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beginner forum: for novice and developing blues harp players > Jerry Portnoy-1976, w/- Muddy Waters Band
Jerry Portnoy-1976, w/- Muddy Waters Band
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6753 posts
Jul 08, 2020
12:09 AM
Hi folks,
Yesterday I watched the video of Muddy Waters Band live in Dortmund Germany from 1976.

I would have to check to be sure of the exact sequence of events but I think this is right around the time when Muddy was enjoying a boost from the Hard Again album.
I think of these years as the last hurrah of Muddy Waters’ career, and almost a return to greatness from something of a lull which possibly started around the time of that terrible car crash. I don’t know if it’s right to think that way because the band certainly continued working and recording and making really good records, but that must have been so disruptive. In any case, there’s no doubt the records which Johnny Winter produced were very successful and brought prominence back to Muddy Waters, and a couple Grammys as well.
Personally these days the Hard Again album is a little on the harsh-sounding side for my taste but I still acknowledge it’s a great album for what it was. Cotton played just fantastic lines even if his harp production was so distorted it sounds like a metal guitar.

This Live set from Germany is like the distilled essence of Muddy Waters, after 35 years or so, this is what it comes to.
Jerry Portnoy is right there alongside Muddy and the sense of how Muddy involved the harp as a part of his performance is very strong. It’s like Jerry is filling the role of the backing vocalist, the chorus if you like. He’s the response to Muddy’s call.
This is quite a short program and almost 10 minutes of it is Mojo Working in about 4 renditions, I think they played it, then played a reprise, then Jr Wells walks on and calls Muddy back on to do it some more until eventually Jr takes over and runs through it with himself as leader.

I think you may be able to watch the entire thing on YouTube as separate videos but not sure if every song is available and don’t know what the sound quality is like. Usually suffers on YouTube I think. I have the DVD and sounds ok to me.
Anyway there are 2 things I want to say about this
1) I think Dennis G is interviewing Jerry this weekend and I will make an effort to tune into that conversation if I’m able.

2) if a person was keen to learn how to play blues harp in role of an accompanist, I think study of Portnoy’s work on this show would pay dividends.

Maybe starting with this (I found a link to the entire show)

6754 posts
Jul 08, 2020
12:11 AM
I mean from the first song with Muddy; C harp
6757 posts
Jul 09, 2020
3:04 AM
Trivia concerning JP and his stint in the Muddy Waters Band: Jerry was in that job steadily for over 5 years. i think James Cotton was the only other player to hold it so long ('55-'61) although James did another substantial stint between 63 and 66. Mojo Buford may have racked up more years too, but spread out across 20 years: he had 2 main periods, both before and after JP and prior to those, way back in the early 60s he had a couple of brief turns while Cotton was elsewhere.
What'm I saying? Portnoy has solid credentials, thats all. Really solid.
368 posts
Jul 21, 2020
8:04 PM
Portnoy was part of Mark Hummel's Blowout crew this year along with Lee Oskar and Magic Dick. Portnoy played a completly solo slow moody dripping blues number that was just masterful. I got to tell him that for me it was the pinnacle of the concert. Of course I said the same thing to Magic Dick about his rocking rendition of the classic Wammer Jammer ;)

I was tempted to ask Jerry about his music but we ended up talking about an old postcard and his pop's furniture store... He stuck me as a super interesting guy with a honest reverence for history.

I know some folks are too far away to catch Mark's Harmonica Blowout tours but if anyone here has a chance "do it" they are incredible.

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6766 posts
Jul 21, 2020
10:49 PM
I saw some video from those shows. i remember especially that i saw Misty, because i've been playing that one too.

What a privilege to be able to speak casually with Jerry after a show! I love that!

Occasionaly I've been in the position where there's an opportunity to meet the 'stars'. Always too startled to ask anything sensible. Did meet Magic a couple years ago but can't recall a word of what may have passed for conversation.

I made it to Dennis Gruenling's webinar a couple weeks ago, when JP was the guest. It was interesting to hear his story.

Last Edited by SuperBee on Jul 22, 2020 12:49 AM
369 posts
Jul 22, 2020
9:46 PM
That's cool! Misty is a good one. Portnoy does an awsome job with it on the 10 hole. I'd like to play Misty (well) on the chromatic. Sadly, I really can't play anything well on the chromatic. Although I have an alternate tuning that works nice for Misty, Moon River, Charade...

I'm not shy about approaching folks if there's an opportunity. Duke Robillard returned with Mark again for this Blowout. I've seen Duke a few times but never had a chance to meet him. This time I caught him on the stage while packing up. He was super cool and joked about being just a lowly'ol guitar player amongst a group of harmonica superstars...

Mark's van must be one of coolest places on earth during these tours.

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