Harris turns Karaoke into a new hobby

MILACA – If you have any thoughts of singing in public, you will need to exercise your vocal cords.

Those words of advice come from a man who knows, as Terry Harris of Milaca is singing a different tune these days.

After many years of not singing, Harris got back to what he loved to do on Feb. 28 of 2016.

But it wasn’t an easy path to take.

These days Harris can be found at a number of locations around the area taking part in open-microphone karaoke.

But, before we tell you about that, there’s a lot of ground and miles to cover.

Harris first noticed his vocal cords were “weak and out of tune,” that coming from a man who loves to share his voice.

“You have got to practice to keep your vocal cords in shape, as the muscles tend to get weak,” Harris noted.

While he always loved to sing, he was away from doing so for some 35 years.

“While I always loved to sing, I never sang in my truck much, as I was depressed after having been divorced,” Harris explained.

Divorced at the age of 40, Harris found himself facing a “feeling of failure.”

A native of Crete, a small village located near Oakes, North Dakota, it was there Harris was involved in the life of farming.

Being married at the age of 17, a union that lasted for 23 years, it was time to move on with his life by relocating to the Minneapolis area.

Being what he termed “a little green,” he bumped into a guy at an American Legion Club that opened the door.

“I lucked out as the company he recommended was looking for a driver,” Harris said.

Now at the age of 40, this job involved making local deliveries throughout the metro area, requiring some 25-30 drops per day, using a two-wheeled cart.

As this type of work was “getting harder,” the next option was for him to consider taking to the highway.

HIS OWN TRUCK

Going through the necessary licensing procedure, Harris, now 50, had caught on with a large trucking company out of Green Bay, Wisconsin.

He first spent two weeks in training on the big rigs, while remaining with this company to drive for them for two years.

Time came to purchase his own, spending a total of 18 years in that same truck.

Once he got his truck paid for, Harris worked hard and “kept it up and did pretty well,” as he logged more than two million miles on the odometer.

While pulling trailers for Transport America out of Eagan, Harris was called upon to haul, “everything and anything you can imagine.”

His travels took him in every direction as he hauled loads for Polaris and Arctic Cat, along with delivering brass from Pennsylvania to Federal Cartridge, while also picking up loads at Hoffman Industries.

“It was sometimes overwhelming, as for two to three weeks at a time on the road,” Harris said.

He went on to say, “it was lonely and not an easy life, backed up to docks for hours,” as he rented an apartment in Eagan.

MOVES TO MILACA

Not liking to be in an apartment, while needing more room to park his truck, Harris “kept coming north to find a place to live.”

In March of 2003 Harris found the “perfect place” just three miles east of Milaca, a brand new home, along with adding a 40×80 building to house his truck and extra equipment.

Living in the country, he added a Bobcat for use in clearing the snow.

The added building also allowed for room for his motorcycle, boat and a snowmobile.

As an active outdoors man, Harris is taking advantage of what is available to him, having resided here for nearly 14 years.

TIME TO RETIRE

In 2013, at the age of 70, Harris decided it was time to pull himself from behind the wheel and opted to retire.

Just to be safe he kept his truck for another year, “just in case,” he got the urge to be back on the road.

In keeping his truck Harris said, “I had taken care of it and didn’t want to just give away, but finally realized it was time to part company.”

Now, with time on his hands, it was time to turn his attention to other activities.

The only problem, he also had to deal with a number of extra pounds that he had gained while sitting in the truck.

“I had gotten heavy from driving,” Harris said, now weighing about 280 pounds.

Noting that he had “always been slim,” Harris confided he gained 60-70 pounds just by “nibbling.”
A BIG CHANGE

Knowing he was the only person to control his change, Harris gradually started walking.

However, a pinched nerve from all those years of sitting, came into play.

But, his desire to push on worked out and the pain from the pinched nerve “went away.”

When all was said and done, after two years, Harris dropped 80 pounds and still works hard to remain fit.

HIS NEW LIFE

By combining walking and changing his food habits, Harris was able to achieve his weight loss goal.

“I never smoked, but I loved sweets and almost became addicted to them,” Harris said.

“I knew I had to change my eating habits, as I even gained weight the first six months of retirement.”

Then, “gradually, ever so gradually,” Harris began to see the pounds come off.

He admitted, “occasionally I would get disgusted and came off the wagon, but got right back on.”

Weekends and holidays proved to be the biggest setbacks for Harris.

Now at 200 pounds, he is satisfied, but wants to stay at this weight.

SHARE SECRET

His secret, in losing and maintaining his weight, Harris spends his time during the winter months walking in his house.

While walking for two hours a day, he carries a five-pound weight in each hand.

Pointing out, “I now have lots of time on my hands.”
Another incentive of losing weight was an opportunity to get back to his love of singing.

Thus, while walking, he spends one of the two hours singing while he walks.

He also sets a kitchen timer, but he covers up the timer and clocks so he is unable to see time passing by.

The added time he has been singing, is beginning to pay off.

AN EARLY START

No stranger to the stage, Harris got an early start at the age of 13.

“They would stick me up in front of little plays and such,” Harris said of his early performances.

At the age of 14 he met up with Dick Pfeifer, who “took me under his wing,” leading to lessons on the guitar.

Harris then took additional lessons and even learned on his own.

It wasn’t long before he had his own band together, while also playing with Pfeifers’ group from time to time.

Bob Reed, a member of that band, went on to eventually play bass guitar for the popular group out of Minneapolis, known as the Trashmen.

LEAD SINGER

Harris continued to hone his vocal skills as the lead singer in a band known as Terry Allen and the Creoles.

Why the name, Harris had “no idea.”

Being married at a very young age, along with his music, the couple raised four boys and two girls.

He considers his children as being “high achievers,” with one of his daughters being a lawyer.

At the age of 19 he was a self-employed farmer.

Harris estimated he performed up until the age of 35.

HIS COMEBACK

Harris credits Darrell Herges of Milaca as the one who encouraged him to get back to his music.

His initial appearance at the Flagship VFW Club near Isle got Harris back in the groove, leading to him meeting Larry Stuckey of Ogilvie, who owns and operates karaoke equipment.

“I just love it,” Harris said, when asked about his return to singing after 35 years.

Now, he can’t get enough, with three to four nights a week taking Harris to various area entertainment locations, including some VFW and American Legion posts.

“You get so you meet and get to be friends,” with the other performers, Harris said.

For Harris, this is now an opportunity to share his new-found hobby with others.

FILLS A VOID

His time out and about also serves to fill a void.

“When living a bachelor life it is kind of lonely if you don’t get out of the house,” Harris said.

Open microphone means anyone who would like to take part in karaoke registers for a song, and depending on the number of singers on hand, this provides for a variety night of entertainment.

Harris leans toward Country Western music when he selects a song, however he also loves the old standards.

He pointed out, “these people are much younger than me, running the machines.”

When possible Harris will deliver a Dean Martin, Ray Price or Faron Young selection, however his favorite modern day performer is Josh Turner and his “Your Man” country hit.

BECOMES HOBBY

On a given night Harris estimates he could sing up to 8-10 songs, depending on the crowd.

While this has turned into a hobby, Harris is looking to sing at nursing homes, or special events in the area, along with his Karaoke.

“I truly love singing and love to share,” Harris said.

But, while he points out, “I’m no kid any more, working on 74.”

However, the best part about making his lifestyle change has proved to add to his quality of life and the weight loss has helped his self esteem.

BUSY SCHEDULE

Last week, this scribe ventured to the Long Siding bar & grille to listen to Harris, who was joined by six other entries.

Johnathon Clemens heads up the JAC’D Karaoke & Sound program every Thursday night, beginning at 8 p.m. in Long Siding.

Songbooks here offer listings by the song title or by the artist, offering some 8,800 song titles for participants to choose from.

It’s not uncommon for Harris to be out singing five nights week.

On Wednesday evenings he takes part in the program offered at Ridgewood Bay, located on Elk Lake, just north of Zimmerman.

Friday nights might find him at the American Legion club in Waite Park, or the VFW in St. Cloud.

In addition, the Highway Inn, located along Hwy. 95, east of Princeton is another venue.

Saturday evenings provide a number of activities for Harris to take part in.

Recently he even headed to St. Paul on a Tuesday night, for an opportunity to sing.

With his truck driving days behind him, now refueled with his weight loss and free time, Harris is taking his passion of singing to a new level.