|Wee Willie Harris, Rockin' At The Two I's
Born Charles William Harris, 25 March 1933, Bermondsey, London.
Wee Willie Harris was one of the most colourful characters on the early British rock 'n' roll scene. Literally, as he used to die his hair all manner of colours (pink, green, orange). Though he never had a hit, he has managed to maintain a career in music for over 50 years, mainly on the basis of his dynamic and humourous stage show and his exuberant personality.
Like Tommy Steele, Cliff Richard and others, he was discovered at the famous 2 I's coffee bar in Soho, London. His debut single - one of his rare own compositions - was appropriately called "Rockin' At the 2 I's". Coupled with a cover of Timmie Rogers' "Back To School Again", it was released on Decca F 10970 in December 1957, soon followed by a second Decca single (F 10980), ""Love Bug Crawl"/ "Rosie Lee".
He was a fixture on the BBC TV show "6.5 Special" (produced by Jack Good) in 1958. That year, at the Liverpool Empire, Paul McCartney and John Lennon queued for his autograph. Harris embraced the Teddy Boy image, wearing tight drainpipe trousers, a polka-dot bow tie and larger-than-life stage jackets that looked like the coat hanger was still inside.
For his records, he relied mostly on cover versions of US hits ("No Chemise Please"," I Go Ape", "Wild One"), and though these were delivered with more enthusiasm than most other native contemporaries, UK consumers preferred the original versions. Still, his extravagant stage show and unrelenting energy gave him the reputation of "Britain's wild man of rock 'n' roll" and has enabled him to make a living out of performing (all over the world) until today, now that he's 75! Countries where he is quite popular include Israel, Sweden, France and Germany.
In the sixties he recorded original songs for HMV, Polydor and Parlophone, which went unnoticed amidst the turmoil caused by the Beatles and their ilk. Following a rather quiet decade, Harris resurfaced in the late 1970s as a nostalgia act, after Ian Dury mentioned him as one of the "Reasons To Be Cheerful", a #3 UK hit in 1979.
In the new millennium he has recorded two new CD's, one as a "payback" to the late Ian Dury, called "Twenty Reasons To Be Cheerful" (Fury, 2000) and one with the Alabama Slammers ("Rag Moppin'", Pollytone, 2003). Both include the song "Lollipop Mama", which may be the best thing he ever did. His early recordings have been assembled on a CD called "Wee Willie Harris 1957-1965" (16 tracks, released 1999 on the Raucous label).
Discography (not complete):
Pictures of Wee Willie's Show, Sept. 27, 2008:
By Dik de Heer for This Is My Story, 2008