Ralph Files, whose name sounds like a description of a male secretary, participated in a 1942 recording session that certainly deserves to go down in history. Call it a prank or a clever end-run around the official recording ban that was in effect at the time, the collection of four sides by two different vocalists utilized only a quartet of harmonica players for instrumental backup, one of which was Files. The reason for this was not some great love of harmonicas, although inevitably the collectors of these recordings would presumably fall into that camp.
The fact was that even during the Second World War the American musicians' union had still not officially classified the harmonica as a real musical instrument. Thus, producer Joe Davis was technically not violating the ban against recording musical instruments when he brought singers Art Dickson and Dolores Brown into the studio to be backed by a harmonica quartet consisting of Files, Frank Andriello, Hy Dolber, and Michael Chimes.
The highly experimental idea of using harmonicas of different ranges to approximate an orchestral sound was put to the test on two diverse styles of material, both popular styles of the day. Dickson provided a pair of patriotic-style ditties synchronized with the ongoing war effort, "She Gave Her Heart to a Soldier Boy" and "The Man of the Hour, General Eisenhower." Brown, in contrast, performed several classic blues numbers. For this she was paid less than the harmonica players: she raked in $25 for the session; Files and buddies got $30 each. Perhaps this had to do with seniority in the art of all-harmonica backing. Files, like just about every harmonica player active in this period, had once been a member of the Minnevitch Rascals, an all-harmonica ensemble originally formed in the late '20s by the famed harmonica virtuoso and impresario Borrah Minevitch.