L. John Harris Biography

JH @ SFCM 2013

Born in Los Angeles, California in 1947, L. John Harris fell in love with the classical guitar as a young teen. He studied with the beloved Los Angeles teacher, the Spaniard, Manuel Sanguesa.

In  grade school Harris had known and admired the young guitar maestro, Michael Lorimer, one of Segovia’s top protégés, and had no illusions about a professional career with the guitar. Instead, Harris set his sights on his other art interests—painting and writing– all the while maintaining his connection to the classical guitar. His “public”  performances were limited to dinner parties and an occasional wedding.

After studying art and creative writing at the University of California at Berkeley from 1965-1969, Harris worked part time at Paragon Music, Berkeley’s only classical guitar store, where he fell in love with the wonderful guitars on sale. He started up lessons again with the shop’s owner, Michael Stanis.

While working at a variety of part time jobs after college in some of Berkeley’s infamous food businesses, Harris wrote The Book of Garlic (1974), which launched him as an authority on the “stinking rose,” a term he coined in his book. Then, in the 1980s, Harris launched Aris Books, a specialty cookbook publishing company, and in 1988 he began a cartoon by-line–“Foodoodles”–in several Bay Area food magazines.

His recent cartoon memoir– Foodoodles: From the Museum of Culinary History (El Leon Literary Arts, 2010)–celebrates and skewers California food culture with over 90 drawings and accompanying texts (www.foodoodles.com). Foodoodles won the BAIPA (Bay Area Independent Publisher’s Association) award in 2011 for “Best Graphic Memoir.”

After selling Aris Books in 1990, Harris shifted his focus to documentary filmmaking. He wrote and co-produced “Divine Food: 100 Years in the Kosher Delicatessen Trade” in 1998 and, then, wrote and co-directed the Emmy-nominated PBS special, “Los Romeros: The Royal Family of the Guitar,” released  nationally in 2001. His relationship to the Romero clan helped Harris launch a series of events at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, with the additional support of the OMNI Foundation, called Guitarrada.

After six Guitarradas, and with the growth of his private collection of classical and flamenco guitars, Harris formed The Harris Guitar Foundation pin 2012 to showcase the collection and integrate it into the guitar curriculum at SFCM. Harris serves as President of HGF and will function as the Collection’s curator.

Continuing to publish his food cartoons and articles as a regular contributor to Zester Daily, an on-line food journal, Harris divides his time between his home in Berkeley, California  and, during SFCM’s summer break, in Paris, France.