Happy Hour Harmonica Podcast

Ricky Cool interview

September 28, 2022 Neil Warren Season 1 Episode 70
Happy Hour Harmonica Podcast
Ricky Cool interview
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Ricky Cool joins me on episode 70.

Ricky hails from the Birmingham area of the UK, and drew great inspiration asa teenager from the American folk festivals which brought some harmonica greats to the city. Under his alter ego Ricky Cool, he went on to lead several successful rhythm and blues band, with Jamaican music also brought into the set. He also played harmonica in a band with Led Zeppelin’s Robert Plant! 

Ricky played harmonica and saxophone in most of these bands and this combination of instruments has led to his recent series of excellent YouTube videos called ‘Mississippi Saxophone’. In these videos he picks out some great horn lines and shows how to play them on harmonica.    


Ricky Cool and the In Crowd:


Mississippi saxophone YouTube series of tutorial videos:

Ricky’s YouTube Channel:

Ricky Cool and The Icebergs:

Playing at NHL festival in 1988:

Podcast website:

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

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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
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Cool is a stage name
Ricky is from Birmingham in the UK
Became interested in blues music through the Rolling Stones and Heartbreak Hotel by Elvis and rock ’n roll
Discovered the original blues musicians of the songs the Rolling Stones were covering
Started playing guitar at 13, and harmonica at 15
American Blues Festivals came to Birmingham, allowing Ricky to see some of the blues greats, including Walter Horton
Sonny Terry was the first harmonica player to influence Ricky
Sonny Boy Williamson II was another big influence, who Ricky has a shrine to
Hoodoo Man Blues album by Junior Wells
Mick Jagger’s harmonica playing wasn’t the inspiration to start playing harp, it was the American artists
Jazz concerts were held in Birmingham in the 1960s too
Ricky was compere at Colne Blues Festival
Played harp and guitar on a rack at local folk clubs
Started playing saxophone age 27 but harmonica still Ricky’s main axe
Ricky Cool and The Icebergs was first band with whom enjoyed success
The Ricky Cool alter ego and confidence this gave him to perform
Ricky Cool and the Rialtos, which led to Ricky playing in a band called Honeydrippers with Led Zeppelin’s Robert Plant in 1981
Robert Plant was the one who got Ricky started on amplified harmonica, giving him a JT30
Didn’t play any Led Zeppelin songs in band with Robert Plant
Ricky’s next band was The Big Town Playboys, which were influenced by The Fabulous Thunderbirds
Ricky is a teacher in his day job
Harmonica became less included in Big Town Playboys as saxophones took prominence
Top Rankin band, playing some reggae
Current band is Ricky Cool and The In Crowd which plays a combination of rhythm and blues and Jamaican (ska, bluebeat and reggae)
Bringing more harmonica into the songs as one of sax players left the band
Decided to concentrate on harmonica again during pandemic and feature it more in the band
Story behind the line ‘How does the milk get into a coconut?’
Songs using different harmonica, including a Seydel Fanfare tremolo
Solo tuned harmonica used on some State I’m In
Mississippi saxophone series of YouTube tutorials
Where Ricky took inspiration to make this series of videos
Little Walter was influenced by horn players and trying to emulate their sound
Ricky’s road trip to Memphis in 2008
Stayed in a hotel in same room Sonny Boy Williamson II stayed
Back to the Mississippi saxophone series of YouTube tutorials
Lee Morgan’s trumpet part on Moanin’ is the latest video
What is difference between learning from horn lines and from other harmonica players?
What made Little Walter sound like a horn
Hip Couple sax line
Kidney Stew song on alto sax
Blue Gene sax song
The sax series is a good way to discover different saxophone players
Louis Jordan sax solo on Early In The Morning
Horace Silver song Jody Grind and why in third position
Sax solos are typically in unusual keys for harmonica, so Ricky plays them on more common harp keys
Saxes you can only blow so creates natural gaps in the lines, which isn’t always the case on harmonica
Learning to play phrases from sax players
Lucille sax solo
Ricky’s favourite sax solo from the series so far
Ricky’s YouTube channel has other tutorial material besides the Mississippi saxophone range
Has Mississippi Saxophone study videos changed the way Ricky plays the harmonica now?
Playing more Jamaican music at the moment and blues in a duo
10 minute question
Applying licks to backing track is good practise
Ricky is a singer
Re-arranging harmonicas is a trick Brownie McGhee used to play on Sonny Terry
Ricky has often appeared at UK NHL festivals
Harmonicas of choice
Been playing some custom harmonicas recently from Andrew Zajac
Does some self maintenance but customised harmonicas are worth it
Different tunings and Reggae on Lee Oskar Melody Maker
Mainly plays 2nd position and some 3rd when playing sax licks
Uses diatonic for sax lines and not the more typical chromatic for jazz playing
Plays through an Ultimate 58 mic
Upcoming gigs and more Mississippi saxophone (and trumpet videos to come)