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Dirty-South Blues Harp forum: wail on! > IMO, Lee Oskar doesn't get enough kudos
IMO, Lee Oskar doesn't get enough kudos
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The Iceman
4010 posts
Jan 29, 2020
5:12 AM
for everything he has brought to the harmonica community (aside from being one of my main influences early on).

The Iceman
6450 posts
Jan 29, 2020
6:03 AM
Valid opinion I think.
2058 posts
Jan 29, 2020
7:48 AM
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...

Doug S.

Last Edited by dougharps on Jan 29, 2020 7:49 AM
938 posts
Jan 29, 2020
8:02 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.
ted burke
815 posts
Jan 29, 2020
11:19 AM
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.
10224 posts
Jan 29, 2020
12:16 PM
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.)

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First Post- May 8, 2009
6452 posts
Jan 29, 2020
3:42 PM
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.
586 posts
Jan 29, 2020
7:37 PM
Nate what was the song?
Thievin' Heathen
1192 posts
Jan 29, 2020
7:54 PM
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.
3513 posts
Jan 30, 2020
4:09 AM
agree that lee suited war just fine.....lee oskars are good for single note playing and that's what he does
63 posts
Jan 30, 2020
5:34 AM
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"
939 posts
Jan 30, 2020
9:13 AM
SuperBee, without Lee Oskar (and to a lesser extent, Huang), Hohner would have had no reason to improve quality. My time frame may be off, but the loss of Hohner's monopoly was good for everyone.
6455 posts
Jan 30, 2020
11:35 AM
I thought I was quite explicit in stating the limited scope of my issue with your post and my subjective reason for posting.
Thievin' Heathen
1193 posts
Jan 31, 2020
5:46 AM
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
776 posts
Jan 31, 2020
6:09 AM
It's a cool video and it introduced me to Moses Concas.

Putting that aside, if this was presented as only audio, I can't say that I'd be able to determine that Lee was playing on the track.

Ridge's YouTube
Thievin' Heathen
1194 posts
Jan 31, 2020
6:32 AM
Oh, that's very Lee Oskar. But an interesting point. If I were asked to identify the harp players, from audio only, I wonder if I would remember to consider Lee Oskar.
2745 posts
Jan 31, 2020
5:51 PM
@indigo it was “Timber” by Kesha with Pitbull—Lee’s tune was “San Francisco Bay”.

Last Edited by Gnarly on Jan 31, 2020 5:53 PM
6458 posts
Jan 31, 2020
8:55 PM
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.
Thievin' Heathen
1195 posts
Jan 31, 2020
9:40 PM
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.
2122 posts
Feb 04, 2020
2:33 AM
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
6468 posts
Feb 04, 2020
3:03 AM
That is quite special, BW.
72 posts
Feb 04, 2020
5:28 AM
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.
The Iceman
4013 posts
Feb 04, 2020
6:36 AM
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

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