Road-Tested Gear

Blues Harmonica Legend Paul Oscher Shares His Favorite Live Gear

October 9, 2017 Culture : Music By Photo by Henry Phillips
From Issue Four of Gear Patrol Magazine.
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ustin is a hotbed of musical talent. Its denizens have a voracious appetite for live music, and the city’s numerous establishments have storied reputations in the music world. The Continental Club. Antone’s. ACL Live at the Moody Theater. It’s these institutions that have earned the city the title of “Live Music Capital of the World.”

Of course, live-performance venues, the counterpoint to controlled studio environments, present a unique set of challenges. Performers need instruments that are functional, durable and sonically true. For most, finding the perfect setup is a never-ending pursuit. But seasoned musicians have honed their live rigs to a stable balance of road-tested gear. Every piece of gear has a purpose, and after years of concerts, every piece of gear has a story. We asked four local legends to share the stories behind theirs. This week: Paul Oscher.

Born in Brooklyn, New York, Paul Oscher joined the Muddy Waters Blues Band at the age of 17 and lived in the basement of Waters’ house on the South Side of Chicago. He has recorded with Louisiana Red, Big Bill Morganfield, Hubert Sumlin, Mos Def and Keb’ Mo’, among others. His 2006 release, Down in the Delta, earned him Acoustic Album of the Year and Acoustic Artist of the Year from the Blues Music Awards. Oscher only recently relocated to Austin from Los Angeles and keeps a regular performing schedule both in the city and around the country.

1962 Harmony Hollywood Guitar

“This is my third one. The first one that I had, I had signatures all over it. That, I donated to The Blues Foundation. I had a guy make me a master volume. The switch was moved to the upper bout like a Gibson Les Paul. ‘Cause when you have a neck rack, you can’t look down; the neck rack’s blocking you, so you can’t see the switch.”

Dragonfly Bass Harmonica

“I bought that in 1968, in a music store in Brooklyn on Church Avenue. I’m the first one in the blues to record that. I recorded a song by Guitar Slim called ‘The Things That I Used to Do’ in 1994.”

Harmonicas with Custom Neck Racks and Electronics

“I make my neck racks, and they have microphones in them. It gives me a certain sound. I played with Muddy Waters’ band, and the harmonica sound I had was like a Little Walter sound — it’s an amplified sound. This does it.”