Paul Oscher is best known for his harmonica work in the Muddy Waters band during the late 60's and early 70's. What many people don't know is that Oscher also plays a great blues guitar and piano. Born in New York, Oscher first met Muddy Waters at the Apollo Theater in 1965 and two years later began playing in Water's band. Oscher was the first white guy to play as a regular member of Waters' band, serving in similar company as a number of great harp players including, Little Walter Jacobs, James Cotton, Junior Wells, Mojo Buford and Big Walter Horton.
After having spent most of his musical history playing as a member of a band (and some great ones), Oscher began performing as a solo act in May of 2001 when he lost his band and was scheduled to perform at an upcoming blues festival. After some careful thought and support from those around him, Oscher was convinced that he should play the date as a solo. As he puts it, "Two bus rides and one performance later, I knew I had found the perfect band." This was something he joked about several times during the second night of his two night show at The BamBoo Room in Lake Worth, Florida, questioning the drummer (his feet) how well "he" got along with the guitarist, piano player, harp player and singer (his hands and voice). Needless to say, everyone gets along famously, without any complaints.
Paul Oscher's one man show at The BamBoo Room proved that he is much much more than a harp player as he demonstrated through his enormous skills as a guitarist, piano player, singer and songwriter. Opening with a guitar harp version of the Freddie King classic, "Hideaway," Oscher continued to dazzle the ever-growing crowd throughout the evening performing songs that included rural blues, gospel, Muddy Water's covers and original material. Among the highlights of the evening, were Oscher's version of the gospel standard, "Lay My Burden Down," Muddy Water's "Rock Me Baby" (complete with some Muddy-style slide guitar) and "Things I Used To Do." "Things" was performed with Oscher accompanying himself on the largest bass harmonica that I have ever seen. It was VERY cool! Oscher said he bought the harp in 1968 for $17 and he has never seen another one. My favorite time during the evening was when Oscher performed the song "Sugar Mama." During the song Paul played two separate harps, alternating between a regular harp played through a section of PCV pipe which served as a wah-wah and a mute, along with a larger chromatic harp. It was the best (and the only to date) one man harp duet that I have ever seen!
When Oscher moved to the piano (an old upright model), it was like stepping into a 40's juke joint or a speakeasy during prohibition. On songs like "Bye Bye Baby" and "Blues Before Sunrise," Oscher really got the audience going in a big way. The transitions between instruments was fabulous and the stories of his experiences and knowledge of blues history was tremendous.
I always look forward to my visits to The BamBoo Room and I have never been disappointed at the quality and variety of the performers who appear there. After looking forward to seeing Paul Oscher for over a month, I was definitely impressed by his tremendous show. If you ever get an opportunity to see Paul Oscher perform live, don't miss it. You won't forget it. Finally, check out The BamBoo Room website at www.bamboorm.com for their show schedule and be sure to visit if you are ever in South Florida.
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