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Don Harris
 Don "Sugarcane" Harris
November 30, 1999
Age 61
 
Pulmonary Disease 
 
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OBITUARY 
        
 
 
     
  Don 'Sugarcane' Harris; Pioneering Rock Violinist 

                                            By RICHARD CROMELIN, LA Times Staff Writer 
 

                                                 Don "Sugarcane" Harris, a pioneering rock violinist who played 
                                            with artists ranging from Little Richard to Frank Zappa to John 
                                            Mayall, died last week. He was 61.  
           
                                                 Harris' body was discovered Tuesday night in the room he 
                                            rented in South-Central Los Angeles. His longtime musical partner 
                                            Dewey Terry said he died of natural causes after a long struggle 
                                            with pulmonary disease.  
           
                                                 The Pasadena native's career began with doo-wop and rhythm 
                                            and blues groups and went on to encompass early rock 'n' roll, jazz 
                                            and underground rock.  
         
                                                 "He really put rock 'n' roll violin on the map, and I think he's still 
                                            probably the best rock 'n' roll violinist there's ever been, Papa John 
                                            Creach notwithstanding," musicologist Barry Hansen, a.k.a. radio 
                                            personality Dr. Demento, said Thursday.  
                 
                                                 Harris, who was given his nickname by bandleader Johnny Otis, 
                                            started out in the doo-wop group the Squires, which included his 
                                            childhood friend Terry. The two began playing rock 'n' roll in 1956 
                                            as Don & Dewey. Signed to the Los Angeles label Specialty 
                                            Records, home of Little Richard and Lloyd Price, they wrote and 
                                            recorded a series of singles that included "Justine," "Farmer John," 
                                            "Big Boy Pete" and "I'm Leaving It All Up to You."  
                    
                                                 None were nationally successful, but versions of the songs 
                                            recorded later by the Olympics, the Premiers, Dale & Grace and 
                                            the Righteous Brothers became hits. In addition, Harris and Terry 
                                            played in Little Richard's backing band on tour in Europe, along 
                                            with a young guitarist named Jimi Hendrix.  
                 
                                                 The Beatles-led British invasion dried things up for groups such 
                                            as Don & Dewey, who went their separate ways in the mid-1960s. 
                                            Later in the decade, Harris found an unlikely niche, contributing to 
                                            four albums by rock renegade Zappa and then joining English 
                                            rock-blues founding father Mayall. He also recorded his own 
                                            albums of jazz-influenced improvisation, and in the early 1970s with 
                                            another Mayall sideman, guitarist Harvey Mandel, in the blues-rock 
                                            group Pure Food and Drug Act.  
             
                                                 "As a violin player, he really was in a category all of his own," 
                                            Mayall said this week. "He played with an aggressive, electronic 
                                            [style], the same sort of vitality that an electric guitar would have."  
         
                                                 Harris also contended with a drug habit for much of his career.  
         
                                                 "He had a wonderful sense of humor, a very gentle sort of 
                                            person," said Mayall, who had sought Harris out after being 
                                            impressed by his playing on the Don & Dewey single "Stretchin' 
                                            Out."  
                             
                                                 "The only thing that stood in his way was his unreliability with the 
                                            drug thing, which was sort of his downfall," Mayall added. 
                                            "Occasionally he would disappear. You just had to take that as it 
                                            came. . . . He never had a phone number. You usually had to leave 
                                            a message for Dewey's mother or something like that and somehow 
                                            the word would get back and he'd call in."  
                  
                                                 Harris and Terry got back together in 1975 and played together 
                                            until a year ago, when Harris' health declined. Terry had made new 
                                            recordings of the duo in recent years in his home studio, but none 
                                            have been released.  
               
                                                 Harris, who is divorced, is survived by a daughter and two sons. 
                                            Services are scheduled for Saturday at 3 p.m. at Rose Hills 
                                            Memorial Park in Whittier.  
 

    
    
 
 
NY TIMES
        
      Don Harris, 61, a Versatile Master of Rhythm and Blues

          By JON PARELES

               Don (Sugarcane) Harris, a violinist, singer and songwriter who
               played blues, jazz and rock, was found dead on Dec. 1 in his Los
          Angeles apartment by his landlord, Agence France-Presse reported. He
          was 61. 

          His longtime collaborator, Dewey Terry, said Harris had suffered from
          pulmonary disease for the last few years. 

          As Don and Dewey, Harris and Terry made a string of brash
          rhythm-and-blues singles for Specialty Records, featuring Harris on guitar
          or electric violin. Harris went on to join Frank Zappa's group in 1970
          and was featured on the albums "Hot Rats" and "Weasels Ripped My
          Flesh." 

          Harris was born in Pasadena, Calif., and studied classical violin. He also
          learned guitar, harmonica and piano. 

          His first group, the Squires, recorded for Vita Records. But he made
          more memorable recordings with Terry as Don and Dewey,
          rambunctious rhythm-and-blues songs with titles like "Jungle Hop" and
          "Koko Joe." 

          They toured the West Coast with the Johnny Otis Revue in the late
          1950's, and Otis nicknamed Harris "Sugarcane," reportedly for his
          reputation as a ladies' man. Other performers picked up Don and
          Dewey's songs, including "Justine" (the Righteous Brothers), "Big Boy
          Pete" (the Olympics), "I'm Leavin' It Up to You" (Dale and Grace) and
          "Farmer John" (the Premiers and, later, Neil Young). 

          The duo dissolved in the early 60's, and Harris toured with Little Richard.
          He joined Zappa in 1970 and then toured and recorded with the English
          blues bandleader John Mayall. In recent years he reunited with Terry,
          performing as Don and Dewey in the United States and Europe. 
   

 
 
 
       
 

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BIOGRAPHY
 
 
All-Music Guide
 Born: June 18, 1938 in Pasadena, CA
Died: December 1st, 1999 in Los Angeles, CA
 
 Beginning his career as the guitar playing half of the 1950s rock duo, Don & Dewey, Don "Sugarcane" Harris, put down the guitar and picked up the violin after the lack of success for Don and Dewey (oddly enough the group's songs became hits for other artists such as the Righteous Brothers and the Premiers). Classically trained as a violinist, Harris' skill at improvisation began attracting attention from the rock world and soon he was appearing on records by John Lee Hooker, Frank Zappa and Johnny Otis. In 1970 Harris joined forces with British Blues musician John Mayall when the latter was forming his first all American backing band. In addition to joining the backing bands of Mayall, Zappa and others, Harris has also recorded a series of albums for labels such as Epic and Polydor. -- Steve Kurutz, All-Music Guide
 
 
  
 
 

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  Discography
 
           
           
          1959 Hooker, John Lee- Folk Blues  (violin) 
          1968 Otis, Johnny- Cold Shot  (violin) 
          1969 Mayall, John- Best of John Mayall [Decca] (violin) 
          1969 Frank Zappa- Hot Rats   (violin, vocals) 
          1969 Frank Zappa- Burnt Weeny Sandwich (violin, vocals) 
          1970  Don "Sugarcane" Harris- Keep on Driving  
          1970 Don "Sugarcane" Harris- Sugarcane (featuring Shuggie Otis) 
          1970 Don & Dewey- They're Rockin' Til Midnight, Rolli   (violin) 
          1970 Frank Zappa- Weasels Ripped My Flesh   (violin, vocals) 
          1970 Frank Zappa- Chunga's Revenge   (organ, violin, vocals) 
          1970 Mayall, John- U.S.A. Union   (violin) 
          1971 Don "Sugarcane" Harris- Fiddler on the Rock  
          1971 Johnny Otis- Cuttin' Up; The Johnny Otis show 
          1971 Don "Sugarcane" Harris- New Violin Summit  
          1972 Mandel, Harvey- Snake   (violin) 
          1972 Pure Food & Drug Act- Choice Cuts   (violin) 
          1972 Ponty, Jean-Luc- New Violin Summit   (vocals) 
          1973 Little, Ken- Solo   (violin, vocals) 
          1973 Mandel, Harvey- Shangrenade   (violin) 
          1973 Don "Sugarcane" Harris- Key Stop  
          1973 Don "Sugarcane" Harris- Sugarcane's Got the Blues 
          1973 Mayall, John- Ten Years Are Gone   (violin) 
          1973 Hooker, John Lee- Born in Mississippi, Raised Up in T   (violin) 
          1973 Terry, Sonny & Brownie- Sonny & Brownie   (violin) 
          1974 Frank Zappa- Apostrophe (') (violin, vocals) 
          1974 Don "Sugarcane" Harris- I'm on Your Case  
          1974 Don & Dewey- Don and Dewey   (violin) 
          1974 Don "Sugarcane" Harris- Cupful of Dreams  
          1975 SPUD- Happy Handful  (violin) 
          1975 Mayall, John- New Year, New Band, New Company (violin, vocals) 
          1975 Mayall, John- Notice to Appear   (violin)  
          1976 Mayall, John- Banquet in Blues  (violin, electric violin)  
          1980 Bang, Billy- Changing Seasons  (violin)  
          1986 Pantoja, Rique- Rique Pantoja Featuring Ernie Watts (Trumpet, Flugelhorn)  
          1988 Mayall, John- Archives to Eighties (violin) 
          1990 Ben, Jorge- Benjor (trombone)  
          1992 Paralamas- Bora-Bora (trumpet) 
          1992 Praise! Walk- Praise! Walk, Vol. 1 (composer) 
          1992 Praise! Walk- Praise! Walk, Vol. 2   (composer)  
          1992 Mayall, John- Room to Move (1969-1974)   (violin)  
          1993 Praise & Worship- Secret Place (bass) 
          1993 Camel- Echoes: The Retrospective (keys) 
          1993 Dupree, Robbie- Walking on Water (Trumpet, Flugelhorn, Horn)  
          1993 Roulette, Freddie- Sweet Funky Steel  (violin) 
          1994 Mayall, John- Cross Country Blues   (violin) 
          1995 Moen, Don- - Rivers of Joy (Arranger, Keyboards, Vocals (bckgr), Producer)  
          1996 Avenue Blue- Naked City (trumpet) 
          1996 Frank Zappa- The Lost Episodes   (violin, electric violin) 
          1999 Don Sugarcane Harris- Anthology Volume One 
               Jazz Club: Violin- Jazz Club: Violin   (violin) 
               Brown, Charity- Stay with Me (piano) 
               Dony & Dewey- "Jungle Hop" Specialty CD  SPCD-7008-2 
                  (From: TONY BURKE tony@bluestb.demon.co.uk- Good cross section of their R&B sides 
                  for Specialty records 1957 to 1964.)
  
 
 
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