Picture Butte, Alta., man Floyd Barto has played the harmonica his entire life.
“I’m known here in the Lethbridge area as the ‘Harmonica Rascal,’” the 84-year-old said. “I started when I was five — my dad’s cousin gave me a harmonica and I’ve been playing it ever since.”
Barto went on to perform professionally for about 30 years in Edmonton.
Now, for the first time, Floyd is gracing social media with his outstanding harmonica skills, and the response has blown him away.
“Oh, it’s amazing,” Barto said. “The first one I did I think I got 1.4 thousand people watching, it was amazing. I mean, that’s a lot of people.”
His repertoire includes more than 30 classics from memory.
“[It’s] a little of everything,” he explained. “A little Elvis, Johnny Cash, things like that.”
Barto said his wife Wendy gave him the push to post videos of him playing on YouTube and Facebook.
“I was like, ‘Why don’t you play a song a day?’” Wendy said. “Let’s post it on your Facebook and let’s do it for October.”
Wendy said the isolation of COVID-19 restrictions has been especially hard on her husband.
“He loves people and loves to be with them, loves to be performing, loves to play his harmonica,” she said. “And he used to live for those times when he had gigs coming up.”
Multiple people have reached out to share their appreciation for his virtual gigs.
“[They say], ‘Thanks Floyd. Thanks for making my day,’” he smiled. “You get quite a few comments.”
One of the commenters is Lethbridge music teacher Susan Nieboer.
“Music speaks to people. It just does,” Nieboer said. “It just washes over you and I just really believe people need that.”
She said Barto’s gift has provided more than just entertainment.
“It’s inspiring for me as a teacher when I see that too. It keeps me going and I use him as a role model with my younger students.”
Barto said he intends to continue to post his harmonica videos online.
“I just hope that, because everybody seems to be feeling sad because they are home — I think if anything, it’ll brighten their day,” he said.
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