Harmonicowboy. I’m Greg Martin with today’s Line On Agriculture.

When I think of the cowboy out on the range I also hear that lonesome sound of a harmonica.

ALLEGRETTO: It can like you say have a lonesome sound but it can have a joyous sound.

Gary Allegretto is known in the cowboy world as the Harmonicowboy and let me tell you he can make that thing sing.

ALLEGRETTO: The harmonica was used over the settling of our country for dances because when they were moving out west they weren’t carrying pianos. And they weren’t carrying big instruments they were carrying small instruments so you might have a banjo and harmonica playing together at a dance.

Allegretto has been playing the harmonica most of his life

ALLEGRETTO: My grandfather was a harmonica player. He saw me playing on a toy plastic harmonica as a kid and he kind of chuckled and went into his room and came back with his harmonica and handed it to me. Even at that age I knew how important of a moment that was and that was for me to carry on the torch.

The harmonica dates back to the early 1800‘s and there are many styles available.

ALLEGRETTO: Harmonica’s come in diatonic and chromatic scales. The smaller ones that you see that everybody seems to know, the most common kind are the 10-hole diatonics. That’s the most common type of harmonica. Those are my workhorses. That’s what I use mostly in my shows is a diatonic harmonica.

Allegretto loves to teach people to play the harmonica and has founded the group, Harmonikids.

ALLEGRETTO: Harmonikids is the joy of my life. It started 25 years ago and I started volunteering to play for kids in a cancer hospital and I saw how drawn the kids were to the harmonica. It’s very kids friendly and especially these kids were in wheel chairs and hospital beds and on IV’s so it was the perfect instrument for them but I couldn’t give them mine. I approached Hohner and they said they would make the harmonicas available and that’s how Harmonikids was born.

As part of the program he makes the harmonicas available to the kids.

ALLEGRETTO: I’ve been to Ronald McDonald Houses, kids who were incarcerated in juvenile homes, I’ve been around the world. The outreach of the harmonica is limitless and Harmonikids provides a means to address it.

Allegretto is a 5 time WMA Award nominee including Best Entertainer and Best Instrumentalist. He will be appearing at this year’s Spirit of the West show in Ellensburg on Friday evening and will conduct a harmonica workshop Saturday morning at 10:30. More on Monday.

That’s today’s Line On Agriculture. I’m Greg Martin on the Ag Information Network. 

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