Shakey Jake Harris (April 12, 1921 – March
2, 1990) was an American Chicago blues singer, harmonicist and songwriter.
Harris released five albums over a period of almost 25 years, and he was
often musically associated with his nephew, Magic Sam.
James D. Harris was born in Earle, Arkansas, but relocated with his family
to Chicago, Illinois, at the age of seven. He played in several Chicago
blues ensembles in the late 1940s. He also worked as a mechanic, and a
professional gambler (from whence his nickname came - "Shake 'em"). 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. Harris
was not paid for the session, but won $700 shooting craps with label owner
In 1960, Bluesville Records teamed Harris with the jazz musicians Jack
McDuff and Bill Jennings, for the album Good Times. His later recording of
Mouth Harp Blues returned to more traditional blues ground. Harris toured,
and was part of the American Folk Blues Festival in 1962.
Throughout the 1960s Harris and Sam appeared regularly in concert together
around Chicago, and Harris's patronage of younger musicians helped secure
Luther Allison's recording debut. Harris
moved on in the late 1960s, and recorded with Allison in Los Angeles on
Further on Up the Road. He also played with other harmonica players, such as
Harris subsequently recorded for World Pacific. He also owned his own
nightclub and a record label, but was forced by ill health to eventually
return to Arkansas, where he died, at the age of 68, in March 1990.