Happy Hour Harmonica Podcast

Rory McLeod interview

November 18, 2021 Neil Warren Season 1 Episode 49
Happy Hour Harmonica Podcast
Rory McLeod interview
Show Notes Chapter Markers

Rory Mcleod joins me on episode 49.
Rory is a modern day wandering minstrel . A multi-instrumentalist ‘folk singing’ troubadour, Rory has travelled far and wide, his trusty harmonica (plus an assortment of other instruments) has been with him every step of the way, including working as a musical clown in Mexico.
His first band was ‘Have Mercy’, formed jamming in the markets of London alongside Steve Baker and another harmonica player. Rory has jammed and gone onto collaborate with a wide range of different performers around the world, including Michelle Shocked from the US and Australian Aboriginal Kev Carmody. From his travels he has picked up tunes which have armed his harmonica repertoire with complex rhythms and unique angles.
Rory won the Edinburgh Festival Street Busker of the Year and was the Texas Harmonica Champion of 1981.


Rory's website:

Bandcamp page:

Buy a Sheng Chinese Harmonica:

Road Diaries:


Have Mercy ‘Boodlam’ album:

NHL Festival 2011 with glass and telephone call:

Loves Like A Rock:

Short interview on YouTube: Bluesman don’t really sing about their Grandmas:

Some of the harmonica songs on Rory's albums (including the ones played in the podcast):

Angry Love
Farewell welfare

Album: Kicking the sawdust
Harmonicas dream

Album: Footsteps and Heartbeats
Love like a Rock
Moments shared
Take me home

Album: Travelling Home
India matea
Black Brown and White

Album: Lullabies for big babies
Come with me when I go
Long lost friend

Album: Mouth to mouth
Miners Picket dance
Sandpaper blues
One track mind  (with have mercy)

Album: Brave Faces
Klezmer tune: The Disciple of the Rabbi from Trisk.
Cut in Pay
Emperor’s new clothes

Album: Swings and Roundabouts
Lassoing the bees

Album: Songs for big little people
Deep breath waltz
Winds March (played on Sheng Zheng)
Balloon dance
Direction song
Feather race

Album: Gusto
Disturbing The comfortable
Galloway girl
Wrong side of the wall

Didn’t he ramble.

Podcast website:



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Born in London, with a Scottish Father and Russian Jewish mother, now living in Scotland
Rory plays numerous instruments, but the harmonica was his first instrument along with guitar
Harmonica is a travelling instrument, and he’s taken it with him all around the world
Has been making up songs since he was young, all with a sense of rhythm
First band was ‘Have Mercy’, along with Steve Baker.
Started out playing with blues records, on the chromatic initially
Bought his first bass harmonica from a shop in Germany
Rory uses lots of whooping and hollering in his harmonica playing and influence of early blues harmonica players
Have Mercy band had three harmonica players
Have Mercy used to soak their harmonicas in water (not a good idea)
The band started out busking on the streets of London and were invited to Germany, where they stayed for several years
Rory has travelled all around the world with his harmonica, including working as a musical clown
Time he almost met the composer Yip Harburg, who wrote Somewhere Over The Rainbow
Travelled to China and Africa, and the invention of the harmonica in China (the ‘Sheng’)
Why Rory travelled
Played with a reggae band (Pressure) in Austin, Texas
Has a real entertainment element to his live shows
How Rory transitioned from a traveller to a recording artist, and lyrics
How Rory became a solo artist
Different approaches to songwriting
Albums released on cassette before Angry Love album
Angry Love album from 1981 and whooping started by pigmies?
Kicking The Sawdust album in 1983, with Baksheesh Dance song
Harmonika’s Dream song
Footsteps and Heartbeats album from 1987, including Loves Like A Rock Song
How Rory learns some of the exotic tunes and rhythms he has picked up from other countries
Long Lost Friend song played using a glass
Does a lot of instrumental songs on harmonica on his albums
Often uses chromatic to play tunes
Klezmer tunes on harmonica (Rory has Russian Jewish descendants)
Lassoing The Bees song choreographed by Rory’s partner
Most recent song Didn’t He Ramble, written as a eulogy
Where you can get hold of Rory’s songs
Other artists Rory has performed and recorded with
Recorded the theme tune to UK TV programme, Creature Comforts
Has released a book of his lyrics and chords
On his website is a diary of Rory’s travels
Won the Edinburgh Festival Street Busker of the Year and has also been arrested for busking in London
Texas Harmonica Champion of 1981 and BBC best live Folk Act in 2002
10 minute question
Harmonicas of choice
Favoured keys of diatonic
Different tunings
Amps and mics
Using a rack and first position
More on mics and amps
During lockdown realised how playing keeps him fit
Equipment used for recording
Future plans
Has been writing a book during lockdown