I Got Loaded : Peppermint Harris©2008JCMarion


In Texarkana, Texas, in July of 1925, Harrison Nelson, Jr. was born. He kicked around the Texas music scene for a number of years before settling down in the city of Houston in 1943. After some time in the military during the Second World War, he was befriended by Texas blues legend Lightnin’ Hopkins. Nelson took on the stage name “Peppermint” about this time and began to play some blues clubs in and around the city. Spurred on by Hopkins, Nelson soon had the chance to record for Houston’s Gold Star label in 1947. The session produced “Peppermint Boogie” and “Houston Blues” with pianist Elmore Nixon on Gold Star # 626. After that original recording there was two more years of inactivity and so Nelson moved on to Los Angeles and its growing independent R & B record scene.

By 1949 he had an opportunity to record again, this time for Bobby Shad’s Sittin In With label. He recorded with a quintet fronted by sax players Ed Wiley and Henry Hayes. The initial offering was “Raining In My Heart” and “The Blues Moved And Rolled Away” on SIW #543. It was at this time as legend would have it that Bob Shad momentarily forgetting his blues man’s last name, quickly wrote down Peppermint “Harris” on outgoing orders. When the record began to gain hit status, Peppermint Harris it was for the rest of Nelson’s career. “Raining” was a hit in Los Angeles and in Harris home town of Houston, and soon started to sell well in Atlanta and Jacksonville. The success of his initial record for Sittin In With led to good name recognition and club dates and road tours came his way.
Harris answered up with a number of follow up records for the label for the rest of the year. “This Is Goodbye Baby” and “Mabel Mabel” was released on SIW # 554, “Fat Girl Boogie” and “Texarkana Blues” on # 568, “Gimmee Gimmee” and “Hey Sweet Thing” on # 576, “Ooh Wee Baby” (which also did well on the R & B charts later in the year) and “Reckless Lover” on # 578, “I’m Telling You People” and “How Long Must I Suffer” on # 587, and “Let’s Ride” and “The Blues Pick On Me” on # 597. The following year on 1951 Harris continued on Sittin In With with “I Always End Up Blue” and “I Screamed And I Cried” on # 612, “She’s My baby” and “I Wake Up Screaming” on # 623, “Please Let Me Come Home” and “I’m Going Crazy” on # 638, and “I Got A Big Fine Baby” and “I Will Always Think Of You” on # 650. With no further success for the label, by May of 1951 Harris moved on to the Aladdin label in Los Angeles.

The first session by Harris with the Aladdin label was recorded with the Maxwell Davis combo. It produced “I Got Loaded” and “It’s You Yes It’s You” on Aladdin # 3097. “Loaded” took off and became a major hit on the West coast and followed nationally and would become the signature hit for Harris and his biggest seller ever. Soon the record is becoming a R & B classic side as it sells big in all parts of the country. The performance of this record made Harris a major name in the field and he was now in heavy demand for in person shows in theaters and clubs throughout the country. Through the summer and early fall “I Got Loaded” was a top hit and in September Aladdin Records issued the follow up with “Have Another Drink And Talk To Me” and “Middle Of Winter” on # 3107 which also lists the Maxwell Davis Orchestra on the label. In November Harris does his first tour of the East with a show that also features Johnny Moore’s Three Blazers unit ending up for a three day stay at Washington D.C.’s Howard Theater .

In January of 1952 after "Have Another Drink" did not catch on, Aladdin released another record from the same session. The songs were "P.H. Blues" and "Let The Back Door Hit You" on # 3108 as by Peppermint Harris & The Maxwell Davis All Stars. This was followed by "Maggie's Boogie" and "Right Back On It" on # 3130, and "I Cry For My baby" and the wonderfully titled "There's A Dead Cat On The Line" on # 3141 in August. That summer harris was part of the performing bill at the huge Blues Jubilee presented by dj Gene Norman at the Shrine Auditorium which also featured Jimmy Witherspoon, Floyd Dixon, T-Bone Walker, Joe Houston, Helen Humes, Big Jay McNeely and others. In September Harris signs on with a touring unit that starred Arthur Prysock and also featured Joan Shaw and Varetta Dillard, which will wind up with a week at Baltimore's Royal Theater. In Noevember the trade press reports that Peppermint Harris has landed a singing part in the motion picture "The Sun Shines Bright" and also that Aladdin has released his latest record "Hey Little Schoolgirl" and "I Sure Do Miss My baby" on # 3154. At year's end Harris hits the road again, this time with his new band and singers Larry Darnell and Wynonie "Mr. Blues" Harris.

In March of 1953 the Peppermint Harris Blues & Rhythm Show with Jimmy Lee, Jo-Jo Brown, and the jay Franks band heads out for a tour of one nighters throughout the South. In June "Wasted Blues" and "Goodbye Love" is issued by Aladdin on # 3177. This was followed during the year by "Wet Rag" and "Don't Leave Me Alone" on # 3183 and "I Never Get Enough Of You" and "Three Sheets To The Wind" on # 3206 released in early 1954. With the inability to duplicate the success of "I Got Loaded", Harris was let go by Aladdin Records after three years and began to get recording sessions where ever he could on a number of varied labels. He continued to do in person appearances and play his blues. In late August of 1954 he did a session for John Dolphin's L.A. based Cash Records. The songs were "Cadillac Funeral" and "Treat Me Like I Treat You" on Cash # 1003 (also re-released on Dolphin's other label Money Records on # 214).

In 1955 Peppermint Harris recorded for the unique label X a subsidiary of RCA Victor. The tunes were "Need Your Lovin" and "Just You And Me" on #0142. None of these following records did much in the way of sales or generated radio airplay. Harris recorded very sporadically after that into the sixties for the Dart, Duke, and Jewel labels. Harris spent much of the next two decades out of music until in the mid nineties he returned with some new songs and issued three cds "Houston Can't Be Heaven", "Penthouse In The Ghetto", and "Texas On My Mind". He passed away on March 19, 1999, at the age of 73.

Beside the latter day cds ("Texas On My Mind" for Collectables in 1995, and "Penthouse In The Ghetto" for MIL in 1997), the best example of his work over the years is the recently released "I Got Loaded" for Blue City with thirty tracks from the Aladdin years. There is also "Lonesome As I Can Be : The Jewel Recordings" for Westside (UK) with twenty one tracks, "Shreveport Down Home Blues" for P-Vine (Japan) from 2003 with twenty tracks, and a hard to find "Sittin In With" for Mainstream. This is a good selection of music keeping the blues legacy of an American original artist.

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