Category Archives: harmonica

Tinkle progress report on harmonica book

Max Tinkle, aka Graeme Davies

MAX Tinkle reports on progress with his forthcoming book on harmonica players in Australia:

I was Jim Conway’s house-guest in July while interviewing Jim, Robt Susz, Bruce Bongers,Chris Blanchflower, Antero Cheskin, and Ron King.
In Melbourne, so far, I’ve interviewd Kaz Dalla Rosa, Steve Williams, Snooks La Vie and arranged to interview Chris Wilson [part done],Rick Dempster [two attempts], Mike Rudd, Dave Hogan, Ian Collard, Sonny Rehe, Broderick Smith [part done]and Rockbottom James with several others still to return emails plus Doc Spann and other Northern stars

Wonderful names some of these harmonica players have!

A propos Jim Conway, my first sighting of him was when he was playing with his brother Mic in the fabled Captain Matchbox Whoopee Band in the Edinburgh Gardens, North Fitzroy in the 1970s with my then teenaged daughters. Here Captain Matchbox plays my all time favourite track “Wangaratta Wahine”. Although it’s hard to believe, under those rabbit (kangaroo?) ears and false eyelashes must be Jim Conway himself!


Jim is still a very active harmonica player and teacher, and incidentally was the subject of Greg Weight’s winning CITIGROUP PRIVATE BANK AUSTRALIAN PHOTOGRAPHIC PORTRAITURE PRIZE in 2003. Here it is – titled “Railroad Blues”.

Jim Conway photographed by Greg Weight 2003

Here Jim Conway plays with Chris Wilson at the Port Fairy Folk Festival in 2001.

Harmonica Downunder: Max Tinkle to tell the tale of the harp in Australia

Max Tinkle, musician and music teacher

WELL KNOWN musician and music teacher, Max Tinkle (aka Graeme Davies) reports that he is working on a book which will cover the history and development of harmonica playing in Australia, hiitherto a gap in our musical literature.

This is what Max says about the planned book which is due for completion in late 2013.

The intention is to present personal interviews and photos from each of those players who have had a significant impact on harmonica playing downunder. Blues players, both diatonic and chromatic, will be a central theme though the publication will also incorporate a wide range of styles including country, folk, world, ‘legit’ music and other genres.

As the sixties were the springboard for the blues to move from their African-American roots and enter the world stage, the main timeline will commence from there, yet will also include several items on earlier players such as The Yarraville Mouth Organ Band established in 1933 and The Horrie Dargie Quintet.

Yarraville Mouth Organ Band in earlier days

My background encompasses the jazz and blues worlds of Melbourne and some of the Sydney and Brisbane blues scenes having jammed at various gigs while travelling. I’ve been a part of Bob Sedergreen’s ‘Blues on the Boil’, Tommy McEwan’s ‘Bop Deluxe’, Steve Purcell’s Pearly Shells, and played tenor sax and harp in various jazz / blues bands, including quite a few sit-ins with Dutch Tilders and others. My first harp lesson was from Sonny Terry in the mid 60s.

Sonny Terry’s “Harmonica Blues”

Each player’s interview will be recorded, if agreeable, and the text will be available for final checking and approval before publishing. Photos may be taken during the interview or a stock publicity print can be supplied, whichever best suits each situation.

Artists will be encouraged to share their interests both musically plus any other relevant experiences and relationships that have helped form their approach to music in general.

A discography will be included plus an ‘Up and Coming’ section for those players yet to be recorded, plus a listing of Australian blues organisations.

Helen Jennings

Blues icon and PBS radio presenter Helen Jennings will provide the book’s Foreword and will also assist by sharing her vast knowledge of players, venues, bands and relevant information.

Max Tinkle Mobile: 0418 587 687 Telephone:03-9578 0815
Email: BluesHarmonicaAtoZ@gmail.com
Website: http://www.harmonicaessentials.com

And here Max gives a brief history of the harmonica, and a much briefer lesson in how to play it on Melbourne’s Community TV station C31 on the youth-driven music program, 1700, which is screened weekdays at 5pm.

PS: Here’s Max wearing his other hat (or rather no hat) at the Victorian Jazz Archive with fellow musicians Peter Uppman and John Cox.

Peter Uppman, Graeme Davies and John Cox (photo from the Victorian Jazz Archive newsletter, VJazz Feb 2011)