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Author Talk with Hugh Holmes: The Undaunted Professor Harp

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Mt Pleasant Library - OutsideRoom
Tuesday, June 1, 2021 - 6:30pm to 7:30pm
315 Academy Avenue
Providence, RI 02908

Hugh Holmes, The Undaunted Professor Harp, joins us outdoors at Mount Pleasant Library to discuss his memoir, Ain’t No Uncle Tom In My Blues.

Join us as we kick off a summer of outdoor music, authors and artists at Mount Pleasant Library with an author talk featuring Hugh Holmes! He has performed in Boston for decades as The Undaunted Professor Harp, and brings a direct, unvarnished approach to the way he plays traditional blues on the harmonica. His saga as a Black Boston blues lifer is chronicled in his memoir, Ain’t No Uncle Tom in My Blues. Copies of the book will be available to purchase and have signed by the author.

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Although born and raised as Hugh Holmes of Boston, Mass., the emanations from his harmonica and vocals make it clear that Professor Harp has the blues of Texas and the whole wide Delta coursing through his veins. The Professor was a rock ‘n’ roll drummer until ’69, when the Boston blues revival and a sterling performance he caught of blues harmonica great George Allen ‘Harmonica’ Smith, combined to lure him away from drums and into a full court press on the blues harp. Professor Harp specializes in what he calls, ‘roots music’. “It’s whatever makes me feel good and moves me, so to speak.” Professor Harp performed with various bands throughout the Northeast including legends Solomon Burke and Luther ‘Guitar Jr.’ Johnson and played live on NBC’s Today Show. Among the legions of hot performances at rocking blues clubs, the memories that often stand out for The Professor are the nights his harp helped to swell the room, in a spontaneous jam with his old mentor, the inimitable bluesman Muddy Waters.



In the author’s own words, "My memoir, it's as much about injustice as it is about music. Times haven’t changed so much for Black folk in the last half-century. Well, to be fair, I didn’t grow up in a cotton field, and I’m glad I didn’t. Jim Crow gentrified into Chad Crowe, Esquire, but it’s Jim Crow all the same. Learned to play harp (harmonica) on my own, studied the greats like George Harmonica Smith and James Cotton. I’ve sat in and played with Muddy Waters – lost my musical virginity that night long ago. Proud to have been on the bill with the world famous B.B. King. Still, something’s wrong, something’s missing. Somehow, after so many years, I still can’t get tight with a band of my own. The great Solomon Burke gave me my stage name, “Professor Harp.” I added “Undaunted” because that’s who I am. I’ll never give up on the Blues. No matter that Blacks have abandoned their own heritage, their own musical history. No matter that whites have appropriated the Blues and turned it into something it was never meant to be. No matter that my life as a Bluesman living in a sea of white folks here in the New England area has been nothing but a vicious struggle, battling the racism that is inherent in our part of the world. Fighting the battle of childhood abuse, isolation, bullying. No, I’ll never give up trying. That’s why they call me The Undaunted Professor Harp. I’m no Uncle Tom. I tell it like it is. Like it was. Don’t hold much back. I’ve got plenty to say. And yes, I keep on, keepin’ on."

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Dhana Whiteing
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