Tuesday, October 25, 2016

MM Cables

This is a rugged, no-nonsense cable for working blues harp players. It is tough but supple, coils easily, and performs perfectly. It is built for gigging on barroom stages.

The MM Cable is 18 feet long (5.5m) with a 1/4 inch phone plug on one end and a Switchcraft 5/8 inch screw on connector at the other. Your signal is carried from the mic to the amp by a twisted pair of stranded copper 24AWG wires, each protected by insulation. There are two layers of RFI noise shielding around the wires: A metal foil jacket surrounds the twisted pair, covered by a copper wire mesh braid that carries the ground signal. The cable’s outer jacket is tough black PVC. These cables are low-noise and long-life.

The orange shrink tube at the cable ends is not just for looks. It provides an extra measure of strain relief to ensure the solder connections between the wires and the connectors do not get damaged from hard use on stages.  The price is $32.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Lining Out to the PA

Lots of players seem interested in lining out their amps to the PA but I don't see a lot of discussion about it. There is more to it than just plugging in. This photo is a channel from my Mackie 808M powered mixer, which is typical of what many bar bands use. It is set up for a line out from a harp amp.
From top to bottom:
-Monitor Send: You definitely want some harp in the monitors if you are using a line out, but not too much. Just enough so you can hear yourself and hear your balance with the band. I have it set halfway here.
-Effects Send: I send nothing to the effects buss. I prefer the sound of the amp by itself or with the FX pedals I use.
-Highs: Roll off about 25%
-Mids: Flat or roll off a bit.
-Lows: Boost about 20 - 25%
-Trim: Start at 0 - unity gain. It depends on many things. Dial it in so you are not clipping.
-Volume: It depends on where you want to sit in the mix.
PAs tend to be bright. If you just plug in and dial in the setting as if it were a vocal channel your sound might be shrill and annoying.
If there is a sound tech ask him/her politely but firmly to set the channel like this. There may be some small adjustments during sound check, but starting out this way will get things moving in the right direction.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Memphis Mini Speaker Test

Speaker comparison test, please listen and vote. Many thanks to JD Taylor for his wonderful playing.

Five different 8-inch speakers in the Memphis Mini amp. Which two do you prefer? You may leave a comment here or email me at info@MemphisBluesAmps.com


Thursday, September 1, 2016

Kinder Soulful Amp

Some of the best amped harp tone you will ever hear:  JD Taylor playing his custom Kinder Soulful amp with MM Delay pedal.

Orange Tiny Terror amp

The Orange Tiny Terror 15-watt tube amp has always been interesting to harp players, I think, but it was less than ideal because of its very high gain preamp stage and its EL84 power tubes.  That makes it a fun guitar amp but makes it shrill and feedback-prone when mic'd up for harp.

I developed the MM Harpman pedal with amps like this in mind, but I haven't had the chance to test the pedal with this particular amp.  Today a customer ordered the Harpman to put in front of his Orange Tiny Terror.  I'd like to hear the TT amp calmed down and warmed up a bit.  Hopefully he'll send a video.   I'll post it here if he does.


Monday, August 15, 2016


I’ve been to the SPAH harmonica convention. About half the people in the hallways at the SPAH convention are selling something: Their own playing, CDs, lessons, custom harps, cases, amps, mics, effects, etc. They are hustling their goods… That is why they go to SPAH. Yet some shitty little ass-hat from SPAH accosted a customer of mine who offered to show his own MM Harpman pedal to other attendees. No one else got molested by the weasel, just my customer.

It comes from a very old beef with the weasel years ago in Colorado. Shit, let it go, Gomer. Too bad if I hurt your feelings 10 years ago. It’s a shame that SPAH allows petty petulant cry-babies to speak for them and to accost harp players minding their own business and discussing gear with other attendees.

UPDATE:  My little company - Memphis Blues Amps - has more customers than SPAH has members.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Nice Fat Masco Tone

A few weeks ago JD Taylor asked me to send him a couple of the custom speakers we use in Memphis Mini amps. He mounted one of them in a 2x8 cab with a vintage Jensen P8Q to use with his Masco amp. He played the rig at Rum Boogie in Memphis last weekend and sent this video. His phone was mounted on his mic stand and was pointed at the floor monitors, so there's not much visual appeal here, but the tone is FAT! Check this out.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

The New “MM HARPMAN” Pedal

The MM Harpman pedal was designed to help working harp players solve the problems we face when confronted with an amp that may not be ideal. Guitar amps often suffer from issues that make them bad for blues harp: screaming feedback, icepick tone, no break-up, and not enough range in the tone controls to make it sound good for harp.

The MM Harpman is way more than just a feedback solution. It has controls that allow you to sculpt your amp’s sound: you can boost or cut Volume, Gain, Treble, and Bass. It will reduce the feedback, cut the harsh highs, boost the warm lows, and get you closer to that nice break-up point.

Using this pedal you can get decent usable blues harp tone from a bad amp. It may not get perfect vintage tone from a bad amp, but it will calm the amp enough that you can do your job and play the blues. You can use the MM Harpman to calm down and warm up nearly any amp, including your good harp amps.

$49 is a very nice price point for such a versatile tool for working harp players. The price will go up later, but not by much. I can think of two feedback pedals that sell for many times as much. I can think of another that sells for about the same but all it does is cut your mic volume by a set amount and offers zero adjustments.

Remember, all amps are different and they all will require a different “dialing in” on the MM Harpman pedal to get to that sweet spot. There is an easy pattern of adjustments you will need to make while using your ears to fine tune it for whatever amp you are using. It ain’t “just Plug ‘n’ Play,” but the improved tone is worth it.

We will begin shipping these pedals in about three weeks.  Visit our website HERE.

Monday, April 18, 2016

The Lamest Way to Promote your Amp

Now, ain't this some shit? Another amp maker includes "memphis mini" and "rick davis" in his search metadata, trying to get more hits for his website. LOL
His metadata string also includes "Harp King" and "Brian Purdy." Are you kidding me? He's robbing hits from Harp King and Harp Gear?
Here is his page source.  Click on the image and check the last three lines:

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Stolen Honor - The Phony Blues Hall of Famers

There is only one Blues Hall of Fame. It is in Memphis Tennessee, and has been curated by The Blues Foundation since 1980. The Blues Foundation also awards the annual Blues Music Awards and Keeping the Blues Alive awards, as well as managing the International Blues Challenge.

In the Blues Hall of Fame there are only a few harp players. They are the true greats such as Little Walter, Paul Butterfield, Big Walter Horton, Charlie Musselwhite, Sonny Terry, James Cotton, Junior Wells, Howlin’ Wolf, and others. Induction into the Hall is reserved only for those who have made the blues timeless. It is an honor that recognizes true greatness.

If you see a certificate resembling the one above you can be almost certain the person named on it is NOT in the hall, and is committing a fraud. He wants you to believe he has earned a great award he in fact does not deserve. It is Stolen Honor. These phony certificates come from a guy with website, not from the Blues Foundation or any Blues Society. I see these all over the Internet and it seems any person can nominate himself and acquire one. They hand ‘em out like Halloween candy.

It is hard for me to believe any harp player who has even a bit of self-respect and respect for the instrument, the music, and history of the blues would display one of these phony certificates or falsely claim to have been “inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame.” It is a monstrous lie.

Here is a statement from the front page of the phony blues hall of fame website: "We are big enough to hold every Blues Artist that you think should be inducted." Did ya get that? They include ANYBODY. It's like getting a participation trophy. That's not a hall of fame, it's kindergarten. Anybody who claims they were "inducted into the Blues Hall Of Fame" based on one of these phony certificates is a fraud.

I encourage the blues harp community to help police this. If you revere and admire the greats who are in the Hall, you owe it to them to shame the posers who falsely claim to be their equals.

List of Performers in the Blues Hall of Fame: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blues_Hall_of_Fame


An email to me from Jay Sieleman, president and CEO of the Blues Foundation:

Since September 2011, The Blues Foundation has been working to establish the bricks and mortar Blues Hall of Fame, the physical complement to the induction ceremonies that have been held every year since 1980. (It is now finished – Rick)

In the process, we have been asked about another individual who purports to have his own blues "hall of fame" using the “www.blueshalloffame.org” domain. The short answer is that there is absolutely no connection between us and that individual or website. 

The Blues Foundation's use of the term "Blues Hall of Fame" predates that individual's use by almost 20 years. The Blues Foundation is working with legal counsel to protect its intellectual property rights related to our "Blues Hall of Fame," considered in the industry and worldwide as the ultimate recognition in blues music. As part of our efforts to protect our intellectual property, The Blues Foundation is working to challenge the third party individual's registration of "Blues Hall of Fame" with the United States Patent and Trademark Office and to secure our own registration of that mark based on our prior use. 

We ask that our members, including performers and affiliates, support us in our efforts to protect and preserve the honor, legitimacy and worldwide recognition that so deservedly accompanies an induction into the Blues Hall of Fame by The Blues Foundation.

Jay Sieleman
President & Chief Executive Officer
The Blues Foundation
421 South Main
Memphis, TN 38103


UPDATE:  The Battle of the Blues Hall of Fames

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Step Away From the Pedal!

Lately I’ve been hearing this sales pitch from effects pedal makers:  “Change things up!  Give your audience a little variety!”

Blues harp players have been doing exactly that for at least the last 65 years without the need for any trick pedals that make you sound like a kazoo or a kaliope.  

      Loosen up, baby!  Don’t play with a tight cup all the time.  That big tone is best used for effect, not for your constant sound.  Open up on the bullet mic.  Don’t squeeze it in a death grip every time you blow.

      Dynamic Duo!  Change up your volume and attack on the mic.  Use dynamics to be expressive.   Try this on a typical 24 bar solo:  In the first 12 bars play low and slow, staying on the low end of the harp.  Leave lots of space.  As you get to the turn-around move up to the 4 draw, and then the 5 draw to build tension as a transition to the second 12.  Ramp up the intensity for the second 12 bars, playing more of the second octave of the blues scale using the reeds in the middle of the harp.  Finish with a flourish.  Smile and wave at the outburst of applause. 

      Drop the Mic!  Put your bullet mic away and step up to the vocal mic.  Play a few songs acoustically, using all the cool hand effects.   Just get all Sonny Boy with it.

      It’s all about the Chrome!  Pull out that big chromatic harp for a couple songs and blow those big chords, either through your rig or into the vocal mic.  Show it off.

Mix it up.  The audience will love it and you will come off as a harmonica master, not just a pedal user.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

The MM amp wins blind tone challenge on Facebook

Recently an independent blind comparison test on the “Harmonica Gear” page in Facebook compared the Memphis Mini amp to the sound of a cheap imitator amp. 80 percent preferred the sound the Memphis Mini.

Without knowing which amp was which, the words used to describe the Memphis Mini tone included:

- better
- best
- pitched better
- more versatile
- nicer
- better break up
- easier to listen to
- more bottom end
- full round trumpet-like tone
- satisfying honk and bark when pushed
- less fizzy/fuzzy
- less grainy and biting
- smoother on attack and not as bright
- more pleasant on the ears


Tuesday, March 8, 2016

The Best Harp Amp

Pound for pound and dollar for dollar, the Memphis Mini has to be considered among the best harp amps out there.  Here are some newer videos showing its monster tone.

Monday, February 8, 2016

A Delicate Balance

A few days ago a customer asked me about using the Eminence 820H speaker in the Memphis Mini amp.  I tried that speaker long ago and considered offering it as a substitute speaker but I had to reject it:  The 820H comes only as a 4 ohm speaker and the MM amp expects to see an 8 ohm load at the speaker tap.  This would cause the amp to run hot, leading to transformer failure.  Nobody likes to see smoke coming out of the back of his amp.

Any amp based on the Classic 5 platform will have the same problem unless the builder has gone to the considerable trouble and expense of swapping out the OT to accommodate the 4 ohm speaker.  Even worse, if you are running a 6L6 power tube along with the 4 ohm speaker you are likely to burn the power transformer. 

We have hundreds of Memphis Mini amps in use, many for up to two years on stage.  We know what works and what doesn’t.  A well-designed vintage-style tube amp is a Rube Goldberg contraption of moving sonic parts that work together to produce a wonderful tone.  It can be a delicate balance.  Ask your amp maker before using a lower impedance speaker or bigger power tube.  It could fry your amp.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Amp Throwdown! MM vs. HG2

Two years ago in his blog Adam Gussow challenged me to an amp “Throwdown” between the new Memphis Mini amp and his Harpgear HG2 amp, both small “Champ” style amps.  He wanted me to ship him an amp so he could do a comparison test.  I declined for two reasons:  I didn’t have any spare MM amps to send to anyone, and since Adam is an official endorser of the HG2 amp I didn’t expect an unbiased result.

A few months ago Ronnie Shellist asked me to co-sponsor a Blues Harmonica Workshop he and Adam would be presenting at Ziggies in Denver on January 16.  I wasn’t certain that Adam would be bringing his HG2 amp since he was flying in for the event, so I didn’t expect the throwdown to happen.  But, as soon as I walked in and carried the MM amp to the stage some of the attendees at the event started yelling “Throwdown!”  It was on!

Ronnie Shellist is an official endorser of the Memphis Mini, and Adam endorses the HG2 so this was a level playing field.  Both are monster players, and the room was full of enthusiastic and talented  harp players attending the event.    It was perfect.

In my opinion both amps are excellent, both have great vintage tone, but there are some notable differences.  You cannot hear all the differences in the video, which tends to compress the audio signal.  To my ear – and to most of the attendees who spoke to me later -- the MM amp sounded much bigger and punchier, with more crunch and presence.  The MM also had significantly more volume before feedback.  The MM seemed more giggable.

Some people will prefer the HG2 amp, and for good reasons.  I was very proud of the comparison, and gratified by the enthusiasm of the players in the room.  The bottom line is this:  The MM amp sells for more than $400 less than the HG2, and it sounds at least as good.  I booked several orders that day.

One of my favorite parts of the video is when Ronnie wondered if perhaps the HG2 amp has a little more bottom end, and most of the people in the audience immediately disagreed with him.  You can hear them on the video.  The discussion is funny.  BTW, when you are standing close to your amp, as Ronnie was, it is hard to hear the low end. 

I am grateful to Ronnie and to Adam for doing this.  I didn’t direct it at all:  They ran with it themselves spontaneously, chose their own amp settings, and I think they tried hard to wring out the similarities and differences in the two amps.

I hope you enjoy the video.