Toots Thielemans

April 29, 1922 – August 22, 2016


Harmonica player, guitarist, puccalo player and composer Toots Thielemans (Jean-Baptiste Frédéric Isidor, Baron Thielemans) was born on April 29, 1922, in Brussels, Belgium.

While perhaps best known for his harmonica work, he’s also a skilled guitarist.

His list of credits is staggering: Ella Fitzgerald, Jaco Pastorius, Stephane Grappelli, édith Piaf, Oscar Peterson, Bill Evans. And this is just a short list.

Few know that he’s also the harmonica on the “Sesame Street” theme song, the popular US TV program for kids.

Credited as among the greatest harmonica players in the world, Belgian jazz musician Jean “Toots” Thielemans began his professional career at a 1949 jam session in Paris as a guitarist backing Sidney Bechet, Charlie Parker, and Miles Davis.

While touring Europe with Benny Goodman in 1949 and ’50 he cut he made his his first recordings with tenor saxophonist Zoot Sims.

After relocating to the U.S. in 1952 “Toots” worked as a member of Charlie Parker’s All-Stars and the “George Shearing Quintet” in addition to the groups of Dinah Washington and Miles Davis.

He would also perform with Ella Fitzgerald, Stephane Grappelli, Oscar Peterson, Bill Evans, and Joe Pass.

In 1962 Thielemans scored an international hit with his composition “Bluesette” a tune in which he incorporates whistling over his guitar.

Both his whistling and harmonica playing have been frequently featured in commercials for Old Spice.

Jean “Toots” Thielemans performs his hit “Bluesette” during a 2009 TV appearance in the Netherlands.

For Toots’ original whistled guitar rendition: Click Here