Although Major Harris is widely associated with the sweet sound of Philly Soul, he was born into a musical family in Richmond, Virginia in 1947. His grandparents were in vaudeville, his father played guitar, and his mother was the leader of the church choir. It didn’t end there however. Harris’ brother, Joe Jefferson, was a highly successful songwriter who penned hits like “Mighty Love,” “Love Don’t Love Nobody,” and “One of a Kind Love Affair” for the Spinners. As if all of that wasn’t enough, his cousin Norman Harris was a key figure in the Philly Soul scene, writing, producing, and playing guitar.
With that bloodline, it would have been hard for Major Harris to miss. Fortunately, he didn’t. It wasn’t automatic though. Harris had to pay his dues, and he paid more than most. Early on he sang with the Charmers, and then latched on to the Jarmels, but it was after they had their big hit with “A Little Bit of Soap.” He was even a member of Frankie Lymon & the Teenagers for a little while, and later joined the Nat Turner Rebellion, a group that recorded for Philly Groove Records.
Harris didn’t see much success with any of these groups, and the solo singles that he recorded for Laurie Records, and Okeh Records didn’t go anywhere either. He finally got break when he joined the Delfonics in the early ’70s. The group had seen great success by the time Randy Cain left and Harris stepped in, but Harris stuck around long enough to be part of several Delfonics hits, including “Think It Over Baby,” “Lying to Myself,” and “I Told You So.” That’s Harris’ warm tenor acting as a perfect counterpoint to William Hart’s magnificent falsetto.
In 1974 Harris left the Delfonics to once again try his hand at a solo career. He auditioned for a production group called W.M.O.T. (We Men of Talent) and was signed to a deal. The W.M.O.T.-produced album was released on Atlantic Records, and the first single was “Each Morning I Wake Up,” which was credited to the Major Harris Boogie Blues Band. The single barely cracked the Top 100 on the R&B chart, and did nothing at all on the Pop chart.
It was Harris’ second single release that he is most remembered for. “Love Won’t Let Me Wait” was written by Vinnie Barrett (Gwendolyn Woolfolk’s pen name) and Bobby Eli. It was recorded in Philadelphia’s legendary Sigma Sound Studio with only a small light on Harris’ music stand in order to set the seductive mood of the song. MFSB created the track, and Barbara Ingram, Carla Benton, and Yvette Benson sang the background vocals. The distinctive guitar part was played by Eli, who produced the session with Woolfolk.
The record shot up to #1 on the R&B chart, and #5 on the Pop chart. In June, 1975, “Love Won’t Let Me Wait” was awarded a gold disc by the R.I.A.A. for achieving a million sales. The record remains a staple on many classic soul playlists, and has had cover versions by Johnny Mathis and Deniece Williams, Luther Vandross, Nancy Wilson, and others.
“Love Won’t Let Me Wait” was the high point of Harris’ career, but not the end. He had success with several more ballads over the next couple of years including “I Got Over Love,” “It’s Got To Be Magic,” and “Jealousy.” When the hits stopped coming, Harris rejoined the Delfonics, and toured with one of the two groups that were claiming that name (Harris was in the one that included William Hart and Randy Cain) into the new century.
On November 12, 2012, Major Harris died in a hospital in Richmond as a result of congestive lung and heart failure. He was 65 years-old.