Blues extraordinaire and island native Hamilton Loomis is returning home this spring to conduct a two-day blues harmonica workshop at Galveston College, and he wants you in on the action.
“It’s just for fun, there’s no red pens and you don’t get a grade,” Loomis said of the workshop on April 24-25 at the college, 4015 Ave. Q. “The great thing about the harmonica is that it’s user-friendly.''
“Ultimately, what I want them to get out of it is not only just picking up a new instrument, but to have an understanding of its context in pop music and blues in general, and the history of the instrument,” he said.
Indeed, Loomis’ love of The Blues has taken him on the ride of his life. At age 14, he was writing, arranging and performing his own music. He found himself in the sights of blues icons Bo Diddley, Johnny Copeland, Albert Collins and Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown, who took him under their wing.
“Growing up in Galveston, I dreamed of playing The Balinese Room which was part of Galveston’s history,” he said.
Operated by Sicilian immigrant barbers-turned-bootleggers Sam and Rosario Maceo, the Balinese Room was an elite spot in the 1940s and 1950s (Galveston's open era), featuring entertainment by Frank Sinatra, Bob Hope, Peggy Lee and The Marx Brothers.
The venue, which extended over the Gulf of Mexico at 2107 Seawall Blvd., was destroyed by Hurricane Ike on Sept. 13, 2008. Indeed, The Balinese Room was a pop culture icon; ZZ Top even wrote and performed a song about the club called, “Balinese.”
Loomis said that one of the highlights of his career was performing at the historic nightclub. In fact, he played there almost a dozen times before its demise.
“Growing up in Galveston as a young musician you dream of playing there, and when it becomes a reality it’s so satisfying, and at the same time very humbling and gratifying,” Loomis said. “I feel totally honored to have been able to a part of that history and to share that history.”
Loomis is doing his part to keep The Blues going strong, and the harmonica workshop at Galveston College is a big step in that direction. It’s a great chance for music lovers 12 and up to get some hands-on training from one of the best.
The workshop costs $60 per person, and takes place from 6-9 p.m. on April 24 and 25 at the Galveston College Fine Arts Building. Participants will receive a new 10-hole harmonica, a practice CD and informative materials.
Space is limited, so be sure to reserve your spot online.