Shack Up Inn

17th May, 2019

G’Day Raffers,

Music review time. Hot off the press!

I’m pleased to offer you access to a mighty fine blues tune written by Gary Young of Daddy Cool fame on one of his experiences in Clarksdale, Mississippi. Gary recorded this with good mate Steve Williams (ex Rock Doctors, John Farnham band), who provides the Blues Burger. I’ll let Steve explain the song’s origins, “Shack Up Inn is a 12 bar in A…. it really is in Clarksdale Mississippi and they had a piano in the corner….it was 4 o’clock in the afternoon and there was no one there so they let him have a plonk….Gary can play a convincing Jerry Lee in G and C and he knows hundreds of country and rock n roll songs….before long the ‘Just left work crowd’ wandered in and he had dozens of people buying him drinks for hours…”. Hear hereShack.

Brisbane Country Rock outfit, Good Will Remedy have just released their seven track EP ‘Witness Mark’. Living up to their name, this album like those before them doesn’t have a bad tune. Recorded live in the studio the vocals were over dubbed later which makes them really pop! AC/DC meets country on ‘Rock n Roll King’. No harp on the extended play, however Will Lebihan, vocalist and bass player told HRR that all the band play the Gob Iron-to some level of expertise. Hear/view their second singleJuanita.

Sydney bluesman Simon Kinny-Lewis has a live album ‘A Day In San Jose’ out now in all good and bad music stores. Several tracks feature the high gain-amped up harp of Andy Just. You may remember Andy from his association with Mark and Robben Ford from the Ford Blues Band. Nice to hear ‘Crossroads’ with harp.

img_2996King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard have another album out in the market place, ‘Fishing For Fishies’. More harp than usual and boogie to boot. Ambrose Kenny-Smith channels his old man (Brod Smith) on the stand out tune This Thing.

In late breaking news I have obtained another Australian vintage (maybe antique) mouth organ for my ever expanding collection, ‘The Kangaroo’. An article is in the making. Further research has found support for F A Rauner as the manufacturer of the ‘Crackajack’ models and a newly discovered ‘Boy’s Crackajack’ mouth organ sold by ‘Allan’s’. Stay tuned.

A new NFSCD is not far away and a feature article on a Chicago family living in South Australia in the 1930’s.

All for now. Happy Riffin’.





Hohner’s Hollandia (Nova) Harp

6th May, 2019

G’Day Riff Raffers,

Hohner, a world leader in accordion and mouth organ manufacturing, had its share of difficulties in becoming one of the major players in the Australian Mouth Organ market in the early part of the twentieth century. Most models were available in the colonies and they included the popular ‘Up To Date’ and ‘Second To None’ mouth organs. However, Albert’s ‘Boomerang’ and Allan’s ‘Crackajack’ Australian flavoured mouth organs were streets ahead of the field. At the turn of the Century a commemorative model was produced by Hohner for the local market branded the ‘The Federation Souvenir- Century Advance’. In 1912, to further tap into nationalistic fervour and compete with their rivals, a mouth organ with an Australian identity the ‘Young Australia’ was introduced in two models-one for 1/3d and another for 2/- and they achieved promising sales.

A stumbling block to sales occurred in 1928 with a possible violation of Trademark regulations of Hohner’s ‘Young Australia’. The Australian Natives Association (where there were no indigenous Australians allowed) brought to the attention of the ‘Pollies’ of the day that the Australian flag was stamped on the instrument alongside ‘made in Germany’. The A.N.A had formed in 1871 in Melbourne by patriotic white men born in Australia who believed in a White Australia policy. They were heavily involved in the political processes of the time and in particular the federation of the colonies.

Then Federal Attorney General Mr. J.G. Latham proclaimed that, “The Trade Marks Act, 1905-19, section 18, provides that the Registrar may refuse to register any trade mark which contains any representation of the Flag of the Commonwealth. This section applies only to the registration of trademarks. Section 113 prohibits the use in connection with any trade, business, calling, or profession of the Royal Arms without the authority of the King or some other proper authority. This section does not apply to the Australian Flag. Section 114 (a), however, provides that the Governor-General may declare any mark to be a prohibited word or mark, and may also declare that that mark shall not be used or registered as a trade mark or part of a trademark. Under this provision it would be possible for the Governor-General to prohibit the use of the Australian Flag as a trademark, but the proclamation would have to be in general terms and could not under this provision be confined to goods of foreign origin. The Government is not prepared to prohibit the use of the Australian Flag in connection with all goods.” (Perth Daily News, 28 March, 1928)

This, and maybe with lingering resentment of Germany’s involvement in WWI (don’t mention the war) the ‘Young Australia’ was removed from the shelves.

In the 1930’s with the proliferation of mouth organ bands Hohner once again attempted to land a foot hold in the Australian market. They would promote the ‘Auto Valve Harp’ as an Australian model even though it had been sold internationally since 1910. Ray Grieve, Australian Mouth Organ historian, had been informed of this by Kurt Jacob who was sent ‘Down Under’ as Hohner’s representative to promote their products. Ray stated that,“Kurt told me that Hohner decided to use their already well-known Auto Valve Harp as ‘an Australian model’ rather than ‘invent’ a new Oz style brand name. Perhaps that was because of the legal problems they encountered when they marketed the Young Australia model? (Playing it safe).”

In 1938 there was a Hohner model only sold in Australia under the banner of ‘Auto Valve’-branded the ‘Auto Valve Vamper’, which could be purchased for three shillings at all good and bad music stores. It was a ten hole twenty reed diatonic model. The name is an oxymoron as the Auto Valve Harp is a Knittlinger instrument and the Vamper a Richter model. I’ll let Pat Missin, world authority on all things relating to the first instrument played in outer space take over, Vamper is a much-abused term. Strictly speaking, it means a Richter System instrument. Really, at this point we don’t know for sure what Richter did or didn’t do. We’re not even certain who he was. Vamper seems to have become the British-English term for the Richter-style diatonic some time in the late 1800s, although it was also sometimes applied to double-reed harps. Vamper seems to have been the preferred term in the UK, Australia and NZ, but not so much Canada or the US. Also strictly speaking, the Auto-Valve is a Knittlinger System harmonica. So by definition, an Auto-Valve can’t really be a Vamper – not that Hohner let anything like correct terminology get in their way.”

For further information check out Pat’s website

The term ‘Vamping’ and its origin is intriguing for the author. My idea of vamping was a chordal chugging arrangement. Could it/did it evolve from the word Vampire? There is sucking involved in playing! Again I’ll hand over to Pat Missin for his take on vamping, “I have always assumed that the term originated from the ability to vamp chords under a melody, although to be honest, you can do that just as well with a tremolo or octave harp. Also, “vamp” can mean slightly different things in different musical contexts, but most often it means an improvised accompaniment.” I researched further for the etymology and discovered it’s derived from the medieval French word avant-pied which translates to before the foot and was used in reference to the part of a stocking below the ankle. Somewhere in the middle seventeenth century the word was used for anything that had been fixed up (such as hole in a sock). The verb to revamp has its origins here. By the end of the nineteenth century into the musicians vernacular arrived the term vamp for short, simple repeated phrases (usually improvised) that were called a safety. In musical theatre they were originally used for stalling for time so the singer could use dialogue (a patch). Perhaps the origin of today’s looping. In 1933 Harold Collier, Crackajack Mouth Organ representative and Australian champion of 1927 and 1936, wrote two feature articles for the Melbourne newspaper ‘The Age’ on mouth organ playing. In the second instalment he explained the method of vamping under the heading of ‘How To Use The Tongue’. “The tongue is removed from the notes each time you blow and draw, in fact, it should move in and out as quick as a snakes tongue.” (The Age, 7 April 1933).

In my copy of the 1926 ‘Boomerang’ mouth organ instructional booklet, it outlines that when playing a chord accompaniment (vamp) you take the tongue off the three holes being blocked (to play the single note on the fourth hole) and then place the tongue back on and off again. “In practising this say La-La”. The booklet then emphasises to remember, “In Waltz Music the tongue would be taken off and put back 3 times to each measure. In Fox Trots, four times to a measure. In some Marches, four times to a measure. In some Marches, six times to a measure.”

This technique of tongue blocking to play a clean single note was another area of interest for the author. How did it come about? Who developed this unique method? Pat kindly expands on the topic, The subject tongue blocking and its place in history is something I’ve recently been discussing with Joe Filisko. He is strongly of the opinion that tongue blocking was essentially THE embouchure up until the 1960s, even for those players who rarely played chords. I think he’s right on that point and we are currently trying to figure out how the balance of power shifted towards the pursed lips embouchure.”

In a follow up he provides further detail, “The oldest English language book on playing the modern harmonica is from 1870. It describes tongue blocking as the way to play, although its instructions are rather vague. Interestingly, the instructions for playing the Pandean Aeolian only mention the pursed lips method.”

In Sonny Terry’s ‘Country Blues Harmonica’ (Oak Publications, 1975 p46) book as told to Kent Cooper and Fred Palmer by Sonny, it tells us that Sonny obtains single notes by centering down on one hole by using his lips, claiming it allows him free to do tongue flutters and trill effects. It does suggest you can combine both methods, but basically finishes by stating that you can make the same sound in many different ways.

The Auto Valve Vamper was a fair dinkum Aussie harp, but with the onset of the second world war (sorry I mentioned the war, but I think I may have got away with it) it was gone before it arrived. After the war Hohner would eventually establish itself in the Australian Mouth Organ market with their high quality Chromatics and also the ‘Echo Super Vamper’ (Hohner’s ‘Marine Band’ stamped differently for Australia and UK markets).

The first post war shipment in 1949 that reached the shores of ‘Terres Australis’ included a ten hole vamper mouth organ sold by J Madgwick & Co of Pitt street Sydney as the ‘Echo’. Interestingly Harry Landis’ music store in Elizabeth street Sydney of the same year advertised the twenty eight reed tremolo harp as the super-vamper. By 1952 the ten hole ‘Echo’ vamper transformed into the ‘Echo Super Vamper’ and quickly became a popular acquisition for those looking for a precision vamper. I had always wondered why the twelve hole model that appeared years later in an orange box wasn’t named the ‘Super Vamper’. One would have presumed the larger size would have been superior to the smaller. This model is identical to the Marine Band 364 which became popular after Sonny Boy Williamson II produced amazing sounds from the harp. Not sure why it was marketed this way, perhaps it was due to our predilection for the nomenclature (Vamper), which certainly had a resonance down under and sales would reflect their popularity. Pat Missin suggests, “When Hohner got seriously into export, they really concentrated on making products aimed at specific regions. Often what was essentially the same harmonica would be marketed under several different names, depending on where they were trying to sell it. The Marine Band was named after the US Marine Band and it probably didn’t make much sense to try and sell one in the UK. Likewise, as Vamper was not a term commonly used to describe diatonic harmonicas in the US, something called the Echo Super Vamper was not probably going to be a big seller in the States.

There you go.


PS: Thanks to both Pat Missin and Ray Grieve for the information they provided in this Dawg Blawg.

Hohner harmonica’s are distributed here in Australia by KJ (Kurt Jacob) Music. They are celebrating their 80th year in business. Check out their website .









NFSCD#5-Snake Charming


1st May, 2019

Happy new month Riff Raffers,

Next time you see one try playing the pocket harp, but there’s no need to go any further they will go their own way (you can call it just another lonely day). It is a myth that snakes cannot hear. They don’t have eardrums, but possess inner ears which detect ground vibrations and other low pitch sounds.


(Albury Banner & Wodonga Express, 26 February 1937)img_0899

(Goulburn Evening Penny Post, 25 January, 1940)

Larry Adler demonstrates how it’s done with a 12 foot carpet snake at the Lone Pine Zoo. No other implements required!


(Sydney Sun, 9 April, 1939)



PS: Check Out new Soundcloud upload featuring Blighty with his band, hear here -‘Flyers‘.

Grizzlee Remedy

Thursday, April 18th 2018

Hey Riff Raffers,

A couple of reviews, an update, an ANZAC article and why not, an Easter story.

Couple of mighty fine tunes just released. ‘Grizzlee Train’, a blues rock based duo from the Central Coast Of NSW have ‘Shakin‘ an uptempo single with a nice hook and a sing-a-long chant, ‘Hey Ho’. “I’m shakin’ and I don’t know why”. Josh Dufficy, drummer and harmonica player, blows a John Fogerty sounding riff a minute and a half into the tune.

Queensland country rock outfit ‘Good Will Remedy’ an emerging force in the Australian music scene have an extended play for release on May 10. A follow up to the 2018 album ‘Silver Lined’ which has a wee bit of harp on the popular track ‘My Angel’. No gob iron on the first single ‘Caroline‘ taken from the ‘EP’, but it’s a grand rockin’ ditty that espouses their song writing talents. “Am I wastin’ my time on sweet talkin’ wine.” A second single ‘Juanita’ is out tomorrow.

Speaking of tomorrow when Christians honour the sacrifice Jesus made for mankind-here’s a verse from Psalm 71 that supports George ‘Harmonica’ Smith’s claim the harmonica is one of the earliest instruments.

22 I will indeed praise you with the harp; I will praise your faithfulness my God. On my harp I will play hymns to you, the Holy One of Israel. (Good News Bible)

When George was admonished for his claim with this wasn’t a harmonica, but a stringed instrument, his blunt reply was, “Don’t believe that shit.”

Also with ANZAC day almost upon us here’s an item from the archive outlining how the mouth organ defeated the Germans in WWII.

img_2500(The Argus, 26th January 1946)


PS: There is an update to the Gene Jimae story-a couple of new quotes. NFSCD #4 is not far away and too the feature article for May, which will help your vamping. Keep your ears on Soundcloud for a gun Aussie Rock harpist. Off to the studio to lay a harp riff for a local performer-more news to come.

Goanna Man Of Mystery

7th April, 2019

Hi Riff Raffers,

Within my substantial vinyl record collection there is a twelve inch extended play by ‘The Goanna Band’ titled, ‘Living On The Razor’s Edge’. Released in 1979 there was a limited print of 500 (maybe 1000?). It was produced by Broderick Smith on the Custom Press label a subsidiary of EMI. Two of the four tunes were reworked on Goanna’s (band name was shortened to Goanna) highly successful debut long play release of 1982, ‘Spirit Of Place’ and another appeared later on their follow up album of 1985, ‘Oceania’. The tune that has never seen light of day again is ‘Sometimes’ which has harmonica blown by first named band member, Ian Morrison. Ian also sings lead on this song. Who is this mystery Goanna man? His name pops up again on the liner notes as co-writing ‘Living On The Razor’s Edge’.

The Goanna Band evolved from humble beginnings back in ‘sleepy hollow’, the country town of Geelong in 1977. They had emerged from a folk trio named The Ecto-Plasmic Manifestation Concert Band whose three members were students of Deakin University and included Shane Howard from Dennington. The Goanna Band had an ongoing residency at the ‘Argyle’ hotel where they would play Shane’s originals, but also cover a couple of Dingoes classics, the Kerryn Tolhurst penned ‘Singing Your Song’ (a personal favourite) and ‘Goin Down Again’. Kerryn had a strong connection with the band over the journey. Playing the ‘band in the hand’ on the Dingoes tunes was Ian ‘Morrie’ Morrison perhaps emulating his idol Broderick Smith. Brod even provides backing vocals on the EP’s title track. The band was managed by Ian ‘King Of The Coast’ Lovell who owned the Eureka hotel in Geelong. Later, at the Eureka, a fledgling Goanna would support Cold Chisel who were on a National tour promoting the 1979 ‘Breakfast At Sweethearts’ album.

In May 1981, Shane on Doctors advice took time off and ventured to Uluru (Ayres Rock). Here, close to ancestral spirits, an awakening occurred which later would manifest itself into the writing of an Australian classic. A significant event occurred around this time which raised their stocks, they supported James Taylor on his national tour in 1981. From there they signed to the WEA (Warner-Elektra-Atlantic) record label and an album was in the making. ‘Spirit Of Place’ was chock full of top tunes from the anthemic hit single ‘Solid Rock’ (which WEA were reluctant to release as the lead single), the melodic follow up single ‘Razors’s Edge’ right to the rocking finale ‘Children Of The Southern Land’. The reworked ‘Razor’s Edge’ (also with a shortened title) featured Ross Hannaford on lead guitar and Ross Wilson on backing vocals. Goanna reached the lofty heights within the fickle music industry quickly, maybe too quickly, however a band with a message about our nation and it’s heritage was just what the doctor ordered. I met Shane briefly in 1982 at ‘Goanna Manor’ a two story building in St. Kilda just opposite the ‘Junction’ oval-the home of the mighty lions (Fitzroy Football Club). He was shy, friendly, very humble and gracious. Recently I asked Shane about the writing of ‘Razor’s Edge’ and the mystery Goanna man Ian Morrison. Shane responded,“Living On The Razor’s Edge is an old song. I wrote it when I was hitchhiking up the East Coast of Australia back in 1975. Many years later, Ian Morrison, who was in Goanna, added the lyrics for the the third verse, Lulu’s too tired of living down beside Torquay. She’s getting herself together, financially. She says, One of these days I’m just goin’ to lie in the Sun, But right now I’m wondering if that day ever comes. Ian lives in Geelong and works in Melbourne.” In 1979 the last part of the third verse was sung as, ‘She’s gonna have a holiday and lie down in the sun. Well I don’t really know (yeah), but I’d say she’s on the run.’

It was interesting to look back at old footage for the mystery Goanna man. Couldn’t see him at ‘The Venue’ in September 1982 when Solid Rock was belted out, but hang on there he is singing, front and square on the Kerryn Tolhurst penned ‘Underfoot, Underground’ (features on the remastered deluxe version of ‘Spirit Of Place’). Viewing Countdown in 1983 there he is strumming an acoustic guitar (was it plugged in?) on ‘Razor’s Edge’. Was Ian at the Myer Music Bowl for the ‘Stop The Drop’ concert? Yep. There he was stage left dancing and providing backing vocals on ‘That Day Is Coming Sooner’ (sooner than you think). Hanna’s there too.

Shane and Ian must have been close buddies. In 1984 they travelled overseas together visiting Europe and the United States. The ‘Goanna’ boys searched LA for Billy Payne, former keyboard player for ‘Little Feat’ (in the early days they covered some of their tunes) to produce their follow up album. They had met Billy earlier on the James Taylor tour. Initially Mark Knopfler was tendered for the position, however he became unavailable due to commitments with his band ‘Dire Straits’. With Billy on board ‘Oceania’ was in the making. The album was considered by many as a failure. It never had a chance, it could never measure up to the debut album. Shane reflected later, we tried to change and stop being too commercial, but we changed too much and it failed.” (Canberra Times, 8th December, 1988). Not sure if Shane was referring to the first album being commercial (I wouldn’t have thought so) or the tunes that followed, but it was a shame that ‘That Day Is Coming Sooner’ a single they recorded in 1983 wasn’t represented on the new album. The band toured intensively promoting the album spending enormous energy and money. They would never recover. By 1985 Shane suffered a breakdown leaving his wife and four children and the band. He eventually would reside in a caravan at the Gulf Of Carpentaria sorting out his thoughts and place in the cosmos. His return to mainstream existence would not be for another three years.

Shane on his comeback trail released a warts and all solo album ‘Back To The Track’. The title track was a cracker, an up tempo tune featuring Steve Gilbert on the mouth harp. This would be the first tune since ‘Sometimes’ that we would see Shane combine again with the most owned instrument in the world. A few more solo albums would see Shane pair with some of Australia’s harmonica royalty. Jim Conway in his own inimitable style blows harp on ‘Without You’ from the 1990 ‘River’ album and Chris Wilson wails away on the cover of Bob Dylan’s ‘Silvio’ on the 1993 album ‘Time Will Tell’. Shane even has a crack in a rack, Bob Dylan style on tunes throughout his solo catalogue. Okay! I hear you ask what about ‘Morrie’. Not sure he was involved in any of Shane’s solo projects, however he returns on Goanna’s 1998 album, ‘Spirit Returns’ (Kerryn Tolhurst produced) singing backing vocals. ‘What Else Is A Life’ is a ripper tune from this hard to obtain release. The last we knew of Ian Morrison was as a ‘Lobby Ambassador’ for ‘The Westin’ Hotel (part of the ‘Marriot’ group) in Melbourne.


Postscript: You may notice the plane identification on the wing of the ‘Razors Edge’ single (seen above) is FRE-DDY. This relates to the unusual disappearance of twenty year old pilot Frederick Valentich in October of 1978 in the Bass Strait ‘Triangle’. Goanna believed he had been living on the razors edge. The story held some significance for me as the airport he flew from was only minutes from my family residence and Frederick was only a year older than myself. If it was a hoax, as many maintained at the time, it’s strange that to this day there is still no sight of the plane or Freddy. Funny sort of hoax!

Here’s the final part of Fred’s radio transcript with flight service.

9:11:52 DSJ FS Delta Sierra Juliet – The engine is, is rough idling. —I’ve got it set at twenty three—twenty four… and the thing is—coughing.

9:12:04 FS DSJ Delta Sierra Juliet—Roger. What are your intentions?

9:12:09 DSJ FS My intentions are—ah… to go to King Island—Ah, Melbourne, that strange aircraft is hovering on top of me again //open microphone for two seconds// it is hovering and it’s not an aircraft. 9:12:22 FS DSJ Delta Sierra Juliet.

9:12:28 DSJ FS Delta Sierra Juliet—Melbourne //open microphone for 17 seconds// [A very strange pulsed noise is also audible during this transmission.]

Over & Out!

NFSCD #4-Biting A Chew Off A Plug…

1st April, 2019

Pinch & Punch Riff Raffers,

An interesting insight into how the mouth organ was perceived in the colonies during the late nineteenth century.

img_2045-1(Sydney Evening News, Thursday 9th August, 1894)

Here’s the full transcript with a ‘pic’ thrown in.




After having decided either to go and hear the Premier propound his policy at the Protestant Hall last night, or to see his rival, Mr. Harry Foran, gentleman, egged and floured outside, we altered our mind, and decided to go and hear another kind of ‘MOUTH ORGAN CONTEST’ which we saw advertised in the Evening News. The scene of the contest was Howard’s Music Warehouse on Brickfield Hill, and thither we went, much marvelling what manner of instrument a ‘mouth organ’ could be, and the sort of music it would be likely to afford. Inquiry elicited that THIS ORGAN WAS A HARP and that this harp no more resembled a harp than it did Mons. Wiegand’s superb pet at the Centennial Hall, or the infernal Italian barrel organ. It proved to be nothing more than the simple little reed instrument into which the lyrical larrikin pours all the sentiment of his soul when wooing his ladylove either at Chowder or Bondi. The technical term for the instrument is ‘concert harp’ and it has of late become commoner in Sydney than the penny whistle or the concertina. The organiser of the contest, who surely must be a lineal descendant of HOWARD, THE PHILANTHROPIST, pointed out that it was the first of a series arranged, not so much to promote the sale of mouth organs among the musically illiterate male and female youth as to elevate their sentiments, refine their manners, and to make them worthy in every sense to hold a golden harp in the celestial choir where the moralising influences of the terrestrial mouth organ are neither known nor required. He frankly admitted that he got his SCHEME OF MUSICAL REDEMPTION from no less a personage Mr. Wm. M’Millan, who had once publicly declared that music alone could charm the larrikin out of the land. Pointing to a group of youths who were present the promoter enthusiastically referred to them as some of the most remarkable manipulators of the mouth organ he had ever heard, and promised that their performance would astonish us. And so it did. Apparently these contests are conducted on the CARRINGTON HANDICAP PRINCIPLE, being run off, or rather blown off, in heats or batches. The contest is judged by points in ‘effects, tempo, tone, and vamping,’ by a duly appointed adjudicator, who on this occasion proved to be none other than Mr. G. D. Simon, who acted as sole adjudicator at the last Wallsend Eisteddfod. The competitors drew lots as to the order in which they should compete, and that question once decided they went to work with a will. There was no conductor or accompanist, each performer being all in all to himself, even to composing his own selections, as was the case in one instance. Each competitor chose his own selections, of which he played two. These for the most part consisted of popular melodies or dance music, such as delight those whose souls find vent through a mouth organ, among them being ‘e dunno were ‘e are, the ‘Swanee River,’ ‘Blue Bells of Scotland,’ ‘Champagne Charlie,’ ‘Knocked ‘Em in the Old Kent-road,’ the ‘Emigrant’s Farewell,’ ‘Nancy Lee,’ and the ‘ Chowder Bay Waltz,’ the last-named being a composition of the performer himself, a youth of some 17 or 18 years of age. It is due to the composer to say that ‘ Chowder Bay’ sounded no better nor worse than ‘Blue Danube’ when played on the mouth organ. As musicians the competitors were truly clever, considering’ the instrument they played and the variety of sounds they managed to evoke was almost as much a matter of astonishment as the facial and physical contortions which accompanied their efforts. The favourite position of the players is A LOPSIDED AESTHETIC POSE, with the head thrown back sideways, and the eyes fixed on the ceiling with a steady, stolid stare. Nothing is seen of the organ, which is covered by both hands, so that the player looks very much as though he were gnawing a tough crust or biting a chew’ off a plug. Like all other devoted instrumentalists the mouth organist has his distinguishing marks. The pianist, violinist and harpist are said to be distinguished by the shape of their fingers and nails, and the cornet player by the ‘bugle lip.’ The inverate mouth organist is known by the shape of his mouth and the bulbous form of the lips which long continued exercise is said to induce. Be this as it may, it is certain that UGLY MOUTHS MAY MAKE MUSIC was proved by last night’s performance. Whether the performers are elevated and refined in the manner indicated by Mr. M’Millan is a matter of opinion. Certain it is, however, that the mouth organ is fast becoming the instrument of the people. Its cheapness and simplicity give music to those who neither have nor desire any other, and if, in the language of the promoter of last night’s unique contest- ‘the mouth organ is a moral agent, it makes the young men who play it at random by ear feel some sort of a love for the beautiful which – is in every human heart, because if they did not feel at heart they could not play so sweetly by ear’— then the mouth organ with all its comical concomitants must not be accounted a ‘nuisance. A thing of beauty is a joy, while it still remains in fashion. (Anon)

There you go.



PS: A couple of new additions to the Aussie Models Timeline since we last spoke. Also an upload to Soundcloud-a riff lesson to a well known tune from the nineties that peaked at number nine on the ARIA charts. Hear here ‘Helen‘.

Mouth Harp Mimicry

17th March, 2019

Hello Riff Raffers,

A special free offer with today’s St. Patrick’s Day edition. Sláinte.

Mimicry: the action or skill of imitating someone or something especially in order to entertain or ridicule. (Oxford Living Dictionary)

The harmonica is well known for it’s imitation of the steam train, the hounds of the fox chase, sirens, chooks and babies crying for their Mama. Check Out Salty Holmes’ ‘Talking Harmonica’ here. Australia’s Mouth Organ Champion P C Spouse (1925, 1927, 1928 and 1935) was an exponent, he was reported as delighting his listeners with his warmth of feeling when playing ballads, classics and band waltzes” and also for his “clever imitation of other musical instruments and mimicry of vocalists,” (Macleay Argus, 23 July 1935). Many of the mouth organ contests of the day included a section for best mouth organ imitation. Musicians would emulate bagpipes, church organs, violins and gramophones to name a few. Another fine Australian Champion of yesteryear Stan Andrews (1926, 1930 and 1935) from Ballarat could execute a fabulous rendition of a military marching band. Hear here!

Rick Dempster, ex Autodrifters, Brunswick Blues Shooters and Moonee Valley Drifters, is an extremely underrated but amazing harmonica player. He imitates a steam train on a tune called Broad Gauge Beat‘. Rick a self confessed train buff had worked for the Victorian Railways and locally in the Dandenongs with tourist icon Puffing Billy. On the tune Rick’s percussive technique for the train travelling on the tracks is three in breaths followed by an out breath, which is not commonly used by train imitators. Dave, who he had worked with at the Victorian railyards, taught him this method. Rick even plays the sound of the wheels slipping on the wet tracks as it attempts to move. Another skill he possesses is whistling two notes simultaneously. Why is it so?img_1195-1What better way to do your mouth harp mimicry, but on a W F Coxon ‘Lyre Bird’ mouth organ. The Lyrebird is an Australian ground dwelling songbird that is noted for its ability to mimic sounds from their natural and sometimes unnatural environment. Their name derives from the male of the species, whose raised feathered tail plumage in the act of courtship (look at me) replicates an image of the ancient musical instrument, the Lyre. The Lyrebird is able to mime sounds due to the structure of their syrinx (vocal organ). They have been known to mimic Kookaburras, Koalas and Dingoes from their natural habitat and introduced sounds such as camera shutters (click and motorised), car alarms, sirens, chainsaws and even the human voice.

W F Coxon in 1898 operated out of two stores one at 745 George street (later expanding to 739 and 741), Haymarket (just opposite Christ Church) and 274 King street, Newtown. They were importers, merchants and furniture manufacturers. They prided themselves on doing business on the ‘terms system’ where people of small but steady incomes could secure items they normally couldn’t acquire. The business went from strength to strength with large profits on shares and they opened three more stores in 1899 at Newcastle, Bathurst and Lithgow.

img_1852-1In 1903 W F Coxon joined the ever increasing profitable mouth organ market. The Lyre Bird is Mr. W F Coxon’s invention and is the result of years of experiment, having been tested and found perfect.” (Sydney Sun 5th August,1903). It appears the filing of the reeds both vertically and horizontally gave it the perfect tone and tuning. I’m no expert and I wasn’t around to test one, but filing horizontally might be fraught with danger (don’t do this at home). It even received a special prize at the Agricultural Show in 1903. In 1904 a local championship was won by Thomas McHenry using a ‘Lyre Bird’ mouth organ. By 1909 they came in six models (originally four) from the most basic 1/- model to the ornamented plush lined case model for 7/6d. Each mouth organ was warranted for two years and fitted in various keys. In 1910 their business premises were being demolished for development and due to their outstanding liabilities they were put into receivership. It didn’t take long before German mouth organ manufacturer Seydel jumped on the opportunity of trademarking the name Lyre-Bird. They did so the following year, although I don’t believe they put any into production.

In 1913 A Macrow & Sons of Melbourne kept the mimicry theme to the forefront selling their brand of mouth organ, ‘The Magpie’. They advertised their brand as, Magpie Mouth Organs-Boys! They’re It! High grade mouth organs specially made for our Australian Customers-Superior European Manufacture. I know of four models which include a ‘Vamper’ and a ‘Tremolo’. The black and white Australian Magpie is another songbird (flying) so talented they can vary their pitch by four octaves and can mimic over thirty five species of birds, dogs, horses and human speech.

(Macrow & Sons, office and factory workers, 259 Collins Street, 1913)

I’m sure ‘Macrows’ had no interest in offering a ‘Crow’ mouth organ as they’re not the sweetest sounding bird and certainly not popular among the populous. Crows were considered vermin by sheep farmers and they could be trapped for a few pence. In their defence they are capable of making about eighty different call types and can mimic sounds. They also have the ability to count the beat. They can count up to six. Television host Graham Kennedy famously created awareness in 1975 on how exceptional they were as copiers of the most famous swear word in the world. I wonder if there was any consideration given to producing a ‘Cockatoo’ model on the market? Pretty Cocky. Polly want a cracker? Maybe their screeching was off putting. What about a ‘Galah’? We did, however have a ‘Kookaburra’ (the laughing jackass) on sale by Alberts. In North America a ‘Burrowing Owl’ mouth organ might be well received as they can do a mighty impression of a rattlesnake.

Happy Mimicry Raffers.


PS: As a result of the research we have a free bonus supplement article for you this St. Patrick’s day on Albert Owen Macrow (pictured above) and family members. Perhaps my Irish immigrant grandfather Paddy’ may have visited Albert’s store and even blew a ‘Magpie’ mouth organ.

Mr Albert Macrow was born in London in 1837 and emigrated to Australia in 1853. He married Colina Fairbairn in 1856 and they had five sons and six daughters. Sadly Thomas died tragically at the age of fifteen. He was operating a lift at Paterson & Co in Flinders Lane. It was disclosed that on the 5th May, 1891, Thomas Albert Macrow who had very little experience of the lift, endeavored to take up a passenger. He landed his passenger on the third floor and followed him along the corridor. The lad then ran back, but as he had not stopped the lift, instead of running on to the lift floor he stepped into space and fell to the bottom of the well, a distance of about 40 feet. He was picked up and taken to the Melbourne hospital where he remained for some time. He was then taken to the home of his parents at Auburn, but subsequently died from the effects of the injuries he had sustained.” (The Age, 6 June, 1891). At the Coronial Inquiry Dr. William Warren testified that he died from a fractured spine. He had also suffered a broken leg and arm. Mr. Macrow asked the Inquiry on whose authority was his son working the lift as he had not given his consent? A witness replied he had no authority, but he did it for his own pleasure, as boys do. The jury found he had met his death by accident, but added that a mechanical device needs to be attached to the cages and fixed to the landings when the person in charge leaves them.

Albert’s first business ventures were at Bendigo, Ballarat and Bullarook. In 1897 Albert commenced business as a wholesale jeweller and piano importer in Flinders street and subsequently established businesses in many regional areas of Victoria and interstate. Sydney and Newcastle (New South Wales), Adelaide and Gawler (South Australia), Perth and Kalgoorlie (Western Australia), Hobart and Launceston (Tasmania) and Brisbane in Queensland. In 1905 the business traded as A Macrow & Sons with Albert, William and Francis Macrow named as the proprietors. Colina passed away at their Auburn residence in 1911 aged seventy one. Albert would venture into marriage once more and tied the knot with a younger girl, sixty seven year old Charlotte Mary Morgan on the ninth of August 1920. Retiring in 1922 he handed over the reins to his son William, but still retaining an interest in the firm until his tragic death in 1927 aged ninety. With head down, crossing Elizabeth street against the traffic, he was hit by a Collins street tram. Albert had enjoyed good health. He walked a couple of miles each morning but at the time of his demise was being treated for a weakness of the heart. Albert’s eye sight was excellent, however his hearing wasn’t and in fact he was nearly stone deaf, which may have contributed to his death.

In 1910 Ethel Colina ‘Dolly’ Macrow (William’s eldest daughter) married celebrated Australian Test Cricketer Vernon Ransford. William’s only son William Reginald Macrow, at one time a cadet at Camberwell Grammar, would enlist in the Australian Army with the outbreak of war in 1914 at the age of twenty five as a driver for the 1st Divisional Train. He was promoted to Lieutenant and received the Military Cross for conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty whilst engaged on pack transport work in forward areas during operations. He carried on his work day after day in spite of heavy shelling and most difficult weather conditions and the fact that the ground which he had to cross was at times a sea of mud. On one occasion, when his convoy was caught in an enemy barrage and several casualties were caused, he arranged for the removal of the wounded, reorganized his convoy, and delivered his stores. He proved himself a most capable and fearless leader, and kept his men in fine spirits by his disregard of danger and coolness under fire.’ (National Archives Of Australia). William, however was in some trouble for wearing medals on Armistice day processions that he wasn’t entitled to. One of these medals was the Sultan of Egypt’s Sudan Medal. William was a handy cricketer, a fast bowler for the Richmond Cricket Club and he represented his state on five occasions, one of which was against a touring England.

An unfortunate note to end on is William Macrow (Senior), who passed away in 1946 aged eighty six, did not leave one of his daughters, Frances, a brass razoo out of his £146,546 estate even though the rest of his children and several organisations would benefit. The Gordon Institute for Boys, Salvation Army (Victoria) Property Trust, Prince Henry’s Hospital, Austin Hospital, St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Hospital, Royal Children’s Hospital, Queen Victoria Hospital for Women and Children, and Mount Royal were all entitled to a share of £3,200. The court rectified Frances Elizabeth Macrow’s absence from the will by awarding an income of £1100 a year. The judges decision had taken into consideration that Frances aged forty four wasn’t given the opportunity to support herself and her father by discouraging male visitors had caused Frances to be a spinster. William was found guilty of a breach of the moral duty that a wise and just father owed his child.

The end! (I think)

Humpo Bompa (with a dadada da da over the top)

6th March, 2019

Hello Riff Raffers,

“Well I remember when I was young the world had just begun and I was happy. I used to wonder about the earth and how it moved around the sun so snappy.” (Matt Taylor)

Back when I was young you could venture down to the local milk bar and purchase sixteen aniseed balls for a cent. One of my first records bought from ‘Brashs’ in 1971 was the 45 rpm single ‘Judgement’ by Chain for ninety nine cents. I’d heard it on the bakelite ‘trannie’, station three eggs why (3XY). Singles were great as there was a bonus, a flip side. You would travel in expectation for another great tune from your favourite band. In this case it was the harmonica instrumental entitled, ‘Blow In D’.

It was around this time I picked up a vinyl album from my state school fete for ten cents. I’m not sure what the attraction was. It may simply have been the cover that displayed a large toothpaste dispenser with rainbow paste flowing, or was it because Blues Burger appeared on this long play record. Who was the Graham Bond Organization? I hadn’t heard them over the airwaves. The album included the Animals. I was aware of their song ‘House Of The Rising Sun’ and then there was someone named Sonny Boy Williamson. He played the breath harp as did Jack Bruce. Never heard of him either.

The only Sunny-boy on my horizon was a popular five cent treat from the schools tuck shop/canteen (depends on what school you went to) on a hot summer’s day. Far more popular than the warm bottle of milk with cream on top at playtime. A rush to be milk monitor was the opportunity to drink it cold on their arrival. Sunny-boys were orange flavoured ice, packaged in a pyramid shaped vessel. The best part was where the flavour had concentrated to a particular point of fracture that would flake off (and of course, the juice at the bottom). Don’t throw the pack away-look inside you may have a free one. Nothing better than one immediately after a game of Humpo Bumpo and not just for the reasons already outlined. The hard icy section that you couldn’t break with your teeth, but could break your teeth on could be applied as an ice pack on your bruises. A game of Humpo Bumpo begins by standing on the bench seats that lined the interior of the shelter shed. On the ground a school mate(s) waited for a cue word (probably go) ready to bump you out. When the command was released with exclamation off you hopped (and your cohorts who weren’t out) with arms crossed in a frantic endeavour to reach the other side without putting your hopping foot down. If your foot went down you were in the middle helping bump the others out. I don’t believe such an activity would be allowed in these heavily regulated and sanctioned days.

Now Sonny Boy Williamson had a tune on the album with a fascinating title, ‘Fattening Frogs For Killing Snakes’. What’s that all about? I believe it has something to do with you doing all the hard work and someone else benefiting. Well this blew a fuse for the black man’s blues as Matt Taylor had so eloquently written in his hit song of 1973. What happened to his band Chain? They were there one minute and gone the next. In fact when ‘Judgement‘ had been released the classic line up had vanished. They didn’t even last a year. Matt Taylor, vocalist and harp player, sold all his material possessions including all his expensive guitars (except one beaten up acoustic) to search for higher meaning and to live a commune life under the influence of Fred Robinson’s ‘Universal Brotherhood’. Matt and his wife Gillian moved to an acreage in Beechworth, which he and the other members of Chain had bought. Matt apparently had been introduced to Fred Robinson and his simpler way of living by Hans Poulson at a concert at the Myer Music Bowl where they appeared on the same bill.

It was here at the commune while contemplating his navel (remember it should always be your own) at his properties dam that the lyric of when I was young entered his thoughts. Matt sought out his beaten up guitar, tweaked the lyric from when I, to back when I, then finally to I remember when I was young. Matt put it to a bompa-bompa in the key of ‘G’ and that’s how an iconic Aussie hit was born.

Matt and Gillian moved away from the commune lifestyle and bought Kingston farm in Frankston. The song was recorded there in a paddock at the insistence of Matt with backing from his mates from Chain and slide guitarist Greg ‘Sleepy’ Lawrie. I believe it was Sleepy who originated the term bompa-bompa to describe a blues shuffle. Perhaps Matt added the dadada da da over the top? Over the journey Matt has produced many versions of this classic. Some with harp (cross in ‘C’) and some without.

img_1778My personal favourite is a live version he recorded with his Western Australian band, Western Flyer. Hear part thereof here ‘Remember‘. Even John Farnham recorded a cover. I love the harp intro Matt used on ‘Rockwiz’ an SBS music television program. He uses the whole harp, 8, 9 and 10 blow holes included and then a descending back and forth run from the eighth hole. You can see and hear on YouTube. I remember when I was young, I surely do, I hope you do so too.

“Sometimes I think  about it, it happens every day. I should think of the present ‘cause the presents now.” (Matt Taylor)


PS: More updates to last months post titled ‘Aussie Models’ including a new found model.

NFSCD #3- Down Under

1st March, 2019

Hi there Riff Raffers,

Now for something completely different number three.

(The Sydney Sun, 25th September, 1947)

He Plays His Harmonica On The Harbour Bed

Maritime Services Board diver Bill Lamb plays a harmonica while standing on the bottom of Sydney Harbour. He developed this curious habit to amuse himself during idle moments and claims that he is the only man in the world who can do it. SWARTHY, thick set and 53-years-old, Lamb decided he would become a diver at the ripe old age of eight. At that time he was living at Jervis Bay and was inspired by a Navy diver doing a repair job on a warship. “I’ve achieved my ambition, and believe me there is no other job like it,” he said. A competent harmonica player on the shore. Lamb is out on his own when it comes to playing at depths up to 60ft. He often takes a harmonica below to entertain his mates above. Inside the spacious diving helmet are attached two clips which hold the harmonica in position near the mouth. It is as easy, Lamb says, to move the mouth across the harmonica, as to move the harmonica across the mouth. Near the harmonica is the microphone of the diver’s telephone. This transmits either orders from the diver or, in Bill’s case, the strains of “I’m Nobody’s Baby Now.”With the Maritime Services Board, .. he works a 40-hour week, spending at least 23 hours of that under water.

By Walter Brooks

A couple of other headlines that featured Bill down under.


(Sydney Truth, 27th July 1947)


(Sydney Daily Telegraph, 11th December 1948)



Umina Blue-Jack’s Back

23rd February, 2019

Hey there Riff Raffers,

New music out now at all good and bad record stores. Firstly an album from riff raffer, Jack Derwin. The lead single and title track ‘Umina Blue’ is a high quality tune that displays Jack’s signature laid back, soulful groove and his masterful skills as a songwriter and musician. There wouldn’t be a winters night by the open fire with a single malt in hand that Jack Derwin music wouldn’t complete the trifecta. Umina is a seaside town on the central coast of New South Wales and it’s aboriginal derivation means a place of rest or sleep. If you haven’t checked out Jack Derwin before, do so now. Here’s a video promotional link to the album ‘Umina’. Purchase at CD Baby .

Six piece country-folk outfit, ‘The Grasscutters’ debut release ‘First Cut’ is available on Bandcamp. Some tasty harp from John Wayne Melville. Check out their interpretation of Paul Kelly’s ‘Sydney From A 747’.

Good friends of HRR, Canberra duo, ‘The Barren Spinsters’ newest rocking single, ‘West Of Happiness’ reveals the lads are at the top of their game. Brendon and Matt are putting the final touches on their album as I write and Brendon assures me the tin sandwich will feature. Out on Bandcamp and there’s an interesting video as well.

A few more worthy of a listen is ‘The Black Sorrows’ twenty first album ‘Citizen John’. The single ‘Wednesday’s Child’ is a cracker. Brisbane’s ‘Dave Orr Band’ has their debut album, ‘As Soon As I Know’. Brian Cadd explores his Americana connection with the LP ‘Silver City’. Glenn Shorrock has a new take on ‘It’s A Long Way There’ from his forthcoming release and Kim Churchill has a newbie. Personally I hope he can find his way back to his original mojo. Nice enough tune though.

There’s a few new uploads I’ve put out as well. Mr. Eagle Rock, Ross Andrew Wilson’s nineties Rock outfit ‘Raw’ (with sticker) and the tune Mind F**k’ (language warning). On Soundcloud-Mike Rudd explains a harp technique he uses and as a follow up here’s Kim Churchill using it as well. Lastly there’s an update on a post here. An update on the ‘Up To Date’ harmonica thanks to Pat Missin once more. Here’s the link to the Dawg Blawg .


PS: Not many sleeps before NFSCD #3 is posted!