Hungry John

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From BLUE NEWS No.8 February 1999Hungry John

The beginning

Sometime in the 60s, I came across some blue plates. I started playing harmonica to the plates of Muddy Waters, Sonny Boy Williamson , Little Walter, Sonny Terry, Paul Butterfield, John Mayall, etc. My biggest inspiration was and still is, Muddy Waters.

Band History

My first band was called Green Onions and was started in 1966. We played soul and blues from the start and had several gigs with good response. One night we were booked in on a dance floor outside Bergen who was usually listepop and folk. After three songs on stage began some "tough guys" in the audience to throw bricks at us, and we had to escape out of the room through the back door!

In 1968 we started Alfonso Band. Blues were now more accepted as a dance / concert music. We had many jobs, but with a constantly changing the lineup. From 1970 I was for long periods in London. I worked as a street musician and was also at many festivals and clubs. I saw and heard most of what is played live in England at that time. I lived on the "vagabond" and was so called Hungry John.

In 1975 I started Bergen Blues Band together with Per Jørgensen (guitar), Edvard Askeland (bass), Kåre Sandvik (piano) and Willy Korneliussen (tr). I played bass in Alfonso Band, but when we got Edward, who were the best bass player, I sold the bass. The other band was also to be "the best" on their instruments in the city, so the band got a good start. One of the strengths was that we presented self-composed material. I have ever made about a hundred songs. The band released three LPs: Bergen Blues Band (1980), Another Blues (1981) and Blues Hit Me (1983). When we released our first LP, we ended up right on the charts. At that time there was something called Top Europe. We were in the 5th place there. My perhaps the best song, Jump 'n Shout' n Dance, was number 1 in Ireland. The three LP sold a total of over 60,000 items. We toured all over Scandinavia. Our songs were played on the radio in the USA and Australia. I was in a meeting we Capitol / EMI in Los Angeles and we were very close to being launched by a major company.

As the music started the interest in the BBB to diverge too much, and I started as a result of the Hungry John and The Blue Shadows in 1985. We recorded 3 CD's: Nice Guys (1986), Live (1990) and Hungry John and The Blue Shadows (1991). We had the same crew on all the plates: Bjorn Aasheim (guitar), Arild Seim (guitar), Atle Mjørlang (bass) and Gunnar Bergström (tr) in addition to the undersigned.

In 1983/84, I was in Tor Einar Jacobsen's project, the Chicago Blues Meeting. I had great experiences with this band in the U.S. in 1983, where we among other things, was recorded in Chess Studios in Chicago. Here I played with, among others Sven Zetterberg, Sunnyland Slim, Knut Reiersrud, Bob Strøget, Kristin Berglund, SP Leary, and Zora Young. (Chess Studio is now a museum. I was there visiting in summer). In 1984 we toured with the band in Norway. The two LP from the time the Blues Meeting in Chicago and the Chicago Blues meeting in Scandinavia.

During the same period we also had band Blues Union with this line in 1983: Ole Thomsen (guitar), Pete York of Spencer Davis Group (tr), Colin Hodgkinson (bass) and me on harmonica and vocals. In 1984, Colin started in Whitesnake and Mel Thorpe and Bill Coleman came on bass and sax / flute. We toured in Norway and Germany. We were offered a recording contract, but were never able to agree with the company on conditions.

Who you play with now?

Today I play with my band Hungry John with Atle Johannessen (guitar), axle (bass) and Gunnar Bergström (tr). Since I work full time with the blues, I have time to several projects in parallel. The first priority is Hungry John Cooper band that we first of all. Moreover, I have a program about blues history as I run by the Norwegian Concert traveling around the schools. I also have a band in Finland, Wentus Blues Band, which I travel with at times. I also work alone and have guest appearances with friends.

Anecdotes - Great experiences

The fact that I met and became friends with Alexis Korner ("The British blues father") has meant a lot to me. We played together several times, and I was once "one of the guys." Korner was also the reason why I was asked to join the band to Pete York. Suddenly, we played in Germany for a full house!
In -70 I heard Son House and Alan Wilson at 100 Club in London and Canned Heat with the original crew. In 1983 I met Paul Butterfield in the Lone Star in New York. I bought me a whiskey, and the result was that we ended 3 days "on a drunk." (Colin Hodgkinson played with Butterfield.)
Blues Meeting in Chicago was a wonderful experience: Plate Shooting plus two-month tour in the United States. We were in many jam sessions and played support for Junior Wells and Lefty Dizz. I could write a long story only from the trip!
Atle Johannessen and I was in Chicago again last summer. We played such at Buddy Guy's Legend and Blue Monday.

Favorite Mouth Players

My main favorites are Sonny Boy Williamson, Alan Wilson, Paul Butterfield, Little Walter, Sonny Terry, James Cotton and Junior Wells. This is the mouth of players with tremendous authority and character and are the ones I've heard most, but there are also a number of other good.

Choice of harmonica

I use both Lee Oskar and the Marine Band. Lee Oskar is most easily performed and can be recommended for beginners, while the Marine Band is a little harder to bend notes. Choice of harmonica is eventually a matter of taste, I also play chromatic harmonica.

Amplifiers and accessories

I play em JMS Harmonica amplifier and an astatic microfon. I am very pleased with JMS'en, big fat sound and no feedback problems. If you use the amp on harmonica, there should be a tube of at least 40W and four 10-inch speakers. I also have a Fender Super Reverb amp. I also play directly in ON if I want a pure acoustic sound.

Tips to Mouth Players

Never borrow over mouth game! The Perón. Play carefully in the beginning of new games, and step in when they're recorded. Wipe the like of the games after use, so they are not wet with saliva. When they last longer. I have my game around. 2 years. The chromatic last longer. I have a Hohner chromatic I've had in 30 years, and it is as good as new! Advice to the other band members: If you do not hear the harmonica when it is down solo ...... sku kumpet!

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