SEATTLE, Wa - "There's a little poem on the Hohner harmonicas you know: 'Hold it with pride, it will be a good friend'" says John Popper. "That applies to so many other things in life by the way ."

Thanks to his good friend, Popper went from straight F student at a New Jersey high school to leader of Blues Traveler, a band that that would sell millions of records.

"I would say the harmonica has been really the key to just about everything good that's happened to me," says Popper.

When you hear him play--so many notes --too many his early critics cried-- you'd never guess his inspiration was Seattle's own Jimi Hendrix.

"He broke all the rules of what a guitar was supposed to be and that really set for the course for me," says Popper. "I'm not saying I pulled it off . That's even better because then it's more original. If you're actually successful mimicking someone else then you're a mimic. But if you try to rip them off and you fail, you're original."

Blues Traveler had been playing together for eight years when they released the Grammy winning single "Run-Around" in 1995.

" When the song broke and I was obese it kind of let people root for me in a weird way cuz I was an unconventional front man. I always say if I had Dave Matthews's ass oh! the records we could have sold!"

But John's obesity--usually veiled in music videos --was hardly a laughing matter.

"I ate four pounds of beef once, " says Popper. " It's a lonely thing to use food that way.

His peak weight was 436 pounds.

" If it was for the gastric bypass surgery I probably would have died," says Popper who has lost more than 150 pounds since.

His health scares apparently behind him, Popper still tours with the band. When he's not on the road he lives outside Snohomish with his wife Jordan and baby Eloise.

" What I love about my daughter is she laughs so easily," says Popper.

A life filled with laughter and music.It all sounds pretty good to John Popper.

You can find his memoir Suck and Blow at Elliott Bay Bookstore.