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‘Rich’ in spirit: Blackduck harmonica player is a local staple

“Harmonica Rich” Morine often plays his harmonica at Brigid’s Pub or Dairy Queen in Bemidji. (Maggi Stivers | Bemidji Pioneer)

“Harmonica Rich” Morine is not your average local musician.

Whether it’s in Bemidji at Brigid’s Pub or Dairy Queen, Morine is in his element when he’s on stage. Though he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease nearly 20 years ago, he hasn’t let that stop him from doing what he loves.

Morine’s beginning with the harmonica was a happy accident. One night, he gave a local pastor a ride home from a music store and saw a man playing the harmonica.

“I just thought, ‘Gosh, that’s beautiful’, so I got one and got a book and everything,” Morine said. “And I said to a friend of mine, ‘Listen to this!’ and I started playing some little dinky song.”

From there it snowballed into a bluegrass festival, organized with his wife, Barbara, and even performing at the Sturgis Rally, an annual motorcycle event in South Dakota.

“I don’t get nervous anymore,” Rich said, of his performance confidence. “Now I just love it.”

A native of New Jersey, Rich and Barbara traveled for two years after they were married, spending time in Minnesota and Nebraska before settling in Park Rapids.

Through everything in their lives, the one thing that has remained steadfast and strong is their faith.

“I feel I’ve accomplished more in my faith because of my Parkinson’s than I have outside of it,” Rich said. “Wherever God wants me, I’m willing to be there and it’s exciting. It’s not always easy or fun, but God is good.”

Rich continues to play, or jam as he likes to say, at Brigid’s Pub and the Bemidji bowling alley during karaoke nights.

“When I first started jamming on Friday nights, one guy called me ‘Reverend Rich,’” he said of his nickname, “but I like ‘Harmonica Rich’ better. Reverend Rich sometimes might make people be on their guard.”

When he was 22, Rich was in a head-on motorcycle collision and walked away with little physical injury. One of his friends suggested he write about his experience, which was later set to music and turned into a song. Rich estimated that he and Barbara handed out more than a thousand copies of his CD at the Sturgis Rally.

“The golden thread that is embroidered through his life and my life is faith,” said Barbara. “We do have an underlying faith and it does take us through things and because of it we have had many opportunities--bands and bike groups, it's taken us all over the country.”

Harmonica Rich can be found on Thursdays at Brigid’s Pub in downtown Bemidji and Friday nights at the Bemidji bowling alley for karaoke nights. When he’s done playing, he’ll be more than happy to sit down and listen to anyone who wants to talk.

“In all the years that we’ve been married, I can’t think of one person who he dislikes,” said Barbara. “He just seems to get along with everybody.”

Audrey Zimmerman

Audrey Zimmerman is a reporter for the Blackduck American, covering everything from high school sports to City Council meetings. She graduated from the College of St. Scholastica in May 2015 and joined the Pioneer staff the following February. She also contributes to the Pioneer, reporting on local goings-on and events. 

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