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Contributed photo

Lecile Harris, four-time Pro Rodeo’s Clown of the Year, is seen here in the midst of his “Black Bart” sketch during a rodeo. He will be in the Harrison Roundup Club’s IRPA Rodeo next week.

Lecile Harris has been chosen Pro Rodeo’s Clown of the Year four times over his career and he will be at the Harrison Roundup Club’s IRPA Rodeo next Thursday, Friday and Saturday night.

Harris hasn’t always been a rodeo clown in his 64-year rodeo career. He started as a bullfighter, the one who protects cowboys after they’ve been thrown, as well as thrilling the crowd with those antics.

Harris got his start in 1955 when he entered the bull riding event at a rodeo and the scheduled bullfighter didn’t show up, according to his biography. He was young, fearless and athletic and stepped in to fill that void.

He was innovative in those early years and began to study a fighting bull’s habits at a time when the sport was in its infancy. He spent 36 years as a bullfighter and has deep memories.

“In 36 years I had over a hundred fractures,” Harris told the Daily Times. But considering the number of bulls he fought in that time, it’s a good record.

Rodeo wasn’t the only occupation. He was a drummer and had his own band, called The Capris, and they recorded at Sun Records and Hi Records in Memphis, Tennessee, for about 10 years.

As a working drummer, he played with the likes of Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins. That was during the 1950s and on into the 1970s, he said.

“Back then you were just on a list,” he said. When someone needed a drummer, he could get the call.

Still a working bullfighter all the while, he soon began to realize that if he did comedy he would work more. He had already been doing some comedy in the band and even some stand-up, so it was an easy transition.

At the age of 52, he hung up his bullfighter boots and went solely into comedy. He developed his own style and acts.

“I do a lot of what I call walking and talking,” Harris said. He still does a couple of specialty acts, like “Black Bart” and “The Whoopist,” and he’s likely to do them in Harrison next week.

Although he has continued his rodeo career, he also landed roles in movies like “Walking Tall, Final Chapter,” “The Last Days of Frank and Jesse James,” and “W.W. and the Dixie Dance Kings” with Burt Reynolds, as well as a five-year stint on the wildly-popular “HEE HAW” music/comedy TV show.

Harris said there will be two young bullfighters for the rodeo in Harrison, but he will still be in the arena and his storied experience could come in handy for those fighters.

“Even at 83, I can still make a move to try to pull somebody out of a bind,” he said.

“I don’t like it,” he added with a hearty laugh.

EDITOR’S NOTE: See Tuesday’s edition of the Daily Times for more about the Harrison Roundup Club’s IRPA Rodeo.

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