Bluesdays-bound Mark Hummel packs a mean harmonica
At 62, bluesman Mark Hummel isn’t going to drive across the country this summer, but that doesn’t mean he’s slowing down.
The harmonica player, who has three bands, recently put together a Summer Folk Blues Series, had studio sessions with 80-year-old blues great Joe Beard and is about to release his own new album. On Tuesday, he will make his seventh-straight appearance at Bluesdays in The Village at Squaw Valley, fronting Mark Hummel’s Golden State Lone Star Revue.
“It’s a lot of fun,” Hummel told Tahoe Onstage. “We usually get a lot of fans from Reno and I have some friends show up who live in Tahoe City. It’s always a good time to catch up with fans of ours.”
As the name indicates, the band is comprised of players from California and Texas: bassist R.W. Grigsby, drummer Wes Starr and guitarists Mike Keller and Rusty Zinn, who will fill in for Anson Funderburgh as he recovers from a back injury.
“It’s a great band,” Hummel said. “If you’re gonna have a sub for Anson, Rusty’s the man. Anson’s on the mend. He’s going to be playing any day now. But I didn’t want to get myself in a pickle in case the recuperation took longer.”
Hummel stands out among his public high school’s alumni who became professional musicians. That’s because he plays harp. The rest are guitarists. Around the time Hummel was a student, Mark Keppel High School had an enrollment that included Mike Albert (who played in Megadeth), Bob Robles (Tremoloco), Bob, Steve and Joey Delgado (Delgado Brothers) and Carlos De La Paz (3D Blues Band).
“Nobody else played harmonica,” Hummel said. “I took to it real strongly. I got real serious about it right away. I always had one with me and it became a passion.”
The first three concerts Hummel attended as a young man were Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee, James Cotton and Charlie Musselwhite. A few years later, he moved to the Bay Area, a blues hotbed where he played upon the same stages as the blues legends.
“In L.A., when people found out I played harp, they would say, ‘You must know some War or J. Geils.’ In the Bay Area, they’d say, ‘Jimmy Reed, James Cotton and Muddy Waters.’ That impressed me.”
Hummel’s home base is Castro Valley, but he’s spent more than 40 years on the road, logging nearly 2 million miles. He and driving partner Grigsby, will spend less time on the highway this summer, but still will have a pair of tours in Europe.
In September, Hummel will release an all instrumental album, “Harp Breaker.” Early copies will be available at Bluesdays. The record includes a combination of tracks that have never been released. There are a couple of acoustic blues songs with Rusty Zinn on guitar, three jazzy tunes and two from concerts held in Toronto and San Francisco.
Hummel’s Folk Blues Festival series included his band the Basement Shakers, which showcased venerable guest artists Joe Beard, Guy Davis and 91-year-old Barbara Dane, who recorded with Louis Armstrong, Jack Teagarden, Memphis Slim and Lonnie Johnson.
The shows were held in Folsom and Berkeley.
“We played songs by Big Bill Broonzy, Jazz Gillum, Tampa Red, Big Maceo and Sonny Boy (Williamson) I. It’s a fun diversion to get into old-timey blues from the ‘30s and ‘40s. I just recorded with Joe Beard at Kid Andersen’s (Greaseland) Studio. I need to do different things with different musicians. I don’t want to get bored.”
– Tim Parsons
BluesdaysThe Village at Squaw Valley6 to 8:30 p.m. Tuesdays
June 26: Mark Hummel’s Golden State Lone Star Revue
July 3: Curtis Salgado
July 10: Debbie Davies
July 17: Ron Artis II & The Truth
July 24: Albert Castiglia
July 31: Joe Louis Walker
Aug. 7: Kenny Neal
Aug. 14: Chris Cain
Aug. 21: Terry Hanck
Aug. 28: Coco Montoya
Sept. 4: Cedric Burnside Project
ABOUT Tim Parsons
Tim Parsons is the editor of Tahoe Onstage who first moved to Lake Tahoe in 1992. Before starting Tahoe Onstage in 2013, he worked for 29 years at newspapers, including the Tahoe Daily Tribune, Eureka Times-Standard and Contra Costa Times. He was the recipient of the 2011 Keeping the Blues Alive award for Journalism.