Born Kent L. Harris, 1930, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Kent Harris was born in Oklahoma City and raised in San Diego. He moved to Los Angeles in 1952 after serving four years in the US Air Force and began his songwriting career in 1955 with American Music, the publishing company of Sylvester Cross, who also owned Crest Records in Hollywood. In 1956 he recorded two singles for Crest, under the name of Boogaloo & His Gallant Crew. The first of these was "Big Fat Lie"/"Talk About A Party" (Crest 1014). Both tunes were in a jumping Louis Jordan vein, with Freddie Simon's band masque- rading as the Gallant Crew. However, it is especially his second record, "Clothes Line (Wrap It Up)"/"Cops And Robbers" (Crest 1030), for which he is remembered. Both are hilarious talking blues tracks, this time with backing by Ernie Freeman's Combo. Bo Diddley quickly covered "Cops And Robbers" (Checker 850), prompting Crest to take out trade ads in favour of the original. In practice, American Music stood to gain as much if not more from the better known Diddley's version as from Boogaloo's original.
In 1960, the Coasters recorded "Clothes Line" in the form of a song titled "Shoppin' For Clothes" (Atco 6178). According to an interview with Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, Billy Guy told them of a song he had heard on the radio, but he could only remember a few lines of the lyrics. They didn't know which song Guy had heard, but they wrote the rest of "Shoppin' For Clothes" around that fragment. It was issued as composed by Elmo Glick, an often used pseudonym of Leiber and Stoller. American Music alleged copyright infringement and a compromise was reached whereby the authorship of the song was jointly shared by Harris, Leiber and Stoller. I prefer the original 1956 version, which has been described by some as "too wordy", but IMO it is both funnier and more powerful than "Shoppin' For Clothes", which is basically a dialogue between Billy Guy (the customer who is trying to buy an expensive suit on credit) and Will "Dub" Jones (the salesman).
Following the relative failure of his two Crest singles, Kent Harris abandoned his recording ambitions in favour of a career behind the scenes. He is listed with 64 songs in the BMI songwriters' database. Harris saw a number of his songs recorded by artists on Atlantic, Capitol, RCA and Columbia. With Hank Jacobs, he penned both sides of the instrumental single "Monkey Hips And Rice"/""So Far Away" by Hank Jacobs (Sue 795 in the US, Sue 313 in the UK). Dimples Harris, who had a fabulous R&B single on Crest ("This I Do Believe", Crest 1013), is Kent Harris's sister. In 1960, Harris formed his own label, Romark Records, and eventually went into record retailing, running the Target record store in L.A.
The four Crest sides are available on the CD "Talk About A Party! : The Crest Records Story" (Rockstar RSRCD 017, 1999), the liner notes of which (by Rob Finnis) have been very helpful in compiling this piece.
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