Willie Harris

WILLIE BRUCE HARRIS was born on March 13, 1933 in Calmer/Rison, Arkansas. Since becoming a professional entertainer and recording artist, uses the name Willie Harris.

His family members were farmers and had 259 acres of land. They raised cotton, hay, corn, cattle, pigs and livestock for food.

Willie was the youngest of six children, with four brothers and one sister. They all attended Woodlawn High School. When Willie was 13 years old, his father sold the farm and moved his family to Pine Bluff, Arkansas where Willie completed his high school education at White Hall High.

Willie started playing the guitar at the age of 13 on a Sears and Roebuck Silvertone guitar. As a very small boy Willie would sit around on Sunday afternoons to watch and listen to his Uncle Lonnie, Uncle Powell and his oldest brother James playing at family gatherings, His Uncle Lonnie taught him his first three chords (G, C, D), and Harris took it from there! His Uncle Lonnie was a very talented man, knowing how to play the piano, guitar, fiddle, and most of the stringed instruments. Harris said he knew as a small boy that he wanted to play, sing, and cut-up like his mentor, his Uncle Lonnie.

After graduating from high school in 1952, Willie enlisted in the U.S. Navy. After his completion of boot camp, he was shipped to Japan for a 24-month tour of duty serving on a water tender. His primary responsibility was to supply ships that came into Tokyo Bay with fresh water, however, Willie had several other talents that the Navy recognized and delegated other tasks to him.

After his tour of duty, he returned to the U.S.A. and was assigned to Tongue Point Naval Base in Astoria, Oregon, He remained at that location until his discharge on June 26, 1956. While stationed in Japan, he would play music with local bands. Willie recalls, "what an experience that was!" He also became a member of a well-known band in Astoria, Oregon while serving in the Navy.

Willie was no stranger to "true love." He met the love of his life, Charmone, while stationed in Oregon. Willie said, "I knew right away she was the one," and made her his bride. The current Manteca, California resident gave up his dream of musical stardom to settle down and have a family. Willie recalls: "Charmone didn't want me to go on the road pursuing my musical career as I would have had to do, as it would take much time away from the family. I loved her so much, I gave her my word I wouldn't." The Harris marriage and musical career are still going strong a half-century later.

The retired Sharpe Army Depot employee has built a solid reputation on the northern stage circuit playing for political fund raisers. He was asked to perform for senators, congressmen, assemblymen, city and county events, just to name a few. In addition, he has performed at the California State Fair and local county fairs several times, colleges, open houses, and has been featured as a "special guest" for many shows and benefits. He has been dedicated to entertaining for non-profit agencies. These include, but are not limited to, performing for the handicapped, under privileged and senior citizens. He has traveled up and own the California Valley enjoying this for over 30 years now.

Harris' first record release was in 1973, and is titled "No Matter What." He followed up with "It's Up To You" in 1974. Both records made the Top 10 on the Country Music News Local Hit Parade and "It's Up To You" did quite well on KSTN located in Stockton, California and many other radio stations located in Emeryville, Concord, and throughout the bay area. Willie co-wrote both of these songs and currently writes or co-writes all of his recordings, past and present. To date, he has five CDs and cassette tapes recorded. His daughter Starla Dawn sings with him on approximately half of his songs. Like her father, Starla started singing ar the age of three and has grown up with a similar love for the entertainment and music industry.

Willie wrote "No Matter What", while still in the Navy, and although it was not about his wife Charmone, he later wrote "The Sweetheart of My Dreams" for her.


In July 1956, after serving four years in the Navy, Harris and his wife Charmone, moved back to Pine Bluff, Arkansas. He the furthered his government career by working for the Army at the Pine Bluff Arsenal.

Willie began playing music with the Snow Dixon Band in Pine Bluff during the fall of 1956. He later worked with Shelby Cooper, manager of KCLA radio station in Pine Bluff. They played "live" on the radio every Saturday morning. Harris was also on local TV events several times.

He unfortunately lost his job at the Pine Bluff Arsenal due to a reduction-in-force (RIF) in December of 1956. Harris then began to get his college education, as jobs were scare. He and his family moved back to Oregon in September of 1958. He once again started working fir the Army in Clatskanie, Oregon until December of 1954 when the depot closed and he was transferred to Sharpe Army Depot in Lathrop, California.

In addition to playing rhythm guitar, Harris plays bass guitar in his band. Willie Harris & the Stringbusters. He has had some of the best musicians in the northwest who themselves have worked with some of the top stars in and out of Nashville. Just to mention a few: Sandy Sanders (who worked with Buck Owens and the Sons of the Pioneers), Roy Honeycutt (who worked with Bob Wills), Leon Richardson (who worked with Little Jimmy Dickens and Ray Price), Larry Murphy (who worked with Joni Waco and Billy Jade), Dave Allen (who worked with Freddie Hart and Wynn Stewart), and Blanche Emerson (who worked with Ann Jones and Her Western Sweethearts), Willie has performed with such stars as Rose Maddox, Eddie Dean, Leon Payne, Tex Williams, Hank Thompson, Joni Waco and Billy Jade and Johnny "The Texas Drummer Boy" Cuviello, a drummer and former Bob Wills Texas Playboy and who was also a member of the Bill Woods Orange Blossom Playboys in which Buck Owens was a member.

Shelby Cooper, manager of KCLA Radio in Pine Bluff, played Willie's records in the mid '70s and early '80s. His songs are currently being played on KPBQ 101 in Pine Bluff, as well as on local radio stations such as "The Ranch" 93.9. Mr. Bill Woods, out of Bakersfield, California, who was a well-known promoter for Capital Records in Los Angeles, California, contacted Willie about going to Nashville to record four songs (two records). Mr. Woods promoted such stars as Merle Haggard, Buck Owens and backed country entertainer Jean Sheppard. Besides being a promoter, he was also known for being an exceptional guitarist and pianist. Harris stated, "It was very difficult for me not to take Mr. Woods' offer, but I had made a promise to my family, I had to keep."

Today, as well as a country music entertainer, Harris has written and recorded several Gospel songs. His debut was in his church at the tender age of three. He doesn't remember much about the experience, only that he was scared half to death. He regularly performs "special music" in his home church, and includes his band on "special occasions."

Willie started his first band, The Stringbusters, in Astoria, Oregon in 1960. They didn't have a band name for the first couple of "gigs," but as fate would have it, their new name was just around the corner, During a practice session, Willie broke two strings at the same time! Harris and his bass player were so amazed; they both said simultaneously, "Hey, we got it ... The Stringbusters!" Willie Harris and The Stringbusters is still the name of his band today. Although Harris played heavy rhythm back then, he plays his bass guitar with his group and his rhythm guitar for solo functions.

It's been said, "You can take the boy out of the country, but you can't take the country out of the boy." That explains Willie to a "T" as his roots run deep. His love for music, his home and family, are simply overwhelming. When it comes to love, the Manteca Country Crooner knows exactly what he is singing about!

His son Ronald, and his daughter Starla Dawn, along with two beautiful granddaughters reside in Manteac, California.

One of the latest highlights to Willie's career was his induction into the Sacramento Western Swing Hall of Fame on October 5, 2003. Inductees include many entertainers from the entire United States, such as fellow Californians Merle Haggard, Rose Maddox and others.

Willie has also been nominated for the Arkansas Entertainers Hall of Fame (his home state). The Arkansas Hall of Fame has such notables as: Johnny Cash, Charlie Rich, Conway Twitty, Glen Campbell and others.

Willie is presently being promoted as a singer, songwriter worldwide by Ed King, owner of E.H. KING MUSIC of Santa Fe, Texas. Willie presently has songs released on seven separate CDs by E.H. KING MUSIC. E.H. KING has released two CDs and 12 songs on each CD, exclusively done by Willie.

On July 18, 2004, the Modesto Moose Lodge did a tribute to Willie for over 50 years in Country and Western Swing Music.

Respectively submitted with honor - AL BLAND

Willie Bruce Harris, a 1952 graduate of White Hall High School, was my neighbor and good friend in White Hall starting in 1945. There we had many good times together. It is great that he is doing so good at what he loves and I am proud to be able to pass it on.
-William Henry, Class of 1953 - whenry@cox-internet.com

Updated February, 2007


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