Hohner Marine Band Harmonica is a legendary musical instrument. It’s the original blues harmonica, and indulges the urge to sit on the back step and wail soulfully at the moon.
No other mouth harp gives the same warmth, feel, and sense of history in your hands.
Sonny Boy Williamson, Little Walter, and Sonny Terry all wailed the blues on this harmonica. Bruce Springsteen’s mournful harp solo on ‘The River’ was on a Hohner Marine Band, as was Bob Dylan’s mighty squawking on ‘Rainy Day Women.’
The harmonica is believed to have been invented in Vienna in the 1820s, and what we now know as the classic diatonic* harmonica was first used for Bohemian folk music. It was well used in other musical forms before it fell into the hands of the seminal African American men who laid the foundations of Rock & Roll Music.
Most significant of all, the mighty Marine Band Harmonica itself gained it’s name from John Philip Souza’s band of marching harmonica players.
Very soon after the harmonica’s invention, Germany became the epicentre of harmonicas. German emigration took the instrument around the world. It was a portable and inexpensive instrument, and was soon seen in America in the saddlebags of cowboys in the Wild West. And in the pockets of Abraham Lincoln, and Civil War soldiers.
German immigrants also saw the harmonica ever present amongst Australian miners during the Gold Rushes of the 1800s. It went on to be a huge Australian craze in the 1930s and 40s.
And it was harmonica sales that made mighty Aussie bands AC/DC and the Easybeats possible. True.
The story goes that both bands were discovered and signed by Alberts Music. The company was founded by Swiss emigre watchmaker Jacques Albert who imported German harmonicas (possibly even Hohner) and re-branded them with suitably Aussie names – most famously The Boomerang
Albert marketed The Boomerang harmonicas to schools throughout Australia, and into the hands of a new wave of harmonica bands. There were thirty harmonica bands in Victoria alone at one time in the 1930s, including Melbourne’s still-performing Yarraville Harmonica Orchestra.
Harmonica sales were so huge, they funded Jacque Albert’s son Frank to build Australia’s most expensive house (“Boomerang” in Elizabeth Bay”), and sign two renowned Australian bands.
Whilst the Boomerang harmonica is no more, the original blues harmonica lives on. Since its foundation in 1857, Hohner continues to make harmonicas, including the wonderful Marine Band harmonica.
And they still make them in Germany.
Most recently, the Hohner Marine Band Harmonica comes with a free “How to Play” web download to make it possible for anyone to be a very cool harmonica player https://www.thegoodstore.com.au/d117-120/hohner-marine-band-harmonica/ .
The Good Store reckons the Hohner Marine Band with its new web download makes for a foolproof musical present.
*The other type of harmonica is the bigger more complex chromatic which can be played in different keys. This was famously played by the Englishman Larry Adler and is most commonly used in classical and jazz music.