Ted Harris, a Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame member and writer of such hits as Charley Pride’s “The Happiness of Havin’ You” and Glen Campbell and Steve Wariner’s “The Hand That Rocks the Cradle,” died Sunday (Nov. 22) at his home in Lewisburg, Tennessee, at the age of 78.
He stood out among country songwriters in that he wrote all his hits by himself rather than following the usual — and often political — route of collaborating with other composers.
Harris’ successes weren’t limited to country music. Although cut by several country stars, his best-known song, “Crystal Chandelier,” was also recorded by pop artists Vic Dana and Louis Armstrong.
Theodore Clifford Harris was born Aug. 2, 1937 in Lakeland, Florida. He moved to Nashville in 1958, impelled to do so by his love for Grand Ole Opry star Hank Snow’s music. At Snow’s publishing company, he was befriended by Ted Daffan, who had been a country and pop singing sensation in the 1940s.
Daffan became the young songwriter’s mentor. In his section on the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame website, Daffan is quoted as saying, “Whatever Ted said, I listened to, because he was successful.”
Even so, Harris spent his first seven years in Nashville working in the grocery business and writing songs during his off hours.
While had had scored minor cuts earlier, his first notable achievement came in 1965 via Carl Belew’s recording of “Crystal Chandelier.” It went to No. 12 on the country charts and was subsequently recorded by Pride, Mac Wiseman, Dickey Lee, Floyd Cramer, Johnny Russell and Billie Jo Spears, among many others.
Another classic from Harris’ pen was “Paper Mansions,” recorded most successfully by Dottie West, who had a Top 10 hit with it in 1967. Within a two-year span, it was also recorded by Kitty Wells, Warner Mack, Lynn Anderson, Margie Singleton and Jean Shepard.
Harris was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1990.