Happy Hour Harmonica Podcast

Rick Estrin interview

December 22, 2021 Neil Warren Season 1 Episode 52
Happy Hour Harmonica Podcast
Rick Estrin interview
Show Notes Chapter Markers

Rick Estrin joins me on episode 52.
Rick grew up in San Francisco and starting sitting in with bands in the city.  He was friends with Jerry Portnoy, who persuaded him to spend some time in Chicago. Here he met many of the harmonica greats, and missed the golden opportunity for the harmonica chair in the Muddy Waters band. 
It turned out this wasn’t a bad thing though, as Rick forged his own path with Little Charlie & The Nightcats (later Rick Estrin & The Nightcats). A band in which he has played harmonica, sung and wrote most of the lyrics for well over 40 years. 
And with great success as the band has won many Blues Music Awards, including for Rick’s harmonica playing and songwriting prowess.

Rick's Website:

Instructional DVD is listed at the bottom of this page:

EP Booster pedal:

Rick singing with Little Charlie & The Nightcats in 1981:

‘Contemporary’ album video:

I Met Her On The Blues Cruise:

Rick Estrin & The Nightcats at World Harmonica Festival, 2013:

Podcast website:



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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

Rick lives on the West Coast of the US
Sister bought him a Ray Charles record which started his love of the blues
Why the blues and associated music has such an appeal (especially to a white audience)
Rick started playing harmonica age 15
Plays a little guitar to help in writing songs
Started playing the harmonica shortly after his father died
Singing is what drew Rick to music initially
Started playing harp by sitting in at the black clubs in San Francisco
Harmonica influences on Rick
Qualities of James Cotton’s playing
Got first regular in San Francisco at age 18 with Trevor Phillips and Filmore Slim
Moved across to Chicago at the prompting of Jerry Portnoy
Difference between West Coast and Chicago blues music
The Nightcats bands developed their swing sound from a variety of sources
Got to see some of the harmonica greats in Chicago
Sat in with Muddy Waters at Theresa’s Lounge Club
The time Rick almost became the harmonica player in the Muddy Waters band
Formation of Little Charlie & The Nightcats and secret to longevity of the bands
Transition of the band from Chicago Blues to West Coast swing
Rick was mentored in songwriting by Rodger Collins
T.V. Crazy was first recorded Little Charlie song written by Rick
Writing more modern blues lyrics and not just recycling the classic blues songs
Some of the songs Rick wrote for Little Charlie & The Nightcats
Dump That Chump song
My Next Ex-Wife song won Blues Song of the Year in 1994
Role of the harmonica in Little Charlie & The Nightcats
Rick plays a lot of chromatic as it suits swinging style of Nightcats
Little Charlie left the band and it became Rick Estrin & The Nightcats
Songs Rick has written about his own mortality
Live album with Rick Estrin & The Nightcats: You Asked For It, and SBWII trick of playing harp just in mouth
Groovin’ In Greaseland album recorded at Kid Anderson’s studio
Latest album is Contemporary from 2019, with a great video for title track
Difference in creating songs between different incarnations of The Nightcats band
Rick has released a harmonica instructional DVD, with more of an emphasis on performance
Made album not with Nightcats (On The Harpside), partly to educate people that he is called Rick Estrin and not Little Charlie
10 minute question
Is a Hohner endorsee
Chromatics of choice
Different tunings and overblows
Embouchre and Paul Oscher
Effects pedals
Small amps used in studio
Future plans
What Rick did over the pandemic layoff