Introduction to Major Harris
Major Harris was an American rhythm and blues singer who had collaborated with various groups including the Charmers, Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers (for a short time), the Jarmels, and Nat Turner’s Rebellion and (most probably known) the Delfonics in the early 70s. He was born Major Harris III in a musical family which included brother songwriter Joe Jefferson who contributed to the Spinners’ hits such as “One Of A Kind Love Affair” and “Might Love”; and cousin Norman Harris, a musician and former record label producer. After years in the music business Harris at last scored a hit with “Love Won’t Let Me Wait” in 1975. When his success as a solo singer faded, Harris returned to the Delfonics and (together with original members William Hart and Randy Cain) joined with one of the two touring groups that paraded the name the Delfonics. He died on November 9, 2012 in Richmond, Virginia, aged 65.
Music is all in the family
Major Harris is not a stage name, but the name of his birth certificate. The American R&B and soul singer was born Major Harris III was born in Richmond, Virginia on February 9, 1947. His flair for music and performing was but natural and seemed to be inherited from his folks. His grandparents both worked in vaudeville. Harris’ father was guitarist, while his mother sang in a church choir. His brother was the songwriter Joe Jefferson, who penned many hits for the Spinners such as “Mighty Love,” “Love Don’t Love Nobody,” and “One of a Kind Love Affair.” While his cousin, Norman Harris, was a musician, songwriter, producer and former record company owner.
Performing for different acts, and a first (unsuccessful) shot at a solo career
Harris himself performed for different acts: he was with the Charmers, a momentary member of Frankie Lymon’s Teenagers, sang with the Jarmels, recorded with Nat Turner’s Rebellion, which also featured Harris’ brother Jefferson. Harris also cut a handful of singles for Laurie and Okeh Records, which vanished without a trace. He also recorded with the Jarmels, and took over Randy Cairn’s place as the tenor of the Delfonics.
Another chance at going solo
In 1974 Harris quit the Delfonics to pursue a solo career, and signed with Atlantic Records. His first single with Atlantic, “Each Morning I Wake Up,” was credited as performed by the Major Harris Boogie Blues Band; it became only a minor hit on the dance and R&B singles charts in 1974. The single was the first single of Harris’ debut album My Way.
Harris’ most successful single with the hit “Love Won’t Let Me Wait.”
My Way‘s second single “Love Won’t Let Me Wait,” written by Vinnie Barrett (real name was Gwendolyn Woolfolk) and Bobby Eli, who also produced the session. It was recorded in the dimmed Sigma Sound Studio, with the teeny bit of light beamed at Harris’ lyric stand so that he could read and sing out the lyrics. The backing vocals were provided by singers Barbara Ingram, Carla Benton, and Yvette Benson. The renowned studio band MFSB supplied the music, with the guitar supplied by Eli. The seductive ballad became Harris’ biggest hit ever in his career, peaking at #5 on the Billboard Hot 100 and topping the R&B singles chart in 1975. The single’s sales soared to over a hundred, and received a gold disc.
Later life and career
Harris’ subsequent ballads did fairly well especially on the R&B singles charts: “I Got Over Love,” “Jealousy” and “Laid Back Love” in particular. But soon Harris’ popularity subsided. With the hits now behind him, he made a return to the Delfonics, and stayed on with both of the two acts who used the same Delfonics name in the 1990s and 2000s. Harris died in Richmond, Virginia on November 9, 2012. He was 65 years old.