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HARMONICA CLUB LOOKS FOR BREATH OF FRESH AIR; Group in plea to young musicians to join.

Byline: STEPHANIE SHERGOLD sundaymercury@sundaymercury.net

ONE of the Midlands' last clubs for fans of the humble harmonica has suffered a distinct blow - or is that blows? Dwindling membership has meant that without mouth organ donors, Stourbridge-based 'Well I'll Be Blowed' faces an uncertain future.

Ony six people attend the Wednesday night sessions at the Elton Centre - and their average age is 65.

But club founder Eric Houghton, who mothballed his instrument for 54 years after his wife complained, vowed: "As long as us old 'uns are still alive, we'll carry on."

The 81-year-old desperately wants young musicians to take up the harmonica and feels the instrument's potential is not fully realised in modern music. "They all want to play blues," said Eric, who won the local heat of the Midlands Search for a Star talent show when he was just 14 years old.

"There's no real melody, it's all filler."

Eric, from Stourbridge, picked up his harmonica again four years ago and launched the club for fellow devotees.

But he has discovered that there aren't many of them out there.

The pensioner said: "When we were children, nearly everyone had a harmonica at home. I love the instrument and hadn't played for 54 years and thought I'd better start again before I got too old. That's when I joined the National Harmonica League."

The group is dedicated to owners of chromatic harmonicas, which can cost anything between PS190 and PS4,000. The standard diatonic organs do not have sharps or flats, meaning players have to bend notes.

"If you've an ear for music, they're fairly easy to play," said Eric. "We play music from the 40s, 50s and 60s because it's melodic."

The group play music by legends Larry Adler and Tommy Reilly - two famously accomplished chromatic harmonica players.

Well I'll Be Blowed has met at four different venues over the years and is grateful to Age UK for providing the current room they use.

"We have people who come from Sheldon, Bournville, Hagley and Bromsgrove," added Eric. "They are dedicated players and they love it.

"We teach each other to play new things. Some play from sheet music, but I just play by ear."

Meetings takes place every Wednesday from 7pm until 10pm and cost PS3 a time.

Mr Houghton pointed out: "We are encouraging people to come along and sit in and just listen to the music. If they don't like it then they don't have to come again. It's only PS1 an hour. You can't get better than that for music lessons!"

CAPTION(S):

Well I'll Be Blowed harmonica players from left, president Eric Houghton, Alf Clay, Alwyn Wilson, and Rob Shannon

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Publication:Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England)
Date:Feb 1, 2015
Words:446
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