It takes work to pick the best living Harmonica players. Frankly speaking, there are few harmonica players to choose from scratch. I hope this list doesn’t cause much argument.
In the list, we added harmonicists with top-level skills and ranked them according to their impact on the music industry.
|1. John Popper||United States||The Grammy Award for Best Rock Performance.|
|2. Kim Wilson||United States||Blues Music Award.|
|3. Stevie Wonder||United States||25 Grammy Awards, one Academy Award.|
|4. Carlos del Junco||Cuba||8 Times Harmonica Player of the Year.|
|5. Jason Ricci||United States||Blues Critic Award (2008)|
|6. Indiara Sfair||Brazil||Yet to receive any major award.|
|7. Dennis Gruenling||United States||Harmonica Player of the Year (2009)|
|8. Howard Levy||United States||Grammy Award for Best Pop Instrumental.|
|9. Richard Salwitz||United States||Boston Music Award.|
|10. Bob Dylan||United States||Nobel Prize in Literature (2016)|
10. Bob Dylan
Bob Dylan is an American singer-songwriter and goes by as one of the all-time best songwriters. He started his journey to become one of the best living Harmonica players after getting one from his uncle Moishe “Bubba” Stone. Besides, he is the first songwriter to receive the Nobel Laureate in Literature award.
Although Bob Dylan was playing for fun initially, he started to gain popularity with his skillful musical tracks. Although some people don’t consider Bob Dylan’s style that much, they don’t hate it either. During his 50-year career, he became one of the most influential musicians of the 20th century, despite not playing the harmonica at a top level.
9. Richard Salwitz
Born in 1945, Richard is an American musician from New London. Salwitz started his journey with a trumpet and saxophone. Richard’s career started with The J. Geils Band, and he soon became an essential band member for his incredible skills.
Eventually, in 1992, Richard formed his own band, Bluestime, with his former bandmate J. Geils and a former friend. With Bluestine, Richard released two records on Rounder Records. Though the band has had a lot of replacements in its members over the years.
However, Richard Saltwitz, with his Harmonica skills and outstanding play, surely deserves a place on the list.
8. Howard Levy
The multi-instrumentalist Levy is from Brooklyn, New York, and has been active since the 1970s. He is mainly known as one of the twentieth century’s most essential and radical harmonica innovators of the 20th century. In 1988, he joined Béla Fleck and the Flecktones. Eventually, winning the Best Pop Instrumental Performance Grammy for “The Sinister Minister” in 1997.
Howard Levy has recorded with many artists, such as Kenny Loggins, John Prine, Ben Sidran, Bob Gibson, Bobby McFerrin, and many more. As leader or co-leader, Levy has worked on 17th and 5 albums with Béla Fleck and the Flecktones and a few others with Rabih Abou-Khalil and Samo Salamon.
7. Dennis Gruenling
Dennis Gruenling started his journey after acquiring his first Harmonica as a Christmas present when he was a teen. He is a well-known American electric blues harmonicist and has released seven albums since 1999. In addition to his own albums, Dennis Gruenling has also contributed to other musicians’ albums.
For years, Dennis was the DJ at the WFDU college radio station. He is often labeled the King of jump blues for his outstanding work and dedication.
6. Indiara Sfair
Indiara Sfair comes from a music-loving family, her father was a blues singer, and her uncle loved to play the piano. From South America, Curitiba, in Brazil, Sfair is one of the best talented Harmonica players of the generation. Her journey began with a little piano, and she grew into one of the generation’s most talented and best female harmonica players.
She was inspired by Eric Clapton and David Gilmour and loved to play incredible tracks. It was in March 2017 when she went to Nashville to participate in jam sessions at blues clubs and became a part of the Milk’n Blues band.
5. Jason Ricci
Jason is also known for being “the Jimi Hendrix of the harmonica” he started his career in 1995 with his first album, “Jason Ricci.” His skills with instruments are top-notch. He has made many guest appearances in albums with Johnny Winter, Terence Blanchard, Nick Curran, Ana Popovic, Walter Trout, Cedric Burnside, The Mannish Boys, Joe Louis Walker, and others.
He got the “Best Harmonica Player” title at the 2010 Blues Music Awards for his skill with the Harmonica. Moreover, Jason has also performed on Johnny Winter’s album.
4. Carlos del Junco
This Cuban-Canadian harmonica player started his journey ever since he was fourteen. Additionally, he plays diatonic Harmonica using Howard Levy’s Overblow technique.
He was part of Buzz Upshaw Band for six years before forming the blues/jazz fusion band, the Delcomos. Carlos has worked with some of the best artists, such as Kevin Breit, Bruce Cockburn, Holly Cole, and Kim Mitchell, and received many Awards and honors. In fact, when comparing, Carlos del Junco’s harmonica is better than Bob Dylan’s.
3. Stevie Wonder
Stevie Wonder is believed to be born with his harmonica skills. He was a talented boy with incredible mastery over instruments. By the age of eleven, he joined Motown Records and debuted with the song “I Call It Pretty Music, But the Old People Call It the Blues.”
The song became popular and was nearly close to reaching Billboard 100. However, 2 years later, when he was 13, Stevie Wonder bested his previous performance with “Fingertips,” which became #1 on the Billboard Hot 100.
Stevie remains the only Harmonica player to win the Album of the Year Grammy for three consecutive successful albums. Some consider him the best Harmonica Player of All Time. However, it’s up to you to decide who’s your all-time best.
2. Kim Wilson
Wilson, also known as “Goleta Slim,” is a living legend from Goleta, California. Kim started his journey in the late 60s, taking lessons from Muddy Waters, Jimmy Rogers, Eddie Taylor, Albert Collins, George “Harmonica” Smith, Luther Tucker, and Pee Wee Crayton.
Kim Wilson was inspired by legends like Little Walter, James Cotton, Big Walter Horton, Slim Harpo, and Lazy Lester. With his outstanding talent and skills, Wilson has been a part of many memorable bands.
He has performed 300 concerts yearly at blues music festivals and clubs worldwide and considers one of the best blues harmonica players. In 2015, Wilson did a guest play on Karen Lovely’s “Ten Miles of Bad Road” album, while in 2016, he won Blues Music Award in the “Instrumentalist – Harmonica” category.
01. John Popper
Blues Traveler’s lead vocalist and frontman, John, is best known for being the band’s founding member and lead vocalist. Besides, he is a famous American musician and songwriter.
In 1990, John Popper started his career by performing in solo concerts while touring with Blues Traveler. Later in 1994, John Popper came to the mainstream with a hit album, Four. However, John Popper and his band Blues Travel became prominent after publishing “Run-Around,” which proved to be the breakthrough hit for the band.
With the addition of John Popper to the #1 list, we’re ending the “best living harmonica players article for good. We randomly picked and specified all the artists on this list. However, we have fitted all the artists based on their influence on the generation and mastery of the Harmonica.