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The Harmonica: Masters of the Mouth Harp

How does such a big sound come out of such small instruments like the harmonica (top) and blues harp?

How does such a big sound come out of such small instruments like the harmonica (top) and blues harp?

Harmonic Mystery

I’ve always marveled at how such a big sound can come from a tiny instrument that’s the size of a pocket comb. How do they do it? By “they” I mean the musicians who have mastered the art of bringing the mouth harp to melodious life.

Is there sheet music for the harmonica? How do you hit the right notes without being able to see the keys–or in the case of the harmonica, the holes? How do you direct your breath into each tiny orifice to extract the sounds of this mysterious little music maker?

I think most of us have tried our hand–or mouth–at playing the harmonica when we were kids. Remember the ones you could buy at Woolworth’s? They were red, with little chrome handles at each end. Blow in. Blow out. Drive your parents nuts. Try as we may, the most we might have accomplished was a rough rendition of do-re-mi-fa-so-la-ti-do forwards and backward. Blow in. Blow out.

I was messing around with the harmonica... but I was 13 before I got a real good note out of it.

— Muddy Waters

I won’t go into how a harmonica is made—or its components—in this article. My purpose is to feature artists who have mastered the mystery of this compact wind instrument that is most often heard in blues, folk, country, and rock and roll compositions. However, I would be remiss if I didn’t attempt to find and share the answers to the questions I posed above.

Yes, there is sheet music specifically for the harmonica. It only makes sense, right? As far as how to play the instrument, well let’s just say, it requires some tongue action in addition to controlled breathing.

Ready to hear some great harmonica music? Me, too. Let’s go!

Masters of Blues Harmonica

The soulful sounds of the blues often include reed and wind instruments, including the harmonica. Let’s take a look at some of the greats. Feel free to let the music move you. Clear the floor, turn it up and feel the rhythm.

Taj Mahal

Taj Mahal, born Henry St. Clair Fredericks, fell in love with the blues in the 1960s while furthering his education at the University of Massachusetts. As the offspring of a gospel singing school teacher (his mother), and a West Indian piano-playing jazz arranger (his father), music runs through his veins.

Check out the above video featuring Taj Mahal and Gregg Allman. If that doesn’t get you moving, I don’t know what will!

Big Walter Horton

Big Walter Horton (1917–1981) was probably the greatest harmonica player to hit the stage. Sometimes known as "Shakey," he was known to perform entire songs on the harmonica. After moving to Memphis soon after he was born, Horton taught himself how to play the harmonica when he was five years old.

Later he performed on street corners and in local dance clubs. Horton was best known for his Chicago blues style and eventually joined the Muddy Waters band in 1953. Big Walter “Shakey” Horton was known as “Boss of the Blues Harmonica”

Paul Butterfield

Another great blues harmonica player was Paul Butterfield (1942-1987). He grew up in Chicago’s Hyde Park. Initially he learned to play the flute while studying classical music under an accomplished Chicago Symphony flautist.

Later, Butterfield’s musical interests turned towards blues when he met singer Nick Gravenites. After ditching class in favor of hanging out at the blues clubs, he dropped out of college to pursue a career in music. Elvin Bishop noticed this “white boy” hanging out at blues clubs and a long friendship was born.

Bishop and Butterfield joined forces, recruited a bass player and drummer to form The Butterfield Blues Band. In 1972 the group disbanded and Butterfield ventured out on his own. It’s said that Paul Butterfield was integral in turning white music lovers onto the blues.

Masters of Folk Harmonica

Bob Dylan

We can’t look at great harmonica artists without featuring one of my favorites, Bob Dylan. He’s a legend in his own time, whose career has spanned five decades and counting.

Robert Allen Zimmerman was born in Duluth, MN May 24, 1941. He formed several bands during his high school years, performing covers by Little Richard and Elvis. But rock and roll didn’t cut it for him.

In his own words, “The thing about rock ‘n’ roll is, for me anyway, it wasn’t enough. There were great catch phrases and driving pulse rhythm, but the songs weren’t serious or didn’t reflect life in a realistic way. I knew that when I got into folk music, it was more of a serious type of thing. The songs are filled with more despair, more sadness, more triumph, more faith in the supernatural, much deeper feelings.”

While attending the University of Minnesota in 1959, Zimmerman joined the Dinkeytown folk music circuit, playing coffee houses, where he began introducing himself as Bob Dylan.

Strongly influenced by the poetry of Dylan Thomas and his basic belief that he was born to the wrong parents, Bob changed his surname to Dylan. His popularity grew in the 1960s as social unrest and anti-war movements pre-occupied America’s boomers. The rest, as they say, is history.

Neil Young

Once a member of the harmonious Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young, and co-founder of Buffalo Springfield, Neil Percival Young hails from Toronto, Ontario Canada. Although Lynrd Skynrd berates him in “Sweet Home Alabama” (“Southern man don’t need him around any how”), Neil Young is one of the greatest rock and roll songwriters to grace the stage.

He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twice. That says something about his music don’t you think? Personally, I’ve always loved his music. In my opinion, Crosby, Stills and Nash weren’t the same band without him. His voice balanced out the harmonies and drove the message home.

Young has enjoyed a successful career despite being afflicted with epilepsy. Many artists’ careers don’t fare as well when they go out on their own, but that’s not true of Neil Young. In fact, (again, my opinion) I think he did better once he went solo. Young’s career spans five decades as a musician/singer/songwriter. He’s also a director, screenwriter, producer, and humanitarian.

In 2007 he was the recipient of The Allan Waters Humanitarian Award. He’s active in several charities and is a staunch supporter of children’s causes, the environment, physical challenges (two of his three children have cerebral palsy and one suffers from epilepsy), creative arts, small farmers (can you say Farm Aid?) and more.

Young plays several instruments including the harmonica, guitar, and keyboards. He may be best known for his protest songs of the ‘70s, but his music continues today. Young has battled polio, drug and alcohol addiction, poverty and injustice, a brain aneurysm – and won. His music speaks of the real world. Real people. Real tragedies. And real triumphs. He really does have a heart of gold.

In the above 1971 video, Young performs “Heart of Gold”. It takes him a few minutes to find the right harmonica, but he has fun with the crowd as he searches for it.

Arlo Guthrie

Arlo Guthrie is synonymous with folk music. Arlo Davy Guthrie was born in Coney Island New York in 1947. Following in the musical footsteps of his father, Woody Guthrie, Arlo is known for his protest songs.

One of his best known is “Alice’s Restaurant,” a satirical piece about a young man who gets tangled up with The Law while dumping some trash for Alice on Thanksgiving Day. (Every year a local Orlando radio station plays the 18-minute long song precisely at noon on Thanksgiving Day. I make sure I crank it up while I’m puttering in the kitchen.)

The video I share with you was recorded at the Florida Folk Festival in 2004. Treat yourself to a free concert. Guthrie is another living legend who will undoubtedly be known for generations to come.

Bonus Folk Harmonica: "House of the Rising Sun"

Here’s something I found while researching this article. It’s “House of the Rising Sun”, originally sung by Eric Burdon and the Animals, but done on harmonica. Take a listen. It’s pretty cool.

Bonus Factoid: The first concert I ever attended was when I was in second grade. My mom took me to the York County Fair in Pennsylvania. Eric Burdon and The Animals played. I remember watching the concert from softball bleachers. The band was up close and personal.

Thanks, Mom! You've always brought music to my life.

Masters of Country Harmonica

Charlie McCoy

Charlie McCoy is touted as “the Godfather of modern bluegrass and country harmonica.” He was born in Oak Hill, West Virginia in 1941. McCoy learned to play the guitar and harmonica at the tender age of eight after his family moved to Miami. He added the bass and trumpet to his repertoire in his teen years.

Although at the time rock and roll was Charlie’s music of choice, he was coerced by a high school friend into checking out a country barn dance radio show. Little did he know that the friend would arrange for him to sing on stage. The crowd went wild and McCoy got the fever. He was later invited to Nashville by Mel Tillis but was unable to get signed.

He returned to Miami, enrolled in Miami University, and majored in musical education. Charlie continued to pursue his musical career but couldn’t really get a solid break. After several years of bouncing from band to band, he received a call from Cadence Records with a signing offer.

Then in 1961, Chet Atkins heard one of McCoy’s demo tapes and hired him to play harmonica for Ann Margaret’s “I Just Don’t Understand”. He was beginning to make an impression as a harmonica player and was hired by Monument Records to play backup on Roy Orbison’s “Candy Man”. His talent soon became known in the world of country music where he found a permanent home.

If that wasn’t enough for you, here’s Charlie McCoy and Buddy Greene performing “Harp Playing Fools”, written by McCoy. You’ll enjoy this. It tells the story of how McCoy came to be the star he is today.

Clint Black

Did you know Clint Black plays the harmonica? If you didn’t, you do now! Clint Black is the youngest in our lineup so far. Clint entered the world by way of Long Branch, New Jersey in February 1962. Before he was a year old, the family moved to his dad’s home state, Texas.

Black is another self-taught harmonica player and wrote his first song at age fourteen. Clint and his brothers formed a band and played local venues. He subsequently dropped out of high school in favor of pursuing his dream.

Working odd jobs and playing small gigs, Clint ran into guitar player, Hayden Nicholas. They began writing songs together and soon became noticed after sending out their demo of “Nobody’s Home”.

It wasn’t long before RCA Nashville snatched Clint up, giving him the start he needed. Today he’s pretty much a household name in the world of country music.

Masters of Rock and Roll Harmonica

The harmonica has a place in just about every musical genre, rock and roll included.

Ozark Mountain Daredevils

Blending Southern rock with a little bit of country and blues, The Ozark Mountain Daredevils gained a following with their foot stompin’ music and energetic performances in the early 1970s.

It would take several rotations of guitarists and keyboard players before founder Randall Chowning felt a cohesive balance had been made. In the early days, the band played for small crowds at the New Bijou Theater in Springfield, Missouri under such names as Family Tree, Burlap Socks and Buffalo Chips.

The band was later re-named The Ozark Mountain Daredevils (an abbreviated version of Cosmic Corncob and His Amazing Ozark Mountain Daredevils) by John Dillon, when they learned another band held title to the name Family Tree.

The Ozark Mountain Daredevils eventually signed on with A & M Records and released their first album, “The Ozark Mountain Daredevils” in 1973. By the summer of 1974, “If You Wanna Get to Heaven” hit the charts at number thirty.

The above video is a live version. Check out the harmonica solo.

Bruce Springsteen

Bruce “The Boss” Springsteen is a New Jersey native who has earned America’s love through his songs inspired by our country’s working class. And it’s no wonder. Springsteen’s mom was the main breadwinner in his growing years. Although his dad worked odd jobs, he was mostly unemployed; leaving the family’s well-being to Bruce’s mom’s earning power as legal secretary.

Bruce was raised Catholic and attended Catholic School in Freehold Borough, where he more often than not bumped heads with the nuns. Despite the conflicts, Springsteen admitted in a 2012 interview that his Catholic upbringing greatly influences the tone of the songs he writes.

The Boss’s dedication to and appreciation of his fans is evident in the three-hour long concerts he gives. His performances are energetic and interactive. Whether performing with the E Street Band or solo, Bruce Springsteen brings the house down with his talent and spirit.

Did you know that in Bruce Springsteen’s early years the harmonica was his second instrument of choice? Still is, really. Watch him in action (notice the cross in his left ear?). What a heartfelt and humble performance!

Readers' Feedback


How such a tiny instrument can exude such powerful sound escapes me. But it’s no mystery that the masters of the harmonica bring life to music like no other. From wistful melancholy to joyous laughter, it brings human emotion to the surface of music. To those who bless us with their musical talents, I am ever grateful. To those who move us to unravel the mysteries within ourselves, I welcome their song.

And for the mystical emotions that emanate from the harmonica I am in awe.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2015 Shauna L Bowling


Shauna L Bowling (author) from Central Florida on February 03, 2019:

Thank you for stopping by, Alocsin. I love the harmonica, too. It amazes me how such a beautiful sound comes from keys so close together. It takes a true master of control to master this amazing pocket-size instrument.

Enjoy the videos and thanks again!

Aurelio Locsin from Orange County, CA on February 02, 2019:

I've always loved the harmonica. I'm bookmarking this post so I can enjoy the videos later.

Shauna L Bowling (author) from Central Florida on November 09, 2018:

I'll have to Google that, Sherry. Neither name ring a bell with me. I may know the song, just not who the artists are. Thanks for the info. Something to do at lunchtime today!

Sherry Hewins from Sierra Foothills, CA on November 08, 2018:

One more that occurred to me. Delbert McClinton. He did the harmonica on Bruce Channel's "Hey Baby." The harmonica pretty much took the lead on that song.

Shauna L Bowling (author) from Central Florida on November 08, 2018:

Sherry, that House of the Rising Sun video is amazing. I think I need to watch it again. Thanks for mentioning two more masters of the harmonica!

Sherry Hewins from Sierra Foothills, CA on November 08, 2018:

Thanks for this wonderful list! Love the harmonica, and you have some artists I wouldn't have thought of. I just had to check out that House of the Rising Son video done by Håkan Ehn. Amazing! Also I wanted to mention a couple of my faves that were not included. Charlie Musselwhite and John Mayall.

Shauna L Bowling (author) from Central Florida on March 23, 2017:

Liz, I think every little kid (boomers, anyway) tried their hand at the Woolworth's version of this amazing little instrument. I know I did. Breathe in, breathe out and, yep - hyperventilate.

Your ex sounds like someone I'd like to have around - for the music anyway. I'm sure there's a very good reason he's your ex.

Thanks for the visit and sharing your story.

Shauna L Bowling (author) from Central Florida on March 23, 2017:

Liz, I think every little kid (boomers, anyway) tried their hand at the Woolworth's version of this amazing little instrument. I know I did. Breathe in, breathe out. That's about all I could get out of it but I had fun trying!

Your ex sounds like someone I'd like to have around - for the music, anyway. I'm sure there's a very good reason he's your ex.

Liz Elias from Oakley, CA on March 22, 2017:

I had to laugh at your very apt description of kids trying to "play" this instrument. Of course, I had one as well...yep, the five and dime kind.

However, if you do know how to play, real music can be gotten out of even those cheapies. My ex could play the damned thing; he even had an expensive one with the slide bar. In fact, there wasn't any musical instrument he couldn't figure out how to play. Disgustingly talented in that respect. LOL

Even when I was actually trying to play, and not just driving mom nuts, all I ever managed to to was hyperventilate and end up feeling faint!

Great article featuring many of the true genius talents!

Shauna L Bowling (author) from Central Florida on February 01, 2017:

Shyron, I'm so sorry! I'm just now seeing your comment. I checked "comments" on my account page and there you were! Same with you, Nadine.

Anyway, I'm glad you both stopped by.

Shryon, I think it's very cool that you can play around with the harmonica. I'm sure you're better than you think!

Nadine, I'm glad you gleaned new information from this article. I've been a Dylan fan all my life. I wonder if he'd had become the legend he is today is he used his real name back in the 1960's.

Shauna L Bowling (author) from Central Florida on August 26, 2016:

Rolly, somehow I'm not surprised that you play harmonica. It fits in with your lifestyle and love of the earth and all that is beautiful in its simplicity.

I, too, was turned on to a homeless man who plays beautiful music. I never heard him in person. I think I learned of him through HP. His name is Doug Seegers. Check him out on You Tube. He's amazing.

Here's a link to a bio, of sorts:

Rolly A Chabot from Alberta Canada on August 26, 2016:

Hi Bravewarrior:

Awesome article and like many I well lets say dabble in playing one. Over the years I have collected several of them. Some so battered and yet the sounds still play out. I agree with you when it is placed in the right hands it can sooth and lift the most downtrodden heart.

I once listened to a homeless man who had such an amazing gift. He would stand on the top of the river valley and bless people each evening with his talent. He was a very humble man who could not see the gift he had... great hub...

Hugs from Canada

Nadine May from Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa on July 04, 2016:

Thank you so very much for this fantastic hub and some of the videos I had time for to listen to were fantastic. Bob Dylan will always be one of my favorite and now I know his real name: Robert Allen Zimmerman.

Shyron E Shenko from Texas on July 03, 2016:

Shauna, this is an awesome hub. I can play around with the Harmonica, but to play a tune, I don't think so.

Any kind of music is wonderful.

Blessings my dear friend

Shauna L Bowling (author) from Central Florida on February 09, 2016:

Audrey, that's amazing! How exciting to live next door to a music great. They really are just regular folks, though, aren't they?

I'm glad you enjoyed this and thanks for sharing your wonderful experience.

Audrey Hunt from Pahrump NV on February 08, 2016:

HI sha

Super great hub with the best videos ever! While living in hawaii Taj Mahal lived next door . He was mostly on the road but his wife and I spent many days chatting. She is beautiful and sweet ...taj is something else.

Thanks for this informative, well presented article on the harmonica, an instrument requiring great skill and one that is under appreciated.

Anna Haven from Scotland on February 07, 2016:

I've been working, running after my small bosses and sneaking the occasional bit of vampire story writing in when I could.

It is just the odd tune in the passing rather than frequent use with Mr Haven's music.

Take care. :) Anna

Shauna L Bowling (author) from Central Florida on February 06, 2016:

Anna, it's so good to see you! Where have you been?

How fortunate for you to have a harmonica player in the house. I envy you. Do you ever do campfires? A harmonica and folk guitar would make for the perfect night. Good company, good music, freedom and lots of singing. My response to your comment is bringing back very fond memories.

And, yes, HP took the voting buttons away a while back. Don't know why they did that. I miss them! Sure wish they'd bring them back.

Anna Haven from Scotland on February 06, 2016:

Have the voting up buttons gone on Hubpages now?

Anna Haven from Scotland on February 06, 2016:

Very comprehensive and informative hub, you never disappoint. My other half plays, so the tunes sometimes ring out in this house. I hope you're doing well. Anna :)

Shauna L Bowling (author) from Central Florida on December 15, 2015:

Sheila, it amazes me too. It must take a tremendous amount of control to master the harmonica. I admire the artists who bring us such beautiful music from an instrument that literally fits in the palm of your hand.

Thank you for stopping by. Much appreciated!

Sheila Brown from Southern Oklahoma on December 15, 2015:

It has always amazed me how some artists can make such beautiful sounds come from that tiny instrument. I remember driving my parents crazy with one when I was a kid. I really enjoyed all the information and the videos! Awesome hub! :)

Shauna L Bowling (author) from Central Florida on December 03, 2015:

I'm glad you enjoyed it, Nadine. A nice music break is always welcome to break up the work day.

Nadine May from Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa on December 03, 2015:

Oh wow that was such a huge treat to listen to some of the videos. It took time away from my work but it was well worth it. Thanks for sharing.

Shauna L Bowling (author) from Central Florida on November 21, 2015:

Pat, I'm thrilled that you gave this another read. We have such gifted music makers in our world. What would life be without music and the beauty of nature?

Patricia Scott from North Central Florida on November 21, 2015:

just stopping by once again to say this back when and still adore is amazing to me how those who are gifted in this area make the magic....what a gift.

Hoping all is good with you and yours and that you have a lovely Thanksgiving ....Angels are once again on the way to you ps

Shauna L Bowling (author) from Central Florida on November 14, 2015:

Thanks, Vellur. I'm in awe of those who can bring that tiny instrument to life. I'm glad you enjoyed this. It was a blast to research.

Nithya Venkat from Dubai on November 13, 2015:

A great selection of musicians who made the harmonica come alive. Enjoyed reading. I have tried playing the harmonica, it is tough. Great hub.

Shauna L Bowling (author) from Central Florida on November 12, 2015:

Bluesradio, I'm not familiar with Gary Messenger. I'll have to look him up on You Tube.

Shauna L Bowling (author) from Central Florida on November 12, 2015:

Ann, thanks for adding to the list. There are so many great harmonica players out there!

Marc Lee from Durham, NC on November 12, 2015:

Yes, I am a big fan of the Mouth Harp...and there are some great musicians out there who play it...Have you ever checked out Gary Messenger, a NC artist who is a master at that instrument...

Ann Carr from SW England on November 12, 2015:

Yes, I remember those little red harmonicas we could get as children.

House of the Rising Sun - wonderful! I loved that song.

I would add Paul Jones of Manfred Mann to your list; he was (still is I'm sure) a mean player of the harmonica. There's nothing like it, is there?

Great hub and a great choice of examples, Shauna.


Shauna L Bowling (author) from Central Florida on November 01, 2015:

Genna, music is the language of the soul. I can't live without it.

I'm glad this article is taking the edge off a tough day. The magic of music is one of the best panaceas for life's rough edges.

Genna East from Massachusetts, USA on October 31, 2015:

Shauna, I have always viewed two instruments as being extremely difficult to master: One is the violin; the other, the harmonica. I loooved this hub; but music is part of the fiber of my being. :-) And thank you for explaining some of the mystery in mastering the voice of this instrument -- and for those great music videos. I am listening to them now with a huge smile, after a tough day. Thank you!

Shauna L Bowling (author) from Central Florida on October 31, 2015:

Deb, what a beautiful way to grow up! I love the harmonica. Those who play can add music to any setting any time. How cool is that?

Deb Hirt from Stillwater, OK on October 30, 2015:

Excellent article, Sha. I remember all these folks, as I grew up with them al. My dad played the harmonica, so I grew up with it, too.

Shauna L Bowling (author) from Central Florida on October 29, 2015:

Hey, Ruby! Great to see you.

I'll bet you've spent many a happy time listening to your brother play harmonica. I envy you having the opportunity to hear it live.

I, too, was unaware of Neil Young's physical problems that seem to have trickled down his family tree. It makes me appreciate him all the more.

Glad you enjoyed this, my friend.

Ruby Jean Richert from Southern Illinois on October 29, 2015:

I've been away from Hub Pages for awhile and was delighted to see this. My brother Fred played the harmonica really well. Neil Young has always been a favorite of mine. I didn't know about his family having so many problems. The history you presented on all entertainers and their videos were great!

Shauna L Bowling (author) from Central Florida on October 28, 2015:

Nadine, the first instrument I learned was the violin. I was in 3rd grade and played in our school's orchestra. Then I moved on to the piano. I can still read music, but don't have the split second processing from music to brain to keys to fingers that I did when I was young. I regret not having kept up with the piano. I don't remember the violin at all!

I'm glad you enjoyed Neil Young. The entire album is awesome. Check it out if you can.

Nadine May from Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa on October 28, 2015:

Oh if only I could play an instrument. I did learn to play on a flute when I was in primary school, but that was it. I'm totally at awe about your hub. Such a comprehensive history of the harmonica through some very talented musicians. Loved Neil Young with "Heart of Gold."

Shauna L Bowling (author) from Central Florida on October 23, 2015:

Ghost, I can always count on you to make my day. I had a feeling you play harmonica. I hope you find them and start playing again.

I'm really glad you enjoyed this and thanks for the wonderful compliment!

Ghost32 on October 22, 2015:

Wow. I leave town for a week and you produce a compilation like this? Maybe I should take a year off!

I've owned several harmonicas over the years...and you made me suddenly realize I have no clue as to where I've stashed the current pair. At least I think there are two of them, though I've not tried playing in years.

One of the most remarkable things I discovered when studying harmonica instruction books was the extortionist's tricks the tongue was expected to perform to produce truly professional sounds on the instrument. Some of the movements were (to me, anyway) downright intimidating.

I'm so "vocals oriented" that I didn't much care for The House of the Rising Sun as performed here, and prefer the Orange Blossom Special harmonica work as done on the Johnny Cash version of that song, but overall there's no doubt: You've produced an impressive "reference" page once again.

Shauna L Bowling (author) from Central Florida on October 21, 2015:

Cris, I'm so glad you found this hub entertaining. Nostalgia is one of the beautiful aspects of music. It brings back memories and places us in magical moments.

Thanks for the wonderful comment!

CrisSp from Sky Is The Limit Adventure on October 20, 2015:

Wow! Entertainment galore in here! Love this hub and I enjoyed all the clips specially "The House of The Rising Sun". Excellent job Shauna!

Now feeling nostalgic.

Shauna L Bowling (author) from Central Florida on October 20, 2015:

I remember that song, Peg. I still think it's cool you can play it.

Peg Cole from North Dallas, Texas on October 20, 2015:

I'm not quite sure that my efforts on the harmonica could really be called music. Few might recognize the tune if I were to play it. From the halls of Montezuma, to the shores of Tripoli...It was cute when I was little. Now, not as much.

Shauna L Bowling (author) from Central Florida on October 20, 2015:

Bluesradio, I'm afraid I'm not familiar with any of the artists you mention. I'll have to look them up!

Shauna L Bowling (author) from Central Florida on October 20, 2015:

Peg, how very cool that you can play the harmonica! After I posted this, I realized we don't hear of many female harmonica players. In fact, I cant' think of a single one!

I'm so glad you enjoyed this. Lots of great music was made in days gone by. I'd love to see today's up and comings take some inspiration from the greats of our time.

Marc Lee from Durham, NC on October 20, 2015:

There is no doubt there are some awesome blues harmonica players...Nsmes like Junior Wells, Sugar Blue, Sonny Terry from right here in Durham, NC, Charlie Musselwhite, Howlin' Wolf and others should definitely be included in a discussion of the Harmonica.....

Peg Cole from North Dallas, Texas on October 20, 2015:

You really rocked the harmonica in this one, Shauna. I love that you included the great musicians of the era: Arlo Guthrie, Bob Dylan, Paul Butterfield, Bruce Springsteen and the rest. What a great collection of songs and interesting background for the instrument.

My Dad gave me a harmonica when I was six and taught me to play the Marine's Hymn. From that point on, I was called on to play it for his sailor friends who visited. I found one recently when shopping and bought it for nostalgia reasons. Thanks for the memories.

Shauna L Bowling (author) from Central Florida on October 20, 2015:

Dora, the "House" harmonica solo is wonderfully done, isn't it? I couldn't help but include it in this hub. I admire the work of these artists. I don't know how they do it but I'm glad they do!

Shauna L Bowling (author) from Central Florida on October 20, 2015:

Gail, Maria's such a doll for posting a link to this article. How she does all she does is amazing. I find myself short of time these days. Nevertheless, I'm glad you enjoyed this. Thanks for taking the time to stop by!

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on October 19, 2015:

Couldn't resist listening to the entire "House of the Rising Sun." Yes, thanks for highlighting these lovely harmonica pieces. I do admire the artists and commend you too for bring us some of this mystical, marvelous sound.

Gail Sobotkin from South Carolina on October 19, 2015:

Came here through Maria's FB post and am glad I did. This is a wonderful, comprehensive article and I enjoyed listening to some of the classic songs that were popular during my youth. Tambourine Man is one of my favorites.



Shauna L Bowling (author) from Central Florida on October 19, 2015:

I'll be waiting!

manatita44 from london on October 19, 2015:

He he ....Let us see, my sweet. let us see ..

Shauna L Bowling (author) from Central Florida on October 19, 2015:

Manatita, you are such a talented man. How wonderful that you play so many instruments! Perhaps you'll make a video of yourself playing the harmonica and use it to accompany one of your beautiful poems.

Shauna L Bowling (author) from Central Florida on October 19, 2015:

Mary, I had a feeling Bruce was like that when I found the video. He was obviously sitting waterside at a local joint. What a treat for the passersby who happened to be cruising the waterway!

That's awesome that your grandson plays the harmonica. I hope he keeps at it.

manatita44 from london on October 19, 2015:

Hey Shauna, You bring me back to a place of true beauty. I have played practically everything on the Harmonica. I started quite young, and to this day, it is still the only instrument that I can play.

We have a disciple of Sri Chinmoy called Vinoya, who plays the Harmonica at practically every Celebration in NY. He was very close to Sri Chinmoy and a lovely man. I believe that he will know, and quite possibly might have heard some of the greats that you mentioned. I know of quite a few.

A wonderful and soulful Hub and great music from Dylan and others.Much Love.

Mary Craig from New York on October 19, 2015:

Sha, an outstanding hub about a little recognized instrument. Your facts, your choice of musicians, and your videos send this one right to the top!

Funny how cyclical things are. I read Linda's comment with a smile as my grandson Luca has a harmonica and loves to try to play it, who knows....

Bruce is remarkable. He will show up, unannounced, in various locations in New Jersey and perform for a loving audience!

Shauna L Bowling (author) from Central Florida on October 18, 2015:

Linda, it very well could be the beginning of Lily's career. She may find a sponsor. At the very least, inspiration. Gifts of talent should be shared, not left to fall by the wayside.

Linda Bilyeu from Orlando, FL on October 18, 2015:

That is a great idea! Maybe they would Lily on stage to play a tune! :) CVS has harmonica's in the dollar section each's a perfect lil stocking stuffer.

Shauna L Bowling (author) from Central Florida on October 18, 2015:

Linda, what a creative stocking stuffer! I never would have thought of that. I hope to meet Lily one day. Have her bring her harmonica to the next Carl Black concert. I expect an invite, my writer friend and Orlando neighbor!

Linda Bilyeu from Orlando, FL on October 18, 2015:

I enjoy harmonica music, but not when I'm the one playing it! I enjoy it more when Faith and Lily play. Very entertaining :) I place a harmonica in their Christmas stockings, last year each of my kids and grandkids got one with a challenge to learn to play. So far, Lily won the challenge :)

Shauna L Bowling (author) from Central Florida on October 18, 2015:

I agree with you, Larry. I really admire those who have mastered the harmonica. I used to play piano, but that's because I can read music and have keys to identify with each note. The harmonica is not blatantly obvious as are most other instruments. Again I ask, "how do they do it?"

Shauna L Bowling (author) from Central Florida on October 18, 2015:

Rebecca, what a comment! Thank you so much.

I'm learning that many of my writer friends have harmonica players in the family. That is so cool!

Larry Rankin from Oklahoma on October 18, 2015:

I love the harmonica. It is truly a beautiful instrument and truly an instrument of the people.

Personally, I can do know more than make noise on one, but I love to hear a talented player.

Great article.

Rebecca Mealey from Northeastern Georgia, USA on October 18, 2015:

Leave it to Shauna to find an interesting and unique topic to write about. I love harmonica music. My dad used to play the harmonica.

Shauna L Bowling (author) from Central Florida on October 18, 2015:

Nell, you are so welcome.

Have your other half play a tune or two for you. I so admire him for being a master of the mystery!

Nell Rose from England on October 18, 2015:

My other half can play one, and I love the sound of the Harmonica, brought back memories, thanks!

Shauna L Bowling (author) from Central Florida on October 18, 2015:

Thank you for your very generous comment, Mike. It means the world to me! I did put a lot of work into it. I'd say about 9-10 hours worth. But that's the way I roll unless I write off the cuff.

I'm sorry I'm so slow in commenting on your hubs. The new job has me plumb tuckered out by the time I get home. I'm still trying to catch up with my writing friends. I'm still a week behind and will continue to be, I suspect.

mckbirdbks from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas on October 18, 2015:

Hello Sha. You sure put a lot of heart into this presentation. What great selections of the icon of the music world. I applaud the work and effort that went into the research and writing. You are a star.

Shauna L Bowling (author) from Central Florida on October 18, 2015:

Flourish, my attempts didn't sound like these guys either. It wasn't for lack of trying though.

Thanks for your support. I'm pleased that my muse has returned. I wonder where she goes?....

Shauna L Bowling (author) from Central Florida on October 18, 2015:

Chris, I've always loved Neil Young. I wasn't too keen on his heavy metal attempt, though. Glad he went back to the style we know and love.

I didn't know you play guitar. Hopefully, you got it out after reading this and did some jamming. Maybe try the harmonica again? You're not too old, my friend.

Shauna L Bowling (author) from Central Florida on October 18, 2015:

Bluesradio, I can just imagine the setting: sitting around a campfire with a couple of acoustic guitars and a harmonica player or two. I miss those times. I hope you can get together with your friends soon. There's nothing like live music!

Shauna L Bowling (author) from Central Florida on October 18, 2015:

Martie, I envy your mother's ability. Does she still play?

The harmonica version of "The House of the Rising Sun" is pretty awesome. When I stumbled upon it, I just had to include in this article. The harmonica really is a mysterious little instrument, isn't it? Well, maybe not the instrument as much as the mastery of it. You'd think it has 88 keys!

Shauna L Bowling (author) from Central Florida on October 18, 2015:

Alvin, you're too funny. Quantum mechanics? I haven't a clue....

Glad to see you around again. How was your trip?

Shauna L Bowling (author) from Central Florida on October 18, 2015:

Bluesradio, your pen name says a lot about you. Love it!

Thank you for the read and comment. Much appreciated!

Shauna L Bowling (author) from Central Florida on October 18, 2015:

Whonu, do you play the harmonica? I'd love to hear you play. I love the Blues, too. Perhaps you could post a YouTube video displaying your talent.

Shauna L Bowling (author) from Central Florida on October 18, 2015:

You're a dear heart, Paula!

Shauna L Bowling (author) from Central Florida on October 18, 2015:

I'm with you, drbj. The most I could get out of it were the scales forwards and backwards. Thankfully, we have the greats who know what they're doing to do the harmonica justice.

Shauna L Bowling (author) from Central Florida on October 18, 2015:

Mar, I thought of you as I was researching. If anyone is touched by music, it's you. It took quite a bit of time to get this together. Probably because I got lost in the music. What would the world be without the great musicians who bring us to life?

Shauna L Bowling (author) from Central Florida on October 18, 2015:

Bill, I think most of us tried playing the harmonica when we were kids. Even then, we were entranced by the mystical sounds of the hand-held instrument. I, too, could only get noise from it but I had fun trying!

FlourishAnyway from USA on October 18, 2015:

It's funny that what I've tried "playing" the harmonica it sure doesn't sound like that! Great profile of so many talented artists and their music. Good to see you churning out more hubs!

Chris Rose on October 18, 2015:

Brilliant, Shauna - although I confess to a slight worry going through your post, when I thought Neil Young hadn't made your very fine list. Real music, real artists.

As you know I've always been a lover - worshiper - of Soul music. And in Britain back in the day, you were obliged to take sides - as in, you couldn't, say, love Soul music and claim to be a fan of Folk music...

But then, we all grew up, and Neil Young was the man to turn me onto what I consider to be 'acoustic soul' - kind of an embodiment or fusion of all your above genres. Indeed, he got me playing the guitar. As for the harmonica, boy, I would just LOVE to be able to combine the two... Alas, it just feels too late now. My next life, maybe.

Great post again xxx

Marc Lee from Durham, NC on October 18, 2015:

There are some truly amazing blues harmonica players out there, and some of them are even personal friends from the NC area......Nothing like some serous Mouth Harp playing...

Martie Coetser from South Africa on October 18, 2015:

Oh, I love the sound of the harmonica. Sadly, I just never managed to 'get it'. My mother can play it.

All star boogie... House of the rising sun.... Wow! I have to come back to listen to all the videos in here. Want to download them all. Brilliant musicians. As you've said, how on earth do they know which hole and angle of wind produce a specific sound. I need tuition!

Fabulous article! Thanks, Shauna!

Michael W Alvin from Ione, Oregon on October 17, 2015:

Hi, Shauna, I haven't been around for awhile... So, what happens when I get back?? You're into poetry and the harmonica. Wow, I'm impressed by your diversity! Is there anything that you can't write intelligently about? You're a "universal" writer! Leonardo DaVinci, eat your heart out! What's next, a dissertation on race car driving or perhaps some lessons on quantum mechanics? Go, girl, go!!

Marc Lee from Durham, NC on October 17, 2015:

The Harmonica is such a vital part of the Blues, so you know I love that instrument...

whonunuwho from United States on October 17, 2015:

Perhaps it was the small expense that attracted the early music makers. It was mine. Such a small instrument to make such a big impact on the world of music, especially Blues. One of my all time favorites. Thanks for sharing this nice work. whonu

Suzie from Carson City on October 17, 2015:

What's a Sha job??! Well for cryin out loud's a fabulous job only you can do! You knew that!

drbj and sherry from south Florida on October 17, 2015:

Lots of fun deja vu here, Shauna. I once had a little red harmonica like the one you mentioned but I never learned to master it. Probably a good thing for any potential listeners.

Maria Jordan from Jeffersonville PA on October 17, 2015:

Oh girl, your muse is alive and kicking - just like your music...

I am listening to your first selection and wonder why the blues, makes me so happy...?? Perhaps that harmonica is the culprit...nice!

Will enjoy checking out your country and rock & roll picks as well...

You put so much detail and passion in this post - you make my heart sing.

Have a peaceful weekend. Love, mar

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on October 17, 2015:

Cool musical history. Most of my friends had a harmonica when we were growing up. None of us could play it but man did we ever make noise.

Of course, I remember back to the Fifties and the great blues musicians who could all play a mean mouth harp.

Anyway, great hub!

Shauna L Bowling (author) from Central Florida on October 17, 2015:

Paula, when you come to Florida (you promised to surprise Linda/Sunshine) you'll have two or more people to dance with!

I got the idea for this hub several weeks ago. Then I had to work a weekend and couldn't get it started. I finally just said NO so I could say YES to myself and my muse. After all, she'd been absent for so long, what kind of writer would I be to deny her?

I love music and love writing about it even more. The harmonica spoke to me one day on my way to work and I thanked my muse for not forsaking me.

Just curious... what exactly is a "Sha job"?

Suzie from Carson City on October 17, 2015:

Sha.....Wow!! This is a great hub! Wonderful topic, the "Harmonica." and of course you've done the perfect "Sha" job on this!

I do love the sound of a harmonica. Neil Young is an all time favorite and "Bruce!" doesn't everyone love Bruce??

Your choice of videos is fantastic. The only thing missing was someone to dance with......Really entertaining & educational read, GF. 2 THUMBS UP!! Sending hugs, Paula

Shauna L Bowling (author) from Central Florida on October 17, 2015:

John, I would think learning the harmonica would be very difficult. I used to play piano. I know which keys correlate to the notes on sheet music. And that's only because I can SEE the keys. Imagine how hard it must be to learn an instrument blind? Well now, there's a whole 'nother hub, don'tcha think?

Shauna L Bowling (author) from Central Florida on October 17, 2015:

Patti, I'm in awe, too. I still don't know how they do it. What amazes me is the musicians who play guitar or piano while making the mouth harp sing at the same time. That takes talent and concentration.

I'm so glad you enjoyed this post. You make my heart sing like everything... groovy!

John Hansen from Australia (Gondwana Land) on October 17, 2015:

Wow! Shauna, you sure outdid yourself with this fantastic hub. Such a comprehensive history of the harmonica through some very talented musicians. I have always loved the harmonica and think it enhances any song it is added too. I have tried to play it but unsuccessfully. I thought if I could learn to play any instrument it must be the easiest, but I guess like any other it takes dedication and practice. Thanks for the videos and great info on all those artists. Well done.

Patricia Scott from North Central Florida on October 17, 2015:

What a wonderful collection of those who show such talent on the tiny mouth organ we used make screeching sounds with as children.

I am in awe to of those who can actually make these instruments 'sing.'

Angels are on the way to you this evening ps