Ben Harrison is a raconteur in the truest sense of the word. His effortless folksy style and good-natured wit are immediately recognizable throughout his works. Be it his hilarious biographical songs about real-life infamous characters— like Bum Farto, a corrupt local fire chief or Bettie Page, the 50’s pin-up star—or his decidedly creepy non-fiction work Undying Love, Ben also turned the macabre tale into a full-fledged musical. As an author, musician, and playwright, Ben has recorded nine albums of original music, written three plays, and five books—most recently releasing his first children’s book The Rooster Who Loved the Violin.
Ben spent his early years in Corpus Christi, Texas. His unique perspective on the time and place eventually led him to write his first novel, Charlie Jones, a generational narrative following several members of a Texas family doing their best to navigate life, sex, parenting, art, and money in a world rapidly changing around them. He graduated from SMU Law School in 1972 and soon after moved to San Francisco with his wife Helen, an artist. In 1974 they drove to Costa Rica and together built a 38-foot sailboat that they lived on for 11 years, which also became the prototype for the legendary Cabo Rico 38’.
His book Sailing Down the Mountain: A Costa Rican Adventure chronicles their story through journal entires, historical commentary, song lyrics, and other pleasantly unconventional means of delivering memories. Ben’s honesty is striking and heartfelt, making this not only a true account of another era and a seemingly insurmountable project, but also a story that is immediately relatable to contemporary experiences in life, love, and learning how to build something much bigger than yourself.
In 1979, Ben sailed with Helen to Key West, Florida. For over 16 years, he played music nightly on the famous Duval Street, most notably at The Bull, where he performed for nine years. Rather than covering the usual barroom standards of the time, he played original, entertaining songs with a wry twist that established him as one of the city’s most popular musicians. During this period, he recorded five different albums on cassettes. These have been digitally reproduced on Duval Years, an eclectic collection of his musical output spanning nearly two decades.
First and foremost an innate storyteller, Ben’s talent also extends into his beautiful handmade guitars, which are available only on special limited commission. In 1986 he and Helen opened Harrison Gallery, a contemporary fine art studio and show space, which celebrated its 30th anniversary in 2016. They have two sons, Benjamin—who inspired Ben’s book Official Visit, which captures the early experience of his son’s baseball career—and Cole who handcrafts his custom Triple C’s Spearguns.
Ben is currently working on his next book, Bars, Guitars, and a Blonde, a follow-up to Sailing Down the Mountain, and his latest album of original songs, Destino, was released in 2015.