Harmonica -- Fiddle Style -- CARA COOKE
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Howdy! My name is Cara Cooke. I am a fiddle-style harmonica player living in Austin, Texas. (While I play other styles of harmonica as well, I specialize in a single note fiddle-style harmonica.)
Bluegrass harmonica workshop at Old Settler's Music Festival 2001

Harmonica workshop at the Old Settlers Music Festival, Dripping Springs, Tx. (April 2001) --photo by Jim Dirden. The band backing me is the High Stakes Rollers (Austin, Tx.).

I play a great deal of bluegrass music, but I also play some jazz, blues, country, Irish, classical, etc., as well. To me, my harmonica is essentially a fiddle with reeds, instead of strings and a bow.

I have been playing fiddle-style harmonica for 28 years or so and am interested in sharing information with other players with similar interests. I am a member of the International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA), the Central Texas Bluegrass Association (CTBA), the Bay Area Bluegrass Association (BABA), Austin Friends of Traditional Music, the Austin Chapter of the Harmonica Organization of Texas (HOOT), and the Society for the Preservation and Advancement of the Harmonica (SPAH). I am one of the songwriters of American Heritage, and I currently play for RedEye, Manchaca All-stars, the Blazing Bows, and K. R. Wood. I also occasionally play for the Ledbetters, the High Stakes Rollers, Wyldwood, Bluegrass Dot Com (also known as "Shawn Spiars and friends") and anyone else who desires my harmonica talents, my vocal harmony talents, my talents with the upright bass, or who needs a mandolin player or a guitar player.

If you wish to contact me, e-mail me at harmonica@mailcity.com.


Recently Released Recordings!!:

The Crockett Chronicles:

K. R. Wood has released his newest edition of the "Father's of Texas" CD series, the "Crockett Chronicles".  We all know the legendary story of Davy Crockett and the fight at the Alamo, but  K. R. Wood brings the story to life with narrations from the writings and stories of the various people there and music (which sets the story in the heart).  Through favorite songs, like the "Ballad of Davy Crockett" and the "Green Leaves of Summer", a variety of original songs K. R. wrote especially for this project (based upon his research), and a variety of period fiddle tunes in honor of Davy Crockett, the fiddler, K. R. weaves this tale of Texas through the mind.  From start to finish, the CD plays like a movie in the mind.  And for those who are interested in learning what "fiddle-style harmonica" can sound like, we paired my harmonica with the expert fiddling of "Sweet" Mary Hattersley in a rough jam situation somewhat reminiscent of the music that actually was played at the Alamo until the Mexicans breached the walls.  So, get the CD, and listen to Crockett and McGregor play their fiddle and bagpipes at the Alamo and tell you the story that set Texas on its way to independence.  (K. R. 's CD can be ordered at www.texannarecords.com.)

Jim Strickland's new gospel CD:

Jim Strickland has released his new gospel album to his anxious and appreciative audience.  They have been chomping at the bit for this release of his original gospels and are finally sated.  If you want to see what everyone is all up about, order his CD at www.frontroommusic.com.  Keep tabs on Jim.  He is getting ready to release another CD sometime this year.

Central Texas Bluegrass Association band sampler CD:

The Central Texas Bluegrass Association is proud to present their CD sampling some of their finest bands.  This long awaited CD has top-knotch bluegrass music from deep within the heart of Texas.  Both economical and special, this CD boasts 28 tunes (both original and traditional) from 14 bands and only costs $10.  (The association is using this CD as a fund raiser.)  If you would like to hear central Texas' finest bluegrass, order your CD at www.centraltexasbluegrass.org/cdproject.html.


HOOT'n in Houston!:

If you are a harmonica player in the Houston area (Tx.), then this may be the club for you!

The Houston Chapter of HOOT meets every 3rd Wednesday at 7:30pm. in Room E252 East, Tomball Community College (30555 Tomball Parkway, Tomball, Tx.). For more information, check out the Houston chapter of HOOT at www.hoottexas.com or contact Gary Johnson.

HOOT'n in Austin:

If you are a harmonica player in the Austin area (Tx.), then you ought to drop by a meeting and say "Hello" -- maybe even give us thought or two or a tune off of your harp. (Each meeting ends with a little show-and-tell jam.) Our meetings include club business and discussions, but often also include a workshop or lesson of some sort.  We are a small group, but we are talented and growing. We typically meet at the Dougherty Arts Center, 1110 Barton Springs Road, in the main auditorium on the 2nd Monday of the month. To check the next meeting date, go to www.hoottexas.com - Austin chapter - meetings or email Tom Stevens.

Recording! click here to hear a music sample

The High Stakes Rollers, a skilled and talented bluegrass variety group based in Austin, Tx., have produced a CD of their live performances. On that CD, I am honored with an appearance playing harmonica on the swing/bluegrass tune "Little Rock Getaway". To get your own CD for $10, email Cara Cooke or Eddie Collins. 

More information and materials are available from Eddie Collins at http://www.eddiecollins.biz.

Bluegrass Harmonica Workshop:

The Old Settlers Music Festival (Salt Lick Pavillion, Austin, Tx.), is getting ready for the next festival (April 17-20, 2003).  For the last 3 years I have given a bluegrass harmonica workshop at this festival that has been very well received.  If you are interested in bluegrass harmonica, then put this festival on your schedule. 

The festival line-up every year is exceptional. Plenty of bluegrass. Plenty of other stuff.   Last year they included a young musicians contest. They have four simultaneous stages to keep you busy all day long and through most of the night. Check out www.oldsettlersmusicfest.org for more information.

Harmonica Workshops:

The Austin Friends of Traditional Music have asked me to lead a harmonica workshop for their annual festival at the Dougherty Arts Center (1110 Barton Springs Road, Austin, Texas) on Saturday, Feb. 1st, 2003 (5pm.)  The festival begins at noon with a show from the great Scottish singer/songwriter Ed Miller, and just gets better from there with shows from the Double Eagle String Band, the Grazzmatics, the Slim Richey Dream Band, ...   There will be music and various dance and instrument workshops from noon until midnight.  Come visit!

The South Texas Music Festival has also asked me to lead their harmonica workshop for their annual festival in Mercedes, Texas (near the Mexican border).  This festival is a great music festival with a wide variety of acts (national and local) and a wide variety of contests -- including the Texas International Harmonica Contest (the only harmonica contest I've found in Texas so far).  This festival is frequented by musicians from all over the country (not just from Texas), many of whom are the best exports their part of the country may have to offer.  Come down and join us!

[The workshops and contest are currently scheduled for Friday, Feb. 21st, 2003.]

Harmonica Legends

Visit the webpage of harmonica legend, Lonnie Glosson. Known as the "talkin' harmonica man", he fascinated audiences with his harmonica from the stage and over the radio until the age of 92 (a testament to the healthful benefits of playing the harmonica and of playing music in general). From the 1920's to the 1950's he traveled the country playing the harmonica in shows and on the radio, including a bit on WLS Radio (Chicago) and the Grand Ol' Opry. He even found himself on the television show "Hee Haw" in the 1970's. With his harmonica playing partner, Wayne Raney, he wrote the song, "Why Don't You Haul Off and Love Me." Lonnie's composition "Matthew 24" has been recorded by both Kitty Wells and George Jones.

Recordings of Lonnie's music, and the music of harmonica legends Deford Bailey and Wayne Raney, can be obtained from Lonnie's website at www.lonnieglosson.com for a very reasonable price. Many of these recordings are rare and are a must have for any avid bluegrass/country blues harmonica player. Add some to your collection!

Camp Bluegrass & Swing Camp is gearing up for 2003

Camp Bluegrass & Swing Camp 2003 is scheduled for the week of July 21 through July 25, 2003, and
will be held on the South Plains College campus, 1401 College Ave. Levelland, Texas 79336.  Camp Bluegrass' faculty this year will include Bill Keith, Alan Munde, Wayne Shrubsall, Gerald Jones, Roland White, Steve Smith, Adam Granger, Dix Bruce, Jim Nunally, Dede Wyland, Ed Marsh, Joe Carr, Dale Morris, Bill Bryson [bass teacher extraordinaire], Tim McCasland.  It was a blast last year, and we learned a lot.  Swing Camp (with Slim Richey) was also a blast last year and will be again this year.

With instruction, room, and board totaling less than $500, you can take an economical vacation for a week and learn about your favorite music or instrument at the same time! These camps are worth the trip! Try them out!

Note: While bluegrass harmonica is not one of the "official" study topics offered at Camp Bluegrass, I expect to be there again this year and I always like to meet and trade information with fellow harmonica players when I find them -- and there usually are a couple. If you want to ask them to include harmonica in their week of instruction, email them. An email address is provided for just such things on their website. They always encourage and listen to ideas, suggestions, requests, and feedback.

Catch the Manchaca AllStars...

The Manchaca AllStars are at their home venue (the Manchaca Firehall) every 2nd Friday of the month: 7:30 pm.-10:30 pm. (when the cows go home). We take requests - especially if they are for a harmonica tune!
[Manchaca, Tx. just south of Austin -- FM 1626, just west of where Manchaca Rd. dead-ends. We are in the pavillion beside the fire station.  The fire station itself houses a restaurant with down-home cuisine and serves as a community center for Manchaca.]

Also catch the Manchaca AllStars on the CTBA band sampler currently available from the Central Texas Bluegrass Association.  And keep your eyes peeled for the expected release of the new Manchaca AllStar Live CD -- due to be released sometime this year.  After 20 years of playing together, we finally decided to take a chance and record ourselves!


The Central Texas Bluegrass Association (CTBA) hosts a jam every Sunday afternoon at Artz Ribhouse beginning at 2pm. in afternoon and going on until the jammers quit, weather invades, or the world comes to an end. Indoor jamming is from 2pm. to 5pm. (The jammers then need to clear out of the way for the evening's band to get started at 6pm.)

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