I agree. Lee Oskar's playing is unique and wonderful. I think the lack of recognition is because he used the diatonic harp in nontraditional non Delta Blues and non Chicago Blues harp ways.
Much of the diatonic harp harmonica community seems focused on assessing the degree to which a harp player replicates the sound and techniques of recognized masters of Delta/Chicago Blues styles and shows disdain for other approaches to harp.
Just my observations... ----------
Last Edited by dougharps on Jan 29, 2020 7:49 AM
He is a great player, and his brand of harmonicas helped force Hohner to improve their quality control in the '80's. I have a full set, and they are built like tanks. I don't think I've ever taken advantage of the replacement reed plates. But they haven't improved since the 80s. I have a full set, and the embossed letters on the cover plates are raised quite a bit. Also, the amount of how much the cover plates are open in the back varies quite a bit.
Sure enough, he does not get mentioned enough when we discuss distinctive players. In the Eric Burdon version of War, he was very influenced by Butterfield and had a tendency to overplay, but he quickly grew into his singular style. His phrasing is spare yet jazzy, his tone shimmering and golden. I met him in the 70s when I was a Carnie around SoCal, in Costa Mesa , where War had just performed at the County Fair. We were introduced by a mutual friend who worked a concession . He was a very fine man. My take away from then was that he didn't like playing chromatics because they lacked the "guts" of a good diatonic. He was playing Golden Melodies at the time, and he gave me one he had on him because it was my birthday. I still have it, key of D. ---------- www.ted-burke.com
And, if you think about it, even although he didn't play it, the riff to what probably is the most viewed song featuring harmonica on YouTube was someone ripping off his riff (and getting sued for it.)
Philosofy, I’m down with the spirit of your post, but it’s also jarring on me. I don’t believe Hohner really did improve the QC to any meaningful extent in the 80s. The stuff was still quite horrible into the early 90s. Lee Oskar did provide an alternative through his deal with Tombo, and no doubt that helped but I think it took until around 95 before Hohner really began to wake up and make meaningful changes.
In about '84, on the advice of the harmonica expert behind the counter at an independent music store, I tried a Lee Oskar harp. Let that sink in a minute and you will get a good idea of how bad mid-80's Hohners had gotten. 30+ Lee Oskars later and they are still a major part of my inventory. I think the key to appreciating Lee Oskar's music is to remember he's from Denmark, not Chicago. War was jazz funk, not blues. I'm a big fan.
He does not play chromatic because he doesn't neet. Just check his recordings on harmonica blowout, and you'll hear his tone is very close a chromatic. Many years ago I told Billy Branch that I used a octave pedal influenced by him, and he replied "and I use influenced by Lee Oskar"
I lean in in the direction of Philosofy's take on LO's influence on Hohner's QC wakeup. It could easily have taken 5 or 10 years for Hohner to notice the encroachment on their market share and another 5 years to diagnose the problem and implement corrective action. Regardless, for about 15 years, LO provided an alternative to 3 week disposable harmonicas.
From Wiki "In the mid-1990s, responding to the competing new Lee Oskar Harmonica System by Tombo, Hohner introduced an interchangeably parted series known as the Modular System, usually abbreviated MS."
From my point of view, Hohner's mid 90's response is consistent with what I would expect from the company that sold me that last Golden Melody I purchased.
Last Edited by Thievin' Heathen on Jan 31, 2020 5:47 AM
The MS was not the last word in their response though, nor is that initial iteration of MS line even the last word in MS. It took Rick Epping and Steve Baker a fair bit of harping to get Hohner back on track, and Joe Filisko and Richard Sleigh had also put in a lot of work to analyse and correct the problems. Again, as it seems i may not have been clear, I’m not taking issue at all with the idea that Lee Oskar’s collaboration with Tombo to provide an alternative blues harp was effective in providing much-needed competition for Hohner. I did not post to dispute that part of the observation. I agree with it. My ONLY objection is that it was not the 80s in which Hohner improved their product. In the 80s, and well into the 90s, Hohner product was awful. That’s all. I kinda wish I’d let it ride.
Well, I can't say when Hohner got back on track because I never went back to them. Sometime around 2000 I started in a Suzuki direction. Then Seydel started coming around. I do have many ebay Hohners, but that's a different story.
A Business major could probably write a thesis on the magnitude of Hohner's disastrous marketing model of the 80's and the lasting repercussions.
Just now, one of my Facebook friends in the US bought a harp on a whim and she wrote the factory to complain she wasn't getting sound out of her harps. Lee Oskar phoned her himself because the tech support guy was at lunch and gave her a half hour lesson over the phone. She had to cut it short to go to work! BronzeWailer's YouTube
I had a similar customer service experience. I called about the low tuned models, and the customer service called him directly and got the info immediately. Its refreshing to speak to real knowledgeable people.
For an International Artist and businessman, Lee is very approachable and remains very friendly to this day. Many do not know that he is also an artist in regards to his paintings.... ---------- The Iceman
Post a Message
blues harmonica riffs - harmonica tabs - learn harmonica - play harmonica
play harmonica easily - harp tabs for beginners - blues harmonica lessons
ADAM GUSSOW is an official endorser for HOHNER HARMONICAS