Happy Hour Harmonica Podcast

Herbert Quelle interview

September 16, 2022 Neil Warren Season 1 Episode 69
Happy Hour Harmonica Podcast
Herbert Quelle interview
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Show Notes Chapter Markers

Herbert Quelle joins me on episode 69.

Herbert is a German who worked as a diplomat for 40 years. This included 10 years as the German Consul in the US, where he met several distinguished harmonica names. With a deep interest in the harmonica, Herbert has researched the instrument to great depth, using this information to litter facts into his two fictional works centred on our beloved instrument. He tells us of the huge export of harmonicas from Germany to the US, and how the early marketing often described harmonicas as toys.

Herbert regularly makes readings from his books, with some in this podcast episode. 


Herbert’s website:

Monika’s Blues book:

Harmonica History article for Harmonica Happenings magazine:

Early harmonica recordings by The Archivist (Roger Trobridge), introduced by Joe Filisko:

Adam Gussow book:

Pat Missin’s recordings of Arthur Turelly and Pete Hampton:

Herbert playing the German National Anthem:

Mundharmonika Live (Seydel harmonica convention):


Herbert’s YouTube Channel:

A German American Love Story (Harmonica exports to the US):

Herbert playing I Feel Free:

Podcast website:

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Spotify Playlist:
Also check out the Spotify Playlist, which contains most of the songs discussed in the podcast:

Podcast sponsors:
This podcast is sponsored by SEYDEL harmonicas - visit the oldest harmonica factory in the world at www.seydel1847.com  or on Facebook or Instagram at SEYDEL HARMONICAS
and Blows Me Away Productions: http://www.blowsmea

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Reading from Herbert of the Billy Branch foreword to his book: Monika’s Blues
Herbert has research the history of the harmonica deeply and written two fictional books on harmonica (incorporating facts about harmonica)
Herbert worked as a diplomat for 40 years
Harp ambassador website derives from diplomatic career
Met Queen Elizabeth II on two occasions, but unfortunately couldn’t give her a gift as outside protocol
Eisenhower’s Golden Harmonica presented to him by Hohner
Can anybody help track down the Golden Harmonica?
Tremolo was the first type of harmonica Herbert received but quickly realised he needed a diatonic to emulate blues players
Started playing age 15, but focused on job and other instruments for a few years
Returned to playing harmonica when moved to Chicago where he met Joe Filisko and Howard Levy
Herbert’s uncle was a professional composer and pianist, and inspired Herbert not to pursue music professionally
How Herbert came up with the idea for his first book: Monika’s Blues
Had lessons through Howard Levy’s ArtistWorks online site
Vienna, Austria, was the place the first harmonica as we know it today, was manufactured, in the 1820s
Then moved into different areas in Germany and the Czech Republic
Where Mr Richter came from and his role in designing the note layout for the diatonic harmonica
Letter in Trossingen Harmonica museum states the Richter tuning was derived around 1860
Date it first got into the hands of African Americans in the 1870s, which is before blues came into existence (around 1900)
Where Richter tuning was first used
The Marine Band 1896 model popularised Richter tuning
Richter tuning was not invented with bending in mind
Probably learned to bend notes intuitively as educational material was rare back then
German - American love affair: where huge amounts of harmonicas were exported to the US from Germany
Second novel is not translated into English yet
Believes the number of harmonicas exported from Germany to US is 250 million
Harmonica orchestras was one reason US market was so dominant for German harmonica exports
Many of these harmonicas were exported as toys, which helps explain the reputation as harmonicas as toys
Accessories on harmonicas were added to make them more toy like
More serious approach to harmonica exports came from 1920s
Marine Band 1896 was probably the harmonica picked up by black players
Monika’s Blues: Herbert’s first book
Herbert visited sites of the famous harmonica players included in the book
Adam Gussow’s book and other Mississippi blues musicians
Herbert was conscious of telling the Monika’s Blues story from a white man’s perspective
Billy Branch wrote the foreword to the book, and appears on the cover
Chicago Bo is another contributor to the story
Herbert believes blues music is worthy of world heritage status, as the rumba (Cuban music) has
White studio owners made the money out of African American blues music
Monika’s Blues covers how playing blues harmonica was seen as a bad thing due to religious reasons
Blues became less popular in African American society due to increased emancipation
British Blues invasion in the US raised popularity of blues again
Monika’s Blues was written in 2017 has the US as the location, with the sequel moving to Germany
Early endorsers for Hohner (Seydel never used endorsers in the early days - the do now)
Arthur Turelly is a lesser known endorser, who could be the first known early Hohner endorsee
Herbert hopes to gain access to Hohner’s US archives to find details of African American endorser deals
Hohner didn’t have much interest in blues music until the 1960s with first blues category in Trossingen competition in 1969
Aiming to have the second book translated into English by 2023
Herbert does readings from his books
More people should write books about harmonica
Herbert has recorded a Christmas album with a pianist
Some more of Herbert’s recordings
Writes some lyrics, including about social injustice
Has done lots of travelling to discover blues locations (partly for the books), including SPAH destinations
Attends SPAH festivals and also harmonica conventions in Germany
10 minute question
Irish music works so well on harmonica
Plays Seydel harmonicas and doesn’t play any chromatic (although does own one)
Different tunings
Doesn’t play customised harmonicas and does some adjustments himself
Does play overblows
Herbert gives us a demo of German / Alpine folk music (for which diatonic were originally designed for)
Amps and mics
Future plans including some readings on harmonica