An interview with Scottyboy Daniel, a strong representative of the newer generation of harp players

"The Blues offers to me a way of expression and a way to tell you story and share your experiences with people."

Scottyboy Daniel: The Blues means happiness

The Scottyboy Daniel Blues Band play real ensemble style West Coast and Chicago blues with the kind of drive, feel and authenticity that can only come from a labor of love. The band hails from Kansas City, MO and includes Scott "Scottyboy" Daniel on harp & vocals, Joe Mika on guitar and vocals, Matt Browning on bass and Tim Osburn on drums.

The second release by the multi-talented Scottyboy Daniel Blues Band “Mercy!” is a heartfelt tribute to one of the greatest harmonica players of all time, the late William Clarke. Once the concept of a tribute CD was established, Scottyboy set out to recruit John “Marx” Markowski, Clarke’s guitar player, to play on the record and assist with direction. As a student of Clarke’s life, style, and catalogue, Scottyboy and John choose some of the most notable and influential songs written and performed by Clarke, as the basis of this project. Together, with the blessing of Clarke’s widow Jeanette, the band has forged a moving and powerful collection of Clarke’s music, in the finest tradition of the Harp-Master himself. This project was completed with the utmost respect, love, and devotion that any one musician can have for another... especially a mentor.


Interview by Michael Limnios


When was your first desire to become involved in the blues & from whom have you have learned the most secrets about blues music?

I first got into the blues when I was very young. My mother was into the blues and by me hearing her records a lot it made me love them and get totally into the music. I got my first harp when I was 13 from my father. I had to have one after hearing James Cotton’s harp on Muddy Waters’s Hard Again album.


What does the BLUES mean to you & what does music offered you?

To me the Blues means happiness, not sadness. The Blues are a release to help you forget your troubles. The Blues offers to me a way of expression and a way to tell you story and share your experiences with people.

What do you learn about yourself from the blues music? How has the blues music changed your life?

The ability to persevere and continue to play in these tough economic times when it is getting tougher to do so. The blues changed my life when, like I said earlier, I heard James Cotton’s harp on Muddy’s Hard Again album. I knew I was going to be a harp player as soon as I heard that album.


What experiences in your life make you a GOOD bluesman and songwriter?

The experiences of being in love and being out of love with someone. Losing a job and not having a lot of money. There are so many things that you face everyday that can turn into a good song. Sometimes, when you least expect it too. You always have to be prepared when the muse strikes!


What is the “feel” you miss most nowadays from the old days of Blues?

I miss the “relaxation” that was present in the old days. Like in Muddy Water’s music. Blues is not about how many notes you can cram in or how loud you can play. I miss the old school ensemble playing too. That kind of thing is getting very difficult to find these days.


How do you describe Scottyboy Daniel’ sound and progress? What are your main tools right now in your harp case?

My sound is a mish mash of all the different players I have heard and combined into my own thing. I am happy with the progress we have shown between our 1st and 2nd album. There is always room for improvement and we look forward to starting our next album later this year that will be comprised of entirely original material. The Main tools in my harp case are different kinds of Hohner harmonicas, ranging from Marine Bands to Special 20’s and Blue Midnights. I recently picked up a couple of the Marine Band Crossover models and I really like those. I will be getting more of those real soon. I have a couple of different mics, an Astatic T3 with a crystal element and my main mic that my friend Joe Spiers made for me a long time ago out of a 1948 Harley Davidson turn signal with a white label controlled magnetic Shure element in it. I also use Hohner Super Chromatics and the Hohner 64 Chromatic.


Do you know why the sound of harmonica is connected to the blues? What are the secrets of blues harp?

Well, I believe that the sound of the harmonica is connected to the blues because of the vocal qualities that it possesses. It can scream, cry, wail, moan and make so many sounds that are associated with a human voice. The harp is a very emotional instrument that is able to convey a lot of the feelings that the blues are all about. As far as the secrets of blues harp go, I am still learning myself. That is the beauty of playing the harp or any musical instrument I guess. You are always learning or trying to learn something new. Obviously, tone is very important. Listen to as many great players as you can and see what you can get from them to build into your own thing. Find out what works for you as a player and what feels comfortable to you and work hard at it, always!


Tell me a few things about the Scottyboy Blues Band. What characterize the band’s philosophy?

Well, I guess, probably the main thing is this. We are and will continue to be true to playing the type of blues, rooted in the old school, tried and true, traditions laid down by the great musicians that came before us. That said, we want to do our own thing, within that tradition and continue to improve our game, always. Our philosophy is to work hard and always put out maximum effort for the people who come to our shows. Without the support from hard working folks coming to the shows, there would be no need for us. 


Which was the best moment of your career and which was the worst?

I would have to say that the best moment is always the next show that we play. It is a blessing to get to play this music. One should never lose sight of that, in my opinion. The worst moment had to be going on a couple of years ago. I had to let a couple of members of the band go that I didn’t really want to let go of. I took a break for a long period after that and didn’t play any shows for awhile. That was a difficult time for sure.


Some music styles can be fads but the blues is always with us.  Why do think that is? Give one wish for the BLUES

Because the blues describes the human condition better than any other form of music in my opinion. Also, like Willie Dixon said “The blues is the roots, the rest are the fruits” Without blues, you wouldn’t have all the forms of music that sprang from them.  My wish for the blues is that more people become aware of them and realize what a special form of music that it is. So many people in America take the Blues foregranted. They don’t know what they are missing!


Are there any memories from the road with the blues, which you’d like to share with us?

There are so many good memories it is hard to find a particular one. The good memories far outweigh the bad ones I would have to say. One really good memory was playing in the King Biscuit festival in Helena, AR. That was such a good time. I had dreamed of playing in one for a long time and to have that come true was really cool and unforgettable.


What is your “secret” music dream? What turns you on? Happiness is……

I don’t really have a “secret” music dream to speak of. My dream is to keep going and improving and to broaden our horizons more and more all the time. The thing that turns me on is that rush you get when the show is about to start. I love that feeling. Happiness is when we are on stage and everything is firing on all cylinders and we are having fun and everyone is having fun right along with us!


What’s the best jam you ever played in? What are some of the most memorable gigs you've had?

Getting the chance to sit in with Lil’ Ed was a fun and unexpected thing as well as getting the chance to jam with Little Charlie & The Nightcats. There was also a really cool jam at my friend Coyote Bill’s Halloween party here in Kansas City  a couple of years ago that was pretty memorable. Playing on the main stage at the King Biscuit Festival with my good friend the late Dan Sanchez was  a very memorable gig. Tough to single out just one gig or jam, but, those all stand out to me.


Do you have any amusing tales to tell of your jams with Little Charlie & the Nightcats and Lil Ed ?

Not really anything amusing per se’ What sticks out in my mind is that the gentlemen in those bands were class individuals. I am thankful that they invited me onto the stage with them.


Which is the most interesting period in your life and why?

I would have to say that the most interesting period in my life would have to be right now. It has been a really fun and interesting time since our album, Mercy! A Tribute To William Clarke came out. I am so thankful to all the people who have been playing our music on their radio shows. Also thankful for the people like yourself that have been kind enough to ask me for interviews. I am really grateful for the chance to tell my and the band’s story. We are thrilled that so many people seem to be enjoying what we are doing right now!


What are you thinking when you are on stage, how would you describe your contact to people when you are on stage?

Well, I try not to think too much when I am onstage. I hope to get into a zone where I don’t have to think too much about what is taking place. I would say I am happy and fun loving on stage and always try to be that way at all times.


Which of historical blues personalities would you like to meet?

Now this is a really tough question. I am going to have to say Sonny Boy Williamson 2.


How you would spend a day with William Clark? What would you like to ask Little Walker?

I would like to just spend a day hanging out with William Clarke. Go eat some BBQ, listen to some records and if he were still with us too, the chance to see George “Harmonica” Smith play at one of the clubs out in LA at the time and maybe go to a good jam where we all could play and have some fun. Besides all the harmonica questions I would want to ask Little Walter there is one other question I would like to ask him. Why he kept all of his money in the trunk of his car?


What is the current state of the live music scene in Kansas City, Missouri, where you live?

The current state of music isn’t too bad here. We are luckier here than musicians in a lot of places that I have been to I can tell you that. There is a decent number of places to play and several really good musicians here in KCMO in the present day.


Are there any memories from local blues clubs, which you’d like to share with us?

One memory I have is from a now defunct club called Nightmoves. That was the place where I saw William Clarke for the first time in June 1993. Another good memory is the night I saw Duke Robillard at the Grand Emporium and Jay McShann came out and joined Duke on stage. Still another great memory is the time I saw Louisiana Red perform at BB’s Lawnside BBQ. That was an incredible show as one would imagine. I have a lot of great memories playing at BB’s Lawnside BBQ with my band over the years as well. A great place to play for sure!


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