Prince Pauper-NFSCD #6

1st June, 2019

Hi Riffers,

New month and another, ‘Now For Something Completely Different’ number six. Times were tough at Balmoral.

Sydney-Miss Sarah Gould (68) of Milton, on the Southern Coast, was upset last September when she read in a newspaper that Prince Charles only got 1/6 a week in pocket money. So Miss Gould went shopping. She bought a mouth organ for 8/7, and posted it to Buckingham Palace, addressed to Prince Charles. At the weekend the Milton postman bought her a reply by a lady-in-waiting to the Queen. “Dear Miss Gould,” it said “I am commanded by the Queen to thank you very much for your letter, and for so kindly sending the mouth organ to the Duke of Cornwall. Her Majesty has much pleasure in accepting this present on her son’s behalf and bids me express to you her sincere thanks.” (Broken Hill ‘Barrier Miner’, 24 March 1953)

Here’s another royalty related article from Melbourne’s ‘The Age’ earlier that year.

I sometimes wonder why the fascination? Not with the instrument, but with the royals. They do have an amazing publicity machine.

(The Age, 17 January 1953)


PS: ‘Hogan’s Heroes‘ published in a few days time. Picked up another amazing chromatic harp from Launceston, Tasmania. One of the first Chromatics anywhere in the world-presently dated 1901. Has a slide mechanism you’ve never seen before.


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‘.

The Journey Continues

August 14, 2018

Hi there Riff Raffers,

Harmonica Riff Raff started out on community radio 3MDR, Mountain District Radio (Emerald, Melbourne Australia) on Wednesday 24th April 2013 at 11pm and would conclude five years later after 256 episodes. HRR broadcast at various timeslots, primarily though from Wednesday 5pm to 7pm.

A show dedicated to the most owned instrument in the world, the first played in outer space and it just fits in your pocket. Articles appeared bi-monthly in local magazine ‘Signpost’. Popular segments of the show continue with regular uploads on Soundcloud and here we will keep you updated with the latest news on artists, music releases, gigs & products.