In 1969, I saw Eric Burdon and WAR at the Sacramento Memorial Auditorium. It was a year before I had started playing harp and I was fourteen. During their awesome show, the whole band left the stage except for Lee Oskar. He proceeded to blow a 20-minute harp solo!


War – Lee is seated on the left.

I had no idea what this cat was doing. I remember thinking, “Is this guy trying to pull his face off?”

Fast forward 12 years to April 1981 and I’m in Tokyo on my first Rod Stewart Group tour.

Just like WAR did with Lee, Rod and the rest of the group would leave the stage except for me. For the next three years, Rod would hand over the stage and crowd to me to blow harp and show off in 20,000-seat arenas to 350,000 at the first Rock In Rio in 1985. I’ve been asked what it’s like and all I could come up with was it’s… “Intoxicating”.

[check out the video]

While in Tokyo, I’m tagging along with the guitar players to a music store where they’re all getting free guitars from Aria Guitars. I’m thinking man I want something free but I don’t play guitar.

Right then in a glass display case, I spot a Tombo harmonica. Through the interpreter, I arrange a meeting in my hotel room with the president of Tombo and his son. Both are about 70 and 40 years old respectively. We work out a deal where I get Tombo harps for life for free. Not bad, eh?

They sent a huge box with at least 4 to 5 hundred harps!! I’m still playing some and have more that have never been played!!!

Well, a few years later I got a call from Lee Oskar. I’m stoked. He introduces himself and I tell him I’m a huge fan.

He proceeds to tell me he’s made a deal with Tombo and they will now be called Lee Oskar Harmonicas and he’s looking over my contract and says he doesn’t like it. I say well I like it just fine. The vibe has gotten chilly in a heartbeat.

We eventually worked things out and became good friends. One time in 1984 right before I was going out on another world tour with Rod and Jeff Beck, Lee came to my W. Hollywood apt and went through all my harps cleaning and tuning them up, scolding me as he went along on my shoddy harmonica upkeep. And I’m tripping as I’m thinking the legendary Lee Oskar is in my pad cleaning my fucking harps!!!

True story.

[The large image is Lee & me at the NAMM show, 2019]

1 comment

Got my first Lee Oskar back in about 1994 and remember the insert featured your goodself. I have played LOs and also followed your exploits since that time…all the best Jimmy..Pete in England

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