SPAH Archives

by Manfred Wewers

Click on the links to see the photos.

Pre-SPAH

1920


Harmonica virtuoso George Schindler performs in New York, Detroit and Toronto using Koch harmonicas (clip 1, clip 2). Hohner will purchase and take over Koch in 1929.

1923

A harmonica contest, held in New York, produces two winners, described in the vernacular of those times, and has a Canadian judge (clip 1).

1925

Toronto also holds a harmonica contest during the Broadview Boys Fair (clip 1). The event is linked with the harmonica competitions that take place annually at the Canadian National Exhibition, the CNE (1879-present). The CNE and the harmonica have had a close association since 1921 when the large, uniformed Canadian harmonica bands, just like the American Albert Hoxie  (1884-1942) phenomena, first made their appearance there. In 1924, the harmonica became a legimate instrument in the music competitions under the auspices of the Canadian Bureau for the Advancement of Music.

1926

A man's best friends. How does he push the slider?  On May 9, Richard E. Byrd (1888-1957) flies over the North Pole. With him is Dick Konter, the harmonica player in the photo. Hohner takes the opportunity to document the event (ad 1). Roald Amundsen (1872-1928) reached the South Pole on Dec. 14, 1911. Although, there was no harmonica on that expedition, Hohner did produce the Roald Amundsen harmonica.

Concertone harmonicas are reasonably priced and available in a mail-order catalogue.(ad 1).

1928

These are certainly the days when the harmonica is extremely popular. The numbers are staggering.

In Toronto, enough people like the harmonica, to warrant a radio show featuring An Old-Time Harmonica Programme.

1930

The harmonica makes inroads into modern education. Dr. John H. Logan is the DMO, Doctor of Mouth Organ, in a program run by the Board of Education (clip 1).

1942

The harmonica is certainly an essential instrument in military life. "Recreational Music Sets", containing harmonicas, are provided to all stations with 100-200 men (clip 1). 

1944

Pvt. Stan (Wisser) Harper (1921-2016) performs for Yehudi Menuhin (clip 1). The chromatic player at  Air Force  Base Selfridge has a smaller audience.

1945

Pcf. Stan Wisser next performs for Larry Adler and Jack Benny (clip 1, clip 2). Larry, Jack and Ingrid Bergman are on tour in France and Germany and SPAH member Dick Thomas' brother-in-law is there to document the event (photo 1, photo 2, photo 3, photo 4). Gordon Mitchell is another harmonica player in uniform (clip 1).

1955

A harmonica can save your life, if you play the right tune (clip 1).

1957

Hohner issues badges for its Harmonica Jamboree.

1960

In 1960, there are still vestiges of the Albert N. Hoxie (1884-1942) large harmonica band structures. Levittown, Pa., has such a band (clip 1, clip 2, clip 3, clip 4, clip 5). Their leader, Michael Farber, was a member of Hoxies's Philadelphiia Harmonica Band. Here's the original 1929 tour program (clip 1clip 2, clip 3, clip 4, clip 5, clip 6, clip 7, clip 8) of the Hoxie band.

1961

Hohner is a major player in the North American harmonica market, reaching even Brandon, Manitoba, a sales stop for grandson Ernst Hohner.

The SPAH Years

1962 

Earl Collins Jr. (1924-1988), a harmonica player and Ford employee, in Dearborn, Michigan, has a vision (page 1, page 2, page 3) to form an organization for harmonica players. He finds more like-minded people at Ford;  after all, Henry Ford (1863-1947) was a harmonica player, and also runs ads in his local newspapers in the Motor City area, looking for others. This is the birth of the Society for the Preservation and Advancement of the Harmonica (SPAH). On December 27, (page 1, page 2) the first SPAH meeting and concert is held in the Ford Central Office Building Auditorium, provided by the Ford Motor Company. About 150 people attend (Harmonica Happenings 22.3: 3).  The Harmonicats perform for those who attended, including present-day SPAH member Eugene Hansen (l-r: Eugene Hansen & Bob McFarlane).

New York music companies publish Headlined Hits and All Star Song Hits for Hohner Chromettas and Chromonicas.

1963

This is the story of "Big John". Built in 1932 by Larry Stagg (l-r:Larry Stagg & Vince Melosky) and Bill Forsyth, it is brought to SPAH in 1963 and makes the local Detroit news (clip 1, clip 2, clip 3). Then "Big John" goes nationwide, flying to New York (l-r:Earl Collins, Larry Stagg, Gordon Mitchell, Dennis Paperd, Ginny & Vince Melosky) and appearing on Apr. 8, 1963, on Gary Moore's I've Got a Secret and at the Hohner Company (l-r:Earl Collins, Dennis Paperd, Ginny Melosky, Gordon Mitchell, Larry Stagg & Vince Melosky). By 1967, "Big John" travels to Toronto for a CanSPAH gathering where it is played by a SPAH group (l-r.: Vince Melosky, Richard Harris, Chuck Moll, Ginny Melosky, Gordon Mitchell &  Al Fogel). Vince Melosky (l-r:Vince Melosky & Earl Collins) acquires"Big John" in 1975 and displays it at the Lincoln Park Historical Museum in 1978. Where is it now? Hopefully, another harmonica-loving home like this one was.

It is also a big year for SPAH, starting with a meeting on Jan. 20, to discuss SPAH's future incorporation (page 1, page 2). On October 23, SPAH becoms SPAH Inc. Along with Earl Collins, the co-founders and co-signers of the incorporation documents are Gordon Mitchell (1927-2001) and Richard Harris (1938-2015).  Prior to the age of emails, mailing lists (page 1, page 2) and letters from the President of SPAH (page 1, page 2) to the membership are constant requirements in order to move the organization forward. SPAH develops a letterhead for convenience. As the membership grows, SPAH divides itself in Chapters, based on geographical boundaries, making it easier for members to attend meetings. Each Chapter has individuals responsible for local administration and events (page 1, page 2), including holding Chapter meetings, keeping minutes (page 1, page 2, page 3) and sponsoring shows. The Lincoln Park Chapter has its own logo and hosts a SPAHtacular on Dec 10. The 1st prize for the draw, 15 lbs. of silver dollars, would be worth about $3,500.00 today. On Nov. 1, SPAH's Board of Directors presents a concert featuring the Harmoni-Kings (l-r: Hank Graham, Gene Broglie & Bob Bauer). Here they are at rehearsal.

1964

Earl Collins gets more newspaper coverage.

1965

On Mar. 21, SPAH presents a concert of SPAH talent. The program (page 1, page 2, page 3, page 4) includes Vince Melosky, Eugene Hansen and Fred Stowers. And SPAH continues to grow as the Chapters are formalized (Chapter 3, Chapter 4, Chapter 6). Further growth comes from north of the US border. CanSPAH, the Canadian branch of SPAH, is created on Sept.1. The certified document, a Declaration of Business, #55142, is signed by Maurice Godfrey (1913-1984), the founder and Administrator of CanSPAH and is registered in the County of York, Ontario. CanSPAH also creates a letterhead and Service Award formFred Mather (1910-1999) becomes the Honorary President of CanSPAH while Bob Ferguson (1933-2017) takes on the President role. Soon thereafter, on Nov. 13, CanSPAH holds its first harmonica concert in a Toronto high school. The St. Kevin School Harmonica Band, led by Bob Ferguson, performs as does SPAH's Harmonicasuals (l-r:Gordon Mitchell, Richard Harris & Earl Collins). 

By 1958, Fred Mather, who becomes a long-term SPAH member, has already gotten involved with the Canadian Guild of Harmonicists, a group of Toronto harmonica players who wish to pattern themselves after the National Harmonica League in London, England. Maurice Godfrey also has ties to the National Harmonica League. 

Cham-Ber Huang (1925-2014) , always resourceful, introduces  the Chordomonica I and II, as well as instruction and music books, Folk Song Fest, to help players learn the intrument (book 1, book 2). Hohner publishes Folk Songs for the Harmonica
 
1966

Both SPAH and CanSPAH members attend the April 23, SPAH show, April Shower of Harmonica Artistry (page 1, page 2, page 3, page 4), at the Dondero High School Auditorium in Royal Oak, Michigan.  The SPAH Board of Directors and the Chapter members are busy setiing up shows or working on ways to advance the harmonica. The Northside Chapter meets on Apr. 26 (page 1, page 2) and Jul. 26 (page 1) keeping minutes of the meetings. To help new members with their harmonica and music skills, lesson packages are developed to be handed out. CanSPAH hosts An Evening of Harmonica Stylings (page 1, page 2, page 3, page 4) on Nov. 12, in Toronto, that is well attended by SPAH members.

Tony Glover, who reveals the mysteries of second position to a lot of harp players in his Blues Harp that also contains a little record. Hearing is believing. He will attend a SPAH convention in 

1967
 

Due to scheduling conflicts, CanSPAH's May 12 concert features only Canadian players. They again perform on May 25 at Harmonica Harmonies  (page 1, page 2, page 3, page 4) at St. Lawrence School where Bob Ferguson is the Principal.  Consequently, SPAH's Sunday Seminar  (page 1, page 2, page 3, page 4) show, on May 28, has no Canadian content. However, CanSPAH and SPAH come together again on Nov. 4, at Birchmount Collegiate, Scarborough, where CanSPAH presents Echo 1967 (page 1, page 2, page 3, page 4). It is at first wrongly advertised for Nov. 13, but a correction appears in local Toronto papers. SPAH members, the Meloskies, Ginny and Vince perform as a duo as well as the Canadian trio, the Brass Reeds (l-r:Hank Kloek, Laurie Beischer & Tony Boerekamps). CanSPAH members are very busy, performing at another show, Now and Then (page 1, page 2, page 3, page 4), on Nov. 17 and 18, and next attending a CanSPAH Annual Meeting on Nov. 19.

Meanwhile, on Sept. 1, SPAH presents the first issue of Harmonica Happenings, the SPAH newsletter and a SPAH logo. The annual subscription fee is $1.00. Gordon Mitchell is listed as SPAH President, a position he holds for 22 years, and Eugene Hansen, as Treasurer, a postion he serves in for 25 years starting in 1967.

Although not on "the cover of the Rolling Stone" yet, the harmonica is featured in a Reader's Digest article (page 1, page 2, page 3).

1968

The year starts off with a SPAH Dinner-Dance on January 20, held at the Dearborn Elks Lodge. CanSPAH members, having just elected a new Executive Board, paticipate in the 5th annual Happy Show  (page 1, page 2, page 3) on May 24. However, the event of the year is September Serenade in Blue (page 1, page 2, page 3, page 4) on Sept. 28, hosted by SPAH in Detroit, Michigan. The price of admission is $1.50 to hear the Rhythmaires (l-r: Gerrit Oostlander, Fred Merill, Dan Eberle & Phil Acquaro), the Interludes
(l-r:Bill Wesley, Eugene Hansen, Richard Harris, Larry VanDorn, & J. McMinn), Canada's Harmonicaires (l-r:Doug Pell, Bob Schrader & Bill Wright) and many more, and to participate in a SPAH/CanSPAH jam (photo 1, photo 2). SPAH changes its logo.

1969

SPAH elects a new Board of Directors. Financial statements are not yet complicated.

1970s

SPAH member Karl Listerman is featured in a newspaper article, as is member, John Grist, who also makes the news (clip 1, clip 2, clip 3, clip 4).  Other members play without media coverage. In Marine City still another club is formed (clip 1, clip 2).

American Airlines, like Ford, has an employee magazine that is willing to promote the harmonica. Capt. Thomas Troestler takes his harmonica along (clip 1).  Weldon Bryant, a Larry Adler fan, just likes to perform.

Focusing on the  harmonica, Michael Licht writes "America's Harp" for Folklife Center News (page 1, page 2, pgea 3, page 4) and Dereck Williamson contributes "Beware the Harmonica" in Pickin' (clip 1, clip 2, clip 3). 

1972

Hohner publishes John Sebastian Sr.'s Chromatic Harmonica Instruction Course; Cham-Ber Huang writes Jazz and Pop Styles for Chromatic Harmonica; and Tommy Morgan adds Chromatic Harmonica to the list of publications. Wilhelm Kahl, of Hamburg, Germany writes Music for the Chordomonica, a porfolio of original music.


1973

On Jun. 9, CanSPAH hosts a large SPAH group in Galt, Ont. This is followed by a celebration of SPAH's 10th Anniversary (l-r:Dick White, Fred Stowers, Danny Wilson, Dan Eberle, Al Fogel, Celeste Mitchell, Bob Bauer & Gordon Mitchell) on Oct. 20. The banquet is followed by playing until the early hours (photo 1, photo 2).

For those seeking shortcuts, there is the E-Z Harmonica Method and Song Folio.

1974

SPAH tells its story (page 1, page 2 & page 3)  and continues to seek more members through different ads like "What is SPAH" (page 1 & page 2) and a more humorous approach.  Emil Vogirty joins  (clip 1 & clip 2). Then SPAH celebtrates its 11th Anniversary . Vito Patierno gets some mediacoverage (clip 1). Tommy Morgan is made an Honorary Member of SPAH (letter 1).

Cham-Ber Huang returns to China and describes his tours of the harmonica manufacturing companies and the music scene (page 1, page 2, page 3, page 4). 

Another Playing Harmonica Made Easy product hits the market. 

1975

Built by Al Fogel (1925-1988) and measuring in at 9 ft. 4 in., "Freddy" blows away "Big John" at 8 ft. 1/4 in. The harmonica attracts attention to both the Lincoln Chapter (clip 1, clip 2, clip 3) and SPAH (clip 1clip 2). "Freddy" also cautches the eye of the camera. But, playing a more serious role, "Freddy" attracts young people to the joys of playing the harmonica (photo1photo 2). After an appearance at the 1976 Michigan Harmonica Week, "Freddy" shows up in Oct. for a final showdown with "Big John" and then seems to have disappeared. It isn't just Americans who build big harmonicas. The Germans also enter the fray with a large instrument.

On Aug. 14, the State of Michigan passes Senate Resolution 233 to commemorate SPAH's 12th Anniversary (page 1, page 2, page 3, page 4).  SPAH members are busy promoting their beloved instruments (clip 1, clip 2, cllip 3, clip 4, clip 5). They do so well (clip 1, clip 2) that the City of Troy declares Oct. 14 as Troy Harmonica Day (clip 1). The City of Lincoln Park follows declaring Oct. 17 and 18 as Harmonica Days. Not to be outdone, the State of Michigan declares Oct. 18 to 24 as Harmonica Week (clip1). The harmonica is definitely gaining popularity again (clip 1, clip 2). Charlie McCoy becomes a SPAH member.

SPAH members are also busy. The Harmonica Men, a trio consisting of members Richard Harris, Eugene Hansen and Larry VanDooren, enter the 1975 World Harmonica Competition in Trossingen, Germany, via a tape recording, and achieve 6th place. Other SPAH members, Dan Eberle, Gordon Mitchel and Fred Stowers (photo 1), attend a local Sonny Terry (1911-1986) (photo1, photo 2) and Brownie McGhee (1915-1996) concert (photo1, photo 2)  and present Sonny with an Honorary SPAH membership. In 1975, no other soley diatonic harmonica players are members of SPAH. The presentation is well documented (photo 1, photo 2, photo 3). 

As well, in the Detroit area, since 1929, Willis Wilson runs a Boys Harmonica Club that performs locally (clip 1). The harmonica still catches the public's attention and there is certainly a curiosity about it (clip 1) making it more popular (clip 1, clip 2). Noel Coppage writes about it in his article, "Why Borrah Minevitch's Harmonica Rascals Were Pixilated", for Passages (page 1, page 2).

Hohner releases Cham-Ber Huang's creation, the CBH Profeesional 2016. George Neilson writes "A Little Cham-Ber Music" to announce the release (page 1, page 2, page 3).  The Dupont Magazine adds a bit more technical data in its "Engineering Design with Dupont Plastics" article (page 1, page 2, page 3, page 4).

1976

Thirteen years later, there is still a strong SPAH connection with the Ford Co. On the front cover of its employee magazine, there are the Harmonica Men, a trio of very active and involved SPAH members. To encourage harmonica players to advance beyond playing by ear, formal music classes are held by musicians such as Danny Wilson. SPAH, as is still the case today, actively encouraging women (clip 1, clip 2, clip 3, clip 4) and youths (clip 1, clip 2) to become members. A Code of Ethics is developed that includes a mandate for the more advanced players to assist those newer members wishing to learn. Famous harmonica players, like Larry Adler, when performing locally, help to promote the harmonica and encourage new players (clip 1, clip 2, clip 3, clip 4). The non-professional players, regular SPAH members, also have a large impact when it comes to promoting SPAH and the harmonica. Stan Kerley receives newspaper coverage (clip 1, clip 2) as well as Rudy and Doris Michelin (clip 1) and Gus and Mary DeQuatro (clip 1).  On Aug. 22, Dan Eberle is one of the many SPAH members who performs at Tiger Stadium to celebrate the Tiger's 75th Anniversary (clip1, photo 1). 

Alex Fogel thanks Mechanix Illustrated  for helping to promote SPAH while other members hold a Harmonica Marathon at a local mall to promote the harmonica (clip 1). Afterwards, SPAH prepares for Harmonica Week on Oct. 21-3 (clip 1, clip 2, clip 3). It is celebrated by the Detroit Public Schools and the youth of Detroit (clip 1, clip 2, clip 3); by the City of Troy; by Southfield (clip 1); and the State of Michigan, whose Governor recceives a SPAH Certificate and issues an Executive Declaration. The 13th SPAH Convention is a complete success (clip 1, clip 2). In order to assist other SPAH chapters/clubs to promote a Harmonica Day or a Harmonica Week in their local areas, the Board of Directors developes a comprehensive guideline (page 1, page 2, page 3, page 4, page 5, page 6, page 7, page 8, page 9, page 10, page 11). As well, the process to get more members continues with a newspaper article on SPAH member Dan Eberle (clip 1, clip 2)  and a question about the next convention (clip 1).

It is again another big harmonica year. Vito Patierno, president of the Steel Valley Harmonica Club, creates the World's Largest Harmonica at 11 ft. and 9 in. and weighing in at 31 pounds (clip 1).  And, becoming a local harmonica sensation, is the Clark Family Players, a group of five family members (clip 1, clip 2, clip 3) that the news media cannot resist (clip 1, clip 2, clip 3, clip 4).

The Organist Magazine features a harmonica article (page 12). Others, like Charlie Hutler (clip 1)  and Howie Leyland (clip 1, clip 2) prefer playing the harmonica. So do Charlie Witt, Dick Moylan and more from the Cardinal State Harmonica Club (clip 1, clip 2, clip 3, clip 4, clip 5). Alan "Blackie" Schackner (1917-2013) explains the harmonica to the readers of the New York Times and produces a number of intstruction books for harmonica players during the 1970s and 1980s (book 1, book 2, book 3, book 4).

1977

SPAH entertains the building trades and then makes a submission  to get  into the Guiness Book of World Records (page 1, page 2, page 3). Nice try (page1)! The gathering for the 14th Convention is a well attended event (clip 1, clip 2) and gets a lot  of media attention (clip 1, clip 2, clip 3, clip 4, clip 5, clip 6, clip 7, clip 8). The Mayor of Bay City proclaims Oct. 15-22, Harmonica Week and the Governor of Michigan follows with Oct. 16-24 for the State.

Bob (Frank) Neubauer, harmonica player and collector (-1998), who performed with Borrah Minevitch and others, makes the paper (clip 1, clip 2).  Walter Gomez of Argentina contacts him about an older harmonica (letter 1).

1978

Norm Dobson, SPAH member and leader of the Harmonichords, a trio that competed at Trossingen, getssome press time (clip 1, clip 2, clip 3). So does the harmonica in Ken Hall's article "How to Play 'Hard Core' Harmonica" in Mother Earth News (page 1, page 2, page 3, page 4, page 5, page 6). Both help to promote interest in the 15th SPAH Convention on Sept. 9. October is even busier for SPAH. The City of Grand Rapids proclaims Oct, 15-21 to be the 4th Annual Michigan Harmonica Week and Oct. 21 to be Harmonica Day, followed by the City of Warren proclaiming the week as well, and the City of Troy proclaiming Oct. 17 as Troy Harmonica Day. To top it off, the Governor of the State of Michigan declares Oct.15-21 as Harmonica Week.

Here's a puzzle. It appears that SPAH approached Hohner to produce a Little Lady with SPAH labels. Jack Kavoukian responded for Hohner with a proposed design. Does any SPAH member actually have one of these Little Ladies?

1979

SPAH prepares for its 16th convention with some media attention (clip 1, clip 2). Fred Merrill, the Convention Director does his part (clip 1, clip 2). But so do other SPAH members who find any excuse to play (clip 1, clip 2, clip 3, clip 4). David E. Bonior, Member of Congress, helps out by welcoming SPAH to Detroit. The convention is a success by all accounts (clip 1, clip 2 clip 3, clip 4). Two more cities, St. Clair Shores and Roseville, officially  proclaim their support for the harmonica.

Not so much fun is the task of preparing an annual statement (page 1, page 2, page 3). Today's Treasurer of SPAH would love to revert to these less onerous reporting and tax obligations. More fun is the Garden State Harmonica Club show on Oct. 13 (photo 1, photo 2).  Gloria Spann, sister of President Carter, would have had a better day attending a harmonica convention instead of going to a restaurant. Hohner publishes How to Play the Harmonica with easy reading tips.

1980

Clubs, such as the Buckeye State Harmonica Club  and the newly formed Hoosier State Harmonica Club (clip 1, clip 2) are preparing for the SPAH convention that will change SPAH history when Peter "Madcat" Ruth brings the diatonic to the performer's stage. This is the SPAH Board of Directors (l-r:Rudy Michlin, Bert Reeves, Danny Wilson, Gordon Mitchell, Alex Fogel, Ted Miller & Van Rossen) that makes it happen. The convention (clip 1, clip 2, clip 3) gets its fair share of media coverage (clip 1, clip 2, clip 3). And, there is still time to do a Christmas show at a senior's home (clip 1). SPAH revises its logo and creates a badge and decals (image 1, image 2)

Michael Licht publishes "Harmonica Magic: Virtuoso Display in American Folk Music" in Ethnomusicology, giving the harmonica a scholarly boost. And for the serious player, Richard Hunter puts out his Jazz Harp publication. Long-term SPAH members and supporters Al and Judy Smith begin publishing instruction manuals for the chord harmonica (book 1, book 2, book 3, book 4) and for the bass harmonica (book 1), and song books (book 1, book 2). 

1981

Although SPAH did not get into the Guiness Book of World Records, SPAH member Howard Leland does for playing for 5 hours and 3 minutes without stopping. On a more serious side, harmonica player Eddy Manson, takes the critics to task when it comes to the chromatic harmonica (clip 1).  Thinking even bigger, SPAH and Hohner explore the possibility  (letter 1) of presenting President Reagan with an Honorary SPAH Membership. Unfortunately, the White House sends its regrets (lettter 1, letter 2). However, the Michigan State Governor declares Aug. 10-16 to be Michigan Harmonica Week. And, SPAH and Hohner next set their sights on Congressman Claude Pepper, a harmonica player.  He is pleased to accept (letter 1) a SPAH Honary Membership and a special Hohner harmonica (photo 1 l-r:Jack Kavoukian, Claude Pepper & Gordon Mitchell)) that he plays (photo 2 l-r:Gordon Mitchell & Claude Pepper)).  Hohner issues a press release for the occasion.

The SPAH Board of Directors is busy holding meetings and issuing a formal Constitution and By-Laws. Meanwhile, in Canada, the Halton Hills Harmonica Club, affiliated with SPAH, gets some media attention (clip 1).

1982

Michigan Governor William Millikin issues another Executive Declaration observing Michigan Haronica Week, Aug. 29-Sept. 4. The 19th SPAH covention gets some press time (clip 1, clip 2, clip 3, clip 4). and the Garden State Harmonica Club hosts a 12th Anniversary Festival on Oct. 16. Some harmonica players, like Gary Fanelli, choose other venues to show their harmonica skills.
Tommy Morgan writes to tell SPAH how much he enjoys the Harmonica Happenings magazine (letter 1).

Taking a light-hearted look at the harmonica, Fred Nadis writes "The Harmonica in America" for the Atlantic.(clip 1, clip 2). Harmonica player Michael Rozek publishes "Harmonic Variations", a more personal view, in American Way (clip 1, clip 2, clip 3, clip 4). For the player, During the 1980s, Jon Gindick produces Rock n' Blues Harmonica and The Natural  Blues and Country Western Harmonica.

1983

The Kansas City Harmonicateers Harmonica Club presents a show and seminar (clip 1) that includes Phil Duncan, the author of numerous instruction books including You Can Teach Yourself Blues Harp. Both Congressman Claude Pepper and President Reagan are invited to attend SPAH's 20th convention. Neither is able to attend. Michigan Governor James Blanchard declares Sept. 5-10 to be Michigan Harmonica Week. Advocating for the harmonica and SPAH, Lou Delin gets some media coverage (clip 1, clip 2).

1984

Herman Crook (1898-1988), who played harmonica with the Crook Brothers Band at the Grand Old Opry, gets some media attention (clip 1). This year, after President Reagan is again invited to the SPAH convention, he sends a personal reply with his greetings to SPAH.  Governor Blanchard once more declares Aug. 27-Sept. 2, as Michigan Harmonica Week, a special one for SPAH as Stan Harper attends and performs at his first SPAH convention (photo 1), after which he plays Carnegie Hall (clip 1, clip 2, clip 3). However, it is the harmonica-playing politicians, like Jim Wright, David Obey, Bob Smith, James David Ford, Claude Pepper and James Scheuer (photo 1), who make the Washington and harmonica headlines (clip 1, clip 2). Larry Adler publishes his autobiography It Ain't Necessarily So.

1985

The SPAH Board of Directors continues to invite the Reagans, who are unable to attend the convention. Michigan celebrates Aug. 26 -Sept. 5, as Harmonica Week. Canadians Ingo and Olav Andersen attend the convention (clip 1), described as "harmonica heaven" (clip 1).

Frank (Bob) Neubauer) displays his harmonica collection again (clip 1, clip 2, clip 3, clip 4, clip 5).

1986

SPAH invites President Reagan and Michigan Governor Blanchard, who declares Aug. 25-31 as Michigan Harmonica Week, to attend the 23rd convention. They are unable to accept. The SPAH Board of Directors appoints Nick Vorona as 2nd Vice President and Regional Director of the Western States.

Canadian newspaperman and harmonica player Charles Lynch (1919-1994), born in the U.S., is featured in Saturday Night (clip 1, clip 2).

1987

Aug. 24-30 is declared Michigan Harmonica Week. Paul Butterfield (1942-1987), who influences future generations of blues harmonica players, dies (clip 1, clip2).

1988

SPAH invites Hohner's Jack Kavoukian to its 25th Anniversary Convention. The Reagans are again unable to attend the convention that takes place during Michigan Harmonica Week on Aug. 29-Sept. 3. Many others do attend (clip 1) and receive a commemorative badge. During the convention, Gordon Mitchell accepts the Zak Award, presented by SPAH-West (clip 1, clip 2). Gordon also receives the Zak (photo 1, photo 2).

1989

The State of Michigan declares Aug. 28-Sept. 2 as Harmonica Week. Johnnye Montgomery writes "All Tuned Up" for Country Living (page 1, page 2).

1990

Canadian SPAH members get some news coverage (clip1, clip 2). And, so does Nick Vorona who is also a harmonica collector (clip 1, clip 2, clip 3, clip 4, clip 5, clip 6). Some of the local players are grtting ready (clip 1, clip 2) for Michigan's Harmonica Week on Aug.27-Sept 1.  As usual, the newspapers provide ample coverage of the event (clip1, clip 2, clip 3, clip 4, clip 5, clip 6). The Gateway Harmonica Club holds its Festival on Oct. 12-13.

Jim Prushankin, who loves to give away harmonicas, is featured in People (page 1).  James Cotton (1935-2017)  also gets some news coverage (clip 1, clip 2). "Harmonica Convergence", an article by Bernie Ward, shows up in SKY (page 1, page 2, page 3, page 4, page 5, page 6).  David Harp, who is in the article, publishes Bending the Blues.

1991

The Tampa Bay Harmonica Club presents a Dixie Harmonica Festival on Apr. 4-6 and the International Harmonica Organization stays active.

1992

Chicago is home to the 29th SPAH Convention. Cappy LaFell, with the Harmonica Gentlemen, performs. (clip 1, clip 2).

The Windy City Harmonica Club gets the headlines (clip 1, clip 2, clip 3, clip 4, clip 5). Joseph Leone wants to become a SPAH member (page 1, page 2) and Pete Pedersen performs at IHO's Harmonica Happening in Sept. 25-27.

1993

Although he starts off playing blues, Robert Bonfiglio soon switches to classical music (clip 1clip 2), studying under the guidance  of Cham-ber Huang who leads seminars as well, such as this one in the Andirondacks (photo 1). During his performances, Robert pays homage to Bach, Gershwin and Sonny Boy Williamson (clip 1). Tommy Morgan, on the other hand, spends most of his time in the studio rather than on the stage (clip 1, clip 2). And, Marv and Mickey Milgrim-Wolf are just as happy promoting the harmonica by selling a large variety of them in their Harmonica Store (clip 1, clip 2).  SPAH produces another badge for its 30th Convention. He will attend future SPAH conventions, but this year Canadian Carlos del Junco receives gold medals at the World Harmonica Chamionships in Trossingen in both the blues and jazz categories (clip 1). British classical harmonica player Douglas Tate (1934-2005), the only non-American SPAH President, publishes Play the Harmonica Well for advanced chromatic players, followed by Make Your Harmonica Work Better.

American Kim Field releases a first edition of his wonderful book Harmonicas, Harps and Heavy Breathers. The second edition wiil come out in 2000. Martin Haeffner and Christoph Wagner publish Made in Germany - Played in the USA, a history of the harmonica.

1994

Ronald Reagan  (1911-2004) was invited, frequently and unsuccessfully over the years, to attend a SPAH convention. However, he does actually play a little as reported in these newsclips (clip 1, clip 2, clip 3). Playing more regularly are the Original Harmonica Sounds (clip 1). But, it is the annual SPAH convention that makes the headlines (clip1, clip 2, clip 3, clip 4). No stranger to the SPAH  stage or just hanging out with everyone at the convention, Charlie Musselwhite talks about some of the positive changes in his life style (cliup 1, clip 2) and how the harmonica entered his life (clip 1, clip 2).

Saxophone playing President Bill Clinton is presented with a Joe Filisko custom harmonica by Kenny Loggins (photo 1). Winslow Yerxa takes a more humorous approach to the event in his Harmonica Information Publication. There is however, a strong connection between the harmonica and American Presidents (page 1, page 2, page 3, page 4).

The Toronto Blues Society features "Harp", an article by Heather Kelly about some of Toronto's harp olayers, in its Newsletter (page 1, page 2). 

1995

The highlight of the year is the performance of brothers Larry and Jerry Adler at the SPAH Convention. The St. Louis Gateway Harmonica club hosts Variety Revue while Rothrist, Switzerland, holds its Mundharmonika Festival. Further afield in Australia, Ray Grieve publishes A Band in a Waistcoat Pocket. John Popper adds his unique harmonica riffs to Blues Traveler's jamming style (clip 1).

Rudolph Chelminski writes a harmonica history for the Smithsonian that covers a lot of ground including SPAH (page 1, page 2, page 3, page 4, page 5, page 6, page 7, page 8).

1996

Harmonica players, many of them older, gather for the 33rd SPAH Convention (clip 1). The harmonica also appears at a political gathering (clip 1). However, there is no age barrier when it comes to the harmonica. Brody Buster is only 11 years old and he plays beyond his age.(clip 1, clip 2).

1997

Louis Delin publishes Backstage Harmonica, a memoir of his career, with these words of wisdom. "Half the world plays a harmonica,and the other half wishes it could."

1998

Robert Bonfiglio again gets some headlines (clip 1, clip 2, clip 3, clip 4) and Peter Krampert releases The Encyclopedia of the Harmonica.

1999

John Popper, who was to perform at the Red Rock amphitheater in Morrison Colorado, has some tough times (clip 1).

2000

Hering, the harmonica manufacturing company in Brazil, gets into the blues harp market and Peter "Madcat" Ruth brings the new harp to SPAH (clip 1, clip 2). The diatonic harmonica also makes its way into the Heart and Lung Center in New Jersey where it is used for breathing exercises to improve health, a role that the harmonica will continue to play in the future (clip 1).

Don Brooks (1947-2000), who played with some major acts and was well known in the harmonica world, dies (clip 1). A mystery harmonica player delivers a Christmas performance (clip 1).

2001

Carlos del Junco has a unique sound and harmonica technique that is internationally recognizable and is a part of a larger Toronto harmonica community (clip 1, clip 2). Local harmonica player Franco Scocco, on his way to play at a local food court is struck by a car (clip 1). The harmonica is a part of Titanic history. When the ship sank on Apr. 14, it supposedly took Swedish Alma Paulson, who played harmonica for her children (clip 1, clip 2). 

Hartmut Berghoff publishes "Marketing Diversity: The Making of a Global Consumer Product-Hohner's Harmonicas, 1857-1930" in Enterprise and Society. It tells the story of how the Hohner family moves marketing "to center stage".




2002 

It had to happen, the book that every harmonica player was waiting for (book 1).

2003

2004


The 41st SPAH Convention is held in St. Louis, Mo. (page 1, page2).

Al Eichler publishes the American Harmonica Newsmagazine about all things harmonica while in Germany Martin Haeffner and Lars Lindenmueller create harmonica history with their Harmonica Makers of Germany and Austria to the delight of every harmonica collector.

2005

Spah members gather in Kansas City for the 42nd Convention (clip 1, clip 2, clip 3, clip 4).

Like his brother Larry, Jerry Adler is also a player and a writer. He publishes Living from Hand to Mouth. There was obviously some rivalry bewteen the two brothers as they sometimes both relatel the same story. By the way, SPAH's inhouse guitar player for the nightly Blues Jam is Dan Ruppa, who also happens to be Jerry's step son-in-law.  In Toronto, Carlos del Junco opens for Dr. John and dazzles the audience (clip 1, clip 2). Both Toronto and Montreal have subway systems and buskers who play those venues. In the National Film Board documentary "Music for a Blue Train", Bad News Brown, a harmonica-playing ex-street kid, "breathes passion" into the film (clip 1). Ralph Paulson, who carried his harmonica into the 1943 Allied invavasion of Sicily, still plays his harmonica (clip 1).

2006

The story of Pete Pedersen is told by Jaine Rodack in Be of Good Cheer. Pete lived in Toronto during the early 1980s and played in the local clubs. SPAH member Richard Martin relases Waltzes for Harmonica Ensembles. But the big event of the year, is the beautifully illustrated Hohner the Living Legend, more harmonica history by Haik Wenzel and Martin Haeffner.

Kris Kristofferson does play harmonica during his performances; however, on this occasion in Toronto, his playing is described as "some pathetic wailing on brace harmonica that the singer finally abandoned as unworthy" (clip1).

2007

Carey Bell (1936-2007), who was part of the Chicago blues harmomica scene and toured and recorded with Muddy Waters, dies (clip 1). Carlos del Junco takes part in the Orangeville Jazz and Blues Festival (clip 1) while Rory Cummings auditions for a busker spot on the Toronto subway (clip 1).

The National Harmonica League (NHL) still produces its magazine, Harmonica World. Roger Trobridge has been the driving force behind the magazine since ??

2008

St. Louis, Missouri, hosts the 45th SPAH Convention (page 1). Hering releases the Stan Harper 56, a harmonica model built for Stan's style of playing. I recall that it was Stan who purchased my entire hoard of older Hering Membi 48s. 

Finally, after making all of us wait so long, Al Smith releases his Confessions of Harmonica Addictsa must-read for anyone with the slightest interest in the harmonica story. The story and the photos make it essential for your collection. More importantly, Al was there, living this harmonica life when this harmonica history was being made. Another harmonica milestone is the release of Harmonica for Dummies. This title has to be the best oxymoron of the decade. The book's author, player, teacher and writer, SPAH's Winslow Yerxa, is a walking encyclopedia of not only all things harmonica, but also of all things music. He has also written Blues Harmonica for Dummies (2012). 

As more harmonica people from around the world, make the pilgrimage to Trossingen, Germany, the Hohner Co. provides some visitor guides, such as On the Tracks of the Company's Founder Mathias Hohner using the German Harmonica Museum's publications to self-guide tourists. Another booklet follows in 2013 (booklet 1). In Oakville, Ontario, the Harmoni-Chords celebrate 35 years of playing and publish their history (book 1). I have been the chord player for this group since 2010. Ingo Andersen, a multi-instrumentalist and vocalist, who is well known on the SPAH stage for his chromatic skills, is the leader of our present group. As with all harmonica groups and clubs, finding new members, not beginners, as we do not teach, is a never-ending task. Canadian folk artist, Willie P. Bennett (1951-2008) dies. He released his own records, so you can still hear him play harmonica and he shows up as a studio musician, playing harmonica tracks on albums by Gordon Lightfoot, Fread Eaglesmith and others (clip 1). Carlos del Junco, active in the Toronto music community,offers his opinion, shared by many other harmonica players, of the Bob Dylan and Neil Young style of playing the instrument, a style copied by many other folk artists as well (clip 1).

2009

The 46th SPAH Convention takes place in Sacramento, Ca., where the Hohner team arrives with Clay Edwards and Klaus Stetter.  SPAH member, Mary Jane Gormley actively participates in the SPAH philosphy. She plays, teaches, writes, gives away harmonicas, presents seminars and supports the concept of harmonicas for health to the limit. She and Larry Vesely co-author Harmonicas for Health: A Guide to Breathing Better.

Things are busy in Trossingen, Germany. Hohner with Martin Haeffner produce Isn't She Lovely:The Harmonica in Popular Music while Frank Martin releases the story, in German, of the Koch Harmonica Co. and family in his Das besteingerichtete Etablissement der Branche.

2010

Canadian Benjamin Darville played harmonica with the Crash Test Dummies before he becomes Son of Dave, a harpman of some renown, playing his own kind of music. (clip 1clip 2clip 3clip 4).

2011

The 48th SPAH Convention moves to Virginia Beach, Va. 

In Trossingen, Germany, Martin Haeffner celebrates an anniversary with the release of 20 Years German and Accordion Museum.

2012

John Broecker writes Archaic Adventures: Harmonica Evolution 2696 B.C. - 2110 A.DToronto's Carlos del Junco earns more press time due to his musical versatility (clip 1).

2013

SPAH celebrates a 50th Anniversary in St. Louis. Missouri. A harmonica souvenir is given all the banquet guests.

The German Harmonica Museum presents "The Hohner Collection", a thematic display of some unique harmonicas.

2015

Danny Wilson sends me a copy of BassHarp's Journal: A Personal Record of Harmonica Activities 1969-2008. Danny was the SPAH Historian before I was, so you know he kept detailed records. 

2016

Winslow Yerxa invites harmonica playing Timothy M. Kaine to attend the 53rd SPAH Convention in San Antonio, Texas. Kaine does not attend, nor does he get the job of Vice President of the USA (letter 1).