It wasn't a love affair gone sour or the woes of picking cotton under a hot Mississippi sun that drew Ralph Shine to the blues. Rather, it was the magical sound of a miked harp being played by Harmonica Fats at a concert in Chico State's North Gym in the late 60's.
"He was a big ol' guy with a three-piece suit," Shine remembered. "In every pocket of the suit he had a harmonica of a different key. And he knew which key was in which pocket. I had never heard a harmonica being played through a microphone before and, man, I was just blown away."
Like most blues harp players, Shine learned his craft on his own, by ear. "There was really nobody to teach you back then. You just had to listen to albums and learn to relate the sounds you got on the instrument with the ones being played. It took me a couple of years to get the hang of it."
While in high school, Shine bought every blues album he could get his hands on: anything by Little Walter, Paul Butterfield, James Cotton, and the early J. Geils, featuring Magic Dick on harmonica. Shine tried to pattern his singing after Freddie King's nasty-sounding, pure blues voice.
"I consider myself a blues interpreter," he said. "Most of the best blues songs were written back in the '30's and '40's. The black people back then who wrote the blues lived the blues." And the blues is what Ralph Shine continued to play.
"Ralph Shine is inventive, tonal, traditional, and above all inspired." ---- Tom Mazzolini, San Francisco Blues Festival
Ralph Shine Blues Band
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