Don "Sugarcane" Harris

Don Francis Bowman "Sugarcane" Harris (June 18, 1938 – November 30, 1999) was an American rock and roll violinist and guitarist. He is considered a pioneer in the amplification of the violin.[1]

Don "Sugarcane" Harris
Birth nameDon Francis Bowman Harris
Born(1938-06-18)June 18, 1938
Pasadena, California
DiedNovember 30, 1999(1999-11-30) (aged 61)
Los Angeles, California
GenresRock and roll, R&B
InstrumentsViolin, guitar
Years active1960s–1999
Associated actsDon and Dewey, Tupelo Chain Sex, Frank Zappa, Johnny Otis, John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers, Pure Food and Drug Act


Harris was born and raised in Pasadena, California.[2] His parents were carnival entertainers.[1] As a youth, he studied classical violin,[1] and learned additional instruments including harmonica, piano and guitar.[2]

Harris began performing with a doo-wop group, The Squires, which included his childhood friend, the pianist[1] Dewey Terry.[3] The Squires recorded for Vita Records.[2] Harris performed in Little Richard's band in the 1960s.[1]

Don & DeweyEdit

Harris and Terry formed a duo in 1956[3] as Don and Dewey. They were recorded by Art Rupe on his Specialty label, mostly utilizing the services of legendary drummer Earl Palmer. The duo also recorded on Rupe's other labels, Los Angeles Spot and Shade.[1] Don & Dewey had no hits as an act, but several songs they co-wrote and recorded became early rock and roll classics for other musicians.[3] These include "Farmer John" (the Premiers and, later, Neil Young), "Justine" (the Righteous Brothers), "I'm Leaving It Up to You" (Dale and Grace), and "Big Boy Pete" (the Olympics).[2] Harris was given the nickname "Sugarcane" by bandleader Johnny Otis,[3] due to his reputation as a ladies' man.[2]

Frank Zappa and John Mayall's BluesbreakersEdit

After separating from Dewey Terry in the 1960s, Harris moved almost exclusively over to the electric violin. He reappeared as a sideman with John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers and Frank Zappa,[2] 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 "Little House I Used To Live In" on Weeny are considered highlights of those albums. Zappa, who had long admired Harris' playing, reportedly bailed him out of jail, 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 1970[4] and performed on four of Zappa's solo albums.[3][1]

Pure Food and Drug ActEdit

During the early 1970s, Harris led the Pure Food and Drug Act, which included drummer Paul Lagos, guitarists Harvey Mandel[1] and Randy Resnick, and bassist Victor Conte, who was the founder of the Bay Area Laboratory Co-operative. Conte replaced Larry Taylor, who was the original bass player. In the 1980s, Sugarcane was a member of the Los Angeles-based experimental rock band Tupelo Chain Sex.

Personal life and demiseEdit

Harris' marriage ended in divorce.[3] He had a daughter and two sons.[1][3] He struggled with drug addiction throughout his career.[3] For most of his later years, he suffered from pulmonary disease.[1][3] He died on November 27, 1999 in his home in Los Angeles, California, at age 61.[2]


As leaderEdit

  • Keep On Driving (MPS/BASF, 1970)
  • Sugarcane (Epic, 1970)
  • Fiddler On the Rock (MPS, 1971)
  • New Violin Summit with Jean-Luc Ponty, Nipso Brantner, Michal Urbaniak (MPS/BASF, 1971)
  • Sugar Cane's Got the Blues (MPS/BASF, 1972)
  • Cup Full Of Dreams (MPS/BASF, 1973)
  • I'm On Your Case (MPS/BASF, 1974)
  • Keyzop (MPS, 1975)
  • Flashin' Time (MPS, 1976)

Don & Dewey

  • Don and Dewey (1974)
  • Bim Bam! (1985)
  • Jungle Hop (1991)

As sidemanEdit

With John Lee Hooker

With Little Richard

  • Little Richard Is Back (1964)
  • Well Alright! (1970)

With Harvey Mandel

  • The Snake (1972)
  • Shangrenade (1973)

With John Mayall

  • USA Union (1970)
  • Ten Years Are Gone (1973)
  • Notice to Appear (1975)
  • New Year, New Band, New Company (1975)
  • Banquet in Blues (1976)
  • Archives to Eighties (1988)
  • Room to Move (1969–1974) (1992)
  • Cross Country Blues (1994)

With The Mothers of Invention

With Johnny Otis

  • Cold Shot (1969)
  • Cuttin' Up The Johnny Otis Show (1971)

With Tupelo Chain Sex

  • Ja-Jazz (1983)
  • Spot the Difference (1984)

With Frank Zappa

With others


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Laing, Dave (January 3, 2000). "Don 'Sugarcane' Harris". The Guardian. Retrieved July 11, 2019.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Pareles, Jon (December 10, 1999). l "Don Harris, 61, A Versatile Master Of Rhythm and Blues (obituary)" Check |url= value (help). The New York Times. pp. C19. Retrieved 24 February 2010.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i Cromelin, Richard (December 3, 1999). "Don 'Sugarcane' Harris; Pioneering Rock Violinist". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved July 11, 2019.
  4. ^ "Line-ups". Retrieved 2019-07-10.

External linksEdit