So I bought my first harmonica. It was a Marine Band
model 1896, like the ones I still play.
I was real shy about anyone hearing my first
efforts, so I went out to my parent's car to
practice and I learned my first tune, "Mary Had a
Little Lamb". I think it took me about four hours
to get it right.
The first harmonica player I really listened to
and tried to imitate was Paul Butterfeild. I owe a
lot of my sound to Paul (May he Rest In Peace).
The first harmonica album I ever bought was
Little Walter's "Boss Blues Harmonica" double Album
which contains about half of the tracks he ever
recorded under his own name.
The first time I ever played through an
amplifier, was when I stopped by my uncle's church
in Manitoba, (he was the minister) and checked out this
funky old amp I found sitting there gathering dust. I asked him if
he had a mike and he found one for me. It was one of
those gigantic Shure Bros. models, all chrome and
grill, the Shure Super 55. The sound that came out of this rig was
ENOURMOUS and it totally blew my mind!
I was hooked on amplified harmonica from that
point on. I later bought that amp, a 1953 Gibson Les Paul GA-30 and I still have it. I got my first chance
to actually play amplified with a band about a year
later. It was a dance at theis funky little hall in
Burnaby BC. By then I was ready to jam. I remember
the exhilaration of knowing the harmonica well
enough to make up all kindsa stuff as I went
Soon after, I formed my first band "The Union Street
AllStars" in 1979. We mainly played at a local
strip club, behind the dancers. The totally nude
exotic dancers could be a little distracting at
times, to say the least. We played mainly "White Boy
Blues", The Rolling Stones, John Mayall, Paul
Butterfield Blues Band, etc.
During this time I also played a lot on "Skid
Row" the term for the 100 block of Hastings Street
in Vancouver. In fact, this is where I really
developed the foundation for my improvisational
style, playing with the Blues, Rock and Country
bands in places like "Fort Boogie", "The Kit Kat
Club", "The Smilin' Buddah", "Frank's Caberet" and
other dark and seamy places. The bands who played
these places were pretty bored playin in these places five nights a week and always seemed glad to let me sit in.
I was also beginning to play occasionally with
one of the bands that was big in Vancouver during the 60's and 70's, "The Seeds of Time".