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  • Writer's pictureKen Wallis

EXCLUSIVE: Ken Wallis Chats With Roly Platt About His Book 'No, Seriously, I Play Harmonica'


Roly Platt


Roly Platt is one of Canada’s finest harmonica players. He’s enjoyed a long and wildly successful career, both on the stage and in the studio. He’s recorded over 1,700 individual album cuts, movie scores and jingles and is regarded as a maestro on the harp. He’s written a book entitled 'No, Seriously, I Play Harmonica'  chronicling his long and varied professional life and you will find yourself smiling and laughing from the first page to the last!


Ken Wallis interviewed Roly Platt for the radio show BluesSource Canada. The following are excerpts from that interview, edited and amended for brevity and clarity.



Ken Wallis

Usually, I like to feature brand-new album releases, but for a change I'm going to review a brand-new book release and the book is by Roly Platt, and it is absolutely terrific.  Joining us to tell us all about it is Roly Platt. Roly thanks for coming on the show.


Roly Platt

Thanks a lot. Ken. I really appreciate it.


Ken Wallis

First of all what prompted you to write this book?


Roly Platt

It kind of stemmed from doing a couple of shows where I was talking to the audience and telling some funny stories and sort of adlibbing a little bit, and I've always liked to tell stories. I was having a conversation with my wife at the time and she says, you should write a book. And I looked at her dead serious, don't say that unless you mean it.  And she convinced me that I could do it.  And to be honest, I wouldn't have done it without that encouragement. And she was my editor and my spirit guide through the writing of the book.


Ken Wallis

The title of the book says it all. No, Seriously, I Play Harmonica, and that title right off the bat made me realize there was gonna be some light-hearted humour in the book. And there's a great line in your book. “If you're looking for a good laugh and an opportunity to gain insight, you're in for a full course meal.” And boy, do you deliver on that promise. It's got so much humour in it and so many stories. Why did you pick that actual title? Tell the story behind that.


Roly Platt

It was a line that I use, if you get an e-mail from me, you'll see a little thing at the bottom that’s my slogan, Serious Harmonica Playing with an exclamation mark, and then No, Seriously, I play Harmonica.  It started out with people asking what do you do for a living? They're a doctor, they're a lawyer, they run a business, and they ask me, what do you do for a living?  And I say I play harmonica, and then it's that look on the face, which I talk about in the book. The look.


Ken Wallis

In the book you mentioned when you were leaving school and the reaction of the principal.


Roly Platt

That's how it started. That was the first time I experienced that issue and it followed me through my whole career. Anybody that plays harmonica, or anybody who plays the banjo, or other instruments that are a little out of the mainstream get the same reaction.


Ken Wallis

I know I get that that look too when I pull my ukulele out.


Roly Platt

Yeah. There you go. We’re brothers from another mother.


Ken Wallis

Was there one particular harmonica player that you really liked and sort of started you off in your career?


Roly Platt

Yeah, the one that turned me on to harmonica, via my older brother, was Paul Butterfield.  


That's the one that I heard. Sometimes it's just what you hear at the right moment. But once I heard it, it took me a while to appreciate it. It reminded me of an electric guitar. There was an energy and an emotion in his playing that grabbed me.


Ken Wallis

And in the book you mentioned your practice regiment.


Roly Platt

In the beginning I’d just hide in my bedroom and practice for maybe three hours. I started out probably less than that. But I was practicing at least three hours, seven days a week.  Just practicing to records, jamming, jamming, practicing, practicing, but mainly practicing to tracks, copying other players. Just jamming to these certain tracks that I like to play to, and strangely it’s still the same way I practice now.


Ken Wallis

In the book you mentioned an instance where Michael Pickett had a bit of an impact on your life. Can you tell the audience just a little bit about that?


Roly Platt

Before I was in a band, I'd go out and see Blues bands around Toronto, and I was at the Horseshoe that night. And I always brought a couple of harps with me, but not to get up on stage because I hadn't done that yet. I'd be listening and I’d get so jacked up listening to the band, so excited listening to the good music, that I would have to play just to release my energy. I just wanted to play. So, I’d go into the bathrooms at these clubs and wait till nobody's around and play. That night at the Horseshoe, Michael Pickett, who was probably my favourite harp player in those days in the club scene and I'd never met him. He walks in on me, and I stopped playing and Mike says, no, man, keep playing. So I played for him and he's listening and he goes, you got to get out of the bathroom, man. He says you got to do that on stage. And he invited me down to the El Macambo the next week. I was pleased with that one. Strange place to meet though.


Ken Wallis

Well, I've seen you play multiple times and you're a marvellous harmonica player. You also played with Jeff Healey. Give us a little bit of insight into what it was like being with Jeff.


Roly Platt

I didn't work in his band. It was almost like he happened to be playing with us. But I had met Jeff in the clubs and when I was playing with Minglewood, Jeff would come out and sit in with us. Jeff did that with just about everybody, he just loved to play. We'd be down at the blue tent at the Exhibition and he'd sit in for the whole set. He also recorded a tune on Matt's album that I was a part of as well. So I got to spend a fair bit of time with him.  He was a 78 collector, so he'd go out shopping during the day and come back with these albums and we're at my place in Dartmouth. And Jeff says, where's your turntable?  And I was about to show him where it was because there was a room full of people. We're in the kitchen.  I just said it's in the living room and he just took off with his records heading to a turntable. He'd never been in my house in his life, and he finds the turntable, pulls out his record, and turns it on. He managed to get the record on the turntable without any instruction or help or anything, which is how he lived his life. It was great.


Ken Wallis

Well, there are so many stories in this book, and it's such a great read and I encourage anybody to go out and get it. You don't have to be a harmonica aficionado to read this book. It's just filled with so many stories and again, the name of the book is 'No, Seriously, I Play Harmonica' and Roly, where  can fans get this book?


Roly Platt

If you want to directly support the author, go to harmonicamute.com, all one word and you'll see a link to that and a few other things. If you have a preference for Amazon, you can just search for Roly Platt book. I'm sure it's easy to find on there. I only have the one [laughing]. And thousands of millions of dollars go directly to me if you get if you get it through harmonicamute.com


Ken Wallis

Well, one thing I can't wait for is the sequel. I was sitting there reading your book and I was laughing and chuckling and my wife kept saying what's so funny? And I said you gotta read this book.


Roly Platt

To me, that's the biggest compliment, Ken, is that you're not a harmonica player and you enjoyed it.


Ken Wallis

I sure did. I've always enjoyed chatting with you and I thank you for your time. It's been great talking to you again, Roly


Roly Platt

Great. Thanks for having me on.



Roly Platt


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