Harmonica Hinds

By John W. Fountain III

Tuesday’s lunch hour rings with the harmony of a guitar and harmonica belonging to one man. It is a nonstop journey of classic tunes like “Sweet Home Chicago”, “Smokestack Lighting” and other instrumentals. He talks about music as his calling. Harmonica Hinds believes music to be more than something to be heard or felt at a distance. He adheres to the notion that you can influence lives. It is an approach that many young aspiring Blues musicians don’t mention. But a lot of these young artists do not have the rich musical history and diversity in their repertoire.

Bluesletter: If you weren’t into the Blues what would you do?

_MG_7053Harmonica Hinds: [pullquote]I can’t even start to imagine what I would do if I were not into the Blues.[/pullquote] When I saw Sonny Terry, what he was doing with the harmonica captivated me. I started to pursue the Blues harmonica and that led me into entertainment. I started to mess around with the harmonica around the ages of 7 to 9. I started singing the Blues in 1968.

BL: What were the other genres of music/artists that influenced you as a musician?

HH: Diblo Dibala is a Soukous guitarist, vocalist, who has influenced me as a musician. Otis Redding, Sam Cook, Jackie Wilson, those R&B artist have influenced me.

Isaac Hayes, Nat King Cole, Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley, the Beatles they all had an influence on me as a musician. The Mighty Sparrow and Lord Kitchener are Calypsonians who had an impact on me.

BL: What part did your immediate environment factor into your decision of becoming a Blues musician?

_MG_0593HH: I have lived [in] different places. I was born in Trinidad, then I moved to Ottawa, Canada, then Toronto, Canada, then Chicago, then New Orleans, Louisiana, then back to Chicago. The Blues I heard in Trinidad was on the radio, Blues and jazz. In Canada the music was live. That’s where I saw and met Sonny Terry. While I was living in Toronto, I got my first music lesson from Lafayette Leake on the street. I also started to learn about the sociology of the Blues. While I was in Ottawa (studying sociology at Carleton University) James Cotton invited me to Chicago. David Lastie and George Porter were encouraging to me in New Orleans. There’s a lot of music in New Orleans but I had to return to Chicago. My family has always been supportive to me with my music because I’m about music. Theresa Needham at the now closed Theresa’s Lounge played a big part in my career. She allowed me to perform at her lounge from 1973 to 1979 as the house harmonica player when I couldn’t find work any other place. And that’s where I met all the musicians: John Primer, Sammy Lawhorn, Dave and Louis Myers, Junior Wells, Earnest Johnson and Nate Applewhite only to name a few. The South Side is where I’ve always lived and continue to live in Chicago.

BL: How do you feel about the current state of Blues music and the future of Blues overall?

HH: Blues music is going through changes as society goes through changes. Humans are going through changes, therefore what’s being produced will change. From the 60s to the present many changes occurred with the club scene, the recording industry, technology, the internet is here to stay, the economy. Now there are many Blues societies. There’s a lot of money in the Blues. Blues music will continue as humans continue.

BL: Who in the Blues scene has been a major influence on you and what lessons did you learn from them, in life and on stage?

_MG_0557HH: Lafayette Leake gave me my first lesson of the Blues. Sonny Terry showed me riffs on the harmonica and talked with me about my career. He suggested I play acoustic and electric harmonica. James Cotton showed me a technique on the harmonica and invited me to Chicago. Big Walter showed me riffs on the harmonica. I had dreams about Lil’ Walter and Big Walter showing me how to play the harmonica. Bob Myers and Louis Myers showed me riffs on the harmonica. Dave and Louis Myers helped me with the sociology of the Blues. [pullquote]Buddy Guy encouraged me to keep pursuing my dream. I also learn performance techniques from him. I perform [at Legends] on a weekly basis.[/pullquote] Sammy Lawhorn showed me what to do with the music. While I was living in Canada, Jerry Portnoy talked with me about vamping.

BL: What has been the major highlight for you as a Blues musician?

HarmonicaHinds20130120_0008HH: To be able to make music with the giants: Willie Dixon, Buddy Guy, Pinetop Perkins, Dave and Louis Myers, Fred Below, Koko Taylor.

BL: What do you hope to accomplish through your music?

HH: Sweet sounds that will entertain, inspire and heal the human soul.

BL: How have you overcome the lack of media exposure when it comes to pushing your career?

HH: I’m still dealing with media exposure. Right now I have some; at the same time, I’m working on getting some more because there are some things I would like to share. Money is not the only thing although money can do a lot. I have faith that I will get what’s for me. It’s a spiritual thing.

BL: How will you also deal with the competitive nature of Blues and getting gigs at various places?

HH: Continue to grow as an individual. There are things I have to learn. There are skills I have to acquire. It’s an ongoing thing.  I don’t have to worry about the competitive nature of the Blues. I’m competing with myself. How can I become a better person? What are the things I need to do and learn are questions I keep asking myself. I just got finished reading a book that stated “Talent is not enough”.

BL: What should people expect to hear from you and your band?

HH: A musician who loves what he’s doing; a band that is entertaining, inspiring and healing the human soul. [pullquote]The basis of what I do is love.[/pullquote]

Mark Augustine

Mark Augustine

Mark Augustine is a faculty member at Columbia College Chicago and a staff writer at BG: Blues And Music News.

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