Tag Archives: Magic Sam

Gamblers blues of Shakey Jake Harris from Chicago to the West Coast

Gamblers blues of Shakey Jake Harris from Chicago to the West Coast

You could know Shakey Jake Harris as a nephew of bluesman Magic Sam, who made quite some fame in Chicago as an excellent guitar player. Shakey Jake, was like Magic Sam on the Guitar an excellent Harmonica player, who recorded five albums over a period of 25 years. Good Times his debut album released in 1960, consists a list of classic blues songs like “Huffin’ and Puffin’” and “Worried Blues”.

Nickname Shakey Jake

Shakey Jake was born James D. Harris in Earle Arkansas and moved at the age of seven to Chicago. In Chicago he made a career as a gambler and in that period he acquired his nickname Shakey Jake, Jake was shaking the dice. Shakey Jake continued to hustle throughout his career, mostly as a blues singer and harmonica player but he was also a producer and Club owner.

Debut recording Shakey Jake for Artistic Records

Even though Shakey Jake Harris was playing in blues bands since the forties, according to Wikipedia “His
debut recording did not take place until 1958. His single, “Call Me If You Need Me” / “Roll Your Moneymaker”, was released by Artistic Records, featured Magic Sam and Syl Johnson on guitar, and was produced by Willie Dixon”. “Jake did not get paid for the recording session, but the gambler he was, he won $ 700,- with tumblin’ Dice with label owner Eli Toscano”. (Source: Rowe, M (1981). Chicago Blues: the city and the music, New York: Da Capo Press, p. 180)

Shakey Jake Harris was inspired by John Lee “Sonny Boy” Williamson and Little Walter, even Shakey Jake recorded for several labels in Chicago, and made some pretty good records, he stayed in the shadow of his nephew and talented rising blues star Magic Sam. In 1962 Harris was part of the European tour of the American Folk Blues festival.

Moving to the West Coast

By 1968 Shakey Jake Harris moved to the West Coast to continue performing and recording for Polydor, World Pacific and Murray Brothers. There in Los Angeles, California Shakey Jake owned a club called the Safari club and started his own label Good Times Records. (Lee, P and Komara, E (2004). The Blues Encyclopedia, New York : Routledge, 2006 p.873)

When Jake’s health began to fail he went back to Arkansas, where he stayed till his passing in 1990. Shakey Jake Harris was a talented harmonica bluesman and a good Gambler and entrepreneur. His songs are divers, for example “Jake’s Cha Cha” is a The Ventures version of the blues. Other songs are filled with the Chicago Blues. Shakey Jake was a great Bluesman.

Feature picture credit: Harping the Blues by Alan Levine on Flickr. Creative Commons (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Shakey Jake Harris ~ Easy Baby

Shakey Jake Harris – Ragged and Dirty

Magic Sam & Shakey Jake Harris – Juke

Magic Sam & Shakey Jake Harris – Rock Me

Shakey Jake Harris – Jake’s Cha Cha

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Magic Sam Blues

“…you will like Magic Sam regardless of your previous tastes if you are reasonably ‘aware,’ ‘hip,’ turned on ‘ or whatever your generation’s slang may be for being in touch with humanity and life.”

– Bill Lindeman –

Blues Guitar of Magic Sam

Magic Sam was a young talented guitar player. Like many other legends Sam born in Mississippi, moved to Chicago to play among greats like Mighty Joe Young , Koko Tayloand Buddy Guy, enough reasons to listen to this songwriter who combined flashy guitar riffs in combination with Rhythm ‘n Blues from Chicago.

Sweet Home Chicago

His guitar style, vocals, and songwriting ability have inspired and influenced many blues musicians ever since. In the movie The Blues Brothers, Jake Blues dedicates the band’s performance of “Sweet Home Chicago” to the “late, great Magic Sam”.

Magic Sam Blues Name

Magic Sam was named by his bassplayer, and friend Mack Thompson during the first recording session for Cobra Records. Good Rockin´Sam was already in use by another artist.

Breakthrough Magic Sam and Death

Sam’s breakthrough performance was at the Ann Arbor Blues Festival in 1969,[4] which won him many bookings in the U.S. and Europe. His life and career was cut short when he suddenly died of a heart attack in December 1969. He was 32 years old. Sam is buried in the Restvale Cemetery.

Many Blues Musicians from the Chicago Bluesscene are buried in Restvale Cemetary.

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