So in 1969, Zappa recorded his classic solo record, Hot Rats with the piece, Willie The Pimp featuring Don Van Vliet on vocals, and the violin of Don "Sugarcane" Harris. Don went on to play with the Mothers and recorded the Weasels Ripped My Flesh record with them. Weasels has the track with Dons vocals and violin, the Richard Penniman (Little Richard) tune, Directly From My Heart To You. He is also on Burnt Weeny Sandwich and there is a cut called Lil Clanton Shuffle on The Lost Episodes....
Don was a pyrotechnic musician, a soloist whose ability mixed classical technique with the blues and the acute intelligence of jazz. He straddled the line between Little Richard and Bela Bartok....
Don had started out in pop music in the early 60's as part of the duo, Don and Dewey and had some hit 45's. There are rumored to be recordings of him playing with Little Richard when Jimi Hendrix was getting his road experience with the Upsetters. Frank said that he was an admirer of Dons work and tried to find him. The producer Johnny Otis told Frank that Don was in jail on a drug charge and Frank helped him get out and started to record with him. Don had a very troubled life and was plagued with addictions. This led to his departure from Zappa's touring lineup...Frank was a notoriously strict band leader.
Don recorded some classic forgotten solo jazz and blues records. One record I would love to have has Robert Wyatt on drums before his accident which left him paraplegic and one of my absolute all time favorite guitarists, the Norwegian (thanks, Svenn), Terje Rypdal.
I've only heard a few pieces from it.
Dons turbulent life found him in the late 70's and 80's playing with an incredble live band which hasn't much recorded legacy. They were a punk horn band with incredible energy and the secret weapon...Sugarcane Harris!
This is a live video from London, Ontario around 1984 of a piece called The revolution Will Be Televised.......He died in 1999 at the age of 61.