John “Whiteboy” Walden, born 23 October 1948. Shooters Hill, London, England, has been playing harmonica almost all of his life, starting at age 8, and he quit school to turn professional in 1965. He has become one of the most highly-respected harmonica players in Europe. He is equally proficient on the more-familiar 10-hold diatonic harmonica as well as the chromatic – and his musical interests stretch from British rock, American blues and Gospel to jazz, as well as other genres. With such wide experience, John has become one of the most beloved and revered members of the internet discussion group Harp-l, where he has been sharing his knowledge for over 15 years.
“Whiteboy” has toured all over the world with such blues greats as Rory Gallaher, Lightning Hopkins, The Madison Blues Band, Madeline Bell, Eva Jones and many others. As early as 1968-69, he was playing in Paris with his group the John Walden Workshop.
On a completely different note, he toured around Great Britain for three years with the Matthew Jones Orchestra, performing at such prestigious British venues as Symphony Hall, The Adrian Bolt Hall, The Old Rep Theatre in Birmingham, as well as at the Oaken Gates Theatre in Telford, the Dudley Town Hall and the Civic Center Solihull. He has also performed at international music festivals in the US, Germany and Great Britain.
In 1997, he formed John Walden’s Blues Band, which released a pair of CD’s and which gigged around London performing his own originals, as well as blues standards. In 2002, he teamed up with blues & boogie keyboardist Charlie Hyam, releasing a duo album “Blues, Jazz and Boogie.”
In recent years, he has been playing gospel music with the New Wine Gospel Choir in London.
John popped up in Cebu in August 2009. Yes, another expat who’s fallen for the charms of a Filipina girl.
Plays mostly Hohner harmonicas.
His diatonic harmonica of choice is the “MS” series, fitted with “Blues Harp” cover plates. He really likes “Blues Harp” cover plates, because they are very thin, and the vibration of the note can be felt through the cover plates by my hands.
He likes to use “Meisterklase” reed plates, because they are slightly thicker than the standard ones. His comb of choice is custom stainless steel; but I have a few plated brass, and some aluminium combs too. He recommends Mark Lavoie’s custom Titanium combs, as the best he has yet come across.
He has quite a few older Hohner HM system harmonicas, but I dislikes the pear wood combs, that swell and rip the player’s lips to pieces.
The “star” of all his instruments is his 1996 ILUS Renaissence harmonica, Number 8 produced. Built for him by Douglas Tate and Bobbie Giordino. It is in the key of “C”.
His working kit of chromatics is a set of 12 Hohner Super Chromonicas. (Model 270). All with square mouthpiece holes. They are all mostly customized in one way or another.
He also sometimes uses a VERY customized Hohner “Larry Adler 16” 4 octave 64 hole chromatic. It was rebuilt by the late Bill Rommel, with a plexiglass comb. It is not a loud harmonica. But has a nice tone.
He's in the Philippines, and don’t have any amplifiers there in South-East Asia.
His first harmonica amplifier was a Selmar Little Giant 5 watt valve amp. When a valve blew he tossed it in the trash…. What a mistake! He suspects that it was similar to the Fender Champ in concept and excecution.
Then, when He became a serious player, He bought a transistor Viking Lasky 50 watt top, with a 2 by 12” speaker cabinet. A well built reliable and quite loud amplifier. Perhaps too “clean” to be the ideal for blues harp.
Then he became a professional musician, and went for a Jennings Musical Industries AC50 tube amp, with two 2 x 12” speaker cabinets. A great amplifier. FANTASTIC for harmonica.
But one night they played a gig at a pub in New Cross, London, and after the gig drove up to Queensgate, in London’s West End, to listen to “Taste” play at Blaises nightclub… Some rotter broke into his car and stole the amplifier. It wasn’t insured.
Motto: “NEVER leave your gear in a motor vehicle unattended”
SO… he bought a “Vox Supreme” top… Sold as a 200 watt amp, but realy only half that. SOLID STATE. With built in effects. He ran it through two Selmar Bassman 2 x 12” cabinets, replaced the speaker fret cloth with GENUINE Vox cloth… Purchased from the Vox factory in Dartford just before JMI closed down.
OK it wasn’t a “tube” amp! But it was a great harmonica amplifier, although rather prone to feedback..
After his Vox Supreme wore out, he tried a 100 watt Fender Bassman top. OK but much to “clean” for blues harp. After a few other amps, he migrated to a (then…Early 1990s) new Fender Blues De Luxe tweed amp. 40 watts with one 12” speaker. He liked it so much that he bought a second one the same, and at that time left one in Church (I was playing Gospel music there) and kept the other one to use at “secular” gigs. On a few occasions, he’d “daisy chain” the two amps together for more volume.
But for studio work, he has since the mid 1990s used the smallest “PIGNOSE”. It runs on batteries, there is NO hum… And sounds ok.
John Walden, playing that harmonica.
CD: “John Walden's Blues Band” released 1997.
Track “Get into my Mercedes” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LeoftNvO2YY
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