Rick Hatfield

& The Jumpin' Bobcats

From: Stuart Dole
Date: Mon, 6 May 1996 13:35:39 -0700
Subject: Rick Hatfield

I'm sort of a stay-at-home, but thanks to Danny Wilson's list I noticed that a performer, Rick Hatfield, was actually coming to my town! This is a little odd, since Tomales, California, is a rural town, with no stoplight, one store, one bar-restaurant (a few cafes for tourists), and a total population of 150.

The bar is the William Tell Inn. (The area was originally settled by Italian-Swiss around 1860 -- hence the name.) Even though I've been in Tomales for over 25 years, I'd been in the William Tell only once before. It's sort of a dark-wood few windows country bar, with an attached steak and potatoes restaurant. It is, however, the "power center" of the west county -- the local ranchers and farmers all meet there to talk and make their deals.

Anyway, last Saturday night I headed out to the William Tell (after attending a celebration with some friends for the Buddha's Birthday -- full moon in May and all that). I parked in front, my little Honda nestled among the pickups, pretending I did it all the time. Some guys were hanging around in front -- I nodded to them and said Hi, but they just sort of stared into space...

Inside the bar there was the sound of a HARMONICA coming from the back! I picked my way through the smoke and narrow space -- there was a lot of talking and noise -- about a dozen people. I sort of recognized a few.

At the back was a raised area lit by strings of christmass tree lights stapled to the knotty pine, and lots of those funny plastic beer logo things. Rick was playing an amped acoustic guitar, and a racked harp into a vocal mic. I sat at an empty table and give it a listen.

Since I was the only one really paying attention, at the end of the next song he said hello and asked if I was a guitar player. I said I played harp. So he did the next number a pure instrumental -- racked harp and guitar.

He is very fast, clean, uses the whole harp, and has good tone -- the racked harp sounded great through the vocal mic and PA. He has a swing/jump blues sort of style that reflects his bright, cheerful personality. His vocal style is quite good too.

Mostly he played requests from the "floor" -- Blue Suede Shoes, Rock Around the Clock, and some of his own stuff -- '59 Caddy, and various things I didn't recognize. He has a tremendous repetoire.

The PA began to make horrible pops and crackles, so he took a break and we talked. He seemed really happy to talk to a harp player. He currently plays Special-20's -- he had three complete sets with him! He said he spends one day a week tuning them. He seems to basically play only acoustic into a voice mic -- he said he knows how to play "electric" and will do so if the gig demands it.

He's been playing for about 35 years. He told me that when he was a kid he saw the Harmonicats on the Ed Sullivan show and knew that's what he wanted to do with his life. He began standing in with other performers and gradually learned lots of popular songs -- at least what the harp parts were.

After refreshing himself he got up for another short set -- the crowd was down to about eight people at this point -- then he asked me to stand up and take a mike and join in on a few numbers. He got my name wrong, but who needs a correct name, anyway? This was a HUGE surprise for me -- I've never performed in public, let alone for friends. I had a C Lee Oskar with me, so I thought Why Not. We did one song I wasn't familiar with, where I could do some 1st position licks that fit nicely (he kept turning up my mic -- no hiding!). Then he did Summertime in A minor, and I was able to play around with the tune some. He gave me a nice spot to solo in, and I didn't screw up too badly! But I felt really off balance. Heh. Everyone clapped, and when I sat down there was a dollar bill on my table. I looked around and briefly caught the eye of the gal behind the bar (who was apparently the manager as well), who gave me a quick smile and a nod. WOW!

We chatted some more after the end of the set -- we agreed to trade some computer help (I'll get him on Harp-L) for a lesson or two. He was impressed that I knew how to overblow, but I'd guess he's a bit surprised I wasn't better musically, for all that.

Most of the remaining patrons at the bar came up and thanked him, stuffing 20's into the glass he used for tips. The owner slipped him a check. He said he'd come again.

I bought his CD and he threw in an earlier tape (thereby spending the dollar, plus a bunch more of my own). I drove the two miles home in the brilliant moon light, hooting like crazy on my LO...

So far Ive listened to part of the CD and the tape -- all original stuff -- a mix of styles. But he tends to play LOTS of notes -- a few too many for my taste, but he does it very well.

- Stuart

Originally posted on HarpAmps.com
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