Happy Hour Harmonica Podcast

Paul Harrington interview

June 07, 2023 Neil Warren Season 1 Episode 87
Happy Hour Harmonica Podcast
Paul Harrington interview
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Show Notes Chapter Markers

Paul Harrington joins me on episode 87.

Paul has a long and illustrious recording career, having had great success on the vibrant session scene in Dallas where he recorded on many commercials. He also played on the hit song Timber by rapper Pit Bull, possibly the most listened to song with harmonica in the last decade, with over one billion streams on Spotify. 

Paul met and performed with many great musicians on the Dallas music scene, becoming the go to harmonica player for famed record producer Phil York, appearing on the NBC Special with comedian Steve Martin, as well as sharing the stage with John Denver and Dolly Parton.

Paul released an album in his own name, the Harmonica Soul Serenade, with the song Mercy Mercy Mercy picked out for special praise on Adam Gussow’s YouTube channel.

Paul Harrington: Seydel endorser:

Timber hit song:

Texas Blues Runners, Downtown from Sweet Mama album:

Adam Gussow reviews Paul’s Mercy Mercy Mercy song:

News story by Paul’s nephew on his involvement with Timber song:

Norton Buffalo switching between four harmonicas on ‘Runaway’:

Podcast website:

If you want to make a voluntary donation to help support the running costs of the podcast then please use this link (or visit the podcast website link above):

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

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Paul currently lives in Dallas, Texas, but is originally from Illinois
Played piano when young but quickly abandoned that to pick up the harmonica
Got first harmonica age 9 and early learnings
Went to the railway near his home and played along with the trains, before he was aware of harmonica train imitation songs
Paul’s favourite recording of another harmonica train imitation is by Freeman Stowers
Early harmonica influences and playing along with the TV and radio
Second harmonica was a chromatic, allowing Paul to jam along to any song
Kept buying more harmonicas
Discovery of blues music and harmonica, and listening to Jimmy Reed
Became a regular at Muddy Water concerts as a boy, seeing James Cotton and Walter Horton playing with him
Paul quit his day job to become a full-time harmonica player, playing in a seven piece band
Moved to Phoenix and then Colorado where Paul got serious about working as a musician
Paul worked really hard, with a day job and then gigging at night and still doing it in his 70s
Moved to Texas because it’s a real live music place
Knocked on doors to get work as a harmonica player in Dallas
Paul got lots of work in the session scene in Dallas, then the jingle capital of the world
Regrets not having moved to Nashville
How Paul developed harmonica playing to keep getting the session work
Still trying to develop overblows
Would practise on different harmonicas to make sure he could play them all
Was carrying a lot of harmonicas to gigs, so decided to cut them down
Made himself versatile on the harmonica, so could play what was needed for session work
Some of the session work Paul has worked on include: Shell, McDonald’s, Pepsi, Coke
Recorded a CD of harmonica clips that is used by recording studios, with the clips popping up on different commercials
Paul played the harmonica part on the hit single Timber, by rapper Pitbull
Riff from Timber was based on a Lee Oskar riff from San Francisco Bay song
Had to record the session for Timber playing the riff over the whole song, rather than producer repeating the riff
Paul’s weatherman nephew did a news clip about the song Timber and Paul’s role in it
Managed to get some more money from Timber royalties after initial payment from the session
Paul became the session harmonica player for famous producer Phil York, recording an album with singer Jewel Akens
Played with Rusty Weir
Appeared on the NBC Special with comedian Steve Martin
Helped produce an album with blues artist Jesse Thomas
Played concerts with John Denver, Dolly Parton and almost joined the Ricky Nelson band
Released an album under own name in 2003: Harmonica Soul Serenade
Adam Gussow picked out the song Mercy Mercy Mercy from the album
Lot of variety of songs on the Harmonica Soul Serenade album
Recorded a Christmas single: Silver Night
How Paul approaches a more melodic song
Decided to start singing aged 50, and wishing he’d started earlier
Plays a little bass harmonica, but thinks it might have been stolen
Tip: when doing a recording session, take lots of gear with you so you look more important
10 minute question
Played at the sessions by ear, not reading music
Is a fan of Paul deLay’s chromatic playing
Paul is a Seydel endorser, used to be a Hohner endorser
Different tunings: used to play country tuning and minor tunings
Used to cut out the swollen wooden combs on Marine Bands
Different positions and Norton Buffalo switching between four harps on Runaway
Plays the Hohner XB40 sometimes
Embouchre: lip purser and likes to use tongue blocking to add rhythm
Amps: has a ’59 Champ
Uses a Fender Vibroverb for a big amp, used to own a Fender Bassman, and a Roland solid state
Mic: Electrovoice
Future plans