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Dirty-South Blues Harp forum: wail on! > OT - The MBH Post that put me on the map
OT - The MBH Post that put me on the map
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1541 posts
Jun 10, 2021
10:41 AM
OT - The MBH Post that put me on the map

Please forgive me if this post seems a little self-aggrandizing. In all honesty, it is. Just over 10 years ago, when I was still doing business as Florida-Trader, I was “attacked” here on Modern Blues Harmonica. Attack might be too strong of a word, but you get the point.

Here is the link to that thread and I have also bumped it up to Page 1.


Many of you who still grace these pages today were active on MBH back in 2011 and may remember this thread. The author of the thread, Hawmonica, was a gentleman named Matthew Smart. He was one of the owners of a company called Hettrick Harmonicas. They made very high-quality harmonica combs out of wood, Dymondwood and Corian (and maybe some other materials). Mr. Hettrick was the CNC Milling genius and Matt was the front man sales guy. You will notice that this was his 9th post. I later learned that he had previously been a member of the MBH community but had been booted off for some sort of unacceptable behavior. He was later reinstated, and this is his 9th post after regaining access to MBH. My response to his accusation was my very first post on MBH. I had been a lurker for a short time prior to this, but I had never posted any comments.

At the time, I was pretty upset and it kind of freaked me out a little. But you know what they say – “Any publicity is good publicity”. In retrospect I find the entire episode very amusing. It did put me on the map. Certainly, a lot more people were aware of me after this thread. And to be perfectly honest, Hettrick Harmonica combs were much better products at the time of this post. But within a couple of months, Matthew had again been kicked off Modern Blues Harmonica only to return a few times under an alias which I think our Moderators recognized and squashed, and within a year or so, Hettrick Harmonica had closed its doors. On the other hand, my business has thrived. Why? Why did a company that was started before mine and had superior products fail and what later became Blue Moon Harmonicas LLC has enjoyed so much success?

I try very hard to take the high road in life. It isn’t always easy. In this particular case, it was difficult for me not to hold a grudge against a guy who was deliberately trying to damage my business. It really tested me. But I think I did OK. My take on all this is that Matt Smart was not then and is not now a bad guy. I just think he lacked business experience and didn’t quite know how to behave. I was 55 years old when I started Blue Moon and I had built and run a few successful businesses, so I had the advantage in the experience department. I did not intentionally drive him out of business. That was never my goal. I just focused on offering harmonica players the best option I could and let the market decide who to support.

Here’s the fun part. If you were rate people on a pecking order in terms of their knowledge about the harmonica, harmonica combs, custom harmonicas, etc., when I launched my business, I would have been low man on the totem pole. Everybody knew more than me. I had been playing the harmonica for about 35 years at the time, but I didn’t know the first thing about making custom combs or custom harps. Hell – I didn’t even understand why harmonica players wanted custom combs!! I just knew that they did, and I thought it would be fun to open a business catering to them. What happened after I opened my business was magical. For once in my life, I guessed right. I guessed that harmonica players wanted a reliable source of custom combs and they wanted to do business with someone who would treat them with respect. Somehow the harmonica community sensed that, and they embraced me. They validated my decision to go into business. They taught me. They encouraged me. They gave me ideas for new products. I may have been ignorant, but I was smart enough to listen. And that has pretty much been the story of Blue Moon. Everything I have ever done has been in response to listening to the market. Listening to harmonica players. Back in 2010, if you had told me that I would be making all sorts of pretty combs out of colorful materials, I would have thought you were nuts. But here I am – offering a virtual rainbow of colors. How did that happen? Because harmonica players want them. It is that simple. They told me what they wanted, and they told me if I was willing to make it, they would buy it. And they did. You guys have never steered me wrong. And I am eternally thankful for that. It is like having a ginormous Board of Directors guiding my company for free. So, while this post is partly about feeling pretty good about myself and patting myself on the back, it is really about saying Thank You to all of you for your support over the years. I am much more active on Facebook nowadays than I am here, but these are my roots. This is where my business took a quantum leap forward and I will always remember that. Thank you Matthew Smart.

Last Edited by florida-trader on Jun 26, 2021 9:57 AM
3354 posts
Jun 10, 2021
2:49 PM
I think I missed all that 10 years ago Tom. I was not looking at custom combs at all and had already left my own attempts to seal my MB combs behind. I am still on the fence today. I know it makes sense to have repairs done on harps as needed but I can't justify more expense currently.
Having said that I will also say this: We are in a total heyday regarding harmonicas, options for brands and models, repair/customizing guys, and makers of aftermarket stuff including combs, mics, holders, mutes, and also the vast sea of knowledge available has just exploded in recent years. I'm seeing harp going places I never thought it could go and do it with class, panache, and mad skill. Some of this is thanks to great learning of what all is needed to do say a symphony, or a jazz piece, or work harp into southern fried rock and make it work very well. Part of it is knowing how to retune a harp. And really, how to play effectively.
I take ownership, I'm more a joe average kind of player than a players' player. There are many who have gone far past where I have or even plan to. They get my total respect.
Another guy who gets my total respect is Tom Halchak. Tom you may recall or not, tweaking a reed for me on a harp in exchange for a CD some years ago. You did not have to do that! But you did for a fellow harp guy and I always appreciated it. Add to that the ethical way you have always made your statements- even when being tested- and I have to give you high status as a solid good guy and businessman. The proof is in the pudding as they used to say in Olde Englande.
I believe if you act ethically and do what you love, you are destined to have a good life and see success in some way or another. Tom is proof!
Music and travel destroy prejudice.





Last Edited by jbone on Jun 10, 2021 2:53 PM
14 posts
Jun 11, 2021
6:01 AM
Hi Tom,

I'm glad you're in business. I'm a nobody, but you make me feel like a special customer. You've gone out of your way to make sure I was satisfied and taken care to message me with a personal touch that isn't too common in businesses any more. I love what you do!

Robert Stalvey
10353 posts
Jun 11, 2021
11:33 AM
I remember that very well. One of my better contributions to the harmonica world... I emailed you and asked you to member up and respond to his claims. You did, and took it from there. :)

Thread Organizer (A list of all sorts of useful threads)

First Post- May 8, 2009
806 posts
Jun 11, 2021
3:41 PM
This Brings back memories. I think the days of new people in our industry trying disparage others in the industry has vanished years ago. There are a lot of new people that have entered into the industry on the supply side, but for the most part it has been polite.
It is a great industry, and I am glad to be in it. ---------

4 posts
Jun 13, 2021
2:06 AM
Hi Tom!
Most of your Marine Band Fancy Acrylic comb on the site are out of stock, what is the ETA for stock updates, and are there any new color patterns for the fancy combs coming, or will you just update the current out of stock colors.


Last Edited by Millman500 on Jun 13, 2021 2:07 AM
1542 posts
Jun 14, 2021
6:53 AM
Thank you jbone, RobDawg, nacoran and HarveyHarp for your kind words. Much appreciated.

Millman500 - we are at this very moment running a batch of Marine Band combs. I always post an announcement on Facebook when I pick up a fresh batch so guys know when I have replenished my supply. I don't know if you are on Facebook, but if you are, I suggest you join the Modern Blues Harmonica Group. That is one of the groups I regularly post to. If you are not a Facebook user, keep an eye on my website. I will update it as soon as I have more. It will likely be this week.
Tom Halchak
Blue Moon Harmonicas
Blue Moon Harmonicas
6 posts
Jun 15, 2021
2:12 PM
Got it !

I am not on Facebook but I will bookmark the website and check :)

6682 posts
Jun 23, 2021
4:01 PM
You're a class guy, Tom, and you always have been. Thanks for taking the time to tell us a true story--one that distills a lot of hard-earned wisdom into something that everybody would do well to learn from. May you have many more years of success.
1543 posts
Jun 26, 2021
10:25 AM
Thanks Adam.
Tom Halchak
Blue Moon Harmonicas
Blue Moon Harmonicas
17 posts
Jun 27, 2021
3:02 AM
Hi Tom :)
Updates on the Fancy MB combs? ETA?

We really need them ASAP, all my builds are on the workbench waiting on your product boss :)

Last Edited by Millman500 on Jun 27, 2021 3:03 AM
1726 posts
Jun 27, 2021
6:11 AM
I thought Rand McNally put you on the map.
1544 posts
Jun 28, 2021
7:40 AM
Millman500 - I will have some this week for sure.
Tom Halchak
Blue Moon Harmonicas
Blue Moon Harmonicas

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