Archive for the ‘Mickey Raphael’ Category

Mickey Raphael and Chris Stapleton on Saturday Night Live

Sunday, January 17th, 2016


Two Nashville stars on Saturday Night Live last night;  Mickey Raphael played harmonica for Chris Stapleton and his band.
by:  John Freeman

Chris Stapleton made his first ever visit to Saturday Night Live yesterday, ushering in the show’s 2016 episodes with host Adam Driver (Star Wars: The Force Awakens) after the NFL playoff game between the Arizona Cardinals and Green Bay Packers delayed its start.

For the second of his two performances, Stapleton turned in a bluesy rendition of Traveller‘s “Nobody to Blame,” which is currently Number 21 on the Billboard Country Airplay chart. Sporting a long black dress coat and flanked by his wife Morgane, Stapleton was joined by harmonica player Mickey Raphael and producer Dave Cobb to round out his stage band. If he was nervous about having one of late-night television’s most coveted performance spots, he didn’t let on, as he gave one of his typically hair-raising vocal performances.

Stapleton’s first performance was of the Traveller cut “Parachute,” and he traded in his usual Fender Jazzmaster guitar for a gold Gibson. (See that performance below.)

After an incredible finish to 2015, Stapleton has hit the ground running in 2016 with a host of sold-out tour dates. On January 22nd, he’ll join Luke Bryan and Dierks Bentley to perform at the four-day Crash My Playa in Riviera Maya, Mexico.

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Mickey Raphael with Chris Stapleton on Stephen Colbert show

Saturday, January 2nd, 2016

Mickey Raphael, with Wynton Marsalis at Jazz at Lincoln Center, NYC

Monday, December 21st, 2015


Thanks to Michelle Manning Barish for sharing this picture of Mickey Raphael performing with Wynton Marsalis in NYC last week. Michelle reported that she and Mickey went the night before as guests for the opening of Wynton’s shows at the Jazz Center, and when Wynton saw him he said “How can you come here and not bring your instrument?! Can you come back tomorrow for a guest appearance?”  What an honor.

Mickey has played with so many artists. He is so talented, other talented musicians recognize what he brings to a show. He and Wynton are friends and Mickey has played with him before, including two shows with Willie Nelson at the Jazz Center.

Mickey Raphael with Chris Stapleton on Good Morning America

Tuesday, December 15th, 2015


Thanks to Brad Wheeler, of KRCL community radio in Salt Lake City, Utah, for sharing this screen shot he captured of Chris Stapleton and Mickey Raphael performing on “Good Morning America” this morning.


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KRCL is listener-supported, community radio based in Salt Lake City.

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Willie Nelson and Mickey Raphael

Monday, December 14th, 2015


Willie Nelson Gershwin Prize Concert Finale

Thursday, November 19th, 2015


11-18-2015 Library Of Congress Gershwin Honors Willie Nelson-193

11-18-2015 Library Of Congress Gershwin Honors Willie Nelson-188

All the performers came out on stage to sing ‘On the Road Again’ with Willie Nelson, Lukas Nelson, Micah Nelson and Mickey Raphael.  So much love and appreciation on stage .

11-18-2015 Library Of Congress Gershwin Honors Willie Nelson-18611-18-2015 Library Of Congress Gershwin Honors Willie Nelson-188

11-18-2015 Library Of Congress Gershwin Honors Willie Nelson-190Thanks to Janis Tillerson for all the great photos. 11-18-2015 Library Of Congress Gershwin Honors Willie Nelson-189 Neil Young, Lukas Nelson, Willie Nelson, Paul Simon, Edie Brickell 11-18-2015 Library Of Congress Gershwin Honors Willie Nelson-184

 Thanks to Janis Tillerson for her great photos from last night’s show.


Thanks to Jeremy Tepper for this panoramic photo from the event.

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Mickey Raphael and Lukas Nelson

Monday, November 9th, 2015


Happy birthday, Mickey Raphael

Saturday, November 7th, 2015


Happy happy birthday, to Mickey Raphael.
woodland3 by you.

Born and raised in the Lone Star State of Dallas Texas, Mickey Raphael’s career as Willie Nelson’s Harmonica player has spanned almost three decades. His intelligent playing style has become a hallmark of Nelson’s crossover sound, earning him a large audience worldwide. As a teenager, Raphael gravitated toward the Dallas folk music scene and fell under the spell of legendary harmonica great Don Brooks. “I went to this little coffee house one night and saw him playing and it just impressed me so much,” Raphael recalls. “He had moved to New York and was kind of a legend around Dallas. He sat me down one night after a show and showed me this little lick that went all the way up and down the harmonica, just a little pattern. Right away I just jumped about twenty steps from the little I already knew about the harp.”

Raphael eventually joined singer B.W. Stevenson’s band. One of his most enthusiastic boosters was University of Texas Football coach Darrell Royal, a passionate fan of country music. One night in 1973, Royal invited Raphael to a post-game party in a Dallas hotel room and asked him to bring along his harps. The resulting informal jam session included Charley Pride and Willie Nelson, who passed around a guitar and took turns singing.


I played a little with Willie and he asked me to come and sit in with him sometime. A while later he played a fireman’s benefit in a high school gym somewhere outside of Dallas and I showed up there and played a little. Later, we were sitting there talking and he said, “Why don’t you come to New York with me in a couple of months – we’re going to play Max’s Kansas City.’ So I went up there and played with Willie. He really wasn’t touring that much then; it was still a couple of years before he left Texas again on real tours.”

Raphael moved from Dallas to Austin, Nelson’s home base, and began a crash course in country music. “When I joined Willie’s band, I really didn’t know anything about country music. I’d never really listened to it at all. I was a folk blues player. I just wanted to play in a country band and ride around in a bus.”


Mickey Raphael and Brad Wheeler




Willie Nelson, Mickey Raphael, Dixie Chicks, “Bloody Mary Morning”

Wednesday, November 4th, 2015

Mickey Raphael, on harmonicas

Tuesday, November 3rd, 2015

Micky Raphael

The world has many star piano, guitar and saxophone players, but Texan Mickey Raphael has built his career as a sought-after player of a much more uncommon instrument: the harmonica.

Raphael — who plays the harmonica in the band of country/pop legend Willie Nelson — says he is mostly self-taught. Nelson and the band perform Saturday at the Meadows Racetrack & Casino, North Strabane.

Very few music instructors give harmonica lessons, says Raphael, who says he learned a lot from listening to other harmonica players. The instrument makes a fun, catchy sound, and its compact size comes in handy, he says.

“It’s just very expressive,” says Raphael, a Dallas native. “When I first heard it, it was one of those things that just really hit a chord with me.”

Raphael also has played his harmonica with other artists besides Nelson, including Vince Gill, Elton John, U2, Emmy Lou Harris, Kenny Wayne Shepherd and more. The famous harmonica solo in the Motley Crue song “Smokin’ in the Boys’ Room” also is Raphael’s.

He alternates his time between Nelson’s 130-city tour, and doing solo work. Raphael’s first solo album, “Hand to Mouth,” came out in 1988, and the record was so popular that it was re-released in 2000. Now, he is working on a new record, with the Tucson, Ariz.-based band Calexio backing him. The songs sound very “rhythmical and melodic,” Raphael says.

“Willie gives us the freedom to do whatever we want,” he says. “When I’m not playing with Willie, I’ve got a lot of different projects going. It just keeps us fresh when we do get back to playing with the band.

“I’m always constantly trying to learn new stuff and expose myself to new projects,” Raphael says.

He has been working with Nelson, who was unavailable for interviews, for 27 years.

“He’s an easy guy to get along with; he’s just a great guy to work for,” he says. “What you see is what you get. … He’s quirky, and very personable. Anything you see in his interviews, that’s the way he is. He’s very down-to-earth.”

People who come to Saturday’s concert can expect plenty of good music, with little dialogue in between songs, Raphael says. Nelson’s shows are spontaneous, and don’t follow any set list.

“He just plays whatever comes to the top of his head,” Raphael says. “He doesn’t sit there and talk to the audience, really; he just plays. It’s all about music. … You won’t hear any stories; it’s just one song after the next.”

Raphael says he loves seeing the enthusiastic, multi-generational crowd of fans at Nelson concerts.

“I’m just looking forward to coming there and playing to good crowds, and a good audience,” he says. “Looking out in the audience, you see kids and their grandparents out there. We’ve been very fortunate and very lucky.”

Mickey Raphael and Old Crow Medicine Show (Farm Aid 30) (Chicago, IL) (9/19/15)

Tuesday, October 27th, 2015


Mickey Raphael joined Old Crow Medicine Show in Chicago. Here is the band’s full set. Thank you to Old Crow, and all the bands who donate their time and travel costs to play at Farm Aid.

Willie Nelson & Family, Farm AId 30 (September 19, 2015)

Sunday, October 25th, 2015


Thanks again to Janis Tillerson for her great photos from Farm Aid 30, in Chicago, last month.


Willie Nelson and Family (photos by Neil Leifer)

Wednesday, October 14th, 2015

Willie Nelson and Family

Portrait of Willie Nelson and Family during photo shoot at the Golden Nugget Hotel.
Las Vegas, Nevada 8/1978
(Image # 1151 )

Willie Nelson

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Mickey Raphael, Farm Aid 30 (Chicago)

Monday, September 28th, 2015

Micky Raphael

Thanks to Rand Snyderman, for this great photo of Mickey Raphael.

Mickey Raphael

Thursday, September 10th, 2015


Country music legend Willie Nelson has trusted Mickey Raphael to blow the harmonica for him.

In fact, Mickey Raphael’s association with Nelson dates to the early 1970s.

“I’m a fan of his, so it’s just a real pleasure and privilege to play with him,” said Raphael, a Texas native. “He’s a great guitar player.”

Raphael, 63, once again joins the famous singer-songwriter at 8 p.m. Friday in The Venue at Horseshoe Casino, Hammond.

The Willie Nelson concert will, of course, feature the type of honky-tonk, outlaw genre Nelson’s fans have come to expect.

“Willie always opens up the show with ‘Whiskey River,'” said Raphael, who now calls Nashville, Tenn., home.

At Raphael’s disposal on the road are a substantial number of harmonicas in different keys.

“They’re tuned in a particular key; you have to be prepared to play in any key,” Raphael said in a recent phone interview. “There’s 12 keys in music.”

Heavily influenced by blues great Paul Butterfield, the harp player has provided stable musical support for the artist responsible for “On the Road Again” and “Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain.”

According to Raphael’s website biography, he first hooked up with Nelson 42 years ago at an informal jam session at a Dallas hotel that included country music standout Charley Pride.

Raphael has gone on to play harmonica for notable artists including Neil Young, U2 and Emmy Lou Harris.

He dished onstage notes for pop music titan Paul Simon in Nashville. And that’s Raphael wailing on the harmonica for “Smokin’ in the Boys Room” — a 1985 hit for Motley Crue.

He also was a guest artist on Elton John’s 1981 album, “The Fox.”

In 1988, Raphael issued his first solo project, “Hand to Mouth” — an album with a variety of instrumental tracks.

He has fashioned a long, solid career with an unassuming and oh-so portable instrument that is tricky to master, but — at the same time — ranks as an accessible music maker for the everyman.

“It’s such a personal instrument,” Raphael said. “It’s a very soulful instrument. You can really get mournful. It’s controlled by your breathing. You’re breathing into this thing. It becomes an extension of your body. It shows a lot of expression.”

Raphael humorously recalled the time when he tried to shift gears a bit by introducing his accordion talents to Nelson’s band, but diplomatically was rebuffed by his boss.

Raphael said he works for a “very generous” guy.

Willie Nelson
Where: The Venue at Horseshoe Casino
777 Casino Center Drive, Hammond
When: 8 p.m. Friday
Tickets: $54 and $79; must be at least 21 years old to attend
Information: 219-473-7000 or