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: Alan Levine on Flickr. Creative Commons (CC BY-SA 2.0)by