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Sunday, January 19, 2014

Don "Sugarcane" Harris

Don Francis Bowman "Sugarcane" Harris 

Born:  June 18, 1938

 Died: November 30, 1999 

 Instruments:  Vocals, electric violin, violin, guitar, organ

Genre: Rock 'N Roll, Jazz, R&B

Don "Sugarcane" Harris was an American Rock 'N Roll violinist and guitarist. In 1954, Don Harris joined Dewey Terry, a founding member of a group called The Squires while still in high school. In 1955 the Squires released a record on the small Los Angeles-based label, Dig This Record. In 1957, the group broke up, but Don and Dewey remained together. Both Don and Dewey played guitar, with Dewey often doubling on keyboards. When not playing guitar or bass, Don occasionally played the electric violin, a skill for which he subsequently became well known under the name of "Sugarcane" Harris. Even after recording with Art Rupe on his Specialty label using the legendary drummer,Earl Palmer, Don and Dewey failed to record any hits. 

After separating from Dewey Terry in the 1960s, Harris moved almost exclusively over to the electric violin. He was to reappear as a sideman with John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers and Frank Zappa, most recognized for his appearances on Hot Rats, and on the Mothers of Invention albums Burnt Weeny Sandwich and Weasels Ripped My Flesh. His lead vocal and blues violin solo on a cover of Little Richard's "Directly From My Heart to You" on Weasels, and his extended solo on the lengthy "Little House I Used To Live In" on Weeny are considered highlights of those albums. Reportedly, he was rescued from a jail term by Zappa. Zappa had long admired Harris's playing and bailed him out of prison, resurrecting his career and ushering in a long period of creativity for the forgotten violin virtuoso. He played a couple of live concerts with Zappa's band in 1969.

During the early 1970s, Sugarcane fronted the Pure Food and Drug Act which included drummer Paul Lagos, guitarists Harvey Mandel and Randy Resnick, and bassist Victor Conte, who was the founder of the Bay Area Laboratory Co-operative (BALCO). Conte replaced Larry Taylor who was the original bass player. His first solo album (with back cover art by underground poster artist Rick Griffin) is a forgotten masterpiece of blues, jazz, classical and funk compositions, and his 1973 live album Sugarcane's Got The Blues, recorded at the Berlin Jazz Festival show an accomplished musician at the top of his game.

In the 1980s, Sugarcane was a member of the Los Angeles-based experimental rock band Tupelo Chain Sex.

Discography
  • Keep On Driving (1970)
  • Sugarcane (1970)
  • Fiddler On The Rock (1971)
  • Sugar Cane’s Got The Blues [Live] (1972)
  • Cup Full Of Dreams (1973) 
  • I’m On Your Case (1974)
  • Keyzop (1975)
  • Flashin' Time (1976)
Compilations
  • Anthology Volume One (2001)
  • Cup Full Of Dreams CD (2011)

Affiliates 
  • Pure, Food  and Drug Act - Choice Cuts (1972)
Sources: Wikipedia, discogs, rateyourmusic.com

2 comments:

Schmalx said...

What a great artist Sugarcane was! Thanks for posting! I fell in love with Sugarcane during his stint with John Mayall, but unfortunately never had the chance to see him live. There is a great live recording you missed to mention Don 'Sugar Cane' Harris* / Jean-Luc Ponty / Nipso Brantner / MichaƂ Urbaniak ‎– New Violin Summit live at the Berlin Jazz Festival

Anonymous said...

Don is playing some mean violin solos on Zappa's "Willie the Pimp" and "Gumbo Variations" on Hot Rats.
He played with the Mothers of Invention as well!

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