Randy Singer is one of the best-known harmonica players in Miami and thereabouts, and we’ve known each other since roughly 1980. Randy just unearthed the clip below and sent it…

Randy Singer is one of the best-known harmonica players in Miami and thereabouts, and we’ve known each other since roughly 1980. Randy just unearthed the clip below and sent it to me, and I was glad to get it. It’s a solo I played on a live recording of a performance of Phil Gentile’s song “Hey Brother (Come On In)”, an uptempo tune in a gospel-ish style. The harmonica performance is flat-out all the way; nobody likes athleticism better than a young musician, and I was in my mid-twenties when I recorded this.

Phil is one of the most talented musicians I’ve ever worked with, with incredible abilities as a songwriter and singer, and I had a lot of room to move in our work together. In my duo and quartet days with Phil I played more piano and organ than harmonica, but we had a few rippin’ harp pieces in the repertoire, and this was one of my favorites. (“Rockin’ Robin,” which I opened with two choruses of solo amped harp, was another. I could name several of Phil’s songs that I loved playing, but the only one for which a recording is available somewhere so far as I know is “Mama Lied,” which was released as a 45 RPM single in Boston around 1980 and sold 5000+ copies, which made it a very big local hit. It’s a cool song with a great slow groove, amazing lyrics, and even more amazing vocals by Phil. Get it if you can.)

Bass on this performance is by Steve DuBois, drums by Harry French, and acoustic guitar by Phil, with Bobby Dunlap on electric guitar. My guess is that this is part of the performance I did with these players at a dance at the Woods Hole Community Center, which performance took place in 1979, or so I recall. I have the whole night on cassette somewhere…

I don’t recall what instrument I was using (except that it was a diatonic in the key of F, played in second position), nor the microphone. It would definitely NOT have been a bullet mic, and it was almost certainly a stick-type vocal mic. It may very well have been my Shure 545 PE, the one with a “pistol” grip. (This was Paul Butterfield’s preferred mic too.) I’m sure that the amp was my favorite of all time, a 45-watt Fender Super Reverb that I bought used in early 1975 for $100 (minus the reverb) and modified with a pair of Electrovoice SRO 12″ speakers. I also took all the vinyl off it, sanded it down, and stained it with a bright cherry red stain, followed by two coats of polyurethane. It was quite the striking piece. (It was stolen from Phil’s van not long after this recording was made, alas.) I plugged the mic into it and played–that was my setup in those days. That amp weighed a hell of a lot (because of the SROs, of course), and it made a sound that cut through more or less anything. You can hear in this performance that it gave me plenty of headroom to work with. The original recording was made on a decent stereo cassette deck with a pair of Sony dynamic mics, which was the best we had to work with in the 1970s, kids. (And we were grateful at the time that we didn’t have to lug an open-reel deck to gigs just to get some idea of what we sounded like, believe me.)

Not much more to say about this, except that it’s worth hearing again. Thanks Randy for sending it to me.

“Hey Brother” by Phil Gentile; Richard Hunter harp solo circa 1979

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