Elvis Presley was the "King of Rock and Roll." Michael Jackson was the "King of Pop." For all intents and purposes, Jimi Hendrix was the "King of Guitar." But who is the "King of Harmonica?" Without a doubt, in my book, the King of Harmonica is Jean "Toots" Thielemans.
Toots Thielemans (1922—)
Born in Brussels, Belgium in 1922, Jean "Toots" Thielemans' standing as the "King of the Harmonica" is almost beyond question. No other player has elevated the harmonica from something used to simply augment a song to a lead instrument of such indescribable beauty. Thielemans is also a virtuoso whistler, if there ever was one.
Surprisingly, Toots Thielemans began his professional career as a guitar player—and what a guitar player he is. We're not talking about somebody who noodled around in local clubs. We're talking about an accomplished guitarist who graced the stages with Charlie Parker and the Bennie Goodman Sextet and worked with such legends as Miles Davis!
In 1961, Toots added whistling to the guitar playing and scored a big worldwide hit with his own composition called "Bluesette." Very impressive!
"Bluesette" by Toots Thielemans
Try doing that in the shower! But we were supposed to talk about harmonica, weren't we? Oh yeah, briliant harmonica player—If not the King, then the Don. If not the Don, then the Chief. If not the Chief, then the number one main man. Whichever way you want to put it, Toots Thielemans is amazing. Here's one of my favorite records of his. I think you will love this. It has the power to instantly put you in a good mood.
"Man Bites Harmonica" by Jean Thielemans
But Thielmans doesn't just appear on jazz records. He's played with pop artists like Paul Simon and Billy Joel, but chances are many of you will know him from this: