As a teenager, Harkleroad's playlist encompassed that of Howlin' Wolf and his guitarist Hubert Sumlin, along with the works of John Coltrane. He'd also sneak into Antelope Valley's Junior High gymnasium to catch rehearsals by 'The Blackouts', whose lineup included Frank Zappa.
Harkleroad is probably best known as Zoot Horn Rollo, the long and lean nineteen-year-old guitar virtuoso who came to life on the seminal 1969 "Trout Mask Replica" album.
Despite a credit on that album to the contrary, Harkleroad has claimed he did not play the flute on that recording [UK's MOJO magazine, 21st Aug 1995]. However, he certainly progressed from his previous pentatonic style on joining the 'Magic Band' and helped open a whole new can of blues-jazz fusions on his Telecaster and Gibson ES-125 guitars. Fancifully described by poetic frontman Captain Beefheart as 'glass finger guitar', Harkleroad's bottleneck style and picking techniques helped influence a new generation of guitarists. Frusciante, guitarist of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, has claimed "Zoot's beautiful slide and riffing is what latter day American blues should be."
After working with Don Van Vliet on "Unconditionally Guaranteed" Harkleroad then passed on touring the album. He formed his own band "Mallard" with ex 'Magic Band' members. After two albums with the band he 'retired' from the industry and moved to Eugene, Oregon, to take up teaching the guitar. He has co-written a book with author Billy James entitled "Lunar Notes: Zoot Horn Rollo's Captain Beefheart Experience".
Footnote: Harkleroad was also cast by Frank Zappa as the character 'Strinzel' in FZ's 'teenage opera' script for "Captain Beefheart Vs The Grunt People". He was to play a lead Grunt warrior in Celestia's/Grace Slick's entourage.