Q&A with LA-based vocalist and harmonica man Douglas Avery, a veteran musician with feeling the emotion of music

"The music will affect everyone differently; as far as the socio-cultural implication, my hope is that the music affects people in a positive way-stirs something in their soul."

Douglas Avery: Pure Emotion of Music

Douglas Avery considers himself a lucky man able to live his dream as a musician. Born in Los Angeles, Avery got an early start performing for the first time at age five as a member of his school’s choir, singing pop and inspirational songs. In addition to his love of music, Avery traveled extensively to Asia, Mexico, Australia, and Hawaii during the 1970s to devote himself to his other passion, surfing. As an avid practitioner of the sport, Avery also developed a strong interest in surf photography, with published works in several leading surfing magazines. Avery’s photography talents expanded, and he returned to California to embark on an all-consuming career in field and became an internationally renowned fashion and sports photographer. Avery always has his cameras on hand and continues to photograph his idols and colleagues at music events and concerts. Inspired by performances and recordings by harmonica greats Magic Dick, Paul Butterfield and Alan Wilson, Avery began teaching himself how to play the instrument in the early 1970s.                                                         (Photo: Douglas Avery)

Introduced by mutual friends to the Doors’ Robbie Krieger, Avery began jamming regularly with the guitar legend at house parties and Krieger eventually invited Avery to join his group on stage as harp player on the Doors’ classic number “Roadhouse Blues.” Avery became an honorary member of the band and plays with Robbie at special charity events. While studying with some of the country’s leading harp players including R.J. Mischo, Dennis Gruenling, Zoe Savage and renowned instructor Jon Gindick, Doug continues to embrace the West Coast blues scene, enjoying friendships with R.J. Mischo, Kim Wilson, James Harman, Honey and Rod Piazza, guitarist Franck L. Goldwasser and bassist/producer Ralph Carter, while continually sharpening his musical skills playing in jam sessions. In 2022, vocalist and harmonica man Douglas Avery released his debut album, Take My Rider. Avery is well known for his work behind the camera as a photojournalist covering the West Coast blues scene, so it was fairly simple to recruit some of Southern California’s best players to join him and producer Ralph Carter in Ventura to record at Ralph’s Garage.

Interview by Michael Limnios

How has the Rock n Jazz Counterculture influenced your views of the world and the journeys you’ve taken?

My views are free and independent. They are not influenced by a counterculture, whatever that may or may not be.

How do you describe your sound, music philosophy and songbook? What's the balance in music between technique and soul?

It all comes from feeling the emotion of music. That takes me to different places - feeling wise. It's pure emotion and feeling-plus I have some techniques in place.

What do you miss most nowadays from the music of the past? What are your hopes and fears for the future of?

Well, there were a lot of blues artists I missed seeing live. I miss their sound, but I listen to them a lot. They are the foundation of the blues. The same with the jazz artists. My hope is that we keep making the type of music, that is real, that incorporates the music of the past with the music of the future. The map is there-all we need to do is read it in our own musical way.

"People love all types of music. Los Angeles has been one of the entertainment capitals of the world for a long time." (Robby Krieger and Douglas Avery on stage, California / Photo © by Jill Jarrett)

Are there any specific memories or highlights of your career that you would like to tell us about?!

I remember playing a gig with Robbie Krieger of the Doors at Hermosa Beach in Southern California, on a summer's day. It was a free concert and of course it was the music of the Doors. I remember a sea of people like nothing that I had seen before at the beach. When the band played the opening licks of Roadhouse Blues, the crowd went crazy. It was an exhilarating experience.

Why do you think that L.A music scene since 1950s continues to generate such a devoted following?

People love all types of music. Los Angeles has been one of the entertainment capitals of the world for a long time.

What is the impact of music on the socio-cultural implications? How do you want the music to affect people?

The music will affect everyone differently; as far as the socio-cultural implication, my hope is that the music affects people in a positive way-stirs something in their soul.

John Coltrane said, "My music is the spiritual expression of what I am...". How do you understand the spirit, music, and the meaning of life?

I am not sure about the meaning of life. That is a question for a higher power-God, spirits, angels, etc. Human expression is unlimited-our spirit and music are expressions of our soul.

What has made you laugh and what touched you when you traveled around the world to devote your passion to surfing?

The people I have met along the way and the “Aloha spirit” have made a positive imprint on me. But the ocean is a life form of shared experiences and expressions that will live forever in my heart and soul.

Douglas Avery - Home

(Photo: Douglas Avery)

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