Ears, Eyes & Soul: Meet Jim Cummins

By Todd Coyle


Local musicians are more than just entertainment. They contribute more than mere notes. Family man, environmental guru, woodworker and hatchet thrower are just a few of the things Jim Cummins adds to our community. And he’s blows a mean harp, too.

FLUENT Why the harmonica? Where did it all begin?
FAT JIMMIE In the mid-60s, at 17, I bought my first album, “Electric Mud,” by the great bluesman Muddy Waters. But that was a mistake purchase, I didn’t know anything about the blues, I thought I was buying a different album. It was fate, because when I got home and played it, the blues immediately caught my imagination and never let go.

From the blue’s earliest days the harmonica, or “harp,” has been a major instrument. I like its sound, it speaks to me. So I taught myself to play by listening to records, lots of records. I typically play the classic 10-hole harps. They are amazing instruments: relatively inexpensive, simple in design — most people can pick one up and play a decent chord right off the bat — but capable of a wide range of sounds, very voice-like in presencec and given their small size can project surprisingly well. They are extremely transportable. Abraham Lincoln carried one in his shirt pocket. I’ve played them on the tops of mountains. I’m fond of these characteristics.

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