Blues Musician Jeff Dearborn

A quarter of a century ago, Jeff Dearborn bought a John Lee Hooker cassette and, on a long drive to Vermont, became a serious blues addict. Eventually, he began playing harp and formed a band. He keeps his day job as boss of the Old Yankee Tree Service. A chainsaw keeps him sane during the day, but at night, to quote Willie Dixon, “The dogs begin to bark, the hounds begin to howl.”

I went to the record stores and started buying Blues cassettes by the dozen. Growing up in Weare, I’d never heard music like that before.

Harmonica is maybe the easiest instrument to learn, but the most difficult to play.

The best harp player ever is Little Walter. Period.

My voice sounded kinda like Edith Bunker’s but then I got some good advice: “Don’t try to sing like Muddy Waters or anyone else. Just sing with your own and things will work out.”

My biggest professional influence was Billy Conway, the drummer for Morphine. I played a little for him and the next thing I know, we’re in the studio with a band he’d put together.

In 2009, we formed a core four-piece group [the Contoocook Blues Society]. We added a sax, trumpet, trombone and keys. I can throw anything at these guys and they can pull it off. We are tight, and everyone gets along.

We rarely rehearse.

When we do a new tune, we’ll perform it at the next gig but play it near the end; that way, if we screw up, people will be too drunk to remember.

I don’t take myself too seriously.

Whether there are 20 people or 2,000 people listening, I’m not aware of the audience; I’m focused on the band and the song. 

In 2005 I cut my first album, “Live Freeze & Die.” I called the best musicians I could find in the area. We nailed it. Two years later I’d written some more, had an itch and recorded another called “Junk Yard Dog.”


This is Dearborn’s harp box and his trophy railroad spike (now a playlist paperweight for outdoor performances) found 25 feet from the official birthplace of the blues.


Categories: Music & Movies, Q&A