Back in 1994, fans of music festivals in the mid-South began to notice a new kid on the scene. He was a wiry, animated, funny crowd-pleasing young man who knew all of the old-time contest favorites like "Liberty" and "Whiskey Before Breakfast," who could hold his own with the best pickers at these contests, and who even knew a couple of chicken songs. But he was also different, in a very important way. His instrument was not the fiddle or the banjo or the dulcimer, but the harmonica. Now middle Tennessee has been a hotbed for harmonica players ever since the 1920's when DeFord Bailey, Dr. Humphrey Bate, and the Crook Brothers used the instrument to help start up the Grand Ole Opry. And most every festival in the area today still has a harmonica competition. But the kind of music this young man was playing was unlike most of the harmonica music normally heard there. It was cleaner, sharper, more innovative, and incredibly faster than anything else. It might best be described as "bluegrass harp," with the rich, rapid cascading runs of notes resembling the three-finger rolls of Earl Scruggs - only played on an instrument more commonly associated with cowboy laments and sentimental songs. Fans and judges alike have hailed the music of this young man, giving him over a hundred first place awards in his contests. Here's a chance to experience some more of the excitement of this breathtaking new sound - and to meet the man who created it: Wailin Wood.
Wailin's background is as varied as his music. "I was born and grew up on a small island at the tip of New Jersey called Cape May," Wailin says. "It's an old Victorian town. I moved to Nashville in 1982." He curretly makes his home near White Bluff, in a hamlet called Claylick, west of Nashville. "When I first started playing the harmonica," he continues, "the written information was not available. I would listen to anything and everything that had harmonica on it."