On the Mississippi Saxophone

Howard Young

In 1967, I walked into a coffee house and heard a harmonica player and an acoustic guitarist playing the blues. I’d grown up playing flute and wanted to learn another instrument. The sound of that harmonica hit me immediately and I knew what I wanted to learn.

That harmonica player gave me a couple of tips. From that point on I was self-taught. Bargain-bin blues records gave me some early riffs to practice. The next year I was wailing away in an “echo-chamber” stairwell in the college dorm……cont’d below.

Another student showed up with a guitar in open-chord tuning and started playing bottleneck blues. In three weeks we were performing in the college bars, coffee houses and pizza joints. I copied a lot of riffs from his bottle neck leads, but mostly just invented my own riffs and style of playing, tending to improvise variations on the melody line.

As a “normal adult life” set in after college, I did not play out again for over 20 years. I started attending open mic and jam sessions in the late 1990’s. A jam session at the old Mike and Min’s in Soulard led to me meeting a bass player from Melissa Neels Band. He invited me to sit in with the band. Melissa nervously accepted my playing at first, but soon after invited me to join the band as she became comfortable with how I fit into the mix.

Playing with Melissa and the crew over the years has been a great experience. It has put me in some wonderful playing venues and situations and resulted in many treasured memories and friendships. I am honored to have been able to accompany her and the band over the past 20 years.


Relax, the harp man is on the scene!

Find our streaming music