Jerry Murad's Harmonicats

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The Harmonicats, c. 1950

Jerry Murad's Harmonicats were an American harmonica-based group.


The band was founded in 1947; by 1996 (the time of Murad's death), the group was no longer performing. Originally they were named The Harmonica Madcaps and the group consisted of Jerry Murad (chromatic lead harmonica), Bob Hadamik (bass harmonica), Pete Pedersen (chromatic harmonica), and Al Fiore, (chord harmonica). In 1947, the group consisted of Murad, Fiore, Don Les on bass harmonica, and Cappy Lafell on Polyphonia. They eventually (around 1948) became a trio with Murad, Fiore, Les.[citation needed]

In 1947, during the record ban, the group recorded the hit song "Peg O' My Heart" on VitAcoustic records, and it sold more than 2 million copies the first year. It was the first record to use artificial reverb.

Pedersen and Gail Wallace remained contributors to the group throughout its existence, working on arrangements and occasionally recording.[citation needed]

During 1949 when Don Les' father died, the band called upon Johnny Thompson to fill in for Les on bass harmonica for a couple of weeks. Thompson went on to play with them at their residency gig at the Frontier Hotel in Las Vegas in the early 1950s. In the mid-1950s, Les suffered from a detached retina, and Thompson once again took his place until Les was able to return full time later in the decade.[citation needed]. In 1958, Al Fiore suffered his first heart attack and Bob Herndon filled in for him for several months.

In the early 1970s, Don Les left the group and was replaced by Dick Gardner, who stayed with the group for more than 20 years. Other members of the group included the following:


Jerry Murad[edit]

Jerry Murad (chromatic harmonica), was an Armenian born in Istanbul, Turkey who moved to America at the age of 2. He played diatonic harmonicas at first, and took up chromatic soon after. Murad played Hohner 270s and 64s, as well as the Musette, a harmonica made especially for him that replicates the sound qualities of a French accordion. It is featured on their 1960s recording of "Parisienne Fantasy". Murad also played the Hohner Polyphonia (a type of orchestral melodic harmonica).[citation needed]

Don Les[edit]

Don Les (Dominic Leshinski) (1914–1994) (bass harmonica) was born in Lorain, Ohio,[1] with congenital cataracts. He was able to see again at the age of twelve after a "couple of operations," but even as an adult his vision was only about 30% of normal.[2] At one point, he formed his own version of the Harmonicats. The Don Les Harmonicats, which featured Mildred Mulcay (of the harmonica duo the Mulcays) and Lenny Leavitt. They released a Christmas album entitled Christmas with the Don Les Harmonicats.[citation needed]

Al Fiore[edit]

Al Fiore (chord harmonica), was born in Chicago and started experimenting with chord harmonicas at the age of 13. Fiore played the rare pre-war Hohner Chord harmonica. He recorded the band's No. 1 hit, Peg o' My Heart on this harmonica.[citation needed]

Cappy Laffel[edit]

Leon "Cappy" Laffel was the Polyphonia player for the Harmonicats for the 1947 and 1948 years. He left before 1950. He can be heard on songs such as "Ritual Fire Dance" and "Always in my Heart".

Dick Gardner[edit]

Dick Gardner (bass harmonica) took over for Don Les in 1970 and remained with the Cats for over 20 years.

Bob Bauer[edit]

Bob Bauer (chord harmonica) took over for George Miklas in 1985 and after Al Fiore left the group He remained many years.

George Miklas[edit]

George Miklas was originally a chord player for the group before leaving the group and returning later to play bass with the group.

Al Data[edit]

Al Data played chord with the group in its final days, until Jerry's death in 1996.

Joe Mass Jr.[edit]

Joe Mass Junior (1953–2018) played chord for the Harmonicats one year, while on tour in California.

J.R. Mass[edit]

Brother to Joe Mass Jr., Jerry "J.R." Mass played the bass harmonica for the Harmonicats one year, while on tour in California.

Buddy Boblink[edit]

Charles "Buddy" Boblink played chord with the group throughout the 1990s and until Jerry's death in 1996.

Pete Pedersen[edit]

Pete Pedersen was the main arranger for the group and remained the 2nd chromatic player for many albums over the bands nearly 50 years of recording.

Frank Warner[edit]

Frank Warner filled in at times playing the bass harmonica.

Peg o' My Heart[edit]

Their 1947 recording of the song "Peg o' My Heart" (Mercury Records, originally Vitacoustic Records, catalog number 1) brought them public attention and sold over one million copies by 1950, reaching No. 1 on the U.S. Billboard chart.[3] When recording engineer Bill Putnam recorded the song, he utilized the bathroom of Universal Recording as an echo chamber and became the first person to use artificial reverberation creatively on a pop recording.[4][5]

Other charted hits included "Hair of Gold, Eyes of Blue," which reached No. 22, and "Cherry Pink and Apple Blossom White".


10" albums[edit]

  • Jerry Murad's Harmonicats (Mercury, 1950)
  • Harmonica Highlights (Mercury, 1952)
  • Harmonica Hits (Mercury, 1952)
  • Harmonica Classics (Mercury, 1952)
  • Olé: South of the Border with the Harmonicats (Mercury, 1954)

12" albums[edit]

  • Harmonicats' Selected Favorites (Mercury, 1955)
  • South American Nights (Mercury, 1956)
  • Command Performance (Mercury, 1956)
  • The Cats Meow (Mercury, 1956)
  • Dolls, Dolls, Dolls (Mercury, 1957)
  • Harmonicha Cha-Cha (Mercury, 1958)
  • In the Land of Hi-Fi (Mercury, 1959)
  • Harmonically Yours (Mercury, 1960)
  • Cherry Pink and Apple Blossom White (Columbia, 1960)
  • Peg o' My Heart (Columbia, 1961)
  • Love Theme from El Cid and Other Motion Picture Songs and Themes (Columbia, 1962)
  • Sentimental Serenade (Columbia, 1962)
  • Fiesta! (Columbia, 1962)
  • Forgotten Dreams (Columbia, 1963)
  • The Soul of Italy (Columbia, 1963)
  • Try a Little Tenderness (Columbia, 1963)
  • The Love Song of Tom Jones (Columbia, 1964)
  • That New Gang of Mine! (Columbia, 1965)
  • Harmonica Rhapsody (Columbia, 1965)
  • What's New Harmonicats? (Columbia, 1966)
  • Great Themes from TV and Motion Pictures (Columbia, 1969)


  1. ^ The Chronicle Telegram, Aug. 29, 1994 obit. & "Don Les" & "Interview with Don Les," pgs. 249-250, Harmonicas, Harps & Heavy Breathers (2000) Kim Field
  2. ^ "Interview with Don Les," pgs. 250-251, Harmonicas, Harps & Heavy Breathers (2000) Kim Field
  3. ^ Murrells, Joseph (1978). The Book of Golden Discs (2nd ed.). London: Barrie and Jenkins Ltd. p. 39. ISBN 0-214-20512-6.
  4. ^ Weir, William (2012-06-21). "How humans conquered echo". The Atlantic. Retrieved 2021-08-24.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  5. ^ Cogan, Jim; Clark, William (2003). Temples of Sound: Inside the Great Recording Studios. San Francisco, California, United States: Chronicle Books. p. 127. ISBN 0-8118-3394-1.

External links[edit]