Third Generation Harmonica Player
by Carl Palmer
(University Place, WA)
My dad was a harmonica player.
He always played the same 3 or 4 songs,
but he played them well.
Everyone recognized “Skip to my Lou”
and “She’ll be coming around the Mountain”.
On his visit to Germany, while I was in
the Army he played, “Ach Du Lieber Augustin”
and “Beer Barrel Polka” to everyone’s
enjoyment over there.
He could also do a good imitation
of the train coming across the tracks
down by the plywood factory in Ridgeway,
whistle and all.
He was a harmonica player.
He always had a harmonica either in
one of the kitchen drawers or on the
mantle, sticky from a kid’s fingers
and clogged with cracker crumbs.
With six kids he went through quite
a few harmonicas.
Out of us kids, I was the only one
to learn to play anything, also maybe
3 or 4 songs, but that, none the less,
that meant that I was a harmonica player, too.
That one Christmas
he gave each of his four grandsons
a Hohner “Old Standby” harmonica
with a beginner instruction and method book.
I guess none of the other grandsons
had done much with their instrument,
because when he asked my son, Jason
if he could play the harmonica that he’d sent,
it was something like, “Well, I guess you never
learned to play yours either.”
Jason came out of his room a little later,
handed Grandpa the songbook and asked,
“Which one would like to hear me play?”
He picked “Oh, Susanna”
and Jason played it note for note
as he read it from the music on the page
just as it was written.
Grandpa was both surprised and thrilled,
but most of all amazed
that Jason not only could play the harmonica,
but also read the music from the songbook,
something neither he nor I could ever do.
He talked about that for many years to come.
That, of course, meant that Jason was a
Harmonica player, too.