Thursday, January 26, 2012

Don "Sugarcane" Harris - Sugarcane (1970)

Here's the sole major-label release by the great Don "Sugarcane" Harris.

For some reason, his albums on the German MPS label seem to be more readily available than this one. This one was produced by the (now recently departed) Johnny Otis, with songwriting contributions from Johnny, his son Shuggie and Harris himself. Some may be familiar with Harris's bluesy electric violin on Frank Zappa's albums from around this time, notably Hot Rats (also featuring Shuggie Otis, although not on the same tracks as Sugarcane), Weasels Ripped My Flesh (with Harris's violin and lead vocal on the Little Richard song, 'Directly From my Heart to You') and his jawdropping violin solo on side two of Burnt Weeny Sandwich. He was earlier half of the R&B duo, Don and Dewey, which no doubt was responsible for Zappa's interest in him. Neil Young has covered one of Don and Dewey's songs, 'Farmer John.'

Harris was quite prolific in the early-mid 70s, playing with John Mayall's Bluesbreakers and recording several albums as leader for MPS, featuring such notable players as Harvey Mandel and Robert Wyatt. He seems to have just kinda faded away after that, although Wiki tells me that he was in a group called Tupelo Chain Sex in the 1980s. He died in 1999, hopefully somewhat enriched by the royalties from Neil Young.

All his MPS records are worth checking out, and they seem to get reissued sporadically. This one was issued on CD about a decade ago (with artwork based on the trippy Rick Griffin cartoon on the rear cover, reproduced below [click to enlarge]) but has since fallen out of print again. My copy is on a mid-70s orange Epic label, but the stampers are 1D/1D, so I assume this is pressed from the original lacquer.

A1:I'm Unconscious
A2:You're Making Me Cry
A3:Take It All Off
A4:A Little Soul Food
A5:Don't You Think I've Paid Enough
B1:Do It Yourself
B2:Tears Are Made of Dreams
B3:Funk and Wagner
B4:You Could've Had Me Baby
B5:Yours Eternally

Don "Sugarcane" Harris: Violin and vocals.
Other personnel uncredited.

Produced by Johnny Otis. Arranged by Johnny Otis, Roger Spotts and Shuggie Otis.
Engineered by Bob "Groovus I" Breault.

Epic records, USA, 1970. Cat # 30027

320kbps mp3

[re-up 29/4/12]


  1. Tupelo Chain Sex is hardly fading away. Easily the one of the best live bands of the 80's. Easily. I recommend their album "Spot The Difference"

  2. icastico,
    Never heard of them before today but I will definitely check them out. Thanks for the tip.

  3. I agree with icastico- I saw Tupelo Chain Sex and they were great- Don was away sick for that leg of the tour unfortunately. I remember they had a contest where audience members were brought on stage to guess the cost of Stumuk's outfit (I always thought it was Buzz Gardner, but apparently not, according to wiki...strange.)
    Half the band was in their twenties and the other half in their 50's or more, and the singer had no ass in his pants.
    (That is- no material in the ass of his pants...) Fun for the whole family.

  4. Thanks for the post, great stuff!

    I personally love Cup Full of Dreams too though it's not all that critically acclaimed and all that, it was my intro to Sugarcane besides Zappa and so it remains a favorite

  5. don't work! would you please fix the links?