OK, so I haven’t been sleeping well lately. Lots of irritating not-so-great life’s a bitch events are splurging around Dave and me like a hungry pack of worrisome woe sharks. It’s as if this year is going to be one of multi-challenges to my coping mechanisms. I sometimes think that if I looked out the window and up into that beautiful clear blue Oregon sky, I will see a little black cloud of doom hovering over our roof complete with thunder, lightening, and cackling witches riding in and out of the clouds on supercharged Harley’s. No wonder at all that I can’t sleep……
So what has all this to do with harmonicas, you may ask. I dunno, it just does. I watched an episode of The Lone Ranger on Netflex last night and one of the scenes featured a grizzled cowpoke sitting around a fire with his buddies. Grizzled cowpoke was playing a tune on his harmonica. I think it was “Swing Low Sweet Chariot” or something near that kind of gloomy tune. I believe that he was playing that sad tune in honor of one of the cowpokes who had got shot dead by rustlers. Lone Ranger and Tonto found the corpse and his horse and returned both to the trail boss guy. Naturally, trail boss guy thought Lone had killed off his best worker. Trail boss guy probably thought this because the Lone Ranger wears a black mask. All of us non ranger folk tend to categorize those who wear masks with thieves, muggers, or, in this case, cowpoke killing maniacs.
Tonto tried to explain to trail boss guy that Lone was one of the good guys, but that didn’t work out very successfully. Indians who run around with masked men and who speak in pigeon English are seldom trusted by angry cowpokes. Luckily for Lone and Tonto, before they were both lynched, the grizzled cowpoke, who had obviously seen more of the wild west than the rest of the other cowpokes, set the others straight about Lone and Tonto being good guys on the side of law and order.
I sort of dozed off a bit during the lets eat our beans around the campfire now that we’re all friends scene. When I woke up it was still night and the episode of The Lone Ranger was over. All I remembered is grizzled cowpoke playing the harmonica; and, it occurred to me how you just don’t see that many folks on television playing harmonicas any more…..
Here I was, wide awake at midnight, yet again. Rather than disturb Dave and the cats by getting up, turning on the lights, and clumping to the living room, I turned on my computer and started learning more about harmonicas. You had to know that I would be compelled to share my findings with you all. Here’s what I learned:
Country of Origin: Vienna gets credit for creating the first harmonicas. This was around 1824. German factories began to mass produce them. Matthias Hohner, a German watchmaker, began to mass produce them. Hohner introduced harmonica’s to the United States in the 1850’s.
Other names for a harmonica: mouth organ, harp, blues harp. This is good information if you do crossword puzzles.
Historic types who played the harmonica: Abraham Lincoln, Billy the Kid, and Wyatt Earp.
The World Harmonica Festival is held every four years in Trossingen, Germany. The next WHF will be held in 2013 if you want to go to it. You will have to fly to Germany and that could get spendy, but it would probably be a fun trip.
The Asia Pacific Harmonica Festival is held every two years. Countries throughout Asia participate. Harmonica playing is very popular in places like China and Saipan and Korea. I did not know this. The next one happens in Kuala Lumpur, August 3-6, 2012. This too would be a spendy trip, but the location would be quite exotic. You could impress your friends with your worldliness by informing them you are going to Malaysia to attend a harmonica festival! They would probably look at you like you were completely bonkers. I bet about 90% of them would ask you where Malaysia is because they’d have no clue where in the world that was…….
Yellow Pine Music and Harmonica Festival. This has got to be my favorite one. It’s held in Idaho, USA. It used to be called the Yellow Pine Harmonica Contest, but they ran out of harmonica players who wanted to compete. Thus, no more harmonica contest. Instead they have a bunch of other music and a few harmonica players who will just perform rather than compete. August 3,4,and 5th is the date for the 2012 festival.
Just to give you an idea of where you will end up if you go to this one. Yellow Pine has a total population of 35. It’s in the middle of nowhere, Idaho, 150 miles out of Boise. The streets are are not paved. Yep, they got dirt streets in Yellow Pine. Here is an actual blurb from their brochure regarding where one might stay while attending this event:
“COME PREPARED TO CAMP OUT, USE TRAILERS OR MOTOR HOMES, AND PROVIDE SOME OF YOUR OWN MEALS. Breakfast is available Saturday and Sunday. Water is available. (We do not have a dump station for self-contained RVs.)“
OK, so it will be a challenge to get to this one and you would need to be a bit of a rustic to deal with the accommodations. You’ll have to camp out with the critters and hope to heck you don’t run out of gas getting there. Then there’s the water thing. Water is available, but they don’t give further details. Available from whom and at what price? I think I would rather go to the contest in Malaysia. The streets are probably paved there.
Of course, I went to YouTube to see what would happen if I typed in the word harmonica. I was quite pleased with the selection of harmonica related content. These were some of my favorite videos:
The Adler Trio – Playing Gypsy Medley nice and zippy. I liked it.
Austin Berry, an Irish harmonica champion playing a selection of Irish Reels.
Johnny Cash singing Orange Blossom Special and playing harmonica. I love Johnny Cash.
The Piccolo Harmonica Club. You will be singing along with them and whistling, too. I did!
Tong Son Oh lordy, this one was excellent. Vietnamese, Tong Son, plays harmonica with his nose while eating a banana. No, I’m not putting you on. He is famous for doing this!
If you want to read up on the history of the harmonica, Wikipedia has, as always, good info.
It’s time for me to put my trusty computer away and try to get back to sleep. I feel much better about having this chat with you all. I plan on going back to YouTube to watch some more harmonica videos one day soon. The joy of music is universal, isn’t it………