The wrestling world lost Kamala (James Harris) this week after his valiant heath and financial issues battle. CAC had donated badly-needed financial aide to him as did fellow wrestlers, promoters, fans and more who loved the "Ugandan Head Hunter." In reality, James truly loved his farm and family and was regarded as one of the nicest, sweetest people in the biz, cracking up others in the room. He said in 2012, "there's nothing better than growing things, whether vegetables, fruit trees or farm animals from the ground up. You get satisfaction in caring for these things and seeing them help other people later on. And if there's anything more important than that, it's my family."
He was born May 28, 1950 in Senatobia, MS where he would spend much of his life. Any time he was on one of my radio shows over the years, besides singing some of his R and B creations, he always put Senatobia over. And not just for a cheap pop. When he was 25 after driving trucks and doing many jobs to support his family, he moved to Benton Harbor, MI meeting it's most famous resident Bobo Brazil. Wrestling's first Black World Champion Bobo(WWA in the 1960's along with Bearcat Wright)convinced him to have his pal Tiny Tim Hampton train him to wrestle. He debuted in 1978 as Sugar Bear Harris but would have a succession of ring names like Big Jim Harris, the Mississippi Mauler, Superfly, Bad News and more. CAC's Percy Pringle was the first of a ton of managers for him that would later include Fred Blassie, Gary Hart, The Baron(Von Raschke), Sika, Mr Fuji, Eddie Creatchman in International, and many others. James worked all over Europe in 1981 to finesse including wrestling as The Mauler in the UK's Joint Promotions where he was in the main event title tournament at London's Wembley Arena.
It was Memphis where promoting legends and great minds Jerry Jarrett and Jerry Lawler created the Kamala character. The King had offered him a job there and the Jerry's soon crafted his most famous character(originally spelled Kimala)based on Great Mephisto rough idea. The Ugandan headhunter gimmick wore colorful face and body paint lifted from a Frank Frazetta famous painting where they claimed he was a former bodyguard for brutal dictator Idi Amin. And discovered by CAC's JJ Dillon "after an African excursion." JJ, have you even been to Africa?! Watch WMC-TV's first promo video showing a spear-wielding Kamala arising from the "steamy jungle" that was actually filmed at Jarrett's Hendersonville, TN farm(the steam effect from dry ice). Kimala's CWA debut was May 14, 1982 with JJ as manager, dq'd against Lawler at packed Mid-South Coliseum. The Tennessee magic went global from there after several title reigns and sell-outs to Bill Watt's Mid-South, the Von Erich's World Class, Verne Gagne's AWA and of course his various WWF stands, main-eventing with Hulk Hogan, CAC's Jake Roberts, Bret Hart, Randy Savage, The Undertaker and more. And he worked many tours for CAC honoree Shohei Baba in All Japan. What a character!
We'll always miss our brother and friend James who was so much more than just Kamala. And hope he's finally comfortable now.
Photo: Dr. Mike Lano