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Shakey Jake

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Biography

b. James D. Harris, 12 April 1921, Earle, Arkansas, USA, d. 2 March 1990, Pine Bluff, Arkansas, USA. A professional gambler when not playing harmonica (his nickname was derived from the crapshooters’ call ‘Shake ’em, Jake’), Harris began playing in Chicago blues bands during the late 40s. His 1958 single ‘Call Me If You Need Me’/‘Roll Your Moneymaker’, recorded for the Artistic subsidiary of Cobra Records, featured guitar work by his nephew Magic Sam. During the 60s he recorded two albums that did not do him justice, as club recordings with Sam make evident. His encouragement of younger musicians brought about the recording debut of, among others, Luther Allison, with whom Jake recorded his best album after moving to Los Angeles. In later years, occasional recordings appeared, including some on his own label, and Harris ran a blues club for a while, but was dogged by poor health and isolated by neighbourhood gang violence.

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