Photo by Dewey Terry

DON “SUGARCANE” HARRIS, THE ROCK & ROLL SINGER-guitarist-fiddler who, as half of Don & Dewey, made some of the late '50s' scorchingest discs, died of congestive heart failure Tuesday, November 30, at age 61. Born June 18, 1938, in Pasadena, Harris — a classically trained violin prodigy — was introduced to boogie-woogie and blues by lifelong friend Dewey Terry circa 1950. The pair eventually joined the doo-wop outfit the Squires, then struck out on their own as Don & Dewey, quickly establishing themselves with an aggressive brand of supercharged rock & roll. Signed to Specialty Records, home to the frantic Little Richard and Larry Williams, Don & Dewey songs like “Justine” and “Jungle Hop” had an electrifying, untamed quality, while ballads such as “The Letter” clearly anticipated the modern soul style. “Farmer John” became a Los Angeles anthem, while subsequent covers of “I'm Leavin' It Up to You” made it 1974's BMI-certified most-played song of the year. Notably, the pair produced their own sessions, with Harris laying down some of rock & roll's most propulsive-ever bass lines; then, after he sanded down the bridge of his fiddle, jammed an old Victrola stylus into it and wired it to a guitar-pickup jack, Harris introduced the electric violin to the blues with unforgettable style and a sweetly funky tone that led R&B kingpin Johnny Otis to dub him “Sugarcane.” When the duo drifted apart, Harris plunged into wild musical (and chemical) realms with John Mayall and as a member of Frank Zappa's Mothers of Invention. A strong draw on the 1970s European circuit, he recorded eight solo albums in Germany (insisting on flying Terry over to contribute) and during the mid-'80s worked the postpunk club circuit with Joey Altruda's Tupelo Chain Sex. Sugarcane was “such a free spirit,” Dewey said, “that at times he'd be hard to find. I had to go looking for him.” Despite Harris' failing health, Don & Dewey occasionally re-emerged, and Terry continued to record Harris extensively. A renegade auteur, the likes of whom we won't see again, Harris made a distinctive mark on every facet of rock & roll he took on. Survived by a rich musical legacy, a daughter in North Carolina and two sons he lost touch with years ago, Sugarcane died alone in his Los Angeles home.

    Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!