Exclusive Interview with Bobby BlackHat Walters
How did you discover the bluesharp ?
~ In 1972, I had the opportunity to hear Lee Oskar perform with WAR in Cleveland, Ohio. I was simply mesmerized by the sound of his harmonica and I decided right then and there that I was gonna be a harp player too. I went out and bought my first harp the very next day.
If everything would be possible (waking the dead included), which bluesharp player would you invite for a jam session?
~ My choice would be Sonny Boy Williamson. I've always loved both his harp playing and singing style. I even made a pilgrimage to his grave site the last time I visited Clarksdale.
What is your favorite blues harp brand / type and tell us why?
~ My favorite harp is the Seydel Session Steel with the PowerDraw configuration. I discovered Seydel at the SPAH convention and became an instant fan of the brand. I love their tone, responsiveness, and longevity.
What are the most important tips you can give to someone who wants to learn to play the bluesharp?
~ Play, Play, Play as often as you can. I cut my teeth at a local open mic where I had the opportunity to listen, learn and play with lots of musicians. Nothing beats playing with a live band. And don't get stuck with just one genre. Try your hand at blues, rock, country, jazz, bluegrass, etc.
Tongue blocking or lip pursing, what do you prefer and tell us why.
~ I'm primarily a lip purser because that's how I got started and I'm most comfortable that way. I do switch to tongue blocking for slaps and octaves.
Give us the 3 most important albums every (beginning) blues harp player must buy.
~ 1. The Essential Sonny Boy Williamson
2. The Essential Little Walter
3. William Clarke - Serious Intentions
How do you clean your harps?
~ I use an ultrasonic cleaner for my harps.
What is the question interviewers never seem to ask you and...you wish they would? (Please provide your answer as well.)
~ Q. What was the best advice you've ever received about playing harp?
A. Taj Mahal once told me not to worry about trying to sound like anyone else other than myself. He said "There is only one Bobby and only one person on this planet that will ever be Bobby. So be yourself and create your own sound and style".
Describe the ultimate recording studio (not the technique but the facilities)
~ I enjoy a studio that has a warm comfortable feel. A place where you feel relaxed and welcome. I use Soul Haven Studios in Virginia Beach for that reason.
Are you still nervous before going on stage and if so, do you use any "rituals" to calm you nerves?
~ I don't get nervous before a performance per se. I think I would call it more fired up and ready to get things rolling. I do enjoy sipping on a little room temperature apple juice.
What was the most memorable day in your musical career?
~ 1n 2010, my son, Rob Martin, attended the Fernando Blues Camp in Chicago. I flew up on the last day of Blues Camp to see him and other students perform at the House of Blues. Later that night we dropped into Kingston Mines to see Eddie Shaw and Wolfgang perform. BTW, Kingston Mines was the very first Blues Club I had ever visited back in 1984. Eddie Shaw invited my son onstage to play drums and then invited me up to play harp. It was truly a thrill sharing the stage with my son and Eddie Shaw at such a famous blues venue.
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Answers given on December 20, 2017
Photos by Wendy Podmenik Darugar.