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the pioneer of Dylan Studies; writer, public speaker, critic; became a Doctor of Letters in 2015 (awarded by the University of York, UK)

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Saturday, November 28, 2009


Yesterday marked the 10th anniversary of the death of perhaps the greatest electric violin player ever to record, Don Sugarcane Harris. He was only 61 but had enjoyed a long career at the soulful end of rock'n'roll and beyond. As far as I know Bob Dylan never played with him but I like to think there was a point where they could have come together on record. If Bob's meeting with Zappa in December 1982 had gone well enough, and Zappa had ended up producing the album that became Infidels, and they might have called in Sugarcane to play a searing electric violin solo in the middle of, say, 'Sweetheart Like You', in a kind of parallel to the way Doug Kershaw's beautifully piercing work is embedded into 'Blue Moon' on Self Portrait. And if Bob had been lucky, Mr. Harris' playing might have reached the heights he achieved for Zappa on 'Directly From My Heart To You' on Weasels Ripped My Flesh.

In earlier incarnations Don Francis Bowman Harris was the Don in Don & Dewey, not only having hit singles but writing songs like 'Justine' (played live by Dylan in 1986). You'll also find him on John Lee Hooker's Folk Blues (1959) and Born In Mississippi (1973), and he was part of the John Mayall Blues Band for a long time. Almost all the online biogs and obits give the date of his death as November 30, 1999, but the reliable authority on these matters, Eric LeBlanc, says that Don's death certificate clearly says that he died at home in LA that November 27.


Blogger Michael Gray said...

I've had an interesting comment on the subject of Don Sugarcane Harris passed on to me from another blog site, taking up the mention of this brilliant musician having been part of John Mayall's band for some years:

"Briefly met him backstage at a John Mayall show, circa 1970-71. My pal caught him shooting up in the gents. He played wonderfully that night."

2:18 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

An interesting discussion of Elvis' version of "Blue Moon':

Noticed that it is one of the few non-original songs on "Self Portrait" which doesn't merit a footnote in "Song and Dance Man.' Not sure why not?

Have always thought that Elvis' eerie version of it is a highpoint on the "Sun Sessions".

Was also a bit surprised that you say so little about Elvis' brilliant version of "Tomorrow is A Long Time' (with great guitar playing by James Burton, I think)...

Maybe it doesn't fit in with your contention that Elvis was no longer a great artist after 1960..

7:48 am  

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