Harmonica Lesson: Lollipop Mama (William Clarke)

By Liam Ward

Written by Liam Ward on . Posted in Blog: Harmonica Articles, Harmonica Lessons, Harmonica Players

Lollipop Mama is one of William Clarke’s most popular songs: a mile-a-minute blues swing with a load of awesome techniques thrown in, which for us means lots to study and enjoy.

I was amazed by how much he packs into the explosive opening solo, which clocks at a mere 15 seconds. Great players like William Clarke make things sound easy ‘til you try to play them!

Lollipop Mama (William Clarke)
Tabbed for diatonic harmonica by Liam Ward
Song key: G (C harp in 2nd position)

A: -2 -3 -4 5 36 36
B: -5 -4 5 -5 -4 -5 -4 5 -5 -4 4 -3/ -3 -2 -2//
C: (-2→) -4/→-4 (hand wah)
D: -4/ -3 -4 -2 -3/→-3 -4 -3 2 -1
E: -1 -2//→-2/ -1 -1 -4 4 -4 4 -4
F: -4 4 -4 -3/slide -3 -4 -3 2 -2
-1 -2 -3/→-3 -2 2 -1

There are lots of little bits you want to get perfect, otherwise if everything isn’t quite right, the whole thing is going to be thrown off. One of the differences between a top player and an intermediate is the subtle use of techniques, like a perfectly seasoned dish compared with a crass imitation.

Perhaps the first thing you’ll notice on the track is there is a harp “pick-up” at the start – that is, we come in before the band so we’re cueing them in. You’d need to count in 1-2-3 before you start, then play line A and the band comes in when we’re playing the first 36 octave.

You’ll know line A already if you’ve studied Little Walter’s ‘Juke’. Not that this isn’t a highly original solo, because from then on it’s all from William Clarke’s own trickbag.

Studio version:

Line C is quirky in that it comes in on the fourth beat of bar four. It can be tempting to leave it to the first beat of next bar but don’t!

Line D offers some surprise three-note phrases that I only heard when I slowed the track down, then E and F can be accented really well with tongue slaps – a favourite technique of William Clarke himself.

Live version:

As always, take your time and only try playing this fast when you can play it slow. Most of all, enjoy!

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