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Dirty-South Blues Harp forum: wail on! > Retire Whammer Jammer?
Retire Whammer Jammer?
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ted burke
967 posts
Jun 05, 2023
3:28 PM
More than likely that I'm in the minority here, but it's worth considering the idea that it's past time the Magic Dick instrumental "Whammer Jammer" be retired. The track debuted in 1971 on the J.Geils The Morning After album, and 52 years later , 52 years of endless interpretations and recreations of MD's phrases later, maybe it's time to let this jam stay on the shelf and the likes of us should find newer harp instrumentals to tackle, master and improve on. Magic Dick's work is a masterpiece of refreshing, retooling, reconfiguring the Old School with a very contemporary approach. All that many of us have been doing is copying what MDs did originally , with little innovation that I've come across. Time for a new jam, some new ideas. Thoughts?
104 posts
Jun 05, 2023
4:18 PM
Do you feel the same about Juke?
996 posts
Jun 08, 2023
9:36 AM
Here's your sign!
10419 posts
Jun 08, 2023
5:29 PM
I think one of the points of some types of standard is sort of as a way to show off mastery.

I've never taken on Whammer Jammer. It sounds more like your complaint is everyone is doing it the same way. That may be specifically because it's used to show technical mastery. Maybe the answer is to try to reinvent it? Retiring it is easy. Redefining it... that might be tricky.

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First Post- May 8, 2009
ted burke
969 posts
Jun 08, 2023
8:19 PM
My point exactly. Performing a flawless redentition of Whammer Jammer the way Magic Dick plays isn't art, it's the equivilent of a being a human photo copier. Pat Ramsey some years ago did a version of WJ and added his own thing to it--he tried and succeded in doing an interpretation that strayed from what many harpsters consider a canonical tune that can't be messed with. Pat rethought, reworked, retooled, recreated the old moves and added his own quirks and stylistics. I like it.


Last Edited by ted burke on Jun 08, 2023 8:19 PM
ted burke
970 posts
Jun 08, 2023
8:25 PM
And another one by the late great Ramsey where there are some significant differences in the one posted above. He is playing around with it. That keeps it interesting.

152 posts
Jun 09, 2023
7:53 AM

This is a good topic for discussion, thanks for bringing it up.

I would like to add to the mix, that in my experience, audiences love hearing whammer jammer. People who know little or nothing about the song, Magic Dick or The J. Geils Band, react overwelming positive - dancing, clapping, etc. People ask the name of it and even ask to hear it again. It can be a real shot in the arm for the band. I also think it promotes the harmonica. I most often am told "I never heard the harmonica played like that before" after playing whammer jammer.

Just some food for thought.
701 posts
Jun 09, 2023
2:04 PM
I think about this the same way I think about Mustang Sally, or Stormy Monday. Any of those tunes that audiences enjoy and musicians dislike playing.

My reaction is always: If the audience enjoys it, then play it. Who the hell are you to keep something enjoyable from the audience?

If you are only playing for yourself and by yourself, do what you want. On a gig, you should play what the people like.
Marc Graci
YouTube Channel
2347 posts
Jun 10, 2023
7:08 AM
I believe we should strive to improve our playing by listening to past greats and using what parts fit our musical approach.

You can work to play the whole piece note for note, or choose to learn some parts you like and use them when performing.

Personally I choose to NOT learn to fully copy recordings of great harp songs, but just to incorporate those parts that appeal to me into my playing.

Many of the songs we now view as outstanding were played in different ways by the original artist at different times.
Many of the honored recorded songs document only that one performance by a talented player. Artists who improvise do not play the exact same rote notes night after night. They hang new interpretations on the bones of the song, though they may revisit signature "hooks."

Here is Little Walter Jacobs playing an alternate version of "Juke." Jacobs played it differently at different times, and did not choose to play a rote version night after night. Jacobs was an improviser.

Like any music that is live and improvised, renditions vary each performance.

I prefer live, in-the-moment improvised music to copies played to sound note-for-note like a famous recording. Both take ability, but use different skills.

I am not a fan of tribute performances. I want live music to be that of the performer played live, raw, and NOW. That means there will be some differences each time.

I like when a musician makes a song their own. If I want to hear the original hit recorded version, I will listen to that recording.

I don't think we should retire Wammer Jammer or Juke. I think we should just stop obsessing over performing exact copies of the so called "original" as heard on recordings. It is one thing to learn a song or parts of a song to improve our skills. It is another to just play copies of a song when performing. When hearing live music I enjoy inspired improvisation more than precise copying.

The original artists didn't play it the same way every time they performed, and neither should we.

Doug S.

Last Edited by dougharps on Jun 10, 2023 7:26 AM
2900 posts
Jun 12, 2023
2:38 PM
Mirco - When was the last time you heard someone do Stormy Monday or Mustang Sally? It's been a long time for me. If someone like Buddy Guy is doing those tunes, I'll happily listen. For me, it really all depends on the vocalist.

Regarding Whammer Jammer, I only know one guy that played that regularly that wasn't named Magic Dick and I haven't seen him in years. My only gripe is that damn dog whistle 10 blow. I really hate that sound. Although, I would be happy to hear it, if the player was using an F# harp. All of the dogs in the neighborhood would come running.

Last Edited by Joe_L on Jun 12, 2023 2:40 PM
ted burke
971 posts
Jun 12, 2023
4:57 PM
Maybe there can be a surge in deconstructions of this classic, such as on guitar . Here's one.

141 posts
Jun 13, 2023
8:03 AM
Nah, if you can pull it off go for it. But if not leave it at home ! Pretty simple really people dig it just don't F-it up. Like in Nashville Honky Tonks you got super talented musicians playing tons of standard licks over & over some of em actually played those licks on the original recordings. Crowds love it, musicians getting paid, smiles all around.

Last Edited by Lou on Jun 13, 2023 7:55 AM
104 posts
Jun 17, 2023
4:11 PM
From time to time I will have someone come and say...$20. if you can do Whammer Jammer! And I do it. Hmmm made a few bucks on that on.
ted burke
972 posts
Jun 17, 2023
9:13 PM
20 posts
Jun 19, 2023
11:34 AM
Try this for a change ......
Tom White and The Mad Circus
21 posts
Jun 19, 2023
11:37 AM
297 posts
Jun 19, 2023
11:26 PM
Thanks for the post. It has clearly generated lots of interest. I’m okay with your suggestion, but it’s kind of like Cotton’s “The Creeper” - I hear few people attempt it and fewer still who do it justice.

Retire Juke? Is nothing sacred? Unlike most harp players, Walter had so many great instrumentals. You have to keep those pinnacles in front of players who look to scale the heights.

Try to satisfy the audience? Sure. But if you have your own song book and are doing blues you’re not compelled to do “Mustang Sally”, “Midnight Hour” or “Roll Over Beethoven” just because someone likes them. Be polite and move on.

And there’s the confusion factor when the band doesn’t usually play them. Someone asked for “Johnny B. Goode”. The guitar player said okay, then played the intro to “Oh Carole” (so that’s what I sang). Another time someone wanted “Stormy Monday” and my question to the guitarist who agreed we’d do it, was T-Bone or Allman Brothers changes? He proceeded to open with the head from “Red House”.

Hilarious as ever!
Jim Rumbaugh
1394 posts
Jun 25, 2023
4:59 PM
I can't play Whammer Jammer.

But I have been having fun with the 10 hole blow bend.

theharmonicaclub.com (of Huntington, WV)
3130 posts
Jun 27, 2023
9:42 PM
I don’t play it either, but here is a great resource if you have a desire to learn it.

Last Edited by Gnarly on Jun 27, 2023 9:47 PM

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