Dreamin’ the Blues: Bad Brad Wheeler and his Harmonica Army
“Everyone has a story about the harmonica,” says Bad Brad Wheeler of the Legendary Porch Pounders. Bad Brad’s story about his harmonica started when he was 18 years of age on a dare. He was at a keg party in Ogden, where he currently lives, when someone dared him to play the harmonica. Seventeen years later, Bad Brad is trying to break the Guinness Book of World Records for the largest harmonica band.
Previously, a 900-person harmonica band from Poland held the title until someone in Washington State doubled the record to 1,800 people. Now, Brad Wheeler has a goal to organize and execute the largest “harmonica army” ever of over 2,500 people to play “When the Saints Go Marching In” for over five minutes. Bad Brad’s goal to set a world record came to him in a dream after he had taught 7,000 kids to play the harmonica. In the dream, once he had reached 10,000 kids, he would have them all play at the same time.
He brushed it aside as just an amusing dream, but after he told his 98-year-old grandma about it, she told him it was not just another dream, but a calling. She went on to say that he should do it not just for himself, but for everyone else. Currently, Bad Brad has taught over 10,500 students that harmonica through the Blues in School program.
That started six years ago when Catherine McGue, then the director of the Egyptian Theatre, asked Brad to teach the blues (and the harmonica) to some school children. He thought it was only going to be about 30 kids, but ended up being 800. From there, he continued to teach kids the importance of the blues not only as the foundation of American music, but as the history of black/white relations in America.
On October 14th at Lindquist Field, home of the Ogden Raptors baseball team, Bad Brad Wheeler will assemble over 2,500 harmonica players to try and beat the current world record. The field has been provided for free and 2,500 “A” harmonicas by Horner Harmonicas will be given to the first 2,500 who sign up. Fortunately for Brad, Horner USA is sponsoring the event and provided $20,000 dollars’ worth of harmonicas for the greatly reduced price of $4,000 dollars.
Even though this is a free event, Bad Brad still needs to raise 4,000 more dollars as well as spend more time spreading the word about his event. Eighty volunteers and many more donations will be needed to make this event a success. But why the harmonica and not the guitar? “The harmonica is a cheap, portable and instant instrument … try shoving a guitar in your back pocket,” Bad Brad quips.
Registration for the event starts at 10 a.m., instruction begins at noon and the actual record attempt takes place at 3:05 P.M. 3:05 P.M.? “People in Utah run a little late and it just sounds right,” Bad Brad says.