Harvey Mandel became the original guitarist with Charlie Musselwhite, releasing the debut album Stand Back! in 1966. As a result of heavy airplay in San Francisco, they were invited to play The Fillmore by Bill Graham. Mandel moved to the Bay Area, regularly performing at the infamous club "The Matrix", where local favorites like Jerry Garcia, Elvin Bishop and Jefferson Airplane would sit in and jam.
On meeting the record producer Abe Kesh, Mandel was able to release his first solo album for Mercury Records entitled, Cristo Redentor in 1968, which included his version of "Wade in the Water."
In July 1969 he replaced Henry Vestine as lead guitarist in the blues band Canned Heat. Harvey remained with Canned Heat for nine months (until April 1970) with slide guitarist/vocalist Alan Wilson and singer Bob "The Bear" Hite. The custom of Canned Heat suggested that each member of the band acquired a nickname upon joining the band. Harvey's nickname, "The Snake," was given to him years before by keyboardist Barry Goldberg in Chicago (attributed to his cracked leather jacket and "snake-like guitar licks"). After several tours and three albums, including Future Blues, he was recruited by British bluesman John Mayall to be a member of the Bluesbreakers, recording the album, entitled USA Union together.
The band featured Mandel with Canned Heat bassist Larry "The Mole" Taylor, and violinist Don "Sugarcane" Harris. Mandel also appeared on another significant Mayall album, Back To The Roots, on which Eric Clapton and Mick Taylor also guested. He also toured with Taylor and Harris under the name "Pure Food and Drug Act" and released one album before Harris was assaulted, effectively ending his career.
He resumed his solo career, releasing several more albums for Janus Records in the 1970s including Baby Batter, The Snake, and Shangrenade, the record where Harvey employed 2-handed fretboard tapping. Mandel was one of the first rock guitarists to utilize this technique, years before Eddie Van Halen and Stanley Jordan.
One of Mandel's most significant session credits was his participation on Black and Blue, the 1976 album by The Rolling Stones.
Following his stint with the Stones, he became a busy session player, with groups such as Love and The Ventures, and opened for Jeff Beck on his Canadian tour as a power trio with Jimmy Haslip, bassist for The Yellowjackets. He relocated to Chicago in the late 1970s and continued to tour extensively, as well as supporting groups such as Roxy Music. In 1980, Mandel relocated to Florida as a member of the house band at Ron Wood's Miami nightclub, "Woody's," with Rolling Stones attendant saxophonist, Bobby Keys.~
(BlackCatBone -Standin' At The Crossroads diary magazine)
In the mold of Jeff Beck, Carlos Santana, and Mike Bloomfield, Mandel is an extremely creative rock guitarist with heavy blues and jazz influences. And like those guitarists, his vocal abilities are basically nonexistent, though Mandel, unlike some similar musicians, has always known this, and concentrated on recordings that are entirely instrumental, or feature other singers. A minor figure most known for auditioning unsuccessfully for the Rolling Stones, he recorded some intriguing (though erratic) work on his own that anticipated some of the better elements of jazz-rock fusion, showcasing his concise chops, his command of a multitude of tone pedal controls, and an eclecticism that found him working with string orchestras and country steel guitar wizards. Mandel got his first toehold in the fertile Chicago white blues-rock scene of the mid-'60s (which cultivated talents like Paul Butterfield, Mike Bloomfield, and Steve Miller), and made his first recordings as the lead guitarist for harmonica virtuoso Charlie Musselwhite. Enticed to go solo by Blue Cheer producer Abe Kesh, Harvey cut a couple of nearly wholly instrumental albums for Phillips in the late '60s that were underground FM radio favorites, establishing him as one of the most versatile young American guitar lions. He gained his most recognition, though, not as a solo artist, but as a lead guitarist for Canned Heat in 1969 and 1970, replacing Henry Vestine and appearing with the band at Woodstock. Shortly afterward, he signed up for a stint in John Mayall's band, just after the British bluesman had relocated to California. Mandel unwisely decided to use a vocalist for his third and least successful Philips album. After his term with Mayall (on USA Union and Back to the Roots) had run its course, he resumed his solo career, and also formed Pure Food & Drug Act with violinist Don "Sugarcane" Harris (from the '50s R&B duo Don & Dewey), which made several albums. In the mid-'70s, when the Rolling Stones were looking for a replacement for Mick Taylor, Mandel auditioned for a spot in the group; although he lost to Ron Wood, his guitar does appear on two cuts on the Stones' 1976 album, Black & Blue. Recording intermittently since then as a solo artist and a sessionman, his influence on the contemporary scene is felt via the two-handed fretboard tapping technique that he introduced on his 1973 album Shangrenade, later employed by Eddie Van Halen, Stanley Jordan, and Steve Vai. ~ (Richie Unterberger, All Music Guide)