Lyle Allan Harris

COLUMBIA — Lyle Allan Harris was an influential and respected member of the Columbia music community who also had a passion for libraries and good food.

“He played about four notes, and I knew he was the best guitar player in town,” said Lee Ruth, a friend and musician who first saw Mr. Harris play in 1964.

Mr. Harris died July 2, 2011, from complications following a stroke. He was 77.

He was born Dec. 4, 1933, in Kansas City to Brickey William and Mable Irene (Howard) Harris.

Mr. Harris graduated from Butler High School and joined the Air Force, and he was stationed in Japan. He moved to Columbia to complete a graduate degree in community development.

Mr. Harris started playing music in fifth grade but became interested in jazz during his time in the Air Force. He became a staple on the Columbia music scene, playing with various groups in venues all over town and even opening for jazz legend Dave Brubeck.

Ruth said Mr. Harris was an important figure in the last 50 years of Columbia music. He was even voted as Columbia’s best live entertainer in a 1982 survey done by the Missourian.

“He was somebody I really admired and respected,” Ruth said.

Mr. Harris had been battling prostate cancer for over a decade, but he never lost his wit, according to fellow musician and friend Tony Lotven.

“He was a phenomenal musician and a personality to match,” Lotven said.

Friend and former colleague Neal Sofian said Mr. Harris had a “ridiculously bizarre” sense of humor.

“Lyle would probably just say make something up, make it interesting and laugh at it,” Sofian said. “He was a loss to the universe, truly one of the wisest people I knew.”

Mr. Harris is survived by his wife, Lucinda Dailey, of Ozark; a son, Nathan Harris, of Colorado Springs, Colo.; his mother, Mabel Harris, of Butler; and a sister, Regena Rook, of Lee's Summit.

Funeral services are being handled by Adams Funeral Home in Ozark.