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Essential Blues

Harmonica Listening
Artists, Albums, Essential Instrumentals,
Books & Videos

5th Edition
David Barrett
Mark Hummel
Joe Filisko
Additions & Comments By:
Paul deLay
Rick Estrin
Charlie Lange

Listening and studying players is HUGELY important to the growth of all musicians. Studying blues
harmonica means that you are studying the language of the blues: the licks, movement, phrasing and
articulation that speak the sound and feel of the music. This is accomplished in one waystudying the
masters. The more artists you study, the more your sound will be diverse and unique. Along with the
fathers of blues harmonicas we will also mention essential modern players who are pushing the envelope
of the traditional sound.
Start your collection with the fathers of blues harmonica and continue to modern-day players. We
recommend purchasing recordings in the general order they are listed (though any combination of artists
in a grouping is fine) and pick up box sets when available. Look at the dates of each recording as you
listen to get an idea of their place in history. Though it is not mentioned, most of the artists were also great
singers and songwriters.
This list covers mostly post-war players, though John Lee Williamson (who recorded from 1937 to 1947)
was so influential to the players that followed him (many literally followed him gig to gig to learn
harmonica) that he needs to be on this list. If you are interested in pre-war blues, check out Harmonica
Masters, Classic Recordings from the 1920s and 30s (YaZoo 2019) and Harmonica Blues, Great
Harmonica Performances of the 1920s and 30s (YaZoo 1053). These albums feature important players
such as Jazz Gillum, Jaybird Coleman and De Ford Bailey.
Next to each artists name is a recording from them available on the market. Though there are of course
more recordings for each artist, this should get you started. If you find a player you like, research the
albums available. Theres a good chance they recorded over a long period of time, and there are some
gems out there. In some cases these CDs have gone out of print, though they are still available from
specialty sellers. A music seller we commonly use is www.bluebeatmusic.comthey tend to have hard-tofind blues harmonica recordings.
Let me (David Barrett) take a moment to thank the other authors who have taken their time to contribute to
this listing. Its been a pleasure building such a list, and learning more about the players that have made,
and still are making, important contributions to the blues harmonica world.

Grandfather of Blues Harmonica

Sonny Boy Williamson I (John Lee Williamson) Sonny Boys first recording session on May 5, 1937
yielded the hit song Good Morning School Girl, which began to change the perception of the role of
harmonica in blues, from musical novelty to a legitimate instrument. Very few players escaped the
influence of his playing and songwriting. Document Records has a complete recorded works series
(DOCD-5055 through DOCD-5059). Sonny Boy also recorded as a sideman for Big Joe Williams
(BDCD-6003 & BDCD-6004), Yank Rachel (Wolf WBCD-006 & WBCD-007), Robert Lee McCoy
(WBCD-002), and Henry Townsend (DOCD-5147). Charlie recommends the albums: Bluebird Blues
(Classic Blues Label BMG51562) and Essential (Classic Blues Label 2013) as an introduction to
Sonny Boy.
Fathers of Blues Harmonica All these players were pioneers and true masters of the instrument.
Big Walter Horton Walter Horton will always be known for his full-toned, endlessly tasteful acoustic
and amplified harmonica playing. Two of his instrumentals, Easy and Walters Boogie, have
become standards. His best performances as a frontman are the Offer You Cant Refuse collection
from the Swedish Radio (now out of print); and the live recording with Ronnie Earl, often packaged as
Little Boy Blue (JSP CD 2152). There are also two solid CDs: Blind Pigs Cant Keep Lovin You
(BP71484) and Fine Cuts (BP 70678). Some of Walters best playing was recorded as a sideman. His
January 1953 JOB sessions with Johnny Shines (Evening Shuffle on Westside 635) may contain the
best examples of the Chicago amplified style, along with his 1950s recordings with Muddy Waters,
Jimmy Rogers, Joe Hill Louis, Tampa Red, Tommy Brown and Otis Span. Sadly, many of his best
recordings remain scattered on various collections, while many of his mediocre ones are prevalent.
Paul particularly likes the Arhoolie recordings with Johnny Young (CD-325) where Horton plays
through a glass. Charlie recommends Harmonica Blues Kings (Delmark 712). If youd like a complete
listing of Big Walter Horton recordings visit Joe Filiskos website at for a
downloadable PDF. A great resource!
George Harmonica Smith Player that took blues to the West Coast and flavored it with Kansas City
Swing. Though his diatonic harmonica work was fantastic, his largest contribution to the harmonica
world was his chromatic work (more frequent in his later years), giving him the name King of the Blues
Chromatic. His mid-50s recordings as a sideman for Champion Jack DuPree on King and his solo
work on Modern yielded highly original playing and phrasing. His instrumental Blues in the Dark is a
benchmark for all chromatic players to learn. He directly influenced the playing of Rod Piazza, William
Clarke, and every other notable harmonica player today. Album: Little George Smith, Harmonica Ace,
The Modern Masters Collection (Ace CDCHD 337). Paul also recommends the work he did on Tribute
to Little Walter (Chicago Masters Vol. 3, Capitol 36286). Charlie recommends his chromatic work on
Blowin The Blues (El Segundo 1001).
Little Walter The innovator of amplified harmonica, the King of the Blues Harmonica. Early
recordings have him playing acoustic with Muddy Waters, with his own material, both acoustic and
amplified, coming soon after. The amplified work really sets him apart. His May 12, 1952 recording
Juke placed him on the music charts and changed the blues harmonica sound forever. Along with
vocal tunes, he recorded many instrumental tunes (Juke, Off the Wall, Roller Coaster, Boogie,
Rocker, etc.) that stand to this day as some of the best amplified blues harmonica instrumental
playing ever. His phrasing especially is a focus of study for students wanting to play instrumentals.
Album: The Essential Little Walter (Chess/MCA CHD2-9342 - 2 CD set) & Confessin The Blues
(Chess MCD 09366). Both recommended albums are unfortunately out of print, but His Best (MCA
9384) is readily available. Charlie also says he has a lot of the now out of print Blues With A Feelin
(MCA 9357). Some great sideman work, besides that with Muddy Waters, is with John Brim and
Jimmy Rogers (Chess).
Sonny Boy Williamson II (Rice Miller) Not to be confused with the original John Lee Sonny Boy
Williamson, Rice Miller was also a harmonica powerhouse. Miller primarily sang and played acoustic
harp, rarely recording amplified. Along with Little Walter, many of Sonny Boy IIs songs live on as
blues standards and have hugely influenced players of today. Album: The Essential Sonny Boy
Williamson (Chess/MCA CHD2-9343 - 2 CD set out of print), Real Folk Blues/More Folk Blues (MCA
28232) and King Biscuit Time (Arhoolie 310). His other Trumpet recordings are nice as well as his
work backing Baby Boy Warren on Excello.

More Classic Players All of these players can be considered fathers of blues harmonica as well, though
they came a little after the above artists.
James Cotton Known as Mr. Super Harp, a killer player with a performance career spanning over
50 years as a bandleader and backing other players such as Muddy Waters and Otis Span. His bestknown harmonica tune is Creeper, which is still a showstopper and performed regularly. Album: Best
of the Verve Years (Verve D108381) is out of print, but Feelin Good (Acrobat 4009) is of the same
period. Rick recommends checking out Chicago, the Blues Today!.
Louis Myers Harmonica player commonly overlooked due to backing Little Walter in the Aces band
on guitar. Myers plays surprisingly fine harmonica. Album: Harp & Soul (Fuel 2000) and other
collections mentioned in the compilation section.
Jimmy Reed Known for his frequent use of the 1st Position high end. His phrasing is sparse and very
melodic. A great study for his 1st Position and 2nd Position work. Album: The Very Best of Jimmy Reed
(Rhino R2 79802)
Junior Wells Another heavy-hitter of blues harmonica. Wells came into his own in the mid 60s where
his funky harmonica style really jumps out. Messin with the Kid (Chicago The Blues Today, Vol. 1,
Vanguard #9213, 1966) contains a phenomenal harmonica solo. Album: Junior Wells Hoodoo Man
Blues (Delmark DD-612). Its My Life Baby on Vanguard is recorded live and is a masterpiece of blues
performance. His earlier work can be heard on Blues Hit Big Town on Delmark. Notable side work can
be heard backing Muddy Waters, Floyd Jones, T-Bone Walker and J B Lenoir.
Howlin Wolf Though basic in approach, his presentation was bold with a strong vibrato. Album: His
Best (Chess Anniversary Collection)

More Classic Players Players you might not have heard of, but should take a listen to and study.
Slim Harpo Very musical player (good phrasing) who recorded for many years. Best-known song is
Baby Scratch My Back. Album: The Best Of (Excello)
Lazy Lester Very tasty playing with a Cajun twist. Album: Im A Lover Not A Fighter (Ace 518).
Papa Lightfoot Really an amazing early player whose recordings you dont see often. His Imperial
Records recordings are particularly nice. Can be heard on Official CD #5254.
Jerry McCain Jerry recorded very early in his career and then stopped music for many years, to
come back to it late on life. His most well known instrumental recording is Steady. Album: That's
What They Want: The Best of Jerry McCain (Excello) or Blues Masters The Essential Collection, V4
Harmonica Classics (Rhino R2 71124)
Junior Parker Parker started off as a harmonica player with vocals soon taking over the spotlight.
Though not known as a harmonica-players-harmonica-player, everything he played was very tasty.
Album: Juniors Blues/The Duke Recordings V1 (MCA MCAD 10669) is now out of print, but V2 is
available Backtrackin (MCA 11786).
Dr. Ross Great one-man-band. Album: Boogie Disease (Arhoolie CD 371)
Sam Myers Album: Change in my Pocket (Bullseye Blues). His early albums on Blacktop Records
with Anson Fundenburgh are great.

More Classic Players Still Alive Great traditional blues players with recordings still coming on the
Billy Boy Arnold Album: Eldorado Cadillac (Alligator Records)
Carey Bell Album: Deep Down (Alligator Records) My favorite is Carey Bell playing with Robert
Nighthawk on the 1964 Maxwell Street recording (Rounder)
James Cotton James is still alive and gigging heavily!
Johnny Dyer Album: Jukin' (Blind Pig)
Lazy Lester Lester is still alive and gigging as well!
Snooky Pryor Album: Pitch A Boogie Woogie (Westside 869) for his early stuff and Too Cool To
Move (Antones 17) for his contemporary. Check out his early V.J. and J.O.B. work backing Floyd

Obscure Classic Players

Jimmy Anderson Jimmy Reed-style player who recorded on Excello. Can be heard on Ace CDCHD
Little Willie Anderson Little Walters valet, he shadowed every aspect of Walters life. Did a pretty cool
album in 70s. Decent, but not too strong a player. Album: Swinging the Blues (Earwig CD4930)
Easy Baby Recorded an album in Chicago on Barrelhouse in 70s, on Chicago Harmonica Spotlight.
Album: Low Blues (Rooster CD R2610)
Sonny Blair Album: The Modern Downhome Blues Sessions Vol. 1 (Ace CDCHD 876)
Louis Little Boyd Hot player who backed Smokey Smothers in the early 1960s on the King label.
Can be heard on Ace CDCHD 858.
Big Leon Brooks Played in the Chicago scene in the 1950s. Nice tone and phrasing. Can be heard
on Earwig CD4931.
Buster Brown Best known for Fannie Mae, but also played quite a bit of harp. Album: Raise A
Ruckus Tonight (Relic 7064)
Dusty Brown Another solid player that recorded for Parrot in the 1950s and can be heard on Parrot
HJP CD 8575-2 and Relic CD 7015.
Mojo Buford Former longtime Muddy harp man now in Minneapolis. Album: Mojo Bufords Chicago
Blues Summit (Pvine1850)
Whispering Smith Album: Deep Harmonica Blues ACE LC 5982
Wild Child Butler Made records in Chicago; played with Jimmy Rogers for years. Album: Stranger
(Bull 9539)
Good Rockin Charles Pretty good player who had quite a reputation in his day. He did one album in
70s with Aces backin him up. Album: Low Blows, Chicago Harmonica Blues (Rooster CD R2610) and
(P-Vine CD-5249)
Lester Davenport Chicago player still making records. Played harp on Bo's "Pretty Thing". Album:
When The Blues Hit You (Earwig 4923)
Little Sammy Davis Terribly underrated player who recorded under is own name, and as a sideman
for Earl Hooker on the Rockin label in the 1950s, HTCD 5502-2. His contemporary recordings can be
heard on Delmark DE-682 and FFR5771.
Little Willie Foster Very powerful singer and player who was under-recorded. One of Charlie
Musselwhites favorites. Hit Parrot side can be heard on HJP CD 8575-2.
Sonny Harper Rick states He cut a side called Lonely Stranger, sometimes called
Going Away Baby and credited to Jessie Belvin. This song has some of the most incredible 1st
position TONE ever!!! Album: West Coast Down Home Harmonica (El Segundo) and Country Blues
Obscurities (Tapper)
Harmonica Blues King Harris Obscure player that recorded the classic tune "Blues King Mango."
Album: Big Walter Horton & Alfred Blues King Harris, Harmonica Blues Kings (Delmark DD-712) and
Country Blues Obscurities (Tapper)
Little Hatch Obscure player that just recently passed away. Was a main harp player in Kansas City.
Album: Goin' Back (Apo 2007)
P.T. Hayes Obscure basic harmonica player found on sessions with Johnny Williams in the early
50s. Album: Chicago Blues The Chance Era (Charlie CDGR-146-2)
Joe Hill Louis Sun records, one-man band. Billed at times as Little Walter Jr. Can be heard on The
Be Bop Boy (Bear Family Label 15524). There are some cool Big Walter Horton tracks on this CD as
Sammy Lewis Obscure player in the style of Sonny Boy II. Recorded for Sam Philips on Sun
Records in 1955 with Willie Johnson Combo. Album: Sun Records The Blues Years 1950-1958, Disc
Little Mac Not a bad harp player with some good songs. Album: Chicago Blues Harmonica Wizard
(The Famous Groove Records)
George Mayweather 50's harp player. Played some good stuff for Eddie Taylor and JB Hutto
records. Solo record is Whup it! Whup! on Tone Cool
Forrest City Joe Pugh Very underrated player who could do a perfect knockoff of John Lee
Williamson. He was the first to record the Tommy Dorseys Boogie Woogie on harp, which eventually
became most associated with Walter Horton. Also recorded some incredible music for Lomax in 1959,

including some country blues pieces and a third position instrumental. Can be heard on Atlantic
Sounds of the South box set.
Whispering Smith Another notable Excello player. Also on Ace CDCHD 604 in addition to CDCHD
578 and CDCHD 661.
Kid Thomas LA harp player who died young. Wolf Pack is an album on Wolf Records that compiles
some of their 45s. Can be heard on Ace CDCHD 717.
Big Wheeler Traditional player that played with the Icecream Men. Album: Bone Orchard (Delmark)
Arthur Williams Played the killer harp on Frank Frost's Jewel CD 5013 (1973).
Slim Willis Very good harmonica player that should have been better known. Album: I Blueskvarter,
Chicago 1964, Volume 1
Big John Wrencher Solid player with a Howlin Wolf vibrato. Can be heard on many of the Testament
releases and the P-Vine PCD-1889.

Country Blues
Sonny Terry King of the Country Blues Harmonica Terrys playing style was so distinct that you
cant really group him with other players. He did much solo work, but was best known with partner
Brownie McGhee. Many of todays players state that Sonny Terrys style was very influential in their
playing. Album: Absolutely the Best (Varese Records); Document Records DOCD-5230 which has his
earliest solo work from 1938; Folkways CDSF40033 called Sonny Terry, The Folkways Years 19441963.
J.C. Burris Sonny Terrys nephew and certainly influenced by him. Album: Blues Professor (Arhoolie
CD 497)
Percy Randolph Percy is a fairly unknown player, but did some notable recording with Snooks Eaglin
and can be heard on Arhoolie CD 348. In addition to playing some of the train standards, he was also
playing some nice 1st and 5th position.
Peg Leg Sam A.K.A Arthur Jackson His style is much more mainstream sounding and more
accessible than Sonnys. Album: Kickin It (Trix 3302). The video Born For Hard Luck available from
Davenport Films, shows what an unsurpassed showman Peg was.
Elder Roma Wilson Although actually a gospel player, he plays in the country style. His Arhoolie (CD
429) recording shows a player with a voice, tone and throat tremolo that are not surpassed. This
collection also has his early sides from Detroit in 1948, which show he was as powerful and driving as
John Lee Williamson.
Johnny Woods Played some unforgettable music with Fred McDowell in the late 1960s. There has
probably never been such an amazing hypnotic groove created between the harp and guitar. It may be
fair to say that Woods had a corner on the Delta Blues style of harp playing. Album: Mama Says Im
Crazy (Fat Possum)

Moving from Chicago Both of these players were very influential in turning on the next generation of
harmonica players to the music. Though neither are (Butterfield has passed away) very classic in sound,
they definitely embody what we know as the Blues. Both were diverse players spending a period of their
performance and recording careers in the early rock movement, though always true to the Blues.
Paul Butterfield Album: Paul Butterfield Blues Band (Elektra/Asylum)
Charlie Musselwhite Album: Ace of Harps (Alligator Records)

Todays Great Players In alphabetical order

West Side Andy Very tasty harp player. Album: Handyman (Self Released)
Tom Ball Great primarily acoustic player in the school of Sonny Terry who is best known for his work
with Kenny Sultan. Album: Filthy Rich (Flying Fish)
David Barrett Yours truly. Album: Serious Fun (Harmonica Masterclass)
Big Al Blake Best know for his work with the Hollywood Fats band. Album: Mr. Blakes Blues (Blue
Collar BCM7108-2) and anything he did with Fats.

Sugar Blue The modern-day Chicago player. Fast and tasty player who often uses 3rd Position.
Album: In Your Eyes (Alligator ALCD 4831)
Billy Branch Great modern Chicago player. Album: Satisfy Me (House of Blues)
Norton Buffalo Known for both his acoustic work with Roy Rogers and his diverse playing style that
ventures out of blues time to time. Album: King of the Highway (Blind Pig)
William Clarke A hugely influential player. Album: Serious Intentions (Alligator ALCD 4806)
Wallace Coleman Very tasty harp player in the Little Walter vein. Album: Wallace Coleman (Fish
Head Records)
Bob Corritore Great harp player who also owns The Rhythm Room in Phoenix, Arizona. Album: AllStar Blues Sessions (HMG Records 1009)
Paul deLay A very, very fresh diatonic and chromatic player. If you like blues with a different
perspective, check him out. Album: Take it to the Turnaround & Ocean of Tears (Evidence)
Carlos del Junco One of the best overbend players in the blues. Album: Big Boy (Big Reed)
Magic Dick Best known from the J. Geils Band. He has also released albums under the band
Bluestime. Helped to define blues-based Rock harmonica (along with Huey Lewis) Album: Bluestime
(Rounder) or Full House (Atlantic).
Mr. Downchild Tasty harmonica, guitar, vocal player. Album: Behind the Sun (Mascita Music
Mark DuFresne The current singer for Roomful of Blues. Album: Theres A Song In There (Jeromed
Rick Estrin Best known working with Little Charlie and the Nightcats. Great traditional blues player
and performer. One of the best shows around. Album: Thats Big (Alligator ALCD 4883)
Mark Ford Known for his work in the Ford blues band with brothers Pat (drums) and Robin (guitar).
Blues/rock player with a horn like tone and sophisticated phrasing. Album: Mark Ford & The Blue Line
(Blue Rockit BRCD 129)
Dennis Gruenling Great 3rd Position player who uses low-tuned harps for a very horn-like sound in
his more swing style. Album: Dennis Gruenling & Jump Time (BackBender BBR 701)
Steve Guyger Fine traditional player with albums under his own name and a lot of side work. Album:
Past Life Blues Severn (CD-0002)
James Harman Great internationally known player and songwriter. One of the best showmen out
there. Album: Mo' Na'Kins, Please! (Cannonball)
Ryan Hart Swingin harp playing in the style of Rod Piazza with nice vocals. Album: Empty Wallet
(Far-Tone CD FT JT30)
Mark Hummel Great internationally known player. One of my favorites; great diatonic and chromatic
work. Album: Golden State Blues (Electro-Fi 3375)
Andy Just Blues player with a rockers soul. Album: Dont Cry (Blue Rock it BRCD 117)
Mitch Kashmar Great player fronting the Pontiax and some great solo work as well. Did some mutual
recording with William Clarke. Album: Crazy Mixed Up World (Thumbs Up)
Paul Lamb Great UK harp player with a Sonny Terry influence. Album: Harmonica Man (Sanctuary)
Jim Liban Milwaukee's legendary harp god. Founding member of Short Stuff; as great as the
greatest! (quote from Mark)
John Juke Logan Blues and funk player whos done side work for many musicians. Album: Juke
Rhythm (Mocombo)
Lee McBee Great player known for his work with Mike Morgan. Album: Any work on the Mike
Morgan Blacktop CDs.
R.J. Mischo Great player, vocalist and performer. Album: West Wind Blowin (Mountaintop 3562).
Raful Neal Last of the Louisiana harp guys. Album: Louisiana Legend (All 4783)
Sugar Ray Norcia Great player and singer who worked with Roomful of Blues and did many solo
releases. Album: Dont Stand In My Way (Bullseye Blues)
Paul Oscher First white player with Muddy Waters that currently performs as a one-man-band. A
great player on multiple instruments. Album: Living Legends (Blues Leaf Records)
Michael Peloquin Overbend player in blues and sax player with fine vocals. Album: House of Cards
Rod Piazza A hugely influential player that set the bar for many of todays performing harp players.
Album: Harp Burn (Black Top Records CD BT-1087)

Jerry Portnoy Traditional player who backed both Muddy Waters and Eric Clapton. I like his work
with Waters and Clapton the best, though he did record some solo albums and many albums with the
Legendary Blues Band.
Gary Primich Great internationally known player. Too many good things to say. Album: Mr. Freeze
(Flying Fish FF 70649 out of print) and Dog House Music (Antones 57).
Annie Raines Great blues harp player who is best known for her work with Paul Rishell. Album: I
Want You to Know (Tone Cool)
Jason Ricci Innovative overbend player that fuses blues, funk and rock into electrifying music.
Album: Blood on the Road
Tad Robinson Great vocalist with very tasty harp playing. Album: Last Go Around (Delmark DE-722)
Pete Madcat Ruth Innovative blues harp player known for his Country Blues playing style. Album:
Madcat & Kane, Up Against the Wall (Hit Records HR101)
Curtis Salgado Solo and with Roomful of Blues. Major influence on the Blues Brothers. Great player
and singer. Album: Hit It n Quit It w/Terry Robb (Lucky Records)
Jumpin' Johnny Sansome The Big Easy's main Harpblower (Rounder), at Ottawa Blues Festival
each year (Mark Hummel).
Matthew Skoller One of the most active young harp blowers in Chicago and Europe. Album:
Shoulder to the Wind (Tongue N Groove)
Lynwood Slim Solid vocals paired with a Rice Miller tone and jazzy phrasing. Often recorded with
Junior Watson & the Hollywood Fats Band. Album: World Wide Wood (Pacific Blues 9903).
Little Sonny Funky 60s and 70s harp player. Playing was weak at times, though cool to listen to.
Album: Blues with a Feeling, the Ann Arbor Blues & Jazz Festival Volume 2 (Sequel Records)
Gary Smith My mentor (David Barrett); huge tone! Traditional blues harmonica with a FAT sound.
Album: Blues for Mr. B (Mountain Top)
Shakin' Smith Big fish in a small pond, king of Buffalo harp players (Mark Hummel).
South Side Steve Ottawa's & the Great White North's best export - Steve's the best young harp
player I've heard and only 18, way into it! You'll be hearing about him soon (Mark Hummel).
Bill Tarsha - Phoenix harp wizard (of the Rocket 88s). Album: A Decade in the Desert (Published by
the Phoenix Blues Society)
Greg Fingers Taylor Former 20 year harp man for Jimmy Buffet. Great blues blower who also
played with Houston Stackhouse & Joe Willie Wilkins. Album: Hi Fi Baby (Warehouse Creek, wcrc
David Waldman Founder of the Ice Cream Men. Chicago player who has studied the style of Little
Walter to a T. A great player.
Phil Wiggins Piedmont blues player best known for his work with John Cephas. Album: Homemade
Kim Wilson A killer player that influenced many of todays younger players. Early work with the
Thunderbirds and his solo work is great. Album: Tiger Man (Antones ANT 0023)

Here are some compilations well worth having in your collection.
Blown the Blues Best of the Great Harp Player (Vanguard)
Blown the Blues A History of Blues Harmonica Classics 1926-2002 (Indigo IGOTCD 2536)
Blues, Booze, Harps & Guitars (Fuel 2000 (302-061-273-2)
Blues Harp Greats (EasyDisc CD7023)
Blues Harp Hotshots (EasyDisc ED 12136-7073-2)
Blues Harp Meltdown (2xCD CDMT101) (Mountain Top)
Blues Harp Meltdown Vol. 2 (2xCD) (Mountain Top)
Blues Masters The Essential Collection, V4 Harmonica Classics (Rhino R2 71124)
Blues Masters The Essential Collection, V16 More Harmonica Classics (Rhino)
Deep Harmonica Blues (ACE LC 5982)
Essential Blues Harmonica (HOB 51415 1300 2)
Greasy Kid Stuff (Kid Ramos with an all-star lineup Evidence ECD 26117-2)
Got Harp If You Want It The Best of the West Coast Blues Harp Players (Blue Rockit BRCD 111)
Legends of Harmonica (Rhino R2 78265)

This is the Blues Harmonica (Delmark)

West Coast Down Home Harmonica (El Segundo ESR 01004)

Listed below are instrumentals that are worth checking out. Learning some instrumentals like Roller
Coaster by Little Walter will challenge the best player for months. Youll appreciate others more for their
tasty phrasing and approach. Most of the players below recorded more instrumentals than shown. If you
like a song listed, pick up all of that players recordingsyou wont be disappointed. There are also many
players that are great, but didnt record many instrumentals (Rice Miller for example).
Dont use this list alone to determine which artists recordings you purchase. Again, these are
instrumentals that students commonly ask to learn. If this were a complete listing, it would be huge and
defeat the purpose of pulling out common favorites.

Traditional Diatonic Instrumentals

1. Ash Street Boogie Forrest City Joe (w/Robert Nighthawk): Killer harp lines with questionable guitar
chord changes!
2. Back Track Little Walter (The Essential Little Walter, Chess)
3. Blue Midnight Little Walter (The Essential Little Walter, Chess) Great slow blues.
4. Blues in My Sleep James Cotton (Best of the Verve Years, Verve): Great slow blues with big tone.
5. Bluesy Louis Myers (Harp & Soul, Fuel 2000): Surprisingly fine harp on this.
6. Boarding House Blues Rhythm Willie: Some of the most killer 1st position harp youll ever hear!
7. Boogie in the Dark Jimmy Reed (Essential Blues Harmonica, HOB)
8. Bye Bye Bird Sonny Boy Williamson II (Rice Miller). Though the song has a spoken line, its
primarily an instrumental. The first verse of Whammer Jammer (Magic Dick) comes mostly from this
9. Cha Cha Cha in Blues Junior Wells (1957-1963 Messin With the Kid, Paula Records/Chief
Records) Fun tune.
10. Chitlin Con Carne Junior Wells (Hoodoo Man Blues, Delmark) Very funky.
11. Creeper James Cotton (Fore Day Blues, Success or Best of the Verve Years, Verve) One of the
all-time killer harp instrumentals covered my modern artists all the time.
12. Dont Have To Hunt No More Little Walter
13. Easy Big Walter Horton (Blues Masters The Essential Collection, V4 Harmonica Classics, Rhino
R2 71124) Great adaptation of an older tune for harp with great repetitive phrasing.
14. Ends & Odds Jimmy Reed (Blues Masters Volume 4 Harmonica Classics, Rhino) Nice phrasing.
15. Floyd's Blues Snooky Prior (Floyd Jones & Snooky Prior)
16. Goin Back to St Louis Walter Horton: Killer melodic 1st position harp.
17. Harmonica Stomp Jazz Gillum
18. Hoofin Blues Sonny Terry (Country Blues)
19. Juicy Harmonica George Harmonica Smith (Rod Piazza also did a version on the Bacon Fat
album) (West Coast Down Home Harmonica, El Segundo ESR 01004)
20. Juke Little Walter (The Essential Little Walter, Chess) The most famous harp tune ever recorded.
21. Just Whaling Louis Myers (Harp & Soul, Fuel 2000)
22. Off the Wall Little Walter (The Essential Little Walter, Chess) Tune covered by other players often
due to the catchy hook in the head.
23. Off the Wall James Cotton (Best of the Verve Years, Verve)
24. Rocker Little Walter (Confessin the Blues, Chess)
25. Roller Coaster Little Walter (The Essential Little Walter, Chess) One of his best. Stays on the I the
whole time.
26. Sonny Boys Harmonica Blues Sonny Boy Williamson II: Killer solo piece with great chord-tone
27. Sharp Harp George Harmonica Smith (West Coast Down Home Harmonica, El Segundo ESR
01004) Smooth 2-beat.

28. Slam Hammer James Cotton (Johnny Young Chicago Blues, Arhoolie) Nice hook-driven tune.
29. Steady Jerry McCain (Blues Masters The Essential Collection, V4 Harmonica Classics, Rhino R2
71124) Great example of tone and approach a true masterpiece.
30. Trouble in Mind Walter Horton: Great harmonica/guitar tune.
31. Walters Boogie Big Walter Horton (Cant Keep Lovin You, Blind Pig) Definitely a harp standard. A
good study for learning tongue block pulls.
32. Williamson Shuffle Snooky Prior (Homesick James & Snooky Prior)
33. More to come
Modern Diatonic Instrumentals
1. Annies Rocker Annie Raines (Blues Harp Meltdown Vol. 2, Mountain Top)
2. Back In The Hot Seat Dave Morris (Big Dave & The UltraSonics)
3. Big Leg Mama Mark Hummel (Harmonica Party, Mountain Top)
4. Blowin' My Top Dennis Gruenling (Jump Time, BackBender)
5. Blowin the Family Jewels William Clarke (Groove Time, Alligator)
6. Cash Money William Clarke (Blowin Like Hell, Alligator)
7. Christo Redemptor Charlie Musselwhite (Blown the Blues, Vanguard)
8. Dont Fight It - David Barrett (Serious Fun)
9. Extra Napkins James Harman (Extra Napkins, Cannonball)
10. Fogtown Swing Gary Smith (Up The Line, Messaround)
11. Gibson Creek Shuffle Mark Ford (The Charles Ford Band, Arhoolie)
12. Got it Good Rick Estrin (Shadow of the Blues, Alligator)
13. Hand Jive Mark Hummel (Harmonica Party, Mountain Top)
14. Heddon Tadpolly Spook - Carlos Del Junco (Big Boy, Big Reed)
15. Hopefully Paul de Lay (Ocean of Tears, Evidence)
16. Jimmy Jones Paul de Lay (Heavy Rotation, Evidence)
17. Jr.s Jump Kim Wilson (Lookin for Trouble, MC)
18. Lick Train David Barrett (Serious Fun)
19. Little Bitty Pretty One Rod Piazza (Harp Burn, Black Top)
20. Marion's Mood Rick Estrin
21. Mood Room Boogie Jerry Portnoy (Muddys Shuffle is also a nice LW cover)
22. Mr. Itch Gary Primich (Botheration, Black Top)
23. Oat Bran Paul de Lay (The Other One, Evidence)
24. Punchy Paul de Lay (Nice & Strong, Evidence)
25. Red Top Gary Primich (Mr. Freeze, Flying Fish)
26. Rocket Ride Garry Smith (Up the Line, Messaround Records)
27. Screamin Paul Butterfield (The Paul Butterfield Blues Band Album)
28. Teaser, The Rod Piazza (Tough and Tender, Tone-Cool)
29. Tribute to Little Walter, A Charlie McCoy (Harpin the Blues, Sony Music) McCoy is not known at all
as a blues harmonica, but a hugely imitated country player. What he plays on this song is very tasty
and is an often request from students who like him.
30. Upsetter, The Rod Piazza (Harp Burn, Black Top)
31. Varmint Gary Primich (Company Man, Flying Fish)
32. Whammer Jammer Magic Dick (Rock/Blues - More Harmonica Classics, Rhino)

Traditional Chromatic Instrumentals

1. Blues in the Dark George Harmonica Smith (Blues Masters The Essential Collection, V4
Harmonica Classics, Rhino R2 71124) Best known tradition blues chromatic instrumental.
2. Blues For Reverend King George Harmonica Smith (West Coast Down Home Harmonica, El
Segundo ESR 01004) As bluesy as it gets.
3. Other great George Smith tunes are: Boogie'n with George, Hot Rolls and Last Chance.

Modern Chromatic Instrumentals

1. Blowin Like Hell William Clarke (Blowin Like Hell, Alligator)
2. Briar Patch, The Gary Primich (Company Man, Black Top)
3. Chromatic Jump William Clarke (Tip of the Top, Alligator)
4. Coastin' Hank Rick Estrin (Thats Big , Alligator)
5. Devil's Foot Rod Piazza (Keepin' It Real, Blind Pig) His version of the big band standard "Big Noise
From Winetka"
6. El Train Paul deLay (Paul deLay Does Chicago, Evidence)
7. Harpburn Rod Piazza (Harp Burn, Black Top)
8. Humble Bug Mark Hummel (Harmonica Party, Mountain Top)
9. One Mint Julep Rod Piazza (Harp Burn, Black Top)
10. Paul Train Paul deLay (Burnin)
11. Rough News Charlie Musselwhite (Rough News, Pointblank)
12. Second-Hand Smoke Paul deLay (The Other One, Evidence)
13. Texas Love Kit Gary Primich (Dog House Music, Antones)

Other than Blues

1. Summertime Mark Ford (Got Harp if Want it, Blue Rock It)
2. Georgia on My Mind Lee Oskar (Those Sunny Days, DanFlex)
3. Orange Blossom Special Charlie McCoy (Legends of Harmonica, Rhino)
4. La Cucaracha Big Walter Horton (Fine Cuts, Blind Pig)
5. More to come

1. Harmonicas, Harps, & Heavy Breathers by Kim Field (Cooper Square Press, New York) Distributed by
National Book Network @ 800-462-6420 A Great book covering the history of the instrument and
2. Blues with a Feeling the Little Walter Story by Tony Glover, Scott Dirks & Ward Gaines. (Routledge
Press) (
3. Children of the Blues 49 Musicians Shaping a New Blues Tradition by Art Tipaldi (Backbeat Books)
Theres some great words of wisdom in here.

1. American Folk Blues Festival 1962-66 (3 Volumes) DVD Sonny Boy Williamson II, Jr. Wells, Big
Walter Horton, Little Walter, Sonny Terry and other great blues musicians. Video and sound quality is
great. An essential DVD to own. HIP-O Records B0000750-09 & B0000751-09 & 3rd DVD Just
2. American Roots Music A wonderful two DVD set with original footage and great interviews. James
Cotton is featured in some sections. (PALMDVD 3039-2)
3. B.B. King & Friends A Night of Red Hot Blues Features a great line-up of players including some
nice footage of Paul Butterfield leading and backing. HBO Video (1987) ISBN: 1-55803-211-8
4. Blues Harp Experience (Non-Performance Video) A video of Rod Piazza talking about general
feelings about music and gear. Not much educational content, but a neat video to watch if youre a fan
of his music. Self released. Can acquire copies from him at: PO Box 993, Murrieta, CA 92564-0993.
5. Brownie McGhee & Sonny Terry Red River Blues 1948-1974 Great footage of these players over a
long span. Rounder Video (1997), Vestapol 13056.
6. Gary Smith Amplified Blues Harp Demystified (Non-Performance DVD) A very cool video to watch
Gary go though some favorite songs and a few techniques. Though Gary mislabels some the
equipment shown, the amp and mic section of the video is pretty cool as well. Mountain Top Video
7. Howard Levy New Directions for Harmonica (Non-Performance DVD) An interesting look into the
world of overbending. Homespun Tapes VD-LVY-HA01


8. The Howlin Wolf Story An interesting look into one of the great blues performers of our time.
Bluebird 82876-56631-9
9. Mark Hummel Harmonica Party (Non-Performance DVD) A cool video to watch Mark go though
some songs and a few techniques. Mountain Top Video
10. Muddy Waters Got My Mojo Working Great live footage of Muddy with harp players Carey Bell, Paul
Oscher and Jerry Portnoy. YaZoo 521 DVD.
11. Peter Madcat Ruth The Ins and Outs of Rhythm Harp - An interesting look into the world of Peters
unique chugging style. Homespun Tapes VD-RTH-HA02
12. Sonny Terry Whoopin The Blues 1958-1974 Some really incredible footage of one of our great
fathers of country blues harmonica. Footage is of Sonny talking and playing into a camera all by
himself. Killer stuff. Rounder Video (1997), Vestapol 13057.

For a continually updated listing of artists, their albums, songs, keys of songs, harmonicas and
positions used, visit the Harmonica Masterclass Website at:

Thanks to singer/harmonica player Diane Smith for her editing and proof reading of this listing.

2004 (Revision 2006) David Barrett and the Harmonica Masterclass Company. All rights reserved.