Harmonica player, songwriter, and singer Mark Hummel is a practitioner of the West Coast blues style, which typically includes elements of jazz and swing. A seasoned bandleader, Hummel achieved wider recognition through nearly constant touring. Hummel was born in New Haven, Connecticut but raised in Los Angeles, California. He became fascinated with the blues-rock of Cream, Jimi Hendrix, Big Brother and the Holding Company, and the Rolling Stones. After seeing songwriter credits on the albums, he began to dig further back into those bands' blues roots. He began playing harmonica in his teens in order to be different from the huge pack of guitar players in his high school. Hummel studied the styles of the Chicago-based players, including James Cotton, Sonny Boy Williamson, Big Walter "Shakey" Horton, and Little Walter Jacobs. Hummel moved to Berkeley, California in 1972 and played with local bluesmen there, including Boogie Jake, Cool Papa, Johnny Waters, and Sonny Lane. After graduating high school, he hitchhiked around the country for three years, making stops in New Orleans, Boston, and Chicago to learn from those cities' top players.
In 1980, he formed the Blues Survivors, subsequently performed at numerous blues festivals around the U.S., including the Chicago Blues Festival and the San Francisco Blues Festival. Hummel has released a number of self-produced albums around his Oakland, California home, including Playing in Your Town (1985, Rockinitis Records), Up & Jumpin' (with Canadian guitarist Sue Foley, 1989-1990), and Hard Lovin' (1992, Double Trouble Records). His widely available albums include Feel Like Rockin' (1994, Flying Fish Records), Married to the Blues (1995, Flying Fish), and Heart of Chicago (1997, Tone-Cool/Rounder), an album recorded in Chicago on which Hummel was accompanied by some veteran Chicago sidemen, including drummer Willie "Big Eyes" Smith, guitarist Dave Myers, and producer/guitarist Steve Freund. Considered one of the top harmonica players in the U.S., Hummel has also judged and played in the Hohner Harmonica World Championships, held in Germany; he issued Low Down to Uptown in 1998. Golden State Blues was next, released on new label Electro-Fi with support from Hummel's usual backing band, the Blues Survivors. Retro-Active followed early in 2010. ~ Richard Skelly