Mark Hummel (born December 15, 1955, New Haven, Connecticut) is a Grammy nominated Blues Music Award winning American blues harmonica player, vocalist, songwriter, and long-time bandleader of The Blues Survivors. Since 1991, Hummel has produced the Blue...
Mark Hummel (born December 15, 1955, New Haven, Connecticut) is a Grammy nominated Blues Music Award winning American blues harmonica player, vocalist, songwriter, and long-time bandleader of The Blues Survivors. Since 1991, Hummel has produced the Blues Harmonica Blowout tour, of which he is also a featured performer. The shows have featured blues harmonica players such as James Cotton, Carey Bell, and Charlie Musselwhite. Although he is typically identified as performing West Coast blues, Hummel is also proficient in Delta blues, Chicago blues, swing and jazz styles.
Mark Hummel was born in New Haven, Connecticut, and grew up in Los Angeles, California. Hummel and his family lived for a time in Aliso Village, a housing project in East Los Angeles that was demolished in 1999. As Hummel explains in his forthcoming autobiography, his parents hired Mexican babysitters who often played R&B and soul music on the radio when they cared for him. It was through these babysitters that Hummel was first introduced to black music. Early on, he was also drawn to the music of Jimmy Reed and Slim Harpo. Hummel did not start playing harmonica seriously until high school, and by the age of sixteen he was already playing in bands.
Hummel began working professionally after moving to the San Francisco Bay Area in the early 1970s. A number of jazz and blues artists had already made their mark on Hummel at this point in his early career, including Billie Holiday, Count Basie, Ella Johnson, Lester Young, Jimmy Reed, Little Walter, Muddy Waters, Big Walter Horton, Paul Butterfield, Sonny Boy Williamson II, and Charlie Musselwhite.
Once established in the East Bay in the 1970s, Hummel started performing with Boogie Jake, Sonny Lane, Cool Papa Sadler, and Mississippi Johnny Waters. He formed the Blues Survivors in 1980, and they have been his band ever since. Since its inception the band has featured a number of popular performers before they became household names, such as King of the Hill creator and blues bassist Mike Judge. Other noteworthy members include Jimmy Bott, June Core, Rusty Zinn, Ronnie James, Chris Masterson, Charles Wheal and Joel Foy. Over the years Hummel has also toured or recorded with Sue Foley, Charles Brown, Brownie McGhee, Willie "Big Eyes" Smith, Bob Stroger, Dave Myers, Jimmy Pugh, Kid Andersen and Frank "Paris Slim" Goldwasser. Hummel has also toured with Lowell Fulson, Jimmy Rogers, and Eddie Taylor; live recordings from those tours are available on his CD compilation Chicago Blues Party. In addition to playing in blues clubs across the U.S. and throughout Europe, Hummel and the Blues Survivors have performed at the San Francisco Blues Festival, the Sonora Blues Festival, the Chicago Blues Festival, the King Biscuit Blues Festival, and the Monterey Jazz Festival. He has also contributed CD reviews to Blues Wax, an online weekly blues music magazine. Writing in Living Blues, Lee Hildebrand described Hummel's performance at the 1978 San Francisco Blues Festival as one that "epitomized the high musical quality of the entire weekend" festival.
Jerry Portnoy, a blues harmonica player who used to play in Muddy Waters' band, described Hummel as a musician who possesses "tremendous chops and great knowledge, not only of traditional blues harmonica but other music as well - R&B and swing and big-band jazz. He brings a lot to the table when he plays." He appeared on the cover of the August/September 2005 issue of Blues Revue magazine, and in April 2010, Hummel was a guest on the House of Blues Radio Hour, a syndicated weekly radio program hosted by Dan Aykroyd (in character as Elwood Blues).
Hummel is also known for founding the Blues Harmonica Blowout tour, which he has produced regularly since 1991. The tour features a rotating lineup of veteran harmonica players backed by the Blues Survivors. Past tours have included Snooky Pryor, James Cotton, Charlie Musselwhite, Kim Wilson, Jerry Portnoy, Magic Dick, Rod Piazza, Paul DeLay, James Harman, Mitch Kashmar, Huey Lewis and many others. Live recordings from these tours can be found on at least four CD releases from Mountain Top Productions and Electro-Fi Records (see discography below).
Hummel wrote a book about his musical travels for Mountain Top Publishing called Big Road Blues : 12 Bars On I-80 in 2012 that is available as a Kindle book or paperback.
Hummel currently endorses Sonny Jr. harmonica amplifiers, Seydel harmonicas, and Fat Bottom microphones. He is a contributor to David Barrett's BluesHarmonica.com.
In 2013, Hummel was nominated for a Blues Music Award in the 'Instrumentalist - Harmonica' category.
As of 2012 Hummel toured with a California and Texas aggregation, Golden State-Lone Star Revue, a group that featured Anson Funderburgh and Little Charlie Baty on guitars plus RW Grigsby on bass, and Wes Starr on drums.
In 2014, Blind Pig's Remembering Little Walter album, that Hummel produced and performed on, was nominated for Best Blues CD at the Grammy Awards. It also won two Blues Music Awards for Best Blues CD and Best Traditional Blues CD. In April 2014, Electro-Fi Records released Hummel's The Hustle Is Really On. It featured the Golden State-Lone Star Revue as well as Kid Andersen, Sid Morris, Doug James, and June Core. The CD made the Living Blues Radio Charts for four months reaching number two. It was also nominated for Best Traditional Blues CD in 2015.
In 2016 Hummel and the Golden State/Lone Star Revue released their debut album (in both CD and LP formats) on Electro-Fi Records. The band is an all-star group featuring guitar slingers Anson Funderburgh (of Anson Funderburgh & The Rockets) from Dallas and Little Charlie Baty (Little Charlie & The Nightcats) from Sacramento, famed Austin drummer Wes Starr and bassman RW Grigsby. The band formed in 2012.