Henry Samuels

Henry Samuels
by Art M. Daane

I met Henry for the first time in South Africa, when he toured with the “Eve Boswell Show” in 1955. I was invited into the “Gang’s” dressing room in the Alhambra Theatre in Cape Town. Here I played my bass with the gang and took to Henry instantly. Although we haven’t seen each other since, we both feel that we stayed close friends ever since.

He’s 80 now, and still doing his act of playing, singing and comedy.

MFHarmonica Gang
Morton Fraser Harmonica Gang
Cape Town 1955
(Henry on the left)

Henry Samuels, Originally from Manchester, England, talks furiously, his English clipping along at a jockey’s pace-“Chromatic harmonicas,” “the Harmonicats,” sound you wouldn’t believe, and with nearly 70 years of harmonica-playing time knows what he is talking about.

“I’ve been playing since the age of seven and always active in charity shows, minstrel troops. I taught myself to play the harmonica and have a great ear for music.” He says about his beginnings back in Manchester in the 1930’s. He got into it professionally after hearing Larry Adler, the first man to record “Rhapsody in Blue” on the harmonica.

“During the war it was difficult to obtain harmonicas as most of them were made by Hohner in Germany, so I began singing,” says Samuels.

After the war he auditioned in a theatre in Brighton where the “Morton Fraser Harmonica Gang” was playing. He ended up going on the road with them for more then 10 years touring in variety shows throughout Great Britain and many other parts of the world, such as France, Netherlands, Sweden, South Africa, Australia and entertained for U.S.O. at various bases in Germany for the U.S. 8th Air Force.

Morton Fraser Gang Recordings with Henry on lead:
Gang medley - Hora staccato - Gallopin' comedians - Body and soul - Tea for two - Caravan – Chelsea - Your cheatin' heart.

While playing a summer season engagement with the "Gang" at Blackpool (a seaside vacation resort), he came down with a bad case of Asian flu as a bad epidemic hit the coast, which affected most people at the time. This avoided him to go on playing as it left him very weak, so he decided to leave the "Gang." He had great fun but decided to go to the United States, where his brother was living who sponsored him. He then joined the Johnny Puleo Harmonica Gang. After leaving the Puleo gang he went solo again doing cruises, TV and theatres all over the USA. Appeared with Julie Andrews, Judy Garland, Frankie Lane, Billie Daniels, Peter sellers, to name a few stars.

Eventually he got married and settled down to a steady paycheck as a roofing salesman, a stint that lasted 35 years. Though he’s retired now, he says, “People still call about roofing jobs. One day I’m putting my equipment in the trunk for a gig and the next I’m taking it out and putting in ladders.”

He opened for Renee Taylor (“The Nanny’s” mother on TV). Did the clubhouse circuit in Florida for Joe Bologna.

“The old timers, when I go to these places, they say, ‘You don’t realize how you take us back.’ We’re deprived of it,” says Samuels, And the young people ask, “How can you get all that sound out of that thing?”

He also does background music for television and recordings and entertains at resorts, conventions and other social functions.

Henry passed away on 6 April 2012 in the Los Angelos hospital. He was one of our great harmonica players and will be missed by more than his many friends. Henry was still entertaining regularly when his cancer was discovered.

If you have not seen Henry perform, you can see 2 clips of his poromotion videos on www.Youtube.com/HenrySamuels1

by Al Smith

The End of an Era

Henry Samuels 87, onetime lead player of England's famous "Morton Fraser Harmonica Gang" died on Good Friday April 6, 2012 after a short bout with Cancer. Marjorie Goldman, Henry's soul mate of 16 years verified Henry's passing, "He was perfectly fine and then all of a sudden he became ill and lived only a short while before he succumbed. He was such a wonderful man."
He was also a wonderful chromatic harmonica player as witnessed by the attendees of the 2009 SPAH Convention in Sacramento, California when Henry, then 84, performed his very memorable arrangement of several tunes from "Fiddler On The Roof." Anyone who missed that performance can now see it on Henry's Youtube Channel "Youtube.com/HenrySamuels1" The Morton Fraser harmonica band was one of the most successful imitators of the Borrah Minevitch Harmonica Rascals. In fact they imitated the Minevitch Rascals so successfully that sometimes there was confusion over who was copying who.
Henry, who joined the Fraser Gang in 1947 and performed in the group until 1957, recently declared "He really kept us busy. Although it wasn't too profitable, I enjoyed the life traveling throughout the world and being on shows with many big names. I feel that I benefitted a great deal from the experience. Besides me, Tony Rouse and Michael Jackson also played chromatic. Tony Vincent played bass and the chord player was Stan Kaye. The midget, Tiny Ross and Dave did comedy routines.
There was also a vocalist named Don Cameron and the manager, Nat Lees, who did most of the work with the musical arrangements." In 1957, when Henry left the Fraser Gang, he was replaced by Gordon Mills. It was then that He moved to the United States and made Hollywood, California his permanent home. Only days before Henry became ill he was still performing regularly for senior groups in the Hollywood area and enjoying every minute of it. "I am happy to say there are still many seniors out there that enjoy my program. I love to see them smiling as they listen to songs from their younger days."

Henry is survived by his daughter, Carol.

Two videos of Henry's prowess as harmonica player and vocalist are preserved on his Youtube channel:
Youtube.com/HenrySamuels1 Channel

Henry Samuels

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