1,000 Jam Harry Griffen Park, Spring Harp Fest 

La Mesa-Mount Helix Patch
By Ken Stone   April 21, 2012 - Go to original article here.
The Neighborhood Files, Volunteers in the News

1,000 Jam Harry Griffen Park, Hopping to the Spring Harp Fest
12th annual harmonica festival plays out under sunny skies, temps in the low 70s.

Kids and dogs. Boomers with ponytails. An unofficial Harley-Davidson convention. An estimated 1,000 harmonica lovers jammed the grassy amphitheater at Harry Griffen Park north of Grossmont High School for the 12th annual Spring Harp Fest—featuring a dozen acts and dancing in the aisles from noon to 7 p.m. Saturday. Budd Willis—an organizer and an MC along with John Frazer and Robb Bower—said the musicians were all volunteers. Sales of various items—including CDs, T-shirts and barbecued hamburgers—brought donations to Blues in the Schools, a program that gives presentations and hands out harmonicas—nearly 4,000 to date, organizers say.
About this column: Images of La Mesans at play, study and wherever they gather to celebrate life.

Harmonica Heaven: Fourth-Grader Wows Them All 

Northmont Elementary student takes the Spring Harp Fest contest for second year in a row.
Go to original article in La Mesa Patch online Newsletter here.

At the 13th annual Spring Harp Fest, Luciano Costello’s luck held for the last time. Next year, he’ll be unknown no more.
Luciano, a 9-year-old harmonica prodigy who attends Northmont Elementary School as a fourth-grader, won the Unknown Players Jam contest for the second year in a row at the Harry Griffen Park amphitheater.

Two dozen amateur players ponied up $10 each to play 20-30 seconds with a professional band, attempting to wow the crowd and win a trophy.

The MC implored the audience to cheer and applaud for the best player, and not just the cutest. But the crowd decided Luciano was the complete package and he brought his silver-and-blue trophy back to parents Paul and Teresa Costello of Fletcher Hills.

Luciano says he’s played harmonica since age 6, and is self-taught. He also plays the bass guitar. His hero is Willie “Sonny Boy” Williamson, the legendary King of the Harmonica.

For event organizers Budd Willis, Robb Bower and “Harmonica John” Frazer, the heroes were the musicians who played for free, the volunteers and others. Among them was banker John Vigil, who called himself Willis’ “slave extraordinaire” and set-up helper.

“It’s all for the good of music programs in the schools,” with proceeds handled by Blues Lovers United of San Diego, Willis said as hundreds lounged on blankets under cloudless skies with temperatures in the mid-80s.

Last year, $500 to $800 was netted after expenses, said Bower, who handled event publicity.

Next year, Frazer told Luciano on the stage, “I want you to put a band together, OK?”

Spring Harp Fest 2012 Returns to La Mesa 

Spring Harp Fest 2012 Returns to La Mesa on Saturday
By Eric Yates, April 5, 2012 - Go to original article in La Mesa Patch here.

This year's featured performer is harp slinger Rob Paparozzi of Blood, Sweat & Tears, who will play with legendary rock drummer Bernie "Pretty" Purdie.

With an all-star lineup and even one of music legendary drummers on the slate, the 13th annual Spring HarpFest on Saturday is sure to create harmonica harmony.

The popular event, held annually at Harry Griffen Park in La Mesa, is designed to promote understanding and appreciation of the harmonica and pass on love of the harmonica to the next generation.

See also: 2011 Harp Fest Photo Gallery

Donations made at the Harp Fest will help purchase harmonicas to be distributed in local schools as part of the “Blues in the Schools” program, in conjunction with local blues society, “Blues Lovers United of San Diego.” Over the years, the organization has provided more than 4,000 harmonicas to school children.

This year's featured performer is harp slinger Rob Paparozzi of Blood, Sweat & Tears, who will play with legendary rock drummer Bernie "Pretty" Purdie. U-T San Diego profiled Purdie and his classic percussion contributions, for some of music's biggest names like Aretha Franklin, Steely Dan, B.B. King and Paul Simon.They will play the Harp Fest at 4 p.m.

Here is the entire lineup:

Noon Jon Gindick (solo)

12:30 p.m. Chet and the Committee with Art Faxas

1 p.m. Harmonica John Frazer with the Bayou Brothers

1:30 p.m. Dane Terry with Cadillac Wreckers

2 p.m. Billy Watson's Intl Silver String Submarine Band

2:30 p.m. Unknown Players Jam

One of the audience's favorite parts of SHF, is the "Unknown Players' Jam." Any harp slinger in attendance has the opportunity to get up and play 12 bars with a great back-up band. The audience decides on the best jammer, who receives a trophy and other prizes.

3 p.m. Jason Ricci

4 p.m. Rob Paparozzi with Bernard Purdie

5 p.m. Gary Sipperly with Blue Dawg

5:30 p.m. All Star Jam

The festival runs from noon to 6 p.m. and is a free, family-friendly event. Attendees are encouraged to bring lawn chairs, water, frisbees, blankets and whatever else they need for a day at the park.

In addition to the Saturday festivities, there are other events associated with the SHF this year:

Thursday, April 5, 6-9 p.m. Rob Paparozzi and drum legend Bernard Purdie are presenting a clinic at Rock and Roll San Diego, 3360 Sports Arena Boulevard. Tickets are $25.

Friday, April 6, 1-8 p.m. Acclaimed author and musiciam Jon Gindick will be putting on a harmonica clinic and jam at the historic Lafayette Hotel, 2223 El Cajon Blvd. Cost is $65.

Friday, April 6, 9 p.m. Paparozzi and Purdie will be playing a concert at the Marble Room in the Gaslamp. They will be backed up by the Bayou Brothers.

For more information on the Spring Harp Fest, visit www.springharpfest.org

Bernard Purdie to co-star at Spring Harp Fest 

Bernard Purdie to co-star at Spring Harp Fest
Drum legend on tap at free Saturday blues harmonica fete in La Mesa

Published in the San Diego Union Tribune - go to original article here.

It might sound paradoxical to state that an all-star blues harmonica festival will attract a record number of drummers, but I feel safe making exactly that prediction about Saturday’s 13th annual Spring Harp Fest in La Mesa. That’s because Rob Paparozzi, one of the featured harmonica players at this free, all-ages festival in Harry Griffen Park, will perform with the legendary Bernard “Pretty” Purdie, with San Diego music mainstays The Bayou Brothers offering spirited support to the mighty duo.

Purdie bills himself as “America’s most recorded drummer,” a claim that might be challenged by the now-retired Hal Blaine or by such late greats as Earl Palmer and Panama Francis. Regardless, Purdie is a legend, and deservedly so, thanks to his classic recordings with Aretha Franklin, Miles Davis, Steely Dan , B.B. King , James Brown, Louis Armstrong, Paul Simon and many more. (He also insists that he drummed -- uncredited -- as a phantom studio musician on 21 recordings by The Beatles in the 1960s, adding drum parts to the Fab Four's classics in a New York studio at the covert request of then-Beatles' manager Brian Epstein. It's a claim that seems easier to question than accept, but Purdie remains adamant.)

What can be easily substantiated is that his myriad credits also include stand-out drum work with everyone from Nina Simone, Percy Sledge, Joe Cocker and Todd Rundgren to Roberta Flack, King Curtis, Gato Barbieri and Hall & Oates. One of the most sampled drummers ever, he has a flawless sense of time, impeccable taste and exceptional feel — three qualities that enable him to shine in any setting. His infectious grooves and ingenious rhythmic accents are a treat for drummers and non-drummers alike.

I first saw Purdie live, circa 1978, at SDSU's now sadly defunct Back Door club when he was drumming in Hummingbird, a band that teamed him with several former members of the Jeff Beck Group. At the time, I was the overly enthusiastic and not very polished drummer in Focal Point, a mostly teen-aged San Diego jazz-rock group. I still recall how one of band mates and I stood in the Back Door, watching with slack-jawed awe and admiration as Purdie's stellar drumming transformed Hummingbird from a very good ensemble into -- at least for that night -- a great one.

He was perhaps even more impressive when I caught him at the 1980 Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland, where -- with no rehearsal -- he spent a memorable afternoon drumming up a storm behind a combustible gospel-music group from Louisiana, then took to the stage that night in a very unconventional jazz, blues and funk trio with jazz trumpet icon Dizzy Gillespie and harmonica player/guitarist Toots Thielemans. With no bass or keyboards, and only some very spare rhythm guitar work from Thielemans, Purdie had to rely almost entirely on his sense of time and musical form to both anchor and drive this very loosely knit trio, and he did so with masterful aplomb.

Blues Fans Look Forward to the Spring Harp Fest 

Blues Fans Look Forward to the Annual Spring Harp Fest
Published in the San Diego Troubadour - go to original article here.
By M.A. Haskell
April 2012

What began as a challenge between a father and his son has morphed into the musical highlight of San Diego spring season. The 13th Annual Spring Harp Festival takes place on Saturday, April 7, at Harry Griffen Park in La Mesa, noon-6pm (springharpfest.org). The festival started as a collaboration between Chet Cannon, Budd Willis, and Harmonica John Frazer. The elder John remarked to his son, “If you are such a hot shot harp player, why don’t you have a harp competition to prove your merit?” The idea was then presented to Chet and Budd as the three brainstormed at a local restaurant. Budd knew about the amphitheater in La Mesa and after a quick visit to the site, the Spring Harp Festival was born. The onset of the gathering was meager, but the enthusiasm was, and still is, after 13 years, monumental. It is one of the few events that rely strictly on volunteers. No one is paid for any of the tasks involved from set up, sound engineers, video pros, photographers, emcees, musicians (even those traveling from far away), food sellers, raffle hosts, and the clean up crew all are contributors. The common thread of this annual celebration has one goal in mind: “to promote the understanding and appreciation of harmonica music and to pass on the love of the harp to the next generation.” Any monies raised during this event are channeled back into the community with recipients such as the Boys and Girls Club of La Mesa and the Blues in the Schools program, which is a subsidiary of the Blues Lovers United of San Diego. To date, the Spring Harp Fest has donated over 4,500 harmonicas to local youngsters. Funding was non-existent at the start in 1999. Since the crowds were sparse, no permits were required and the sound system was borrowed. The festival had more of a “jam” feel to it at that time. As more harp players assembled, bands were formed and those bands would return the following year to perform again. With the number of musicians ever increasing, the bar has been set higher as each year goes by. Notable harp players have included James Harman, Johnny Dyer, Bob Corritore, John “Juke” Logan, Al Blake, Johnny Maestro, Little Barry G, Billy Watson (who has never missed the annual party), Lance Dieckmann, Dane Terry, Dan Gage, Karl Cabbage, Steve Bulger, Zach Cole, Chet Cannon, Harmonica John Frazer, and many others. Along side of these virtuosos have been some of San Diego’s most stalwart players, ever present and willing to perform.

Expect nothing less this year as promoters promise the 2012 edition to be better than ever. Also on track for this year is a series of events leading up to the Saturday show, including seminars, drum clinics, harmonica jam camps, and a special show at the Marble Room in the Gaslamp Quarter (535 5th Ave.) on Friday, April 6. Dane Terry has dubbed this Harmonica Week and it will likely be established as such in the coming years.

Promoter Robb Bower, who joined the team in 2010, projects this year to have the largest attendance yet. National acts set for this April, include Rob Paparozzi, Bernard Purdie, Jason Ricci, and John Gindick, all of whom will participate in the gatherings prior to the Harp Fest. On Thursday, April 5, a family friendly music clinic will be led by Paparozzi and Purdie and held at the Rock and Roll San Diego Studios (3360 Sports Arena Blvd. Suite A). Topics cover techniques for playing, recording, and performance tips. These music icons have over 50 years of combined stage and recording experience. Parents are encouraged to attend with their children for this clinic. For further info contact Ric Lee at BayouBrothers@cox.net. www.robpaparozzi.com www.bernardpurdie.com

Friday afternoon the historic Lafayette Hotel (2223 El Cajon Blvd. San Diego 92104) will showcase the 2nd Annual Blues Harp Mini Jam Camp, led by John Gindick along with both Jason Ricci and Robb Paparozzi demonstrating techniques and coaching participants. For further info: bluesharmonicajamcamp.com/harpfest.html

The Friday evening concert features Paparozzi and Purdie as well as a multitude of musicians not yet announced. Attendees have said that the pre-show can be as impressive as the Saturday afternoon event, albeit without the sunshine, and it should not be missed.
One of the highlights of the Spring Harp Fest, although there are many, is the Unknown Player’s Jam, which grants any audience member a chance to take the stage for a $10 donation. This joyous competition has been dubbed the heart and soul of the event and the crowd is allowed to judge who the most entertaining player is. More than one winner of this challenge now fronts a local band, indicating the level of the participants. Both young and old alike enjoy this contest. And should your thirst for music not be quenched at the end of the Spring Harp Fest, an after party with the Cadillac Wreckers will be held at Lacy J’s, 8861 N. Magnolia Ave., Santee.
Further info can be found on the web: www.springharpfest.org.

Spring Harp Fest XIII 

BLUSD, Upcoming Events - go to original article here.

Spring Harp Fest XIII, Harry Griffen Park, La Mesa, Saturday, April 7th, noon to 6pm.


Oh Yeah!! Once again we are proud to announce the 13th annual SPRING HARP FEST. Be sure to pack sunscreen, lawn chairs, and a few good friends and join us for a good old-fashioned concert in the park! It will be held Saturday, April 7th, from noon to 6pm in picturesque Harry Griffen Park (a short walk from the Amaya Street Trolley Station) in beautiful LA MESA, near Grossmont High School!

Every Easter weekend some of Southern California’s finest harmonica players perform at this family-friendly outdoor musical event. SPRING HARP FEST XIII will again benefit the “Blues in the Schools” program, in conjunction wit our local blues society, “Blues Lovers United of San Diego”. BLUSD presents blues concerts in local schools with full student participation, in order to increase understanding, appreciation and love for this important, wholly American musical art form.

Our Mission:
To promote understanding and appreciation of the harmonica and pass on love of the harmonica to the next generation.

SPRING HARP FEST is a totally non-profit effort, produced by a hardworking group of volunteer organizers and musicians dedicated to keeping appreciation of the harmonica alive for our next generation. During these times of school deficits, we are very proud to support American music in our schools!

Spring Harp Fest raises funds through donations from local individuals and businesses, and at the event itself from freewill donations for food, soft drinks, tee-shirts, CD’s and prize drawings. All profits go to support the Blues in the Schools musical outreach program sponsored by BLUSD. WANT TO HELP? You can donate or volunteer though our website, springharpfest.org or contact John Frazer (see above) or Budd Willis 619-252-1844 (budlite@cox.net)



We have musicians available to appear on your radio or television broadcast for promotional/ entertainment opportunities. Contact Harmonica John Frazer to schedule.

11th Annual Spring Harp Fest 

11th Annual Spring Harp Fest
Published in La Prensa - go to original article here
April 2010

Internationally renowned musician James Harman will headline the 11th annual Spring Harp Fest on April 3 at Harry Griffen Park in La Mesa.

The Harp Fest is a free community event featuring day-long music from professional and amateur harmonica players. Music will be held from 11 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. in the park amphitheater.

The event is being produced by local musicians Harmonica John Frazer and Robb Bower.

“We are proud to bring another great lineup of musicians to the Harp Fest,” said Frazer. “People who attend can expect to delight in our Unknown Player competition as well as hear some of the best harmonica players in Southern California today.”

Harman, a native of Anniston, Ala., is widely regarded as one of the greatest living harmonica players.

Also playing this year’s Harp Fest will be Johnny Mastro of the Los Angeles band Johnny Mastro & Mama’s Boys, John “Whiteboy” Waldon of the Philippines, Chet Cannon, Steve Bulger, Billy Watson, Karl Cabbage, Lance Dieckmann and Dan Gage.