Billy Harner could have stayed in Hollywood. He had some serious hits, both domestically and abroad. He garnered fame and notice. His half-century career, with top singles and full albums released under both indie AND major labels, totally transcended “big fish in a little pond.”
So why did he end up in Pine Hill, exactly where he started?
“I went to Hollywood, but I just wanted to be home with my family,” said Billy last week to Philly.com. “I never wanted to move, because I love it here. I’m a family guy, that’s for sure.”
The current great-grandfather became known for sweaty, manic, high-energy performances that earned him the nickname “The Human Perk-u-lator” during the 60s. Harner is self-taught, growing up in a household filled with music and working out what to do behind a drum kit entirely on his own. Highlights of his impressive professional accomplishments include the 93 nights IN A ROW he played Wildwood’s Rainbow Room back in 1969, as well as his 1967 Top 40 single “Sally Sayin’ Something.”
Other Harner creations such as “Homicide Dresser,” and “She’s Almost You” were a necessity for the Northern Soul dance-club movement in the 1970s throughout the UK. Billy even birthed an album, King of the Disco, at Philly’s own Sigma Sound, the studio which has enjoyed the presence of such stars as David Bowie over the years.
Even as he was rising to fame, however, Billy remained a Jersey guy at heart. Working as a barber, he raised his family in Pine Hill and worked at a salon on Haddon Avenue in Westmont which his daughter now owns. His son, Billy III, recalls, “When he performed at the Steel Pier in the early ’70s, he showed me his name on a marquis in letters 14 feet high. He said to me, ‘That’s your name up there, too.'”
The family ties are strong with this one, as Billy, his wife Veronica, daughter Debi, and Billy all live locally. While he may not have acquired the fame of the Jim Morrisons and Freddie Mercurys of the world, he can definitely say he achieved the perfect work/life balance. After all, with a loving family, a musical legacy, and a lifetime of memories performing and making music, choosing New Jersey over Hollywood starts to make a lot more sense.