SPAH has lost a great friend and musician in Bob Herndon, who passed in his sleep on March 11th, 2013. He was 81 years old. Originally an accomplished piano player, Bob was introduced to the harmonica by another great player and SPAH member, the late Jim Lohman. Bob picked up the harmonica quickly and the two, along with another friend, formed a harmonica trio in 1953. Though he could play chromatic and diatonic, Bob became the chord player, due to his superior knowledge of music. The trio lasted five years, after which Bob formed the Harmonica Jazz Quartette with Al Fontana, Johnny Thompson and a drummer. In the 70s, he joined the Don Les Harmonicats with Mildred Mulcay, and toured with the Johnny Puleo Harmonica Gang. He eventually quit showbiz in the 80s and retired from his job as an HVAC tech in 1998.
Bob was especially well known, particularly in recent years, for his jazz chops on the Harmonetta (see videos at the end of this post), an obscure instrument even by harmonica standards. Bob picked up the Harmonetta in 1956, and lived to see a minor resurgence in its popularity at SPAH conventions in the past couple of years. Players of all stripes would join him in hallway jazz jams and many recounted the experience as a highlight of their SPAH convention. In 2007, Bob was awarded SPAH's Citizen Award (pictured above).
Just days prior to his passing, Bob spoke with past SPAH president Tom Stryker, and expressed his desire to be at the 50th Anniversary convention. He will be deeply missed by many.
In honor of Bob Herndon and his unique place in the SPAH community, here is an interview he did with Phil Lloyd, in which he explains his approach to the Harmonetta. We hope it inspires others to carry on his tradition.