At the age of 12, Harper played his first gig. During the 1980s, in his teen years, Harper began to play the slide guitar, mimicking the style of Robert Johnson. Harper refined his style, taking up the Weissenborn slide guitar. :11 Harper broke out of the Inland Empire after being offered an invitation by Taj Mahal to tour with the artist. They recorded Taj Mahal's album Follow the Drinking Gourd, released in November 1990, and toured Hawaii.