recorded with Chess, Cobra, and States throughout the 1950s. During the 1960s, Horton continued to work with Jimmy RogersShinesTampa RedBig Mama ThorntonRobert NighthawkJohnny Young, and Howlin' Wolf. In the 1970s, Walter was active in the blues clubs, in recording studios, and also began to appear at blues and folk festivals -- primarily with Willie Dixon's Blues All-Stars. He died in Chicago on Dec. 8, 1981, and was inducted into the Blues Foundation's Hall of Fame in 1982.

Also known as "Boss of the Blues Harmonica," Big Walter could make his harmonica purr, roar and cry. And he never strayed from exploring the gut-level feelings the blues are famous for.

I created this digital art  @2012


47 down 

Kennedy mine head spirits of the miners on there way out from the argonaut "Spirits over Jackson"
 The photos I used to create this work are of the miners and the firefighters that tried to save them.
The Argonaut produced 1.13 million ounces of gold valued at $25.7 million . The Kennedy reaped $34.3 million in gold elevated through three main shafts and lesser ones during its 90 plus years of operation.

Argonaut Gold Mine, On the anniversary of the  Argonaut Gold Mine Disaster, That took place in 1922 I was moved to create this work about it. Here is some history on the event.
On the night of August 27, 1922, 4650 feet below the surface of the earth in one of America’s deepest and richest gold mines, 47 miners were trapped when a fire broke out in the mine’s main shaft. For 22 days, friends, family, and co-workers waited anxiously as rescuers attempted to tunnel across from a neighboring mine. The story soon became spellbinding front page news, as reporters and film crews from across the nation descended on the little California mining town that was home to the Argonaut and Kennedy gold mines. It was the worst gold mine disaster in the history of the United States, yet the story was relatively unheard of before the recent publication of the book 47 Down: The 1922 Argonaut Gold Mine Disaster, by author-historian O. Henry Mace. this book is for sale on amazon.
and from wikipedia 

On August 27, 1922, forty-seven miners, mostly immigrants from ItalySpain, and Serbia, were trapped in a fire 4,650 feet (1,409 m) below ground. Other miners who had been near the surface poured water down the shaft in an attempt to put out the flames. By dawn, townspeople and other miners arrived to help, but it took two-and-a-half days for the fire to be extinguished.

Rescuers began re-opening tunnels from the Kennedy Mine which had been closed since an earlier fire in 1919. It was slow going, but hopes remained high until September 18, when a canary inserted beyond a bulkhead by oxygen-tank-equipped workers died. Still, it took three weeks to reach the level at which the miners were trapped. None survived, and evidence indicated that they had all died within hours of the fire's breaking out. One of the bodies was not recovered until a year later. Most likely, water flushed down the shaft carried his body further into the mine, but in the intervening time, newspapers speculated he had fled the mine to start a new life.

It was determined that the mine had violated safety regulations, but the owners escaped punishment, as the United States Bureau of Mines had little enforcement power. The cause of the fire was never determined and put down to "incendiarism," a broad term meaning either arson or defective wiring.
There are many back sorties and if in the area tours  are held during the season 

link will take you to the site...

I recently sold one of the limited editions of this work to a fellow harmonica player Ken Leiboff when i told him of the story he wrote back say

For many years I lived as if I were down in a mine. sometimes I start t o think that it was my brainpower and talent and hard work that got me out..But....there was also allot of luck and perhaps some divine intervention. Many of my friends never saw the light of day, because they had none of those factors. This piece of art will serve as a reminder of what, easily could have been. 17 years ago I was ready to die, a stinking drunken miserable addict. Glad I made it out of the mine ! (or should I say, Mind)
Love, Ken

I have to believe the miners would be glad to help Ken! Here is a video of Kens Music his gift to the world now days..


Meet Mike Caldwell 

1: As this is your first trip Tell us how it all began for you how you came to love and play the Harmonica?
I began plinking out melodies on the piano at the age of 4, so by the time I first encountered the harmonica at age 10 my passion for music had already been ignited. I remember the exact moment I was bitten by the harmonica bug. I was on a Boy Scout camp-out in the Las Padres National Forest. As we sat around the campfire, my Scoutmaster pulled out his Marine Band in the key of C and broke into a spirited version of "Wildwood Flower" in old-school/straight harp/tongue-blocking style... I was mesmerized! 
I immediately asked him to teach me to play, and the Wildwood Flower became my first song. I still love playing it to this day. There was just something magical about the harmonica that spoke to my soul. The tone delighted me and the lay-out of the notes made sense from the moment I first stuck one in my face. For the first four years of my harmonication I played only 1st position which, as it turns out, was a real blessing. Because I was unaware of note-bending and blues riffs, I focused on the actual melodies of fiddle tunes and folk songs. This definitely had a positive influence on my development as a musician; melodicism is an integral element of my style today.
2: Can you tell us of some of your adventures on the Road with some of the best country players and who they are?
In reality there are very few players out there who specialize in Country. But I was fortunate enough to meet the undisputed King of Country Harp --- Charlie McCoy --- at the San Luis Obispo County Fair in Paso Robles CA just down the road from my tiny hometown of Templeton. He was kind enough to speak to me after his concert and even took time to listen to me play. By this time I was 15 and had voraciously consumed every album he'd put out and dissected every riff he'd played. His reaction to my shaky-kneed performance was "Sounds just like the record. Stay out of Nashville." A characteristically dry-witted compliment from my harmonica hero, but a compliment nonetheless!
Over the years Charlie quietly became my guardian angel, recommending me for my Hohner endorsement (in 1984) and setting up my audition for Loretta Lynn's band which resulted in her hiring me in 1985. The cool thing is, both of these gestures were unsolicited and took me completely by surprise!
Because we Country harpists are few and far between, our encounters with one another are all the more memorable. TJ Klay, a fine country player from Nashville and SPAH workshop presenter, met out in Oregon about 30 years ago jamming at a fairgrounds between shows. But we didn't play country --- we were working up Norton Buffalo's amazing solo on Bonnie Raitt's version of "Runaway"!. Recently TJ and I reconnected via FaceBook and we both remembered our 1982 meeting as if it was yesterday! He and Todd Parrott ( a new buddy of mine who's a great gospel/blues over-bend player) have asked me to be a guest presenter at their country/gospel workshop at SPAH this August.
Living in Nashville for the nine years I was with Loretta, I had the chance to meet some great country players: Kirk "Jellyroll" Johnson --- another disciple of Charlie's clean, pure melodic style, Kirk is one of my favorite players who's music can be heard on a lot of Nashville hits. I also got to meet and jam with the late great Terry McMillan who's rhythmic, dynamic style can be heard on many a country hit. 
Most recently I've had the pleasure of making gospel harpmeister Buddy Greene's acquaintance. Just last week (5/28/12) he took time out of his busy schedule to meet with me and jam for two was great fun! He too is a McCoy-style player who gives Charlie all the credit he deserves for influencing his style. Buddy is one of my VERY favorite players and I look forward to more musical fellowship with him. His new CD --- "Harmonica Anthology" is killer, by the way...I highly recommend it. Charlie McCoy makes a guest appearance on two different tracks.
3:Tell us about being musical Director Harmonica master at Country tonight! 
I'm blessed to be able to say "I love my job" and really mean it, that's why I'm proud to be in my 16th season here at Country Tonite. It's an excellent show with a great band (if I do say so myself!) and a truly talented cast of singers and dancers too. Born and developed out in Las Vegas, the show ran for eleven years at the Aladdin Hotel & Casino to rave reviews and packed houses. In fact, it was so successful that they expanded to Branson, Missouri and Pigeon Forge Tennessee as well. The producer had the good taste to recognize the value of harmonica in country music, so Country Tonite has always had harp.
The best way to describe our show is that it's got the talent level, energy and pace of a Vegas show, but is built around Country Music --- covering everything from the classics to current rockin' hits. Though we are a "production" show, we focus on the music first and foremost. To be honest, I had my reservations about playing in a production show because I was afraid that glitz,glamor, smoke and mirrors would detract from the music, but I was wrong ---and I'm glad! I learned that when you have a strong musical foundation, a show is just made that much better by good production. My snobbery/bias against production shows was cured, and now I get to perform in the best of both worlds.
As Music Director, my job is to take the songs our producer chooses and arrange them into condensed-yet-complete-sounding versions that are customized and matched to our performers' strengths. (This allows us to fit 40-50 songs into a two-hour show with something for everyone).Then I write all the charts and rehearse the band to hone the arrangements; conferring with the producer, host, choreographer, lighting director, sound techs, etc. to make sure the music jives with all the other aspects of the show. As for my harp responsibilities, they are much the same as a fiddle player's are in most country bands. I've got a few intros,solos and lots of fills, plus a couple of harp features ("Orange Blossom Special" and "Amazing Grace" this year). 
But what about our fiddle player? A few years ago we were unable to find a qualified fiddle player before the season opened, so the producer asked me to take up the slack on harmonica until we found one. When I told Buddy Greene this story at our jam last week he jokingly said, "I love it! A harp player stole a gig from a fiddle player!". I took up the slack for the fiddle for over 10 years, until finally this year we hired an eleven-year-old vocalist (Colin Chandler) who has ended up being a prodigy on the fiddle. He's only been playing for 5 months and is already playing on stage; in tune, in time and very well. (I hate that kid!) . Luckily, I'm his boss and am bigger than he is, so I still get to play a lot!
Readers, please check us out on the web: 
I'd love for y'all to come hear us and we can have some harp-talk after the show; maybe even a workshop. Anyone reading this is automatically qualified for half-price tickets, so c'mon to the beautiful Smokey Mountains of Tennessee and support Country Harp!
Well Mike myself and the all of SPAH can not wait to meet you and talk to you in person thank you for the time here at Nedra's Blog!
Thank YOU, Sweet Lady. I really appreciate you taking the time to get to know "the new kid". I'm uber-excited about meeting you and all my new harpsters -in-crime at SPAH...have a safe road trip and Keep On Harpin'!

read the review by 

Thanks You Mike a new Friend for me indeed!

Hohner Harmonica the way West  

Shortly after Hohner began manufacturing harmonicas in 1857, he shipped some to relatives who had emigrated to the United States. Its music rapidly became popular, and the country became an enormous market for Hohner's goods. 

Winslow Yerxa  President of SPAH:
added this info mation for us all  great stuff 
Hi, Nedra. That's probably me. Available production figures for Hohner, the biggest producer, indicate that it is very unlikely that more than a tiny handful of harmonicas could have tricked into North America before the 1880s - demand was too great at home in Germany:

1857: 650 harmonicas produced 1862: 9,360  1867: 17,196  1872: 45,950  1875: 52,824   1877: 85,860

In 1867, for instance, the combined population of the US and Canada was nearly 39 million people. If all of Hohner's output for that year was denied to eager German sellers and instead sent exclusively to North America, that would have made for one harmonica for every 2,268 people. A pretty sparse distribution.

The most authoritative book on the subject (and the source for the production figures given above) is Hartmut Berghoff's 670-page Zwischen Kleinstadt und Weltmarkt Hohner und die Harmonica 1857-1961 (Between the small town and the world market: Hohner and the harmonica 1857-1961). 

The book's name index includes Presidents Calvin Coolidge and Dwight Eisenhower, but not Abraham Lincoln. And I have yet to see a claim that Lincoln either played the harmonica or smoked marijuana or hemp that cites a reliable source - or, in most cases, any source at all.
Thank you Winslow.  SPAH

and from Howard Levy Howards on line school for more of Howard's blogs join up...

Several bright minds over the course of European history contributed to the evolution of the harmonica, but it was Matthias Hohner, a clockmaker and successful businessman, who really revolutionized the manufacturing of harmonicas and made it readily available to the public (shown on the right). 

Although his name is synonymous with the instrument, Matthias Hohner was not the first to manufacture harmonicas. He wasn't even a good harmonica player himself. As is often the case, he was simply a great businessman in the right place at the right time. He started his business in 1857, about 30 years after the first harmonica manufacturer which was in Vienna, Austria. He quickly bought out his competitors and started exporting the first Hohner harmonicas to the United States in 1862, just 5 years after opening. By the time his four sons took over for him, the company had grown to produce over 4 million harmonicas each year and was employing over 1,000 workers.

Hohner’s success made the harmonica much more popular and readily available to a new audience. In addition, Hohner made various improvements to the instrument which were crucial for the integration of the harmonica in many musical genres.

Thank you Howard

My studies and searches Thank you Nedra. 

The first recordings of harmonicas were made in the U.S. in the 1920s. These recordings are 'race-records', intended for the black market of the southern states with solo recordings by De Ford Bailey duo recordings with a guitarist Hammie NixonWalter HortonSonny Terry, as well as hillbilly styles recorded for white audiences, by Frank HutchisonGwen Foster and several other musicians. There are also recordings featuring the harmonica in jug bands, of which the Memphis Jug Band

 is the most famous. But the harmonica still represented a toy instrument in those years and was associated with the poor. It is also during those years that musicians started experimenting with new techniques such as tongue-blocking, hand effects and the most important innovation of all, the 2nd position, or cross-harp.

The harmonica's versatility brought it to the attention of classical music during the 1930s. American Larry Adler was one of the first harmonica players to perform major works written for the instrument by the composers Ralph Vaughan WilliamsMalcolm ArnoldDarius Milhaud and Arthur Benjamin


The United States experienced a shortage of harmonicas during World War II. Wood and metal materials that were used for harmonicas were in short supply due to military demand. Furthermore, the primary manufacturers of harmonicas were based in Germany and Japan, who happened to be the Axis powers opposed to the United States and the allied forces in the war. It was during this time that Finn Harkon Magnus, a Dutch-American factory worker and entrepreneur, developed and perfected the molded-plastic harmonica. The plastic harmonica used molded plastic combs and far fewer pieces than traditional metal or wood harmonicas, which as a result made the harmonica more sanitary and far more economical to mass produce. Though these harmonicas produced a less distinctive (and, to many ears, inferior) sound than their metallic counterparts due to their plastic reeds, Magnus harmonicas, as well as several imitators, soon became commonplace, particularly among children. The patent for the plastic comb, however, was awarded to William Kratt of Wm. Kratt Company in 1952. During World War II, the War Department allotted a rationed supply of brass to Kratt's factory to continue production of their harmonicas to be passed out by the Red CrossGI's serving overseas to boost morale. among the

 I Here I am at SPAH 2016Juke Joint representative for Hohner.

Taking our show on the road with us... 


I will post here on the web dates of festivals shows and where we will be... 



Joe Filisko Teach In. 

  Hell-o Joe 


#1: When and how did you get involved with SPAH


My first  SPAH was Detroit 1990.  I believe that the first year I volunteered was Memphis 1994 and have tried to be as involved as I could in every successive year.

#2: When was your first teach in?

I honestly don't remember.  Probably about 12 years ago or so.  It really was something that evolved.

#3: What is your favorite thing about SPAH?

Easy one.  The broad variety of people and astonishing array of talent shared almost always with enthusiasm and humility.


#4: What do you have planned for this years teach in ? Who will be there

Mostly the usual suspects.  Jerry Devillier first comes to mind with his extremely unique approach to playing based off the endangered Cajun harmonica tradition.  James Conway will be back with his mind blowing approach to playing Irish music.  Always great to have Jellyroll Johnson who can make the rare claim of being a full-time harmonica player who has played on numerous gold and platinum selling records while most players are just trying to make SOME money.  PT Gazell who will demonstrate his unique method for playing complicated swing and jazzy melodies and improvisations on the diatonic harp.  Cara Cooke and Lonnie Joe Howell will be helping folks with their Bluegrass and Country harp skills in addition to holding unforgettable evening jam sessions.  Two of the world's most accomplished and well known harp teachers, Steve Baker and David Barrett will also be holding mini classes and lectures.  Certainly they are both world class players too!  The incredible Will Scarlett will be back again sharing his insights and skills.  Will was already an accomplished overblow style player before Howard Levy was even playing!  Dennis "Mr. Microphone" Oellig will be available to talk about harp mics and amps.  Dennis has worked for many rock and pop legends.  Grant Dermody, one of my personal favorite players, will be teaching the Old-time harp styles.  Michael Rubin will be working with folks on playing blues on the chromatic harp and Ronnie Shellist will be working with beginning diatonic players.  Also, Brandon Bailey will be helping folks with their rhythm chops by teaching "Beat Box" harp styles.  Finally is the one and only, Jimmy Gordon!  Who knows what Jimmy will have planned!

hit link on photo for more on teach in.

#5:Tell us about the late night jam circles how did they come about?



Most people wanted to play and many would break off into small groups.  I just decided to try and organize the concept better with a solid rhythm section and easy going rules.  I remember this happening in small bursts as early as 1991.  Sometimes the jams will last until the sun comes up!


#6:What do you hope for the future of blues  and roots music at SPAH?

All I can hope for is to do my best to expose and educate people to the mind blowing range of great music that the harmonica is capable of producing.  If people find it valuable, it shall live


I find it priceless!





Part 1 Manfred Wewers Convention Seminar Coordinator 



#1: I got to meet you last year when I took your seminar and learned that you know allot about the history of the harmonica.

      I would say you are a great historian of the instrument, I enjoyed your talk very much. 

      How did you first become interested in the Harmonica


My father Josef played the harmonica, his brothers did and so did my maternal grandfather.  When the family got together, there was always music. I cannot remember not having or playing the harmonica. This was in the early 1950s in postwar Germany. The passion for playing stuck and so did my interest in collecting harmonica information such as newspaper clippings, catalogues, photographs and record


#2: When did you first become a member of SPAH and part of the Team of writers?


I joined SPAH in 1994 as there were no Canadian harmonica organizations; attended my first convention in 1997; and sent in my first article in 2000.


#3; When did you become the seminar coordinator?

      And how do you like the job?


I took on the role in Jan. 2011, I believe. Tom Stryker phoned me to see if I would be willing to help. SPAH has provided me with all sorts of opportunities. For example, when traveling and mentioning SPAH, doors magically open.  Basically, any relationship, even with an organization, should be a two way street; so, I volunteered.


This job is another of those opportunities. It adds another dimension to the SPAH convention experience. I get to interact with many diverse harmonica players around the world and that certainly feeds my passion for the instrument. It’s also a challenge to find and schedule 40 to 50 individuals who already have other commitments as well. No one gets paid for doing seminars. I am amazed by the amount of work and time that goes into running SPAH and holding an annual convention and by the fact that these people do this for us all because they like the harmonica.


#4: What do you hope for the future of SPAH as we all make history


SPAH is a unique organization which is inclusive rather than exclusive. Every harmonica player is welcome. Such diversity is hard to find; but, it will allow SPAH to grow and thrive. Not only should people join, but I hope, they should also get involved. Next year, SPAH’s 50th anniversary, will be a history-making event.



#5: Are you excited about this year's convention and why?



This will be my first convention in Dallas (I missed the previous one). There will be new faces as well as old ones, lots of great entertainment and opportunities to play and learn more about this instrument. Each convention is a unique experience and this one will be so as well. I’m looking forward to my immersion in the harmonica world and my annual dose of sleep deprivation during the convention. And the best part of all, many friends will be there. For me, the convention is all about the people.





 Click link about to read of the journey to SPAH!

The great Road to SPAH is a journey filled with travel plans and arriving at the hotel. then just watching everything unfold, all the hard work come together and friendships are formed in the mutual bond of the pure love of the Harmonica. Here is the Link below for this year's event and the hard work Manfred is doing 


2012 Seminars List


Stan Harper award of merit 2018 winner Congratulations Manfred 

RIP Nov 3rd 2018

The last thing I did last year was about 4 am pack and say goodbye, the last person I got to hug and share a tearful goodbye with was Joe he was still jamming in the lobby with Steve Baker and Eric my next interview is with him so stay tuned and in tune my friends.



This years entertainer of the year Brendan Powers 

 Each year there are Awards at SPAH they are the grand finally of the event and given out at the Closing dinner and show, for me it is very emotional as it is the end so lots of crying, hugging, and packing up to go back to life as we know it!
Last year Brendan Powers won entertainer of the year. I wonder who will win this year?

From Brendans site

In 1995 a new dance show called Riverdance broke all records at the Point Theatre in Dublin. Along with the flamboyance of Michael Flatly and the massed troupes of Irish dancers, the music of composer Bill Whelan instantly captured the public imagination; the official album sold like hot cakes, and Bill was eventually awarded a Grammy.


The button accordion player in the original show was Mairtín O'Connor, a gentle man with a great sense of humour, and an outstanding musician who is much loved in his native country. He was very interested in the affinity between the small Irish button box and the harmonica, and we always swapped a few licks whenever our paths crossed at gigs etc. However, it still came as a big surprise when he asked me to do the first London run as his stand-in.

Though a harmonica wasn't intended for the part, because of the similarity of tone to the box it seemed to fit, and eventually when Mairtín left the show for good I got offered his seat. I toured with the show for three more years, for the last two doing a solo spot on stage as well as the orchestra seat. It seemed to me early on that there was scope to do a stripped down recording of the music, more in a traditional Irish style, without the big keyboards, strings and percussion sound of the official album - and featuring the harmonica as the lead voice.

Julio and I have been working up irish music for our shows so Julio (the man that likes that I buy harps lol) Got me my first Branden Richter tuned harp key of D  and I must say I really love it the tone and sound very cool !

here is the wikapedai info

Richter tuning is a system of choosing the reeds for a diatonic wind instrument (such as a harmonica or accordion). It is named after Joseph Richter, a Bohemian instrument maker who adopted the tuning for his harmonicas the early 19th century and is credited with inventing the blow/draw mechanism that allows the harmonica to play different notes when the air is drawn instead of blown.

Richter tuning is designed as a compromise between diatonic melody and harmony. The lower portion of the harmonica is designed to play the tonic and dominant chords on the blow and draw respectively (in the key of C, this would be the C major and G major chords). The remainder of the instrument is tuned to, in this example, blow entirely in the key of C major, with each successive note following the sequence


and the four notes not in the C major chord arranged on the draw in the sequence

D F A B.

For example:

hole  1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16
blow note G C E G C E G C E G C E G C E G
draw note B D G B D F A B D F A B D F A B

Last year I had hope to see James Conway in hope to take some classes with him however he was not there but i did get some great information for Steve Baker 
This year James Conway will be there so can not wait to do a few gigs. heres a few words on him
James Conway is a Chicago-based musician who picks a mean acoustic guitar and plays an even meaner rack harmonica. Whether it's a country blues number, a folk song, or a traditional Celtic tune, Conway sings,picks, and blows his heart out. He transforms both harp and guitar into a huge, rhythmic machine. He is best known for his Celtic Harmonica work, which has earned him international recognition. 

They will also be announcing the new President so cast your vote !

blog author


Tom Stryker Meet the President  

 Hi Tom, thanks you for the time here at Nedra's Blog.    

1: Tom when and how did you start playing harmonic?

My three cousins and I received a  280 Chromatic for Christmas when I was 15 living in San Francisco.  Fortunately, former Borah Minevitch Ray Tankersley lived nearby and we engaged him to teach us.  He moved shortly thereafter.   I moved to San Jose in 1963 and came across Ray again in 1965 at Foothill College in Los Altos, California, where he was a music teacher.  Ray would not take me on as a student so I hounded him until he gave in.  This was the time of great learning and playing in groups such as the Big Harp, Sharp Harp and Harmonica Express accelerated the journey.  San Jose had many great pro harmonica players from the past and it was a wonderful time.


 2: What harmonica's do you play ? diatonic etc....

I started with the 280 and never varied except for occasional stints on Diatonic, Chord, Bass & Polyphonia.

3: How did you become involved with SPAH?

I learned of SPAH in 1970s.  One of the groups I was playing in was the Harmonica Express with Al Smith on Chord, Ed Marshall on Bass, Kim Venaas and Dave Doucette and later, Judy Simpson Smith on Chromatics.  We all decided to attend and perform at a SPAH convention in 1980 and rest was history.  The Harmonica Express was featured every Friday evening until about 1985 when Dave Doucette passed away.  SPAH was something that was never missed from that point on.  So many friends made  and opportunities to network!  SPAH will always be important to me.

4: When did you become president of SPAH?

That was in 2006

Congtulations on the great job you have done!!! 

5: What do you hope for the future of SPAH?

I would like to see SPAH continue into the future as a place where all harmonica player and enthusiast can learn and enjoy the harmonica.  SPAH will celebrate its 50th Anniversary in 2013.  The harmonica landscape has changed a lot and SPAH,, needs to and is rising up to these changes.  Proudly, we are likely the longest reigning Harmonica Society in the world.  With SPAH is financially secure and organized, it must continue to grow its membership, currently about 850 members.  SPAH means harmonica… harmonicas come in many varieties and SPAH must continue to open its doors to support them all.  The trend in diatonic harmonicas is recognized by SPAH as is the increasing number of female harmonica players.  I would like to see the SPAH membership grow to 1000 in the near future.  As SPAH grows, more benefits are planned.  It takes a lot of time to do all of this, but thanks to a dedicated volunteer staff, it is happening.  Bottom line is that SPAH needs to continue its journey to “Preserve and Advance the Harmonica.”  SPAH will have a new president soon and I am sure there are lots of new ideas on the table


 As a female diotonic player I know I will do all in my power to spred the word about SPAH Tom!
6: What are your plans musically for the future?

Right now I have a wonderful collaboration with Jia-Yi He doing classical, pops and jazz with symphonies and pops orchestras around the world.  We recently performed together in Taiwan.  I am also planning another CD with the great Tony Luisi.  Our last CD “EastàWest Collaboration” sold quite well.  Also doing jazz gigs in the clubs and restaurants in my hometown of Reno and will continue to do this. You can always find out about my activities at

 Ok all I have gone to see Tom with Julio in Reno and had the pleasure of sitting in It was a HOOT!

Visit Tom's site to keep up on dates to see him!
link on his photo I took at his great

“Impromptu” Tom Stryker on Harmonica & Jimmy Vermilion on Keyboards/Vocals

Just in This year Tom won the lifetime achievement award 



Update from Tom 2019

*Active with the SPAH as Past President and advisor.  
*Will present the 8 piece Harmonica Big Band at SPAH this year.  Getting all those arrangements together is a chore.  Then, have to learn them 
Play weekly with.a Jazz Trio, “Impromptu,” in Reno at a speakeasy named Shim’s Supplies.  A great gig, have been there since July 
*Doing a lot of private and other public appearances 
*Playing monthly in a Jazz Club in Carson City with a trio 
*Part of a modern 6 piece group and doing a monthly Supper Club performance. This is a great group with some very high-level player.  We have a year booking at Living The Good Life in Carson City, Nevada 
*Played the Carson Jazz & Beyond Jazz Festival in August and will likely again this year. 
^Will go to NAMM in January from Maui where I will stay from Jan 2 - March 15 
*Lots of great music in Maui.  Love it. 
*I will be representing Easttop Harmonicas who I am an Endorser for and a Consultant.  Keep your eyes open, a lot of nice things coming. 
*Brought on the following Endorsers for Easttop: Chris Bauer, A.J. Windmeyer, Carolyn Dolan, Boaz Kim and Jiayi He. 
*All of the Endorsers and I will attend the APHF just outside of Shanghai, China.  Also coming will be headliner Madcat, and Federico Linari from South America. 
*From the APHF, we will fly to SPAH in St. Louis.

WOW so busy living and loving the harmonica I can relate Thank you for the update will keep our eyes and ears open for all you are doing. 

Here is The big band SPAH 2017 



Me at the Eldorado on our way to play with the Prez!