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Morning Song – Whammer Jammer

April 30, 2012

There aren’t many rock and roll bands that decide, “You know, what we really need is an instrumental that features our harmonica player.”  But then, there weren’t many rock and roll bands like The J. Geils Band.  Named for the lead guitarist (he owned the car), not the lead singer.  Growing out of the Boston blues-folk scene in the late 1960s, building a reputation during the 1970s as the best bar band in America, crossing over in the early 1980s—and promptly breaking up after their first #1 single (“Centerfold”).  And, oh yeah, the harmonica player was their best soloist.

The way Magic Dick (born Richard Salwitz) explains it, “Whammer Jammer” is a classic example of what academics call “cultural appropriation”.  He took bits and pieces of the best licks played by African-American blues harmonica greats—James Cotton, Little Walter, Sonny Boy Williamson—who had inspired him and from whose records he’d learned.  Then he picked a key, arranged the licks together, picked a fast tempo and taught it to the rest of the band.

If this doesn’t get you moving a bit faster on a Monday morning, I don’t know what will.  (But I’m open to suggestions; leave them in the comments.)

From → Music

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