Thursday, June 30, 2011

Borrah Minevitch & His Harmonica Rascals

Spike Jones wasn't the only purveyor of crazy novelty music in the first half of the 20th century (we've already covered Irving Aaronson). Russian-born Borrah Minevitch led a zany combo that were very popular from the late 1920s to Minevitchs' untimely death in the '50s. Space Age Pop sez, "the novelty of a whole harmonica band, using the full range from huge bass to tiny alto harmonica, made a terrific impression. Within a year, Minevitch and his Harmonica Rascals were one of the hottest acts on the vaudeville circuit." They even featured a midget, Johnny Puleo, who was featured prominently in their on-stage shenanigans, as videos of the group on YouTube attest.

I took an informal survey asking "What's your least-favorite music instrument?" and the harmonica got the most votes. For that I think you can thank the atonal bleating of Bob Dylan and his musical offspring. But this stuff is not only wacky fun, but virtuosically arranged and performed, making it an impressive listen even apart from the novelty of hearing absolutely no other instruments (or singing) apart from harmonicas. This CD tacked on a few songs by the very commercially successful spin-off group, Jerry Murad's Harmonicats, whose albums are frequently found in bargain bins and thrift stores. But compared to the Harmonica Rascals, the
Harmonicats had a much more easy-listening sound. And no midgets.

Borrah Minevitch & His Harmonica Rascals
1. The Carioca
2. Chinatown, My Chinatown
3. Daybreak Express
4. Moonglow
5. Nagasaki
6. Bugle Call Rag
7. Caprice Viennois
8. On Treasure Island
9. Limehouse Blues
10. I've Got A Feelin' You're Foolin/You Are My Lucky Star
11. The Ghost Walk
12. Deep River
13. Liebestraum
14. Hora Staccato
15. La Violetera
16. On The Loose
17. Boots And Saddle
18. The Music Goes 'Round And Around
19. Peg O' My Heart - Jerry Murad's Harmonicats
20. Fantasy Impromptu - Jerry Murad's Harmonicats
21. Bye Bye Blues - Jerry Murad's Harmonicats
22. Willow Weep For Me - Jerry Murad's Harmonicats
Plus, I've added - at no extra cost to you! - an excellent bonus track: "Hungarian Rhapsody # 2," collected elsewhere on teh intar-webs.


Your Pal Doug said...

Never heard of these guys.
Can't have too many Harmonica records, I always say.
Thanks a heap.

PeterF said...

Wonderful. Thank you for sharing this. I especially like their rendition of Deep River. Kind regards.

Nick Titchener said...

Very late to this - and your amazing blog - but have to say that this is just wonderful. I'm a sucker for old school novelty acts yet somehow I'd never heard these guys before. Thank you so much!

Mr Fab said...

You're very welcome Nick - more old school novelty acts coming up, so stay tuned...

andy said...

Thank you both for the repost and for sharing.

It is appreciated


Reimer said...

Looks great.

What kind of creep rates the harmonica so low??

Mr Fab said...

The people who voted 'harmonica' pointed out that nowadays it's usually used as the crutch of the 'singer-songwriter'/dylan types who just blow noise with no finesse to kill time til their next singing part. They haven't heard this stuff!

boppinbob said...

Dear Mr.Fab, is there any chance of a re re-up. Puleeeze! Regards, Mr.Bob
PS Wondeful blog you have here.

Konrad Useo said...

I've heard boris before. Love his stuff. Thanks for this collection. I've never found any of his records for sale.
Personally, I love the harmonica, and own a few. I found I can play it like a pro, and I've never had a lesson.