How I got the name Choo Choo Charlie?
Opened for: singer/harmonicist Kim Wilson (Fabulous Thunderbirds), rock guitarist Rick Derringer, blues legend Clarence `Gatemouth' Brown, Ronnie Earl and the Broadcasters with Jerry Portnoy, Duke Robiliard, and Saffire - the Uppity Blues Women and for Handy Award winners John Cephas and Harmonica Phil Wiggins, Big Jack Johnson and the Jelly Roll Kings, Louisiana Red and Carey Bell and for the legendary zydeco performer Boo Zoo Chavis.
Sitting in with guitar legend Magic Slim and the Teardrops and singer Casey Jones in Chicago, with guitarist Sonny Rhodes, with Eddie Shaw and the Wolf Gang, with Michael Hill and the New York Blues Mob, with Mark Wenner and the Nighthawks, with zydeco great Roy Carrier. In Clarksdale, Mississippi with Big George Brock (harp), Bobby Little (drums) and Johnny Billington (guitar). With bluesharp masters Carey Bell, Phil Wiggins, Charlie Sayles and Mark Hummel. With Archie Edwards and Ann Rabson. In Brittish Columbia with jam master John Cronin and also with the Incognito band. Ottawa with Canada's CBC folksinger and songwriter Wayne Rostadt. Down on Beale Street in Memphis with pal and guitarist Red Jones and with singer Liz Briones and the Spitfires. In Molsheim (France) Country Music Festival and on French International Radio broadcasts, Stuttgart (Germany) Volksfest with Kentucky Carl and the Kentucky Band, Gettysburg, Shade Gap, Hershey and Supergrass 1980 bluegrass festivals with Still on the Hill, at the Deer Creek Fiddlers Convention the Crabgrass. From the streets of Vienna to the high Alps of Chamonix, France. From Handy Square in Memphis to clubs in Chicago. From the Spanish Ballroom in Glen Echo, Md to Maryland Musician All-Star jams. From Margaritaville in Key West to Sushi Blues in Kuwai. At Buddy Guys Legends in Chicago, Panida Theater in Sandpoint, Idaho, State Theater in VA, Recher Theater, Café Tattoo, Full Moon and 8 by 10 in Baltimore, Yale Hotel in Vancouver, Déjà Vu in Montreal, Panorama Ski Lodge in B.C. and Bally’s Casino and Double Down Saloon in Las Vegas, Mummers Museum in Philadelphia, Havana’s in New Hope, PA, Tobacco Road in Miami, and many many others. I could go on but .................
I really try to support many local and national causes to support our Military and Veterans, World Hunger and Food Banks, Animal Welfare, efforts to defeat Mental Illness and Alcoholism and Drug Addiction, Cancer, ALS and Alzheimers, LGBT rights, Fair Wages, Voting Rights, NAACP, Hospice Care and Health Care for all.
First of all, had I not flunked out of the University of Delaware and ended up meeting friend Greg at another college to stay out of the Vietnam era draft (now Widener University) I would have never tried the harmonica, nor would I be writing this. Looking back, it is funny how certain events in one's life can change the whole course of your life, my future career, great friends, and meeting my wonderful wife. Yes folks, good things can come out of difficult times. I have been blessed by the grace of the God of my understanding. .
In the beginning, I started playing my great Uncle Elmer's Conn Cornet (circa 1907) in the 6th grade after hearing my sister's old boyfriend Pete play it - he played in the Duke University jazz band. I played trumpet (a Getzen) and sousaphone in the high school band - mostly trumpet. I play second trumpet in a German band with a some college guys for several summers around eastern Pennsylvania. Got paid to play, drank beer, and many girls to flirt with. Was a lot of fun. Also played trumpet a little in the Army at Fort Sam Houston, Texas while in AIT in the Army.
At age 19 a friend in college (Greg) let me try his harmonica which he gave to me as I could play it almost immediately and he could not. My first song was a primitive version of the Mickey Mouse theme song. I was hooked and started jamming with guitar friends (Ren) and sitting in with people playing mostly blues and rock and roll. Seeing many old blues players at the nearby Philadelphia Folk Festival and Paul Butterfield Blues Band at the Lambertville, NJ Music Circus in concert got me really hooked. Later at Pa State University, I met my best friend in college and my best man Mark Sherman - see photo. Mark was learning banjo and I started learning bluegrass, newgrass and other old timey music with him - note for note. If not for Mark I would not have had any interest in bluegrass music or the opportunity to play in a bluegrass band (Still on the Hill and American Standard bands) at various bluegrass festivals (Gettysburg, Halifax Supergrass, etc. Sadly Banjo Mark has gone to bluegrass heaven. Miss my pal.
So now 45 plus years later, I write this story while I can still remember it.