Friday, July 29, 2016

Kaine used old-time harmonica skills to appeal to rural Virginia, may do likewise as VP nominee

"He carries multiple harmonicas in his briefcase. He has played with members of the Dave Matthews Band and the Grateful Dead. And he has been known to show up unannounced at bluegrass jamborees around his home state, Virginia, simply looking to jam," Nick Corasaniti reports for The New York Times. "Meet Tim Kaine, vice-presidential candidate, senator, former governor—and mouth organist."

Times reporter Michael Shear says in a video accompanying the story that Kaine is likely to use the harmonica as he and Hillary Clinton run for the White House: "Part of the secret to Tim Kaine's success in Virginia politics has been in finding a way to appeal to the rural folks in Southwest Virginia, and one of the ways he did that was playing the harmonica." Music impresario Woody Crenshaw says in the video, "He has a feel for the old-time music of these mountains."

"Kaine has made music an important part of his political life," Corasaniti writes. "He has often 'sat in' at bluegrass open jam sessions while campaigning and in office. During his Senate campaign in 2012, he held a promotional contest, 'Harmonica With Tim,' in which one lucky person would win not just a dinner with Mr. Kaine, but also a one-on-one harmonica lesson. He had a bluegrass band, No Speed Limit, play his inauguration in 2006 (and he hopped onto the stage for a few songs, naturally)."

Al Cross, director of the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues, which publishes The Rural Blog, noted that Sens. Robert Byrd of West Virginia and Albert Gore Sr. of Tennessee campaigned as fiddle players. He told Corasaniti that Kaine's talent helped him in Virginia: "If you show up someplace where people don’t really know you and you can play a tune, even if it’s not a tune they recognize, they think, ‘This guy’s not a politician; he can play music’."

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