11 September 2014

Ken Harris - British bluegrass pioneer from Co. Down

The Down County Boys c.1965: (l-r) Mike Rodgers, Martin Hollis, 
Ken Harris, Mac (bass), Andy Smith

Ron Stevens of the Acme Band and the Heart of England Bluegrass Venue sends the sad news that Ken Harris (b. 1935), one of the foremost pioneers of bluegrass in Britain, died a week ago on 4 September 2014.

Ken was a founder member of Britain's longest-lived and most award-winning bluegrass band, the Down County Boys. He can be seen as the moving spirit in forming the DCB: he was lead singer, guitar player, and spokesman on stage; he had founded the Swanswell Tavern country music club where they made their debut in January 1965; and he certainly gave rise to the band's name, as he came from the Co. Down end of the Belfast area, and moved to Coventry with his wife in the 1950s.

The photo above, showing Ken fronting the Down County Boys in a very early configuration, comes from the online account of the band's earliest days by Mike Rodgers, the original DCB mandolinist. In April 1970 they were the first band from Britain (and third from outside the USA) to appear on the cover of Bluegrass Unlimited. The DCB went on to become the premier bluegrass band in Britain, winning the title of Best British Bluegrass Band more often than any other group, and are still going strong.

Ken's funeral will be at 2.00 p.m. in St James's church, Bulkington, on Tuesday 16 September, and afterwards at the Heart of England Crematorium. All those attending are invited to return to the War Memorial Club at Bulkington. The family have requested only family flowers, but donations can be made to Headway or the Coventry Myton Hospice where Ken has a memorial page with provision for direct donations.

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At 3:09 am, Blogger Unknown said...

Sorry, that last was from Amy Gallatin. He hired us at HOE in 2010 and I was very excited to be playing that historic venue.--Amy Gallatin (& Stillwaters, they loved him too).

At 11:47 am, Blogger Richard Hawkins said...

Thanks, Amy - we hope to see you and the band back in Ireland some time.

BIB editor


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