John O'Leary blues harmonica

 

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John O'Leary is one of the early exponents of the blues harmonica in the UK. Originally from Ireland, John's family was part of the mass migration to England in the aftermath of World  War 2. In London's thriving jazz clubs of the 1960's, he first heard blues harp legend Cyril Davies with Alexis Korner's Blues Incorporated. John bought his first harp in 1962 and initially learned by watching Davies. Inevitably, he discovered the great masters of the instrument Sonny Boy Williamson, Little Walter, Noah Lewis, Big Walter Horton, James Cotton, Sonny Terry and Junior Wells whose influences are still readily discernible in his playing.
John's career has seen his involvement with a wide range bands and musicians over five decades. Beginning in 1965 as a founder member of Savoy Brown's Blues Band through to the present day John O'Leary & Sugarkane, he has continued to maintain a prominent position on the European blues scene.
Over the years John has performed with noted bands and musicians such as Donovan, Noel Redding, Eric Bell, Kim Simmonds, Champion Jack Dupree, Roger Chapman, Dave Walker, Tony McPhee, Dave Kelly, Dick Heckstall-Smith, Aynsley Dunbar, Keef "Half-breed" Hartley, Victor Brox, The John Dummer Blues Band & Mainsqueeze. Today, as well as leading his own band Sugarkane, he is concurrently a member of the legendary Downliners Sect;  The Flamingo All-Stars, the house band at The Bull's Head Falmingo Nights,  and The John O'Leary-Alan Glen All Star Blues Review which for almost 10 years now has hosted annual tributes to Muddy Waters, Junior Wells and Cyril Davies.
In 2011 and 2013 John was voted No 2 in the harmonica category by BLUES MATTERS magazine's contributors and writers.