Exclusive Interview with Corky Siegel

Corky Siegel How did you discover the bluesharp ?
~ Howlin Wolf and Muddy Waters recordings in 1963 or 64.

If everything would be possible (waking the dead included) , which bluesharp player would you invite for a jam session?
~ Little Walter (came to Pepper's Show Lounge where I had a residency every Thursday in 1965 to jam with me and Jim Schwall). Same was true for Howlin Wolf, Muddy Waters, Jr. Wells, ... you get the idea).

What is your favorite bluesharp brand / type and tell us why?
~ Hohner Special 20. The comb is made of plastic and it has a nice mellow sound. But I'm not the one to ask.

What are the most important tips you can give to someone who wants to learn to play the bluesharp?
~ The key to expression (which is why we play music in the first place - any kind of music) is an extremely large dynamic range from uninhibited physicality to disappearing into nothingness. A constant flow of dynamic variation within this range (utilizing the extremes) will even transform "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" into a deep expressive experience for the player as well as the listener. So it's not about skill - it's about knowing that it is essential and having the discipline to put it into practice. In one wordl; "Dynamics!"

Whisky wine beer or ...?
~ The brain is a delicate animal. Life is hard enough even for the fortunate. We need every healthy brain cell to get us through this. We want to offer our best to ourselves and others. We want to uplift ourselves and the world. Let's not continue to associate the production of music with this kind of a vision. Now and again I will have some wine, or beer, but it has nothing to do with music. Of course then there is Opera! LOL!

How do you clean your harps?
~ I play my harps until they get out of tune or get stuck. If I can't fix it easily myself I just send them to Joe Filisko to have them refurbished. So I'm embarrassed to say I don't have a way to do it. Please don't tell anyone. LOL!

What is the question interviewers never seem to ask you and...you wish they would? (Please provide your answer as well.)
~ I'm 72. I think I've been asked all the questions. Basically there are only about two dozen questions but they are stated in thousands of different ways. But I will offer an answer to the question; "What is the most important thing in the world?" Here it is; "Kindness."

Describe the ultimate recording studio (not the technique but the facilities)
~ I spent less than $5,000 setting up a portable studio in 2004. The two recordings I did with this studio in 2005 received audio-phile accolades. The reason for this is that I had an amazing sonic genius, Ken Goerres, to all the post sonic production. My third of these is about to come out. I would advise purchasing a small digital recorder, learning how to use it, doing the recording under the guidance of an engineer and having the engineer mix it and then have it mastered. If you have the money to spend - go to a studio.

Are you still nervous before going on stage and if so, do you use any "rituals" to calm you nerves.
~ I never got nervous. All I can do is practice, prepare and then it's up to the Universe what comes out. And I have no control about what people think. I'm so deeply focused on every single note of the performance that I have no time to be nervous. However, when I do sound-checks with my groups I completely freak out and am so stressed that I have to ask everyone to hug me. :-)

What was the most memorable day in your musical career and tell us why.
~ I'm 72. My memory is a thing of the past. But in general, getting to play with all the blues masters night after night in the 60s. Touring with Bob Hope. Being managed by Family Dog in San Francisco. Working with Seiji Ozawa and William Russo bringing the blues to classical audiences with the major orchestras of the world. Every performance with my ensemble, Chamber Blues, is a highlight lived over and over because I get to surprise people and give them something they never expected and blow their minds. But really it just seems like the joy is constant and just flows through. And playing music is an incredible experience and honor and I've just been the victim of incredible great fortune.

Corky Siegel

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Answers given on March 11, 2016