Masters of Blues Harp
Charlie Musselwhite 

These notes are from my harmonica  transcription/instruction book, Masters of Blues Harp, which has a transcription of Charlie's The Big Boat from In My Time (Alligator 4818). -Glenn Weiser

Read Charlie's foreword to Masters of Blues Harp.

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Four-time Grammy nominee Charlie Musselwhite was one of the first white blues players to master the Chicago harp style. He was born in Kosciusko, Mississippi, in 1944, but grew up in Memphis. When he became interested in blues in his mid-teens, he realized that Furry Lewis, Will Shade, and other prewar blues legends were still alive right in his hometown. He then looked them up and started learning guitar and harmonica, with Shade as his principal mentor.

In 1962 he moved to Chicago and established himself as a blues player there by the time-honored route of playing on Maxwell Street, meeting the older artists, and eventually breaking into the club scene. At this time he was one a handful of younger white players that included Paul Butterfield and Mike Bloomfield who were learning blues from Muddy Waters, Little Walter, and other older, black musicians.

He was signed by Vanguard Records in 1966, and his first LP, Stand Back! Here Comes Charlie Musselwhite was issued. A series of titles for Vanguard, and also a couple of LPs for the Cherry Red label followed this.

Musselwhite left Vangaurd in 1971 and moved to the Arhoolie label, were he recorded two fine LPs, Takin’ My Time and the 1974 release Goin’ Back Down South. Throughout the seventies he toured regularly and appearing at major blues festivals in the US and abroad.

Through most of the 1980’s he was not as active musically as in the previous decade, although he recorded for a number of labels. All that changed in 1987 when he quit drinking and rededicated himself to his career, and in 1990 he was signed by Alligator and recorded the highly acclaimed Ace of Harps.

This proved the beginning of a strong comeback. After two more releases with Alligator, he moved to Pointblank/Virgin. Still active as a performer, Charlie Musselwhite is among the most respected blues harp players today.


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