Harvey Snake Mandel

Harvey Snake Mandel

Blues guitarist
Woodstock alum
Happy birthday to you.
March 11, 1945

Harvey Snake Mandel

Harvey Mandel’s participation at the Woodstock Music and Art Fair was accidental.  Playing at the Fillmore West, Canned Heat’s guitarist Henry Vestine suddenly left the group. Canned Heat asked Mandel  to sit in for one half and Mike Bloomfield the other half (not bad replacements!).

Afterwards, the Heat offered Mandel the guitar spot. He accepted and before he knew it he was on his was on his way to Bethel, NY.

Can’t see him a whole lot, but here’s a piece of the Snake from Woodstock.

Harvey Snake Mandel

Detroit

Harvey Mandel was born in Detroit, raised in Chicago, and in 1966 played on his first album, Charlie Musselwhite‘s  Stand Back! Here Comes Charley Musselwhite’s Southside Band.

He moved to San Francisco and began sitting in at the Matrix. His abilities were immediately noticed and in 1968 he released his first album, Christo Redentor, which contained his classic “Wade In the Water” (written by James W. Alexander & Sam Cooke).

Harvey Snake Mandel

John Mayall

Later Mandel joined John Mayall‘s band and in 1972. He helped  formed the band Pure Food and Drug Act, which released one album, Choice Cuts.

Don “Sugarcane” Harris was in the group as well.

He continued to release solo albums and in 2009 he  reunited with Canned Heat’s Larry Taylor and  Fito de la Parra to perform certain shows on the Canned Heat tour.

As the bio at his site concludes, “Harvey Mandel, “The King Of Sustain”, has been cited as a major influence by many of today’s music superstars. The critics call him “an unsung hero,” “a hugely influential but almost forgotten giant of instrumental rock” and “the best known unknown in pop guitar.” As roots music has gained prominence through the 90’s, purists such as Mandel have had the opportunity to forge a path of musical integrity and expose new audiences to the original Harvey Mandel sound!”

Here’s another, the full, version of “Wade in the Water” that you heard at the top of this entry.  It is from Lucille’s Restaurant’ on April 17, 2013.

In 2011 he was diagnosed with nose cancer. He needed around 35 surgeries to pull him out of it.

In December 2015, Rolling Stone magazine released its list of the top 100 guitarists. Mandel’s name was notably absent.

It’s such B.S.,” he said, adding that “it’s kind of irritating” to see names on the list of players “that really suck.”

I don’t claim to be No. 1 in the world, but I’m definitely in the top 30 of all time,” Mandel said. “I was doing this stuff before these guys knew what was going on.

In March 2017, Mandel was a guest on the NPR show World Cafe with David Dye.  Give the show a listen.

In 2019 he played in a show of with with the Unauthorized Rolling Stones.  The reason for that band? When Mick Taylor quit the Stones,  Mandel figured he’d be a good enough replacement. After all, he’d participated on their 1976 Black and Blue LP.  Listen to him on “Hot Stuff.”

However, Ronnie Wood, an old friend of the Stones’ Keith Richards, snagged the job and has it still.

Looking back Mandel say, “I got aced by a C-minus guitar player.

Health

In a 2019 interview, Mandel said “My health is pretty good at the moment,” Mandel said. “I’ve had an eye problem, but nothing major. The cancer is totally in remission.

Mandel had to go nearly three years without performing because of his health, but he said it wouldn’t take long to dust off the rust.

I could go a year and not play and get up and play good,” he said. “It’s just like being an athlete. But I wouldn’t be in shape. My fingers wouldn’t be as limber. I have to play a little bit every day.

He added about drug use: “I’m still here. I don’t drink or sniff coke. I have been a weed smoker for 55 years. That’s why I’m still here and in good shape.”