Archive for the ‘Mickey Raphael’ Category

Mickey Raphael, Play True (Nashville Arts Magazine)

Tuesday, August 16th, 2016


photo:  Jack Spence
by:  by Holly Gleason

“When I was a toddler about 3 years old I used to play harmonica alongside Mickey in my dad’s family band. He was my teacher. The shows were my lessons. i learned from Mickey how to be a tasteful musician, that less can be more..among so many other things. Even today I see his face in my mind if i feel like what im playing is getting too wanky!

I remember the day Mickey taught me left from right using the numbers on a harmonica. Being 3 years old, i hadn’t known what left and right were until he showed me… I would literally be lost without him.

Thanks, uncle Mickey. I’m still learning from you today.

— Micah Nelson

Legendary harmonica player Mickey Raphael has shared the spotlight with the best—Willie Nelson, Miles Davis, Bob Dylan. Here’s his story blow by blow . . .

Mickey Raphael wasn’t much more than a kid when he ran away with the circus. Well, not the circus, but something equally off-kilter and unlikely. After a stint playing harmonica with Dallas’s progressive folkie/country songwriter B.W. Stevenson—known for “My Maria”—Raphael got an invitation from University of Texas Longhorns football coach Darrell Royal to a jam session he was hosting after a big game.

“I had big hair,” he laughs, “and was listening to the Rolling Stones, the Byrds, Gram Parsons, the Burritos . . . I didn’t know who Haggard or George Jones was. But I figured I’d go.”
In that hotel room pickin’ party, the harmonica player found himself jamming with Willie Nelson and Charlie Pride. If he didn’t look the part, something about his tone—honed via the folk-blues of Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee—caught Nelson’s ear. Raphael was invited to play a Volunteer Fire Department benefit at a local high school. And so it began.

Mickey Raphael with Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, and Merle Haggard. Photograph by Danny Clinch

Mickey Raphael with Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, and Merle Haggard. Photograph by Danny Clinch

In the days before tour buses when everyone drove their own cars to the various gigs, the hippie-looking 20-year-old had to wait for the rest of the band to arrive before heading into the Texas icehouses where they were playing. But it wasn’t long before the rise of Nelson’s legendary 4th of July Picnics in Dripping Springs and the hippie/redneck nexus of Austin’s Armadillo World Headquarters.

“I remember playin’ to junkies and transvestites at Max’s Kansas City. Waylon had been there, so they were ready for us. Sandy Bull was there, Bobby Neuwirth, Jim Carroll . . . rumors of Bob Dylan.”

So began a forty-year odyssey that’s seen the dark-haired musician share stages with Miles Davis and Neil Young, recording studios with Emmylou Harris and Mötley Crüe, even musically anchoring a Bob Dylan show noted choreographer Twyla Tharp was staging. Known to many as the young Turk with Nelson’s Family, Raphael is a musical journeyman who’s spent his career searching for opportunities to conjure the emotional tone various artists are seeking.

“Miles Davis told me it’s the space between the notes that matters,” Raphael explains. “You want to paint a picture. [Harmonica]’s such a soulful instrument, you wanna create the mood—a lot of times that’s subtle, but what you pull out really colors the track or the moment.”

Mickey Raphael. Photograph by Jack Spencer

Mickey Raphael. Photograph by Jack Spencer

Still—as blues chanteuse Sippie Wallace wrote—you got to know how. There’s a laugh from the thoughtful, almost introspective player. “How do I know if I’m gonna play sweet or a little raunchy?” he intones. “I’ve played mostly with writers, and the lyric for them is everything. I really try to pay attention to what’s being said.”

This day, though, no harmonica’s involved. Instead, Raphael weighs Bob Dylan’s “One Too Many Mornings,” a track he is rebuilding for an upcoming Highwaymen box set. The mid-80s supergroup of Johnny Cash/Waylon Jennings/Kris Kristofferson/Willie Nelson built around friendship and classic songs has become even more iconic in the ensuing years, so he was tapped to produce ancillary material.

“I know where all the bodies are,” he jokes, referring to his tenure with Nelson, as well as time on the boards with America’s many icons.

Few working musicians have the fastidious detail, vast knowledge, but especially the soul for where this music comes from. Raphael knows how to elicit a performance from Nelson—who recently added vocals to the original Chips Moman-produced Cash/Jennings track—as well as enhance the original recording’s intentions.

That’s why Lionel Richie suggested Raphael “take the guitar solo” on a recent re-recording of his Commodores classic “Easy.” Also why Mötley Crüe enlisted him for their squawking recast of Brownsville Station’s “Smokin’ In The Boys Room.”

Mickey Raphael with Willie Nelson. Photograph by Danny Clinch

Mickey Raphael with Willie Nelson. Photograph by Danny Clinch

“I love real melodic shift and tone,” he says. “I wanna play what’s right for the song . . . and something simpler is often better: match the intention, know what the song’s about. Rather than being another hot guitar lead, try to bring something else out of the song.”

That thoughtfulness elevates Raphael’s musicality from one more cloud of notes to something genuinely evocative. As he listens to playbacks of the Highwaymen, noting, “It’s not a big sound, but it showcases each so well,” it is the grain of truth he’s seeking within each performance.

Distilling essence is harder than it sounds. Yet when Ray Charles died, Nelson brought the harp player for accompaniment to the funeral. “It was a little AME Church in L.A., and we were doing ‘Georgia.’ You look out and there’s Wynton Marsalis, Stevie Wonder; you think, I just wanna play true.”

Playing true is just what marks Raphael’s work. As a player, an accompanist, a producer: the vérité is all that matters.

Mickey Raphael is currently on tour with Willie Nelson and Family. For more information please visit

Another Mickey Raphael Fan: Danny Clinch

Sunday, August 14th, 2016
Michelle Manning Barish in New York, New York.
“The badassery continues. Here’s the absolute BEST Rock n’ Roll photographer on the planet, Danny Clinch…and maybe the #3 best harmonica player (after John Popper) @jauleb who sits in with…I dunno The Foo Fighters and Springsteen when he’s not busy taking their pics. Looking hot, @dannybones64

I swear I’m not selling these shirts! Just so proud to see the love….And every penny that would head Mickey’s way goes to the Southern Poverty Law Center to provide legal aide to fight racial injustices….and nothing is more bad ass than that.”

#great4good #soproud #BestTEver #museryismytalent@splcenter @mickeyraphael @shopmidnightrider

ShopMidnightRider is selling the shirts.

Mickey Raphael: #1 Harmonica Player (you can get a shirt too!)

Tuesday, August 2nd, 2016
“I might not have worn it best, considering how hot it is now…but I certainly wore it first.#shirtofthesummer @mickeyraphael
Get yours at @shopmidnightrider all proceeds that would go to Mickey, he is donating to the Southern Poverty Law Center to fight racial intolerance and injustices. #BestShirtEver #great4good ?? Go Mickey! ??
— in New York, New York.”

Willie Nelson, Wynton Marsalis, Norah Jones, Mickey Raphael on David Letterman

Tuesday, July 26th, 2016

Mickey Raphael and Brad Wheeler

Sunday, July 24th, 2016


“Me and Paul”

Saturday, July 23rd, 2016

12-31-2014  NYE at  ACL Austin. TX -83

Jamey Johnson, Mickey Raphael (Farm Aid 2015)

Thursday, July 21st, 2016
Next up on our Farm Aid 2016 artist preview is Jamey Johnson. He’s graced the Farm Aid stage a few times in the past, and we’re excited to have him back this year in Bristow, VA.

Here Jamey performs “In Color” live at Farm Aid 30 in Chicago. Are you excited to see him this year? What songs do you hope make his setlist?

Come see Jamey live this year in Virginia!

Buy tickets now:

Mickey Raphael and Danny Clinch

Saturday, July 16th, 2016


“He never actually said we are friends but i tell everyone we are . Mickey Raphael and i at Bonnaroo 2016 .

Willie Nelson fans like me and music lovers everywhere are very grateful for Danny Clinch’s photographs.  He released a book of his photographs

photo: Danny Clinch

On the first time he met Willie Nelson: “It was through [producer] Daniel Lanois. I just happened to be outside when Willie and Emmylou were together for a show, I asked to take a picture, and that was it.” — Danny Clinch
by: Andy Langer

Danny Clinch is in the trust business. Take two accomplished photographers, give ’em the same equipment, access, and time, and the one who’s established the trust of his subject wins every time. Clinch’s reputation, his X factor, is rooted in a calm temperament, the self-awareness to know it’s about them, not him, and an innate ability to read non-verbal cues. As Springsteen suggests, shooting with Clinch isn’t so much a ballet, but a loose, free-flowing conversation — a collaboration. And if you’re Springsteen — or Eddie Vedder, Dave Grohl, or Neil Young — at this point, you’re only collaborating with people you trust, people who themselves have something to say. And for folks who don’t love the process, Danny Clinch shoots have a habit of not feeling at all like shoots. He’s notoriously spontaneous. He’ll say, “This’ll work.” Or maybe just, “Let’s go see what’s over there?” Watching him work over the years, I’ve seen it happen again and again: Clinch will get what he needs and the response will be “Man, that didn’t feel like a photo shoot. What a great hang. We’re done already?”


Danny Clinch’s best images, collected in the new 296-page coffee-table retrospective Danny Clinch: Still Moving (Abrams Books, out September 23), represent the work of a real documentarian. He has a way of putting himself, and by extension us, in the right place at the right time. Still Moving very effectively tells the story of modern music history. But from Willie Nelson to Tupac, Tony Bennett to Beyonce, his best photos don’t just tell a story, but also tell you something you didn’t know about the subject. Mostly the way they look when they’re not “performing,” when they’re relaxed a little, guard at half-mast, or sometimes, all the way down. “Soul” is an overused word, but damned if that’s not what Danny Clinch has made a name documenting. And because of it, many of Danny Clinch’s pictures have become the images you associate with those musicians when you hear their names. Still Moving is full of those images. We asked Clinch to tell us the stories behind ten of them, which you can see exclusively here:


“I shot the video for ‘You Don’t Know Me.’ Willie doesn’t mind having his photo taken, he just doesn’t like doing photo shoots. If you’re around with a camera, he doesn’t really have a problem with it. But if he has to stand and pose, he doesn’t love that process. It’s why I suspect I get to photograph him so often. They know I’ll hang around and get it without annoying him. At the shoot, we were on the bus and Willie needed to fix his braids a little. I looked down the corridor of the bus, the hallway, to the back of the bus and saw him sitting in his bedroom fixing his braids. I just slid down there really quickly, got the shot, and backed off. If you look closely, you can see Trigger, his guitar, in the corner. And of course, his reflection. And in the back, there’s this leather kind of doctor’s bag that says Spirit on it. It’s great when you look at a photograph and see a little story. To me, this one does that.” — Danny Clinch

See rest of Esquire article, and more pictures and stories about Bruce Springsteen, Tim and Faith McGraw, Black Keys, Grace Potter, and more:

To see and purchase this and other photographs by Danny Clinch

Mickey Raphael Interview on Harmonicast with Bob Kessler

Wednesday, July 13th, 2016

Harmonicast Episode 12 – Mickey Raphael

July 2, 2016

Mickey Raphael‘s playing has been an essential element of the music of Willie Nelson and Family for more than 40 years. He’s also performed alongside some of the biggest names in music and has recorded on sessions for many of them. We talk about his open, organic approach to performing with Willie, his ever-expanding influences, his love road biking when he’s on the road, and the new Highwaymen collection he produced.

Willie Nelson & Family, Fourth of July Picnic 2016 (Austin)

Tuesday, July 5th, 2016


another Mickey Raphael fan

Sunday, June 26th, 2016


Willie Nelson and Family

Monday, June 20th, 2016

Willie Nelson and Family

Willie Nelson, Amos Lee, Mickey Raphael, “El Camino” (Farm Aid 25, Milwaukee, WI) (Oct. 2, 2010)

Tuesday, June 14th, 2016

Amos Lee is performing in Colorado this fall, and it reminded me how much I love this song they recorded together, and performed on stage at Farm Aid. It’s on one of Amos Lee’s albums.

Here’s the studio recording, so beautiful.

Mickey & Muhammad

Sunday, June 12th, 2016


Instagram photo by Mickey Raphael • Jun 4, 2016

“It was an honor to share one of my favorite things in life with one of the greatest men on earth.”

#muhammadali  #thegreatestharmonicaplayer

Mickey said that he came to many shows when Willie Nelson & Family played in Phoenix.

Willie Nelson and Mickey Raphael

Thursday, June 9th, 2016