Maybe it wasn’t the biggest shock for Dennis Gruenling to find his likeness pasted on the cover of a new Hohner Marine Band Crossover harmonica box, their latest in high performance harps. They would have already seen him around the office or over in Quality Assurance.
“I’ve been playing Hohner’s since day one, literally,” Gruenling said during a recent tour stop in West Virginia. “I tried others during my first years playing but I kept going back to the Marine Band.”
So now without ever hearing a note you might surmise how Dennis Gruenling, sought-after music instructor and part-time radio host, has the tools to make a run at a spot on the short list of Harp Players to Watch.
Gruenling appears with Doug Deming & the Jewel Tones, one of the very best swing and traditional jump blues bands, in a show Saturday at the Tip Top Deluxe Bar & Grill.
Ahead of the curve for certain, Gruenling came up ordering and playing specialty low key harmonicas designed by harp historian and technician Joe Filisko. Hohner recently released a line of low key harmonicas similar to Filisko’s customization. Gruenling is a product tester for the German company and helped with the design of this new Thunderbird series.
“I’ve been playing low tune harps since before my first record in 1999,” Gruenling said. “No one else was even making them back then. I had Filisko custom make me those harps before you could get them anywhere.”
Greunling is all things harmonica if you hadn’t already noticed. But wait, there's more. If you look closely on Saturday you’ll notice the chrome microphone he uses to amplify his instrument. He probably refurbished it himself at some point as part of a side business he runs. Gruenling got into restoring these 1940s-era vintage “bullet” microphones, like the Astatic brand, almost out of necessity.
“When I was first on the scene I bought a microphone from this guy and it didn’t work that well so I kind of got ripped off a little bit,” Gruenling said. “I think because I was so mad at getting ripped off I started looking out for and collecting them. I have hundreds of old vintage microphones. I started repairing them for myself and now I have customers worldwide like Kim Wilson (The Fabulous Thunderbirds), Charlie Musselwhite, and Tom Waits.”
According to Dennis Gruenling, in a fitting gesture, Joe Filisko’s face is purported to grace the covers of the new Thunderbird harmonica box. These guys will say it’s all about nothing but, really, how cool is that?
“It’s kind of like getting your picture on a box of Wheaties,” Gruenling said with a laugh. “Whatever happens I’d still be playing a Hohner no matter what.”
Doug Deming & the Jewel Tones w/ Dennis Gruenling, 8pm, Saturday @ Tip Top Deluxe Bar & Grill
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