Johnny Harris (born John Stanley Livingstone Harris in 1932) is a Scottish-born composer, producer, arranger, conductor and musical director. He was born in Edinburgh, Scotland and is a graduate of the Guildhall School of Music in London. He has lived in the US since 1972.
The British years (1932-1972):
Originally a trumpet player with the Norman Burns band & big bands led by Vic Lewis, Ken Mackintosh, Cyril Stapleton and then a member of the short-lived beat group The Shubdubs with drummer Jimmie Nicol and organist Roger Coulam. In 1964 he made a Beatles cover version album and EP called 'Beatlemania' with Jimmie Nicol which resulted in Nicol replacing the ill Ringo Starr on a worldwide Beatles tour. He joined Pye Records in 1965 as an arranger and conductor for producer Tony Hatch, his wife Jackie Trent, had an un-credited roll as conductor on the 'Nancy Sinatra In London' album and also worked with many more artists in the sixties as a staff member at Pye. He also worked freelance for many other record labels in Great Britain and Europe where he was also well known and respected for his unique style. He was a regular arranger, conductor, producer for Petula Clark until she left Pye in 1971. The first official colour programme on BBC1 was a concert by Petula Clark with the Johnny Harris Orchestra from the Royal Albert Hall, London, broadcast at midnight on 14/15 November 1969. He arranged, conducted and produced the majority of tracks on the Shirley Bassey albums 'Something', 'Something Else', 'I Capricorn', 'And I Love You So', 'Never Never Never' and 'All By Myself' and many tracks on various Tom Jones albums. He was the regular musical director for the BBC light entertainment show 'Happening For Lulu' in 1968-69 starring singer Lulu and conducted her Eurovision Song Contest winner 'Boom Bang-A-Bang' in 1969 which garned a great deal of press coverage resulting in a solo record deal with Warner Bros. UK. Singles released were the space age classic 'Footprints On The Moon' (1969) and the moody suspense theme 'Fragment Of Fear' (1970) from the film of the same name starring David Hemmings. Shirley Bassey was a friend of Johnny's and loved his unique arrangement of 'Light My Fire' so much she recorded it on her next album! The classic album 'Movements' was recorded with the best London session musicians in the spring of 1970, was performed live at The Royal Albert Hall and was pressed by Warner's three times in the UK (on orange, green and burbank labels) and finally reissued on CD in 2002. It went out-of-print in 2007 and is now an expensive collectors item. Warner Brothers UK who would also release 'Man In The Wilderness' (1971) and 'All To Bring You Morning' (1973) before Johnny left for the US. He was the musical director for the BBC/ZDF co-production Pop Go The Sixties broadcast on BBC1 on 31 December 1969 and had his own BBC Show Of The Week called 'Up Tight' featuring Georgie Fame and Lulu. He also directed many other TV shows with such artists as Mike and Bernie Winters and actor-singer Keith Michell.
He composed the scores for several cult movies including Fragment of Fear (1970), Bloomfield (1971) his score was recorded in 1969 featuring Maurice Gibb of The Bee Gees, I Want What I Want (1972) and Man in the Wilderness (1971). The wild British jazz score composed for Fragment Of Fear was later used by Levi's to soundtrack their European Kung Fu TV advertising campaign in the late nineties.
The American years (1972-2014):
He moved to the US to record and conduct his orchestra in Las Vegas with Paul Anka where Elvis Presley asked him to lead his Vegas band. Johnny wanted to concentrate on scoring for film and television which led to a long-time gig as the musical director for Lynda Carter after he scored the third season of her 'Wonder Woman (TV series)' in 1979. It was his dynamic arrangement of the season three theme music that brought Wonder Woman into the modern disco era. Lynda Carter and the Johnny Harris Orchestra toured the world in 1980 to support her debut single for Motown Records 'The Last Song'. His 1980 Miami disco hit 'Odyssey' (TK Records) featured prominently on popular video game 'Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas' playing on Bounce FM funk radio, as well as being in the lowrider challenge mission. The song was also featured in the 'Buck Rogers in the 25th Century' episode 'Space Rockers', Johnny originally wrote the song for that episode and arranged the opening 'Buck Rogers in the 25th Century' theme music composed by Stu Phillips. The first 45 seconds where Buck is spinning is an original Johnny Harris composition up until Stu's theme starts.
Since 1990 Johnny has been the arranger & conductor for The Fabulous Palm Springs Follies at the historic Plaza Theatre in Palm Springs, California.
Johnny Harris - The Man Who Turned Down Elvis Twice is a biography written by his daughter Julie Pearce-Martin published to celebrate his 80th birthday in November 2012.
On 21 and 28 September 2013 Radio Six International broadcast two hour-long shows titled 'The Johnny Harris Story' written, produced and presented by Darren Stuart.
A group of fans, colleagues and Johnny himself talk about his life and career in the Facebook group: 'Johnny Harris Music Appreciation Society'.
Text from this biography licensed under creative commons license