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Dirty-South Blues Harp forum: wail on! > My mentors
My mentors
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ted burke
914 posts
May 01, 2021
10:08 AM
A few years ago this forum had a thread that asked members who their harmonica mentor was. It was a fun and informative thread, full of good stories, anecdotes, tales of the beginner trying to please his/her teacher.

I named two San Diego harmonica players, Ken Schoppmeyer and Mark Bosworth, aka Raphael Harp.Schoppmeyer wasn't a mentor exactly, but rather a major influence, as he was by common decree among area musicians to be the finest blues harmonica player in town. I've written about him before in this forum and posted a few videos of him demonstrating the rare and enthralling combination of elements in his playing, which was a flawless, sterling tone, melodic invention, phrasing, composing a solo.I saw him quite a few times at the old Mandolin Wind restaurant through the Seventies, and considered him as The Standard I must strive for. It remains to be heard whether I've come closer to that goal. He passed away by his own hand some years ago.

Mark, though, was the closest thing to a mentor I've ever had, the only one I sought out for pointers, tricks, things I could do to improve my playing. So yes, you could say I took lessons from him. His skills as harmonica player were equal , I think, to Ken's, but not quite as organized. He would play at a level seeming to match Butterfield and Musselwhite at their best, and then it would be as if he'd forgotten half of what he just demonstrated. An erratic player, but at his best, which was frequent in our 40 plus year friendship, I didn't think there was anyone who could match him.

Mark passed away last fall of natural causes. I've lost a longtime friend and San Diego and the world lost a beautiful and genuine musician. Ironically, three months previous I had published a profile on Mark for the San Diego Troubadour, a local music publication, in an effort to tell the story of a classy player who seemed to permanently under the radar. It's regretful that there is a dirth of videos or recordings of him playing. I guess it's one of those you-had-to-be-there stories.

The story about Mark can be read here.

Play on, everyone. Thanks for reading.

Last Edited by ted burke on May 01, 2021 10:10 AM
2987 posts
May 01, 2021
6:58 PM
A fitting tribute.
76 posts
May 02, 2021
10:59 PM
Referring first to Ted's post on San Diego. Very Cool, Looks like I was a bit too "early to the party" on some of this, I did not know Mark. My time in San Diego and musically being part of the 5 who founded "Tall Cotton" in 1977, by 1979 Summer I moved north. We were first electric band to play the Belly-Up Tavern and really got it going as a venue, with 2-3 nights (Thurs, Fri, Sat) monthly and started filling it with the two-step country dancers and N. County Party folks who followed the band. At that time I only knew of Kenny and myself being the only two full-time "lead harp out front" players in SD. He really had the blues locked and I was in the country honky-tonk (Charlie McCoy, Fingers Taylor) lane and for Blues I was much more in the Butterfield Style and if I had mentors it was Peter Madcat Ruth, Norton Buffalo. I tried to find something since when I left band in 1979 The Newspaper in Solana came to interview this N. County news and ran a couple photos of me and interviewed. While Kenny was at Mandolin we had Belly-Up, Jose Murphy's in PB monthly, etc. and I even did a concert with Cecile Lyttle (sp)on piano (choir director who became head of music dept) the UCSD Gospel Choir doing the funk style gospel and me on harp....he threw me all the solos. Lost the recording of the show!
Kenny did invite me though to come sit in and we had a "showdown" of sorts.....basically just two harp players trading solo's and 4's but, the place was digging the dueling harps.

I tried to find some infor and email Ted but, this was best I could do: I remember this event and the James Gang and they mention the folks dancing with Tall Cotton.

I never had a true mentor but encounters along the way and being given pointers from Greg, Norton, Madcat, McCoy all were meaningful. Even in mid 90's Dennis Gruenling shared on a phone call when I was exited to have him hear this little webcor amp I had found and played some Juke...suggested I check out tongue blocking to get the "crunchy" tone and demo'd same.....it was like "darn here goes 3 hours a day now to get that down" ....and oh yes, Must have been how Keeny was getting some of those fat tones with his Jt30 and that Blonde Concert amp. I was $425 and I had passed it up at the man's house earlier that day....Kenny said "man I am glad you passed, the man told me the Tall Cotton Harp played was here earlier. I guess this is more San Diego harp stories but, hopefully some can enjoy.
2989 posts
May 09, 2021
6:57 AM
Looks like we are keeping it San Diego centric for the time being . . .
My entry into the harmonica world was thru a man named John Frazer. He calls himself Harmonica John, and is one of the founders of the La Mesa Spring Harp festival.
I was playing in a duo called The Bass Went Home, my partner played bass pedals while playing guitar and singing. He billed us as “The World’s only Two Man Trio”. John had participated in some jam sessions we were part of (as a collective called Spare Change). When a steady job in El Centro became available, we added John to the duo. He was playing drums, but played harp in the rack, adding vocals and another lead instrument to our already robust sound.
So we are all in one vehicle, pulling in from the two hour drive over the mountains to get to the gig, and as we pull off the highway, I see that the marquee for the hotel we are booked at has the words “Live music, Basement House” proudly displayed.
We mull that one over, wondering about what that could mean.
You guessed it, “Lost in Translation”.
We played there 5 nights a week for a couple of months (oh, the good old days), and John showed me something of what the harp had to offer. He even built me a four harp holster that I eventually gigged with and still have, it’s a bit worn now.
I have since moved back to Oklahoma, but cherish these memories of my journey to the edge of the rabbit hole into which I have fallen deeply.
Thanks for your attention.

Last Edited by Gnarly on May 10, 2021 11:40 AM

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