My name is Sean Hoyles. Im a 32-year-old blues harp player from Mount Pearl. I learned to play harmonica - my first musical instrument incidentally - when I was 15 years old. Explorations into the harp eventually took me into the world of the blues. For two or three years, I was buying old blues albums by the score - a little bit of everything but especially the works of Willie Dixon, Sonny Boy Williamson II (Rice Miller), Muddy Waters - and, of course, the king of dirty Chicago harp, Little Walter.
Little Walter Jacobs
Around age 20, my interests shifted away from the harp and more towards guitar. Not blues guitar, specifically, but more along the lines of rhythm guitar - Top 40 tunes, stuff like that. This was mainly due to my desire to be a more well-rounded musician. And also partly due to my frustration that acoustic style harmonica often got lost in the mix with other electrified instruments. For better or worse, my interests shifted away from the blues foundation I had grown up on.
Flash forward about 10 years. A friend of mine recently lent me a few of his blues CDs over Christmas which, amazingly enough, rekindled my affection for the blues genre. Following that, I made a visit down to the Cat on Open Jam night to see if I still had the "chops" for it. I had heard that the Cat had reopened earlier in the year and figured it was time to check out the local blues scene, even if only once. I played two tunes on harp that night with the Billion Dollar Blues Band on their last night hosting the jam.
I then followed that up with a trip down to the Christmas Eve Jam with Denis Parker. I played about one-and-a-half sets with Denis that night. Since then, I've played on stage with a couple of bands at the Cat for a tune or two. Nothing professional but more as a sit-in sidesman type of thing.
In my spare time, I've also been revisiting the old blues tunes which I listened to in my younger years. In many cases, I am now purchasing CDs for albums which I once owned on LP as a youth. I'm still hell bent on figuring out that Little Walter "Mississippi Saxophone" sound. Not only how to get his incredible amplified tone but also how to achieve the intoxicating range of spacing, swing, and musical dynamics that seemed to come to him so easily. He was a short-lived talent but an amazingly gifted player all the same and probably did more to bring the harp to the forefront of the band than did any other player of the time. You only need to listen to tunes like "Juke" or "Blue Midnight" to know that is true.
On a final note, it's good to see a lively blues community active here in the province and also great for me personally to be able to get up on occasion with such committed players. It allows me to jam to tunes that I have never had the opportunity to do in a live situation before.
My hope is to one day persuade the Fat Cat staff to put a picture of Little Walter up on the bar wall. There's a small picture of Muddy there - but, having no Walter next to him, just never seems right to me. If I can accomplish that much, I suppose, I'll be happy. Time will tell if that one will happen, I guess.