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SPAH part 2

Thursday 15.8.13

from Ben Hewlett at

Up early to sample some real American culture at Waffle House – coffee, bacon and maple syrup. An alternative to the $17 breakfast in the hotel, although I think there was a discount.

This to make sure I got to Madcat Ruth’s seminar on acoustic tone at 08.30 and I was only a little late.

He gave a great write up one of our Sonny Terry riffs books on so I wanted to thank him and hang out a bit. We’ll try to get him to the UK festival some time.

He’s such a character you have to love him and I learnt a bunch of new things including about his ‘loo-roll’ amplifier and his swanee whistle auto bending machine…

My 1.5 hour seminar and following 2 hours of (the Joe Filisko Teach-in) teaching ‘How to play in 7 keys on a C harp without bending a note’ went down well with a flurry of interest and a swarm of people wanting more at the end of it.

I was quite surprised how many people came to the seminar of an unknown Brit but 40-50 souls attended and it was an honour to teach them.

Unfortunately that stopped me going to all the other seminars such as:

Harmonica Collecting and History

Chicago Blues with Joe Filisko

Chrom playing for diatonic players

Group playing by ear

X-Reed harmonicas with Brendan Power

The craft of Country harp

Traditional Quebecois music

Adding colour to music

Singing and harmony

Better bending

Playing by ear

How to be a frontman

Breath control for blues harp


There is so much going on you can really only catch 10% of what’s available.

Then in the evening there was a 4-hour concert with Winslow Yerxa, Pierre-Luc Dupuis, Paul Rishell/Annie Raines, John Sebastian, Hot Shots, Gateway Club followed by and blues jam, a jazz jam, a country jam, a bluegrass jam all with high quality especially the jazz.

I had to leave at 1.30am to get some rest but sat for a while listening to a little hallway jam with Madcat Ruth, Richard Sleigh, Steve Baker, Dennis Greunling and friends. Astonishing.

Crawled down for breakfast at 0830 to find the stage in the lobby bouncing to the sound of a chord/bass/chrom trio playing ‘When the saints’ to rapturous applause.

More coming...

from Ben Hewlett at