Boston bluesman The Undaunted Professor Harp will be performing his Texas style, no nonsense “roots music” Saturday, May 26, at Grumpy’s Pub.
After nearly five decades of playing the harmonica, undaunted is more than a moniker. In 1957 The Professor was a 1st grader discovering rock & roll, R&B and blues music. “Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Fats Domino, Elvis Presley, Jerry Lewis and a myriad of doo-wop and R&B acts were seminal influences,” he said, “A little later I got hip to Chubby Checker, which led me to Hank Ballard and Chuck Willis. A couple years later came the British Invasion. We all know that never would have materialized without black blues and R&B. The British artists influenced me, and I wound up digging deeper checking out their influences like Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters and BB King.”
The Professor got his start in music as a rock & roll drummer but in 1969 he was drawn to the blues. “I was developing a black awareness, pushing 18 and I felt there was no better way to express black awareness than to embrace the blues,” he explained. He happened to see a PBS program on TV called “Mixed Bag” that featured the J Geils band one week and Muddy Waters the next. Both performances showcased the harmonica in a way that was thrilling to him. Played through an amplifier, the harmonica took on new dynamics and tones than the folkier styles he’d heard before. A Big Mama Thornton concert he attended that featured George “Harmonica” Smith sealed the deal. He was hooked on the harp.
In 1972 he had the pleasure of meeting Muddy Waters in Boston. “I was in awe,” he said. A few years later he met Waters again at a gig and this time was called on stage to sit in with him. “I refer to this incident as ‘losing my blues virginity,’ “ the Professor said. “I was invited on stage to join him several times following and even went to Chicago to join him. It was priceless.” Harp said the blues holds its staying power and world impact, due both its raw energy and finessed style. “Blues is at once the original soul music, BLM statement, parent of gospel, R&B, soul and rock & roll. It’s America’s unique classical music.”
“I’ve always said I’m at the tip of the tip of the tip of the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the blues,” said Harp when describing what drives him still after such a long career, “but simultaneously I believe I deserve more recognition and more work. That’s why I’m undaunted.”
Playing a variety of venues all over New England he said he feels particularly at home in a juke joint, and Grumpy’s Pub has that vibe. He will be accompanied by a full band comprising guitarist Tom Williams, bassist Jim Casey and drummer Al Clemens for this show.
Grumpy’s Pub on Saturday, May 26, at 9 PM—The Undaunted Professor and his band will be bringing the blues to town.