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  Charlie Musselwhite  


CHARLIE MUSSELWHITE AT ROYCE HALL, UCLA

 Here at Southboundbeat Magazine, we like to keep track of our old friend, Charlie Musselwhite.  The cool thing about Charlie is his versatility.  Charlie has been onstage with the best in the business at blues festivals and concerts all over the world.  He has blown the roof off many a nightclub with a small but stellar band.  He has performed unannounced on late night television shows and stunned audiences big and small with his solo act.  Whenever the best in the business need a harmonica player, they look for Charlie Musselwhite.  So, it’s no wonder that I caught Charlie last March opening for Robert Cray and Booker T. Jones at Royce Hall, located on the campus of UCLA.

  But Charlie is full of surprises, and this night was no exception.  Rather than performing solo, Charlie was accompanied on guitar by Kirk Fletcher.  Kirk is a large man who cradles his guitar like a baby and plays beautifully with a clear, clean sound and a sweet vibrato that perfectly complimented Charlie’s soft voice and smooth acoustic harmonica.  Both men looked as comfortable as if they were playing on a front porch, instead of a sold out audience of eighteen hundred.

  After announcing that there was “Blues in the house—I ain’t lyin’,” Charlie opened with one of his classics, “The Blues Overtook Me.”  The diverse audience of every age and ethnicity responded. Indeed, the blues was in the house.  If you harp players out there want to keep score, Charlie only switched harps twice—both of them were Lee Oskars.  Before you write in to ask in what keys he played, read on!

  The next number, “Help Me,” Charlie said he first performed in Chicago in 1966.  This was a great number to do acoustically, with Charlie’s trademark Memphis flavor more than apparent.  Okay, guys, Charlie began playing with a Lee Oskar, then switched to a Hohner Melody Maker.  Are you with me?  He then switched to a Hohner Chromonica and finished the tune with a Lee Oskar!  This explains why I can’t seem to play along with Charlie on many of his recordings.  For more information on Charlie’s technique and choice of harmonica, don’t ask me!  CHARLIE”S WEBSITE is full of information of this sort.  Or, you can log on to his question and answers page and ask him yourself.

  Charlie was in a relaxed, pleasant mood that night, obviously having a good time.  After asking the audience if they were ready for some slow blues, he proceeded with “She May Be Your Woman,” a crowd favorite from his ACE OF HARPS album.  With a wicked twinkle in his eye, Charlie said this was a song about “A woman long ago and far from here.”  This is a favorite of Charlie’s, as well, for it simply drips with his laconic wit.

  “Hwy. 51” was next and runs, as Charlie says, “From New Orleans to Memphis up to Chicago.”  He couldn’t say where it went then because “That’s as far as I ever took it.”  Charlie closed his set with his classic “She Used to be Beautiful,” which featured a flawless harmony between Charlie’s harp and Kirk Fletcher’s guitar.

  It’s always a pleasure to write about Charlie Musselwhite, but it’s even better to see him perform.  I hope you all get that chance real soon and don’t forget to say “Hey” from Pat Benny.  Then, look out! He may weld that laconic wit on the both of us.

http://www.charlie-musselwhite.com

              --Pat Benny

 

 

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