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VALLEY WEEKEND | ROCKTALK

Hit-Making Duo Keeps the Beat

From Osmond to Zappa, Dewey Terry and Don 'Sugarcane' Harris have worked with household names since the '50s.

August 15, 1996|JAMES E. FOWLER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Just because Dewey Terry and Don "Sugarcane" Harris are walking, talking artifacts in rock 'n' roll history doesn't mean their show is ready for a museum.

"Our live shows are second to none," claims Terry immodestly. And considering all the people he's worked with through the years, that's quite a claim.

Don and Dewey, who are performing at Cozy's this Saturday, bill themselves as "original rock and roll legends." Although theirs are not quite household names, the apposition is not mere hyperbole.

The two have written hit songs for other artists, and over the years they've performed with the likes of Little Richard, James Brown, Buddy Holly, Jimi Hendrix, Frank Zappa and John Mayall, just to name a few.

The Don and Dewey Show started almost 40 years ago here in Los Angeles. Due to race relations and the record business at the time, the two African American artists wrote and recorded a number of tunes that received only limited radio airplay. Those same songs later became big hits for white artists.

Their most successful song, "I'm Leaving It All Up to You," was a million seller for Dale and Grace in the 1950s, then again years later for Donny and Marie Osmond, Freddy Fender and others.

In the '50s, the two artists were label mates at Specialty Records with the one and only Little Richard. In 1964 when Richard returned to recording after a self-imposed hiatus to study for the ministry, Don and Dewey performed in his band along with a young guitarist who later made a name for himself as Jimi Hendrix.

Besides being writers, both men are multi-instrumentalists. Harris is best known for his blues-rock electric violin work. Harris recorded with Zappa, a longtime Don and Dewey fan, on "Hot Rats" and "Weasels Ripped My Flesh" in the 1970s.

Terry's latest CD, "Pedal to the Metal," features the men performing a variety of R&B styles.

Terry's advice to young artists just starting out in the business is simple: Be yourself and keep your publishing rights.

* The Don and Dewey Show at 9 p.m. Saturday at Cozy's Bar & Grill, 14058 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks. $5 cover. Call (818) 986-6000.

*

All in the Family: The group may be called Mr. Dyer's Daughters, but Linda Dyer says the person who started her and her sisters off on their musical career was her mother, who was a classically trained musician.

"She thought the way to keep her girl out of trouble was to put some drumsticks in her hand," said Dyer. So, Linda and her sisters, Elsa and Sonja, learned to play drums, guitars and other instruments while growing up in their Northern California hometown of Pinole.

But the Dyer sisters, who are appearing tonight at the Cowboy Palace Saloon, now sing in tight, three-part harmony, sans instruments. And it seems to be working out.

"Maybe it's the novelty of being three sisters, but we've had a lot of good breaks," said Linda.

More than just musical ties, it appears, bind the members of the Dyer family. When the women moved to Los Angeles about two years ago, Mom and Dad moved with them.

"We have a real supportive family," Linda Dyer said. "You don't love anyone or hate anyone as much as you do your family--but we work things out."

Their father, Mr. Dyer, was originally from Oklahoma and the daughters grew up listening to the Judds, Buck Owens, Merle Haggard, Hank Williams and other country artists. The Dyer girls' role models of independent, progressive-thinking women could be found in some great-aunts, one of whom was the first woman to fly an airplane in Oklahoma, said Linda.

"We heard tales about that all our lives. It put a bond between the three of us."

* Mr. Dyer's Daughters play tonight at the Cowboy Palace Saloon, 21635 Devonshire St., Chatsworth. No cover. Call (818) 341-0166.

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