Fuller Up The Dead Musician Directory 
Harrison D. Nelson Jr.
Peppermint Harris
March 19, 1999
Age 73



Blues man of mystery
Peppermint Harris  

                                                    By Tony Russell for newsunlimited.com  

                                                    Peppermint Harris, who has died aged 73, 
                                                    was a blues singer best known for his 
                                                    party song I Got Loaded, a 1951 jukebox 
                                                    hit. Although he wrote lyrics for B B King 
                                                    and Etta James, his early success was 
                                                    followed by obscurity before he enjoyed a 
                                                    small revival among blues enthusiasts. 

                                                    He was born in Texarkana, Texas. In 
                                                    1947, after second world war naval 
                                                    service, he moved to Houston, where he 
                                                    met the city's most famous blues-singer, 
                                                    Lightnin' Hopkins. 'Playing the blues in the 
                                                    old days,' he remembered, 'was like being 
                                                    black twice. That's what Lightnin' Hopkins 
                                                    told me.' Having no interest in playing 
                                                    guitar, he was no threat to Hopkins's 
                                                    status, and the older man introduced him 
                                                    to the local Gold Star label, for which he 
                                                    made his first recording in 1948. 

                                                    It was credited to Peppermint Nelson, the 
                                                    nickname given him by a ballroom owner. 
                                                    (Everybody had a moniker then.) When he 
                                                    next recorded, the producer Bob Shad 
                                                    forgot to write his name on the tape box 
                                                    and misremembered it as Harris. The local 
                                                    success of Raining In My Heart (1950) 
                                                    fixed his professional name as Peppermint 

                                                    Though his laid-back singing was 
                                                    distinctive, he took some time to choose it 
                                                    as his career.  He studied speech and 
                                                    drama at Houston College, playing and 
                                                    singing the blues for enjoyment. But after 
                                                    the success of I Got Loaded he took 
                                                    music more seriously, moving to California 
                                                    to record for Aladdin and Modern, and to 
                                                    become one of Modern's staff lyric-writers. 
                                                    Later he recorded for smaller West Coast 
                                                    labels, including a fine session in 1956 
                                                    with the young Albert Collins on guitar, but 
                                                    by the end of the 1950s he was a minor 

                                                    When a couple of his recordings were 
                                                    issued in Britain in the early 1960s on the 
                                                    unhelpfully titled album Ray Charles In 
                                                    R&B Greats Vol. 2, Harris was a figure of 
                                                    mystery, and remained so for 20 years. 
                                                    He worked outside music, though he had 
                                                    a spell in a record manufacturing plant, 
                                                    where operating machines that might once 
                                                    have pressed his own discs caused him 
                                                    no discomfort. His temperament was 
                                                    easy-going, and his recollections of past 
                                                    employers, such as the notorious Houston 
                                                    music mogul Don Robey, generally rosy. 

                                                    Following a Swedish re-issue of his early 
                                                    sides and some attention from the 
                                                    specialist press, Harris performed at the 
                                                    Blues Estafette festival in Utrecht in 1988. 

                                                    He spent his later years in Sacramento in 
                                                    California, where he occasionally 
                                                    appeared in a local club, before moving 
                                                    recently to New Jersey to live with his 

Peppermint Harris, blues singer/guitarist

                                Texas-born blues singer/guitarist Peppermint Harris, who topped 
                                the R&B charts in 1951 with his massive hit "I Got Loaded," died 
                                March 19, 1999, in Elizabeth, N.J., at the age of 73. 

                                Born Harrison D. Nelson Jr., July 17, 1925, in Texarkana, Texas, 
                                Harris met his idol, Lone Star blues great Lightnin' Hopkins, while 
                                strolling down a Houston street. Hopkins offered encouragement, 
                                and in 1948 the newcomer cut his debut 78, "Peppermint 
                                Boogie"/"Houston Blues," for Gold Star Records under the billing 
                                of Peppermint Nelson. 

                                It was Bobby Shad, owner of Sittin' In With Records, who 
                                changed Nelson's surname to Harris, purely because Shad failed to 
                                make note of his correct name when recording him in Houston. 
                                Harris' first Sittin' In With release, "Raining In My Heart," was a 
                                national R&B smash in 1950. Shad recorded him extensively, 
                                though seldom in professional studios (legend has it one date was 
                                held in a Houston bordello).  

                                By June 1951, Harris had switched over to Eddie Mesner's Los 
                                Angeles–based firm, Aladdin Records. Once again, lightning struck 
                                his first time out on the logo with "I Got Loaded," a self-penned 
                                booze ode that topped the R&B lists and made Harris a star. 
                                Though Harris played guitar on stage, he usually left that to Tiny 
                                Webb or Chuck Norris on his Aladdin sides; under saxist Maxwell 
                                Davis' direction, "I Got Loaded" and its many follow-ups into 1953 
                                (including the lyrically related "Have Another Drink And Talk To 
                                Me," "Right Back On It" and "Three Sheets In The Wind") 
                                featured top West Coast sessioneers. After leaving Aladdin, Harris 
                                waxed solitary releases for Modern, Money, RCA's "X" logo, 
                                Combo, Dart, and in 1960, Don Robey's Duke Records, where 
                                Harris cut "Ain't No Business"/"Angel Child." In 1965, Harris 
                                hooked up with Stan Lewis' Jewel label and made six 45s for the 
                                company over the next few years, including a remake of "Raining 
                                In My Heart." He was still active recently — Collectables issued a 
                                new Harris album, Texas On My Mind, in 1995, but it only 
                                displayed intermittent glimmers of Harris' former lusty drive. 

                                — Bill Dahl



     Peppermint Harris 
Born: July 17, 1925
(Harrison D. Nelson Jr.)

The contemporary blues boom has resuscitated the career of many a veteran blues artist who's been silent for ages. Take guitarist Peppermint Harris, who in 1951 topped the R&B charts with his classic booze ode "I Got Loaded." Nobody expected a new Peppermint Harris CD in 1995, but Home Cooking producer Roy C. Ames coaxed one out of old Pep for Collectables nonetheless.  Texas on My Mind may not be as enthralling as Harris's early '50s output, but it's nice to have him back in circulation.  

By the time he was in his early 20s, Harrison Nelson, Jr. was lucky enough to have found a mentor and friend on the Houston blues front: Lightnin' Hopkins took an interest in the young man's musical development. When Harris was deemed ready, Lightnin' accompanied him to Houston's Gold Star Records. Nothing came of that jaunt, but Harris eventually recorded his debut 78 for the company in 1948 (as Peppermint Nelson).  

Bob Shad's Sittin' in With label was the vehicle that supplied Harris's early work to the masses -- especially his first major hit, "Raining in My Heart," in 1950. These weren't exactly formal sessions -- legend has it one took place in a Houston bordello! Nor was Shad too cognizant of Pep's surname -- when he couldn't recall it, he simply renamed our man Harris.  

Harris moved over to Eddie Mesner's Aladdin Records in 1951, cutting far tighter sides for the firm in Los Angeles (often with the ubiquitous Maxwell Davis serving as bandleader and saxist). After "I Got Loaded" lit up the charts in 1951, Harris indulged in one booze ode after another: "Have Another Drink and Talk to Me," "Right Back On It," "Three Sheets in the Wind." But try as they might, the bottle let Harris down as a lyrical launching pad after that.  

He drifted from Money and Cash to RCA's short-lived subsidiary "X" and Don Robey's Duke logo (where he allegedly penned "As the Years Go Passing By" for Fenton Robinson) after that, but it wasn't until a long-lasting association with Stan Lewis's Shreveport, LA-based Jewel Records commenced in 1965 that Harris landed for longer than a solitary single.  

 Later, Harris worked various day jobs around Houston, including one at a record pressing plant, before retiring to Sacramento, CA (until recently, anyway). -- Bill Dahl, All-Music Guide




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