You might be a fan of harmonica players who are skilled in the rock and roll genre! If so, reading this list of the best rock and roll harmonica players will be more than a gem to you. Fortunately, picking the best harmonica players in the rock genre is limited to a select few.
But still, it took work to choose among the successful ones and include the ten best harmonica players in the rock and roll genre.
But before going any far to the best rock and roll harmonica players, here are a few things about the harmonica.
A harmonica is a small musical instrument made of metal. It is also known as a French harp or mouth organ Since the mouth requires a direct connection to the instrument’s hole for airflow. The harmonica is used worldwide in the music industry in blues, American folk music, classical music, jazz, country, and rock music genres.
Although the harmonica is one of the most used instruments in the music industry for producing mind-attracting music, playing it requires extreme control over breath and mouth. Only those who have mastery over this instrument can create a mind-touching musical vibe playing the harmonica in the rock and roll genre.
List Of 10 Of The Best Rock And Roll Harmonica Players
Playing harmonica requires years of skill and talent. Based on their talent and accomplishments, we have picked some of the best harmonica instrumentalists. All of them have mastership over the rock and roll genre and gave some of the most memorable music in record-breaking albums.
|Harmonica Players||Music Genre|
|#10 Richard Salwitz||Hard Rock, Chicago Blues, Jazz|
|#09 John Popper||Blues-Rock, Alternative Rock, Jam Band|
|#08 Roger Daltrey||Rock, Art Rock, Hard Rock, Soft Rock, Power Pop|
|#07 James Cotton||Blues, Chicago Blues, Delta Blues, Electric Blues, Jazz, Memphis Blues, Rock|
|#06 Chester Arthur Burnett||Chicago Blues, Rhythm and Blues, Electric Blues, Rock and Roll|
|#5 Lee Oskar||Rock, Funk, Blues, Jazz|
|#04 Huey Lewis||Pop Rock, Synthpop, Rock and Roll, Blue-Eyed Soul|
|#03 Jason Ricci||Vocals, Harmonica|
|#02 Robert Plant||Rock, Blue, Folk, Country, Hard Rock, Heavy Metal|
|#01 Peter Green||Blues-Rock, Blues, Rock, Jazz Fusion, Psychedelia|
#10 Richard Salwitz
Born: 13 May 1945, New London, Connecticut, USA.
Music Genre: Hard Rock, Chicago Blues, Jazz
Band: The J. Geils Band
Active: 1968 – Present
Skilled-in: Harmonica, Trumpet, Saxophone
Richard Salwitz, also known as Magic Dick, is one of the best-known harmonica players in the Hard Rock, Chicago blues, and jazz genres. Born in New London, Connecticut, Richard is an American musician who gained popularity by playing his magic for the J. Geils Band.
Salwitz’s harmonica playing in the rock genre became one of the distinctive elements of the J. Geils Band. His notable performance on “Whammer Jammer,” his first live performance of the band, became particularly noteworthy. His harmonica playing style and charisma impressed music critic Dave Marsh who described him as one of the best white musicians ever to play blues harmonica. He got the title “Magic Dick” for some of his most memorable performances.
In 1992, Richard reunited with his mates and J. Geils to form the band Bluestime. They had Steve Ramsey as the drummer, Jerry Miller as the guitarist, and Roy McCloud on bass for the band. Although Roy McCloud was later replaced by Michael “Mudcat” Ward, who performed for multiple years for the band. But it doesn’t change the fact that he is one of the best blues harmonica players.
#09 John Popper
Born: 29 March 1967 in Chardon, Ohio, US.
Music Genre: Blues-Rock, Alternative Rock, Jam Band
Band: Blues Traveler, The John Popper Project
Active: 1987 – Present
Skilled-in: Vocals, Harmonica, Guitar
From Chardon, Ohio, John Popper is a musician, songwriter, and promoter who started to play Vocals, Harmonica, and Guitar in 1987. Unlike other harmonica players, John Popper is not that much loved by most blues harmonica players. But that doesn’t stop him from inventing a new musical style and redefining the preface of the harmonica in 90’s Rock.
John is one of the founding members of the Blues Traveler Band and one of the best living harmonica players. He serves as the band’s frontman and leads vocals and harmonics. John composed most of the songs and music for Blues Traveler. The band came to mainstream pop/rock radio with their 1994 album “Four,” which gained the group extensive media exposure.
The fourth studio album, “Fourth,” featured the song “Run-Around,” which earned the band the Grammy Award for Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal in 1996. Recently in 2021, “Traveler’s Blues” by “Blues Traveler” was nominated by the Recording Academy for “Best Traditional Blues Album” at the 64th Annual Grammy Awards.
#08 Roger Daltrey
Born: 1 Mar 1944 at London, England
Music Genre: Rock, Art Rock, Hard Rock, Soft Rock, Power Pop
Band: The Who
Active: 1959 – Present
Skilled-in: Vocals, Guitar, Harmonica
From London, England, Roger Harry Daltrey is an English singer, musician, actor and co-founder of the rock band The Who. In his professional music career, Roger had given many hit songs along with his band, The Who. It is one of the most influential rock bands of the 20th century that has 100+ million record sales globally.
Roger has used the harmonica of Hohner and Lee Oskar brands in his music. He is believed to be one of the few to bring harmonica into popular music.
Roger became successful in his music career with the help of his band, The Who. Despite being the band’s leader, Roger was once kicked out by his crew for forceful and violent behavior toward his fellow members. Later, he got the opportunity to rejoin the band and publish some of the most successful songs and albums, such as:
- Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere (1965)
- My Generation (1965)
- Pinball Wizard (1969)
- Won’t Get Fooled Again (1971)
Besides working with the band The Who, Roger used his time to publish eight solo studio albums. Following his music career, he received many awards in multiple genres and categories.
#07 James Cotton
Born: 1 Jul 1935, Tunica, Mississippi, US.
Music Genre: Blues, Chicago Blues, Delta Blues, Electric Blues, Jazz, Memphis Blues, Rock
Band: Howlin’ Wolf’s Band, Muddy Waters Band
Active: 1953 – Present
Skilled-in: Vocals, Harmonica, Drums
The 81 years old James Henry Cotton was one of the most dedicated American blues harmonica players, singers and songwriters. At an early age, James started his career playing the drums, then shifted to multiple instruments, including harmonica, to become one of the best musicians. In his professional career, James has been a member of various Bands and shared his harmonica skills in composing many outstanding albums.
Since hearing Sonny Boy Williamson II via radio, James Cotton got deeply attached to music. James later shifted to West Helena, Arkansas and was mentored by Williamson II. In the early stage of James Cotton’s music career, he was handed Williamson’s band, which he couldn’t hold together.
But later, James continued his professional music career playing the blues harp in Howlin’ Wolf’s Band in the 1950s. Nearly after three years in 1953, he got to publish his first recording for Sun Records in Memphis as an individual artist.
Twelve years later, in 1965, James formed Jimmy Cotton Blues Quartet, with Otis Spann on piano for a Gigs Record with Waters’s band. James had recorded multiple albums for Buddah Records. He also played harmonica on the album “Hard Again” which won the 1977’s Grammy Award.
In 2006 James Cotton was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame and died on 16 March 2017 at 81.
#06 Chester Arthur Burnett
Born: 10 Jun 1910 White Station, Mississippi, US.
Music Genre: Chicago Blues, Rhythm and Blues, Electric Blues, Rock and Roll
Band: Howlin’ Wolf’s Band
Active: 1930s – 1976
Skilled-in: Vocals, Guitar, Harmonica
Chester Arthur Burnett, also known as Howlin’ Wolf, was among the most influential blues musicians. He had one of the most successful Music careers and received the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame honour for his outstanding performances.He is a great rock and roll harmonica players of all time.
Arthur started his musical career in the 1930s after meeting Charley Patton and hearing his playing. He was influenced by many popular blues performers of the time and moved to Parkin, Arkansas, in 1933. There he learned playing from Sonny Boy Williamson II.
From the 1930s to the 1950s, Arthur was in the starting stage of his music career. Later from the 1960s to 1970s, Arthur released many albums and had European tours. In 1973, The Back Door Wolf was notable for being the last album of Arthur’s career.
Two years later, in November 1975, Arthur gave his final public performance at the International Amphitheatre, Chicago, receiving a 5-minute standing ovation for his unforgettable performance.
#5 Lee Oskar
Born: 24 March 1948.
Music Genre: Rock, Funk, Blues, Jazz
Active: 1966 – Present
Lee Oskar Levitin is a Danish harmonica player mostly known for contributing to the American funk/rock/soul band “War.” Howard E. Scott and Harold Brown established the group. Besides harmonica Lee has played Instrumental solo pieces and is notable for some of his best plays.
After working with the band War, Lee continues to work with some of the band’s original members: Harold Brown, Howard Scott and B.B. Dickerson. They performed under the name LowRider Band and continued their journey.
Oskar’s work in the band War has given him many names and titles and included him among the best rock-blues-soul harmonica players. In 1983, Lee started his own manufacturing company, “Lee Oskar Harmonica,” to produce high-quality harmonicas.
#04 Huey Lewis
Born: 5 July 1950 in New York City, New York, USA.
Music Genre: Pop Rock, Synthpop, Rock and Roll, Blue-Eyed Soul
Band: Huey Lewis and the News
Active: 1967 – Present
Hugh Anthony Cregg III is an American singer, songwriter, and actor who plays the harmonica in Pop rock, synthpop, Rock and roll, and blue-eyed soul genre for his band. Huey’s band is most likely known for its third album, which was released in 1983, the Sports.
Lewis, along with his band, contributed to the soundtrack of the highest-grossing film of 1985 worldwide, Back to the future.
Huey Lewis joined the Bay Area band Clover, in 1971, took the name “Hughie Louis“, played the harmonica and sang lead vocals for the time. In 1976, the band got a huge break when they got noticed by the English musician Nick Lowe.
In 1978, Lewis played the harmonica for the Irish hard rock band, Thin Lizzy under the name “Bluesy Huey Lewis“. Continuing his music career, Lewis had many breakthroughs and successes over time.
Huey had a show at the 2007’s California State Fair, where he got the name Sacramento’s Musician of the Year and received a gold statue of the California state bear.
#03 Jason Ricci
Born: 3 Feb 1974 in Portland, Maine, USA
Music Genre: Blues, Rock
Band: Jason Ricci, The Bad Kind, etc.
Active: 1967 – Present
Skilled-in: Vocals, Harmonica
Born in 1974, Jason Ricci is a 48 years old American harmonica player and singer better known as one of the best harmonica players. He has made several guest appearances as a harmonica player in different bands. Eventually, in his successful career as a harmonica player, he got the opportunity to perform on Grammy-winning 2014 album Step Back.
Jason Ricci started his music career as a vocalist in his early life and later pursued his career as a harmonica player for his band. Receiving good motivation and support from his mother, in the year 1995, moved to Memphis, TN and got first place in the Sonny Boy Blues Society contest.
Soon after, in the same year, Jason came up with his first album, Jason Ricci. Four years later, in 1999, he won the Mars National Harmonica Contest. Since then he started to play with Keith Brown. Later in 2000, Adam Gussow sent Jason a two-page writing saying:
“I am convinced! He, along with New Jersey’s Dennis Gruenling, is one of the best harmonica players of his generation.”
After going through some ups and downs in his professional career as a rock and roll harmonica player, he went on a national tour with the new band Jason Ricci and the Bad Kind in 2015.
Later in 2017, he received the “Bernie Bray Harmonica Player of the Year Award” from the non-profit corporation SPAH in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Recently, in 2018, Jason was among the Best Harmonica Instrumentalist and Rock Blues Artist nominations, ended up winning the Best Harmonica Instrumentalist.
#02 Robert Plant
Born: 20 Aug 1948 in West Bromwich, England.
Music Genre: Rock, Blue, Folk, Country, Hard Rock, Heavy Metal
Band: Led Zeppelin, Band of Joy, The Honeydrippers, Hobbstweedle, Page and Plant, The Strange Sensations
Active: 1965 – Present
Skilled-in: Vocals, Harmonica
Born in West Bromwich, England, Robert Anthony Plant is among the best English singers and songwriters. He is known chiefly for his work as the lead singer and lyricist for Led Zeppelin from 1968 to 1980. In 1995 he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame honor for his outstanding works. Robert Plant is one of the best rock and roll harmonica players.
Robert was deeply influenced by some of the best musicians, such as Johnson, Bukka White, Skip James, Jerry Miller, Sleepy John Estes, etc. In his early career, he had to work in multiple places and had several jobs to pursue his music career.
In 1968, Robert met guitarist Jimmy Page who was in search of a lead singer for his new band. From there, we got to witness the band, Led Zeppelin. Their debut album, which was named the same as the band’s name, was a great success after hitting the charts in 1969.
Robert stayed in the band Led Zeppelin and continued his musical journey until it disbanded in the 80s when the band’s drummer Bonham died. During that time, Robert had already accomplished many successful works and became one of the best talents of his generation.
Having a successful music career with his band Led Zeppelin, Robert in 1981 went to pursue his solo career. Although Robert has collaborated with various other bands and released hit albums, he has never worked as a permanent member of different bands.
In 2008, Rolling Stone, an American monthly magazine, ranked Robert 15th in the top 100 best singers list. Meanwhile, an American music magazine, Hit Parader, titled Robert the “Greatest Metal Vocalist of All Time”.
#01 Peter Green
Born: 1946 in Bethnal Green, London, England.
Died: 25 July 2020.
Music Genre: Blues Rock, Blues, Rock, Jazz Fusion, Psychedelia
Band: Fleetwood Mac
Active: 1961 – 2020
Skilled-in: Guitar, Vocals, Harmonica
Born in a British family, Peter Allen Greenbaum was an outstanding English blues rock singer-songwriter and guitarist. Besides performing as a guitarist, he also played exceptional harmonica in the rock and roll genre. Peter’s work as a instrumentalist and as one of the best musicians brought him the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame honor in 1998.
Peter started his career by playing as a guitarist for the band Bobby Dennis and the Dominoes. Soon after leaving the group and joining the Bluesbreakers, Peter made his recording debut in 1966 with the album “A Hard Road”. In 1967 Peter, with some former partners, founded the British-American Rock band Fleetwood Mac. Peter’s journey with Fleetwood Mac continued till the 70s.
After his journey with his former band Fleetwood Mac, Peter made appearances in festivals such as the Bath Festival of Blues and Progressive Music in June of 1970.
Unfortunately, Peter’s career falls due to his mental disorder, illness, and significant problems. But, he soon re-emergence again in 1979 and continued his professional music career.
A list of the top 10 best rock and roll harmonica players took us deep research and worked to build. It was a handful of work to pick among the best harmonica players in the rock genre. You might be a fan of different musicians than those on this list, creating a possible argument.
Should we have classified the musicians based on their influence and popularity? Feel free to share your favorite best rock and roll harmonica player’s name in the comment.
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