The Early Years in Music
Rufus was born in Detroit and during his formative years (7 to 16 years old) he lived in Anchorage,
Alaska. His musical experiences began at a very early age. One of his first memories involves the guitar
- the first instrument he actually remembers as a child. He recalls, "I had an Uncle Ernest - my
mother's brother - who in his younger days was a serious blues guitarist. Back in the fifties - when
I was two or three years old - my parents helped him get a guitar - a brand new hollow-body Gibson
electric. One day - I think I was crying or giving my mother the blues - and my mother, to calm me down, took
this beautiful thing out of its case which was under her and my father's bed and placed it on my lap. I remember
dragging my fingers slowly across the strings - I remember the sound was incredible!"
Not only did Rufus' uncle make an impression, but Rufus was fortunate to have a second grade teacher who
saw his interest in music and actually gave him a few piano lessons at school. However, it was not until the
seventh grade that he formally began music lessons. He learned to play the alto sax in the school's band.
The band instructor exposed his students to jazz as another form of musical expression. Rufus remembers
that the sounds and melodies were beautiful. Also during this period, Rufus picked up on how to play drums
and started practicing with one of his fellow student's rock band. He recalls, "One day I stopped by the
guitarist's home (Frank Jerue). He answered the door, with his guitar strapped on. After talking and laughing a
little, I asked if I could hold his guitar - he let me - I strummed the strings - I liked it - I really liked it! Frank saw
this and said he would give me lessons. I accepted. My Dad bought me a Harmony F-hole acoustic for $45.
I started practicing guitar and making progress."
Shortly after that, Rufus asked his parents if they would buy him an electric guitar and amplifier. The problem
was that he wanted to play guitar, and to continue with the sax also! His parents said, "Either play the guitar or
the sax!". They couldn't afford both. Rufus looked at his shiny rented sax and in his mind's eye the electric
guitar and amplifier he wanted. He repeatedly rationalized, "sax or guitar, jazz or rock n' roll... ". Rufus liked
rock 'n roll. He remembered the first time he saw the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show - the effect they had on
the audience - also the effect they had on him! He remembered the first time he saw the Rolling Stones on the
show also. He thought about the junior high band rehearsals and the rock band practices with Frank and the
other guys. At that time, saxes were only prominent in rock 'n roll when they were holding long notes and
belching out very coarse melodies - so the guitar won. (Besides Frank now wanted him to play rhythm guitar
in the band.) With guitar in hand Rufus began to write songs. For him, music and lyric provided an avenue to
paint meaningful pictures and tell stories.
In the mid 60's - when Rufus was thirteen - the power of the gospel caught his attention. His mother, Dora
Harris, had become a Christian and he was impressed by the change he saw in her life. Rufus remembers,
"When Jesus came into my mom's life I noticed a significant change in her. It wasn't just going to church. Jesus
became important everyday thing in her life. Many times I had been told or had read the stories about Jesus -
but then for the very first time. His power was not just on the page of a book, or just someone telling me about
it. His power was present and able to affect a change in my mom's life - almost two millennia - after his physical
life on earth! My mom - who was not a bad person to begin with - became sweeter... wiser... more loving... . She
began to really exhibit God's love - His nature. She wasn't perfect but - something good had happened to her on
the inside and it began to show on the outside. "
Rufus became a Christian in the 1972 and experienced for himself the life/attitude changing power of Jesus.
It was during what was called the Jesus Movement (Click on Jesus Movement) During that time he was very
fortunate to have a great friend and mentor and a great number of folks around him who really believed in
Jesus and practiced what they preached. That time in his life was a very important time and a great experience
– he learned a lot. One thing he learned early on was to keep things simple, especially as it related to his
spiritual life: simple faith, simple obedience, and a simple lifestyle.. “Most – if not all – of my life of faith, I felt
Christianity had been made by many to be far too complicated," says Rufus. "I have learned that complexity in
one's belief does not improve one’s Christian experience but instead it can frustrate; discourage or create one to
have simply a ‘head knowledge’ of concepts that do not improve one’s life spiritually or those around them.
Thankfully, the idea of keeping things simple is addressed in scripture.
He saw that Christ was the only hope for mankind. As he reflects, "At a young age I knew something was
wrong on the inside of man. I really didn't know what it was, but something was inherently out of
whack with us. You know, children don't have to be taught how to be bad, it comes naturally! Without
discipline and good role models, children basically grow up to be self-centered. Many events along the
way led me to better understand mankind's and my own dilemma and also the solution to the problem.
I remember, I was working at a Ford truck plant (Michigan Truck Plant) in Wayne, MI. At that time, I knew
I wanted - I needed - to get close to God, but really didn't understand how to make it happen. I started
reading the Bible and praying for God's help. One day a guy (Gary Mulholland) passed by my work area
and saw my Bible on the tool bench. He commented how great it was that I would read the Bible at work.
From then on, he and I began to be friends, started having conversations about the Bible and the Christian
experience. He would just light up when he talked about the reality of Christ in his life - what Christ had
done for him - what Christ was doing for him! I could talk about the Bible and Christian concepts, but
personally, I had no experiences of my own to share and I wanted that! One day a circumstance arose
at the plant with another believer - I think his name was Bill. Bill was an extremely nice individual. He even
looked the way that many depicters of Jesus imagine: shoulder length hair; soft spoken and kind eyes.
But I learned through a couple of conversations with him his Christian life experience was in part a
willful compromise. The worst part is that he was really not ashamed of his compromise! He would
freely share about his compromise and then talk about the Mercy of God. In our discussion, I told him that
I didn't think his approach to the Christian lifestyle was correct and that although "I wasn't yet a Christian
and I knew better". At the very moment I said that, Gary walked up. Gary questioned my last comment.
(He thought I was a Christian because I read my Bible at work; I would unashamedly talk about Christ or
spiritual things and because I had seemingly few apparent vices.) He asked why I thought I wasn't a Christian?
I told him, because I had not really experienced Christ in my life. He then explained to me very simply, 'Rufus,
all you have to do is believe in Christ, that is how you become a Christian, that is how you get saved!' When
he said those words, it was as if a bright light turned on! I understood for the first time the words, "believe
on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved". For the first time I understood that I had to rely on Christ; I
had to cling to Christ; I had to trust in what Christ had already done for me. (BACKGROUND NOTE: I had grown
up in a church where the Christian experience was demonstrated in emotional ways. The stories of conversion
were for the most part: What someone saw; What someone heard; or What someone felt! That's 3 of the 5
physical senses! (Ironically, no one ever mentioned to me what they tasted or smelled.) Since none of those
things ever happened to me, I reasoned that I wasn't a Christian. Gary then began to talk to Bill. (I don’t think
even Gary understood the significance of those simple words he had just shared with me.) I then excused
myself from the two of them – I wanted to be alone – I had to, I wanted to pray! I went into a nearby rest room
and closed the stall door. I raised my hands and asked Christ to forgive my sins and to come into my life! At that
very moment – I knew something had happened to me – on the inside! My attitude and behavior towards doing
wrong changed. I was finding that when I tried to convince myself that an act was okay or had what I thought was
a good excuse to do the wrong thing, I would feel unsettled. Moreover, when I would rebel against God and choose
to do the wrong thing, I would find the behavior not only unacceptable but extremely uncomfortable. I was indeed
changing on the inside. I knew that only the life, death and resurrection of Jesus provided an answer – the answer
– to mankind’s dilemma. I saw Jesus change my mom, others in my family, friends, acquaintances and now me
too! What is so exciting is that the same thing has happened for over 2000 years and is continuing to happen to
folks all over the world."
Music, Ministry and Audio Engineering
Rufus answered the call of ministry in 1973 and joined The House of Prayer - an inner-city Christian commune in
Detroit founded by George W. Bogle. The ministry consisted of mostly young people and was formed in the midst
of the turmoil of the late 60s. Rufus considered his time there as one of the greatest experiences of his life. Around
that same time, he co-founded a new band with his friend - Paul Kelley called The Chosen Few - that later became
known as Jubal. Jubal was a musical blend of folk, rock and r&b. The group toured from the 70s through the early
90s. throughout the Midwest and East coast. This was during the birth of Contemporary Christian music. Names like
Andre Crouch, Phil Keaggy, Keith Green, Second Chapter of Acts, Rez Band and many others had emerged and
were gaining popularity internationally. Jubal was fortunate enough to open for some of them.
In the late 80s Rufus became one of the leaders at Church in the City founded by Gary Wilkerson, son of
self-published his first book. He felt that the principle doctrines of Christ were either being overemphasized or
under-emphasized by the church and knew that for Christian growth and unity to occur, there needed to be
a balance. So he published Milk of the Word. The book focused on the importance of having a balanced foundation
for spiritual growth.
As the years progressed, Rufus continued to minister in word and song. Being a band leader and songwriter led to
a career in audio engineering - although his interest started back in junior high. He worked at Masterpiece Sound
he would soon become one of the most requested freelance recording engineers in the Detroit area. George Clinton,
Joe Harris of Undisputed Truth, the late Thomas Whitfield, Marvin and BeBe Winans, and Thomas McClary of The
Commodores, were among the celebrated national recording artists with whom he worked. Rufus contributed not
only audio engineering expertise but production assistance as well. He started his own recording studio in 2002
called bridgewerks AudioServices. He continues working in the recording studio focusing on his own music and
the music of independent artists.
Rufus loves music and his musical influences are varied and quite diverse:
The Beatles - "their song writing and musicianship"
The Monkees (especially Glen Campbell's contributions) - "the song writing and exceptional guitar work"
Cream (Eric Clapton) - "His guitar solo work on the song Badge inspired me to seriously start working on lead
Stevie Wonder - Rufus likes his song writing, musicianship and harmonica playing
Sly and the Family Stone - "Sylvester Stone created fun music and had a style not typical music for black artists"
Jimi Hendrix - "I didn't musically understand most of his guitar solos, but I liked them because
they were creatively different - not stereotypical"
Chicago - "the mixture of jazz sounds and rock"
Yes - "I really like their musicianship and their approach to 'pop' songs"
Boston (Tom Scholz) - "I like the guitar work especially in More Than A Feeling"
Toto -"I like their songs, the production and Steve Lukather's amazing guitar work"
Cameo - "is fun, funky and creative"
Rick James - "to me never reached his creative potential, but I liked his music a lot - another great funk artist"
Prince - "his creativity and courage - not being afraid to be different"
Kool Moe Dee - "Love his vocal clarity. He shows how Rap can be used effectively to relay positive
Read what Rufus believes:
Rufus appreciates all music. These artists have influenced Rufus artistically.
This is not intended to be an endorsement of any artist's lifestyle or their songs' lyrical context.
Frank Jerue and Rufus - Circa 1966
Jubal promo picture: Dan Mleczko, Paul Kelley,
Rufus & SIDney Howard during the 80s
Paul Kelley, Rufus, SIDney Howard & Dan
Mleczko at an outdoor event in the 80s
Baby Rufus - 1952
Rufus' mom - Dora (2nd from right) taking
food to the Eskimo Village
Rufus age 6
With mom at airport in Anchorage 1959
A teenager in Alaska
Rufus Harris Sr and Dora Harris
Performing at an outdoor event in the 80s