And It Stoned Me…

“If you don’t live it, it ain’t  going to come out of your horn.”  – Louis Armstrong

I love this quote because it reminds me that playing the harmonica gets all tangled up with the rest of my life, and that’s the way it should be. It also means that every time I solve some problem about playing music, somehow it improves the rest of my life.

That’s why I write these letters, to wrestle with questions that mess with my musical adventures.

OK, on with todays questions:

Are you tired of the idea of “following your bliss”? How about “Do what you love and the money will follow”? Do you get the feeling that there is something “off” about these two statements? That they are leaving out some really critical information?

I’ve “followed my bliss” more than once over the edge of a cliff.

For example, some people can use alcohol and drugs strategically and moderately. I am NOT in that category of human. When I “follow my bliss” in this arena, I become Wiley Coyote in a Road Runner cartoon. I’ll chase after the perfect high and just before I get my greedy hands on it, I get blown up, slam into a brick wall painted to look like a highway, or find myself in mid air, about to become a crimson crater roughly one mile directly below my current location….

I was fortunate to find a way out of “following my ignorant bliss” with alcohol and street drugs.  But I have not given up on getting high. That is still one of the main reasons I play the harmonica.  Playing the harmonica can be a great way to get in touch with your “inner dealer”.  It is all about those pure, natural drugs inside your body that you trigger with your thoughts and actions. Thats right my friend, every time you have a good session playing the harmonica, you are also enjoying Mother Nature’s healthy version of stoned…

If you can connect the dots from that good feeling back to the triggers that caused it, you can now follow your bliss instead of your ignorant bliss.

“And it stoned me, to my soul, stoned me just like jelly roll, and it stoned me…”  Van Morrison was singing about a glass of water in this song. He could just as easily been singing about playing music…

Harpe Diem!

PS – If you want to get better at setting up your harmonicas for “high” performance, you can find my crash course in hot rodding harmonicas here:



  1. Harvey Kail

    March 19, 2015 - 10:45 am

    Richard, I am enjoying reading your posts. I do want to share one thought about practice. Rather than think about it as a verb–something I should be doing–I think of it as as a noun, something that I have. Some folks have yoga practices; I have a harmonica practice. It has become a part of my daily life experience. If I don’t play my harp at least once a day, even if only for five or ten minutes, I don’t feel guilty; I feel incomplete, sort of hungry and dissatisfied. One of the great benefits of the harmonica is that you can always have one in your pocket or backpack. I’ve “practiced” harmonica in lots of different places, like those odd, manicured green spaces by airport parking lots (two hour layovers!) or in my car in the parking lot at work. I’m not practicing, I’m living.

    I’ve just signed up for your email list and look forward to the conversation.

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