Best Blues Harmonica Players

The Top Ten
1 Paul Butterfield

Even "extraordinary" is an understatement. Part of the magic derives from his playing harp upside-down and backwards. As a result, his tone was fuller and richer than anyone before or since, owing to his oral cavity being in unorthodox juxtaposition vis-a-vis the blow and draw plates. Because he played right-to-left, he came upon licks and created runs never before heard. His wind was superhuman. His vibrato is unmatched to this day. His use of chords was revolutionary, and when he laid vibrato on his chords, the effect was celestial, as it was with single notes, as well. You'll not see his like again. Though his musical ability was superhuman, May 4th marked thirty years since we lost him to his own all-too-human weaknesses. RIP.

2 Little Walter

Little Walter is the Godfather of blues harmonica! He stands alone as the one who transformed blues harmonica playing from a un-amplified, background, sideman instrument, to an amplified lead instrument that could solo with power alongside the other amplified instruments of the band. It was not only his sound, but his musicality, inventiveness, and song writing, that sets him apart from all others. In so many ways he was/is the premier harp player, and the one who has most influenced all blues harp players! Little Walter is 'The Don'!

3 Sonny Boy Williamson II

Lovely rounded notes, Sonny Boy produces a smooth harmonica sound, but with characteristic sudden attacks that catch the listener off-guard. His gimmicky "in mouth" playing could never distract from his wonderfully polished technique.

Incredibly creative. The vocals and the harp are extensions of each other.

While he stole his name, his playing is unique.

4 George "Harmonica" Smith

So very under appreciated and not as well know. I call his style " intricate simplicity"

5 Junior Wells
6 Jimmy Reed
7 Walter Horton

In my humble opinion, this gentleman doesn't play harp too shabbily either.

No one sounded like Walter Horton! Absolutely amazing!

8 Charlie Musselwhite

Top shelf-none better...I listened to his ''Stand Back'' album for 6 straight hours without picking up my harp--& when I started to play again, I was a different & far better player...even my bandmates mentioned it next night on the gig...if you want to learn, this cat is the best!...

Charlie Musselwhite is a fabulous blues harmonica player. One of the best, if not the best.
I've seen him live in several blues clubs, and he
always blew me away.

'God Bless Charlie"

Jimmy D.

The blues overtook him when he was a little child and drove the poor boy Wild!

9 Mick Jagger Sir Michael Philip "Mick" Jagger is an English singer, songwriter, and actor, best known as the lead vocalist and a co-founder of the Rolling Stones.

He adds a great feel to it and locks in very well, with only one aim: contribute to the song!

He does deserve to be here and I'm glad he was added.

10 Sonny Boy Williamson I

The original. No one had heard the harmonica played like it before.

The Contenders
11 Sonny Terry
12 Will Wilde

Very credible Blues harp player and deserves his place here, but his thing is more Blues-Rock, Hard-Rock based. His passion for harmonica knows no bounds. He is SERIOUSLY overlooked. Check his band out (Will Wilde Band) sometime. You'll see what I mean. He has an amazing set of pipes on him too. An overall incredible musician.

He has to be heard to be believed He can play all types of Blues, but I particularly love his slow Blues. He's just incredible. Check him out on YouTube as soon as you've read this. Any Blues harmonica enthusiast will not be disappointed. Oh, and he's English. Just saying...

13 Jason Ricci

Yes, JR can shred (probably the best at this) but he can also do soulful, country-style blues with the best of them (check out his collaborations with JJ Appleton). His versatility, creativity and originality is unmatched. If you play the harp, what he can do is unworldly. Yes he DOES have demons. All part of his make up.

Jason is a master of the craft. I'm a pro sax player on the New Orleans circuit and have shared the stage with him several times. Nobody shreds the "Mississippi Saxophone" like Mooncat.

No one has the speed, preciseness and diversity coupled with the ability to play with such soul. The Jimmy Hendrix of the harp.

14 John Popper

He should be up at the top, this list is ridiculous having him all the way down here at 15, really?

Simply just incredible I can listen to his solo's all day long.

15 James Cotton

I saw him late in his life and he could not sing much due to throat cancer, but he still could play.

Cotton in his prime was right up there with his mentor Sonny Boy Williamson

16 Alan Wilson

Never reached his full potential. Drugs and depression took him out early. For sumpin' tasty, try "Huautla" (Canned Heat).

The "Blind Owl" was so incredible. Take a listen.

17 Sugar Blue
18 Rick Estrin

Powerful. I've seen him at least a dozen times over the last 27 years and he just seems to get better every time.

Saw little charlie and the nightcats twice. Rick estrin is awesome
So is little charlie by the way

Check out "D.O.G." The song's a hoot, and his licks mighty respectable.

19 Taj Mahal Henry Saint Clair Fredericks, who uses the stage name Taj Mahal, is an American blues musician, a self-taught singer-songwriter and film composer who plays the guitar, piano, banjo, and harmonica, among many other instruments.

Butterfield is rightly first choice but Taj's talent with the harp mustn't go unnoticed. Should really be in the top five.

Dirty, greasy, juicy, slurry, throaty harp. Loved him for more decades than I care t'member.

20 Carey Bell
21 Norton Buffalo

He is so incredible in so many ways. He is versitile in his playing and a great entertainer.

22 Robert Plant Robert Anthony Plant (born 20 August 1948) is an English musician, singer, and songwriter best known as the lead singer and lyricist of the rock band Led Zeppelin.

I didn't add him into the top 10 at first because his only really impressive harp playing is on When The Levee Breaks.

23 John Mayall John Mayall is an English blues singer, guitarist, organist and songwriter, whose musical career spans over fifty years.
24 Paul Jones

Lead with Manfred Mann - 76 and still playing at his best. Got to be in the top ten!

25 Charlie McCoy

61 Albums on music row toured France scores of times.

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