Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Harping On: Peter "Madcat" Ruth

     While putting this article together, and trying to think about how to best introduce Madcat, I came across this quote. I simply can’t put it any better.

     "Madcat has got to be one of the greatest jazz soloists in terms of getting an audience. He's got that magical quality. It doesn't matter if he's playing a hoe-down kind of thing that evolves into a blues and pretty
soon into jazz. Audiences here and overseas go with him all the way. He's into music without categories."
      - Dave Brubeck

What is your background in harmonica?
I started playing harmonica in 1964, when I was 15 years old. I was playing guitar at the time and taking guitar lessons at the Old Town School of Folk Music in Chicago. I also was a big fan of the Midnight Special Radio show on WFMT in Chicago. It was on that radio show that I first heard Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee. I decided right then that I had to learn how to play harmonica! For the first few years I just tried to play Like Sonny Terry. Then in 1966 I started listening to Jr. Wells, Little Walter, Paul Butterfield, James Cotton, Big Walter Horton, Slim Harpo, Sunnyboy Williamson, Jimmy reed... It was an amazing education. And then in 1967 and 1968 I took three lessons with Walter Horton ! ! !

Why the name Madcat?
The name Madcat was a nickname I had in high school. I had a few friends that were into blues and since all our blues heros had cool names (Muddy Waters, Howlin Wolf, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Magic Sam, Sunnyland Slim etc...) we made up “blues names” for each other. That was in 1966, but it was just a nickname back then used by a very small circle of friends. . Then In 1969 I joined the band New Heavenly Blue and moved from Chicago to Ann Arbor Michigan. The drummer in that band was named Peter, so I started using the name Madcat full time starting then.

You had an interesting solution to playing guitar and harmonica together. How'd you do that?
I never was really comfortable playing harp in a harp rack, so I developed a system where the harp and the microphone were supported by a microphone stand. It’s my own invention. If you go to http://www.youtube.com/user/petermadcatruth you can see and hear the system in use.

You always seem to have a lot of fun when you're playing. What keeps performing so exciting for you?
Yes, I love music, and I love improvising, I guess what keeps it fresh for me is to always playing something new.

What harps do you play, and why?
I’ve played a lot of harps over the years, primarily Hohners, Huangs and now Herings. Hering has a new MADCAT signature model harmonica, and that is my favorite. It is the best harp I’ve ever played. There are many companies these days making great harmonicas, but I don’t believe anyone makes a harmonica better than the Hering Madcat.

I've come across new players who get very frustrated that the harmonica isn't as easy as they thought it would be. What advice would you give them?
Have fun with it and keep playing. The more you play the easier it gets and the more fun it becomes.

There are a great deal of resources for learning to play. What do you think are some of the better ones?
When I was starting out, there was very little out there for harp player, and now there is plenty. Homespun Tapes has some good lessons on DVD (including 2 by me). Jerry Portnoy’s Blues Harmonica Masterclass lessons are excellent. David Barrett’s Harmonica Masterclass lessons are excellent. Add there are a ton of lessons available on the internet these days. Harmonica clubs such as H.O.O.T are a great place to learn more about harmonica playing. And a trip to a SPAH Convention is guarenteed to inspire you and expand your horizons. The next SPAH Convention is in Minnesota in August 2010.

Is there a particular song that you enjoy playing more than any other?
I have hundreds of favorites... my favorite song changes a couple of times per day

What do you suggest a player should practice the most?
I think harp players gain a lot by playing new songs. Learn to play the melodies. Then try to play those same melodies in other positions. Always try new things. Don’t get in the rut of playing the same things over and over.

Any last words for HOOT?
Have fun!

Friday, April 9, 2010

Texas Tide Weekend Update

Live Tonight
Friday April 9th
Mi Casa Tamales and Cantina
This is a great place with extra large tamales made fresh daily cold beer and margaritas plus a play area for the kids.  Located at 25930 IH-10 West, on the access road between Ralph Fair Road and Fair Oaks Ranch. Check it out at www.tamalesmicasa.com 
Come join us for a great time
"We're Rollin In Again in 2010"
3901 Speedway / 78751
Austin, TX - ph: 512-459-6581
SUNDAY, APRIL 12TH -8:00p.m.
213 W. 5th Street
Austin, TX. 78701
Rick Estrin and the Nightcats
 Austin Blues Society Blues Jam
“1st Down and Stassney Sports Bar”
8:00PM - 12:00AM
730 W Stassney LN, Suite 120
Austin, TX 78745

also.....from HOUSTON

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Adam Gussow is Coming to TX!


On July 31, I'll be doing a harp clinic in Houston at Dan Electro's Guitar Bar. 4-6 PM. $25.

From 8PM to 12:30 AM or so, the same venue will have the Down Home Texas Blues Harmonica Festival, featuring Sonny Boy Terry (and his band), Rob Roy Parnell, Dave Nevling, and yours truly. An open jam in the final hour.

For more information, please contact terryjerome@comcast.net

ALSO: I'm interested in a clinic and/or gig on Friday, July 30 in Baton Rouge. And I'm interested in a gig on the evening of Friday July 30 in Dallas. Because I'll be traveling the whole way from Oxford on Friday, I won't be able to do a clinic in Dallas. But I'd welcome a one-set opener as a one-man band somewhere.

More details by SONNY BOY TERRY:

Tickets are now on sale at http://houstonharmonicalessons.eventbrite.com Also there will be a viewing that evening of Pocket Full of Soul: The Harmonica Documentary. Please check out the wonderful line up of great harp players and events for the day.

Down Home Texas Blues Harmonica Festival and Harmonica Clinic Saturday, July 31st, Houston, Texas
Doors open 3PM

Live Band - H-Town Jukes - 3PM - 3:45PM (flow)

Adam Gussow Modern Blues Harmonica Clinic 4PM - 6PM

Movie Time!: Pocket Full of Soul: The Harmonica Documentary 7:15PM - 8PM

Dinner Break - 6PM - 7PM - Grill Menu Available on site. (The Houston heights has some of the best Mexican food in the world just a few blocks away)

Dave Nevling and the Blues Kats 8PM - 8:45PM

Rob Roy Parnell's Roadhouse Blues 9PM - 9:45PM

Adam Gussow One Man Band 10PM - 10:45PM

Sonny Boy Terry Band - 11PM - 11:45PM

Finale – 11:45 - Midnight

After Midnight Open mic Texas Blues Jam hosted Steve "Fess" Schnieder - Midnight – Close. All blues performers welcome

Adam Gussow's Modern Blues Harmonica Clinic.

Admission: 25.00 - All ages accompanied by Adult.

Texas Blues Harmonica Showcase - 8PM - 12AM Admission: 12.00 ($10 for Houston Blues Society members. Must verify current membership)
Total Package Price: 35.00
Saturday, July 31st.
Dan Electro's Guitar Bar
1031 East 24th Street
Houston, Texas, 77009

Friday, April 2, 2010

B-Radical Review by Brandon Bailey

Brandon Bailey reviews the new B-Radical harmonica by Brad Harrison.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Cheryl Arena at Catfish Blues

    Recently I photographed one of Cheryl's shows. Here are the photos. If you've never been to Catfish Blues, it's a great venue where you can hear some great live music, and have some great food from the deep south.