Mickey Raphael, on Harmonicas!

Mickey Raphael is the newest member of Willie Nelson’s band; he’s only been playing with Willie for some thirty-odd years.  The way Mickey Raphael tells it, U of Texas Football Coach Darrell Royal was responsible for hooking him up with Willie.  According to his website at (www.mickeyraphael.com), Coach Royal was a big country music fan and invited Mickey to a post-game party in a Dallas hotel room one night in 1973, and told him to bring along his harps.  That night, he ended up sitting in on a jam with Willie Nelson and Charlie Pride, who passed a guitar back and forth and took turns playing and singing.  

Mickey says, “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 months before he left Texas again on real tours.”

Mickey picked up and moved from Dallas to Austin, where Willie was, 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 and ride around in a bus.”

I have been to a few Willie Nelson concerts over the years when Mickey has been absent, and you really miss that harmonica!  I guess that’s true when any member of Willie’s band is gone, but there is something about the harmonica, how it weaves around Willie’s guitar playing and fills in the spaces.   It is magic watching and listening to these two artists play their instruments.

Mickey credits blues great Paul Butterfield and rhthym and blues saxophone genious King Curtis as two of his biggest influences.  He says, “Charlie McCoy was the first harmonica player I really listenend to in country music.”

In addition to continually touring with Willie and the family band, Mickey finds time to record with other artists and by himself.  He released his first solo album in 1988, entitled Hand to Mouth,  which was so popular it was re-released in 2000.   Go here to read Mickey’s extensive list of recordings and credits
http://www.allmusic.com/cg/amg.dll?p=amg&sql=11:ym7uak6k5m3n~T4, and visit his web site for lots for information, stories and pictures at www.mickeyrapahel.com

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