Growing up in New Hampshire, Gary Green took up the harmonica in high school and was soon playing 20 nights a month around New England. “You learn your instrument quickly when you have to be so focused,” he says. He moved to Virginia in the early 1980s, and has since made it home. In 1987, Green won the Hohner-sponsored World Harmonica Championships, beating out future Blues Traveler John Popper. These days, Green stays extremely busy with music, playing with Terri Allard and Peyton Tochterman. Green is featured on new CDs by Allard, as well as D.C. country and soul artist Cleve Francis, who just released a live record from The Birchmere. Gary also gets to play with Cooter from “The Dukes of Hazzard,” who has a band in The Shenandoah Valley. Additionally, Green teaches lessons and is the house audio guy at The Paramount Theater. Phew!
Spencer Lathrop: Harp heroes?
Gary Green: You got to put Little Walter in there. He had an album called Boss Blues Harmonica, which is one of those that I couldn’t stop playing. Technically he is great, not so over the top, but the emotional impact of his phrasing is powerful and had a great impact on all of the American players. I can pick half a dozen guys who really changed me muscially, and Norton Buffalo is one. Two records came out in the late 1970s where his style was so new. Lovin’ In the Valley of The Moon and Desert Horizon. I think they are out on one CD now. All the top end, fast stuff I do is from him. I got to open for Jonathan Edwards one time, and there was his first album that had harmonica all over it. It turned out to be him playing it with a rack. Of course, Musselwhite and Butterfield.
There is a new kid out named Jason Ricci. He is part Paul Butterfield and part Howard Levy. He is exactly what I wanted to be at one time. And there is a French guy named Sébestien Charlier. He is amazing. Very much like Howard Levy. They are both positional players, jazz players, who can move within key changes. Howard Levy is the best diatonic player that has ever lived. Howard is on a new Paul Reisler and a Thousand Questions album out called At Night the Roses Tango, and Paul is such a fan that he let Howard do whatever he wanted on it. It is very melodic playing.
Cooter’s Garage Band?
I didn’t do it this year, but I have played Dukesfest in past years. CMT films it every year. Last weekend in Nashville 100,000 people were there. I got to play with John Schneider doing his Top 10 hits. And I have played on three of Cooter’s albums.