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Ronald Reagan: A man and his secret harmonica

Ronald Reagan, an American legend
Ronald Reagan, an American legend
Marion Doss/Flickr

Ronald Reagan was a...harmonica player? I consider myself something of a student of Reaganalia, having enjoyed some formative years during the Gipper's reign. But Kitty Felde's story today about a Reagan exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C., included a tidbit about the 40th President's rumored late-life adoption of the mouth harp as his instrument of choice. That got my attention!

Evidently, Reagan's harmonica playing was something that journalists discussed, but like a sort of musical state secret, could never properly confirm. This is from the UK Independent — in 1994:

Some say it was Bill Clinton's saxophone playing that got him going, others that he read Presidents Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, Coolidge and Eisenhower played the harmonica so he felt he ought to.

Bemused friends claim a tutor visits twice a week and there have been suggestions that among the tunes the former actor has been working on are 'Git Along Little Doggie' and 'Streets of Laredo'.

The Baltimore Sun also reported on the rumor. And the Complete Idiot's Guide to Playing the Harmonica references the legend — also cited by Kitty Felde — that Reagan learned to play while recovering from his attempted assassination. 

If only he'd had YouTube!


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