Happy Hour Harmonica Podcast

Phil Wiggins interview

June 17, 2021 Neil Warren Season 1 Episode 41
Happy Hour Harmonica Podcast
Phil Wiggins interview
Show Notes Chapter Markers

Phil Wiggins joins me on episode 41.

Phil  was one half of one of the best known blues duos around, Cephas and Wiggins, playing with John Cephas for over thirty years. They progressed from their early recordings in Germany to go on to tour the world, and even played at the White House to the Clintons. They played in the Piedmont blues style, Phil being one of its rare masters on harmonica, picked up from the guitar players who developed this approach.

A native of Washington D.C., Phil wrote a book about the blues scene in the city, and went on to use his music to steer some of the troubled youth of the city onto a better path.

Since John Cephas passed in 2009, Phil has continued his musical career by playing with various artists. Always sticking to his philosophy to play music for people to dance to.

Website: https://www.philwiggins.com/ 

Washington DC blues scene book:

Music & conversation with Joe Filisko and Eric Norden:

National Folk Festival 2020:

With Ben Hunter:

Chesapeake Sheiks: Struttin’ With Some Barbeque

Podcast website:



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Phil is a native of Washington D.C. although was in a military family so moved around, including to Germany for four years
First picked up the harmonica age 17 or 18
Phil started playing with a woman singer on the streets of Virginia, called Flora Molton
Main early influence came from church music, which he heard a lot of blues in
Saw a lot of blues greats at the Smithsonian Festival in Washington D.C.
Wasn’t aware of that many harmonica players early on, only Sonny Terry, and learned more from horn and piano players
Style of playing developed by accompanying Flora, where he learned to listen
Where first met John Cephas at a music festival
It was in a band that Cephas and Wiggins first played together
How the Cephas and Wiggins duo came into being
The duo went on to great success and played all around the world
Germany record company did some recordings of the duo in the USA and invited them over to tour Germany in early 1980s
The duo were initially better known in Europe
Cephas and Wiggins played in the White House, along with BB King
Phil plays harmonica in the Piedmont style
The blues styles of music were all made to dance to
How Phil approached the style of Piedmont harmonica, and playing as an accompanist
Has written a book about Washington D.C. music scene, called Sweet Bitter Blues
Recording output with John Cephas
Phil wrote the song Cool Down, about violence in D.C. Phil worked as a musical director to help troubled youth in the city
Burn Your Bridges song
Discovered Little Walter later in his development
John Cephas passed away in 2009
Phil continued his music career after the Cephas and Wiggins duo
Played with Australian Dom Turner
Performed with Ben Hunter
Taking part in an online concert with Joe Filisko and Eric Norden on June 17 2021
Phil has won numerous music awards, including two WC Handy blues awards
Has provided lots of harmonica teaching, including at Euro Blues week in UK alongside Michael Roach
Also teaches at Augusta Heritage workshop in West Virginia
10 minute question
Phil has sung more since the duo ended, and has developed his voice in recent years, telling the story being key
Plays Hohner Marine band diatonics
Doesn’t play much chromatic
Uses Melody Maker tuning with current band, The Chesapeake Sheiks
Amplification used
Likes Electro Voice RE20 mic
Has tried using tube amps but loses the dynamics of his hand technique
Doesn’t use any effects
Future plans
Phil plays music for people to dance to