Telluride Blues & Brews: Willie Nelson's harp man, Mickey Raphael

Telluride Blues & Brews: Willie Nelson's harp man, Mickey Raphael

[click “Play” to listen to Mickey Raphael’s conversation with Clint]


Willie (Danny Clinch photo)

Willie Nelson and Family are the Sunday night closer for the 18th Telluride Blues and Brews Festival (September 16-18, 2011). “Willie Nelson?” you ask. “At Blues and Brews?” Well, yes. Because Willie can do it all. Case in point: Have you listened to  Willie’s “Stardust” album? I rest my case. And a key part of the Willie Nelson sound is the harmonica of Mickey Raphael.

Raphael has been part of Willie’s band for some three decades, and unless you have paid attention you might not have noticed: he is the consumate side man. But take that harp out of the mix and guaranteed you would miss it.

Mickey Raphael (Frank Stewart photo)

Mickey Raphael doesn’t push himself out front. Instead you hear a short phrase of harmonica that just makes a good passage perfect. And every once in a while you hear a short solo that is itself perfect. My personal example would be the Raphael solo on “Georgia On My Mind” on the aforementioned “Stardust” album. “Stardust” was released in 1978 and it’s been top of my personal playlist ever since. And it has sold over 10 million copies and was re-released for the 3d time in 2008.

Oh, and to answer my earlier question about Blues and Brews being an appropriate venue for Willie Nelson and Family? Mickey Raphael began as a blues harp man.



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