Bill Harley

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Bill Harley
Born U.S.
Occupation Musician, Storyteller, Author
Years active 1975–present

Bill Harley is a children's entertainer, storyteller and author who has been called "the Mark Twain of contemporary children's music" by Entertainment Weekly.[1] He uses a range of musical styles and his songs appeal to both children and adults. Harley began singing and storytelling in 1975 while still in college. His work has influenced a generation of children, parents, performing artists and educators. Much of his material is autobiographical, focusing on vignettes from childhood.

With over 30 recordings to his credit he received two Grammy Awards for Best Spoken Word Album For Children (albums consisting of predominantly spoken word versus music or song) for his albums Blah Blah Blah: Stories About Clams, Swamp Monsters, Pirates & Dogs and Yes to Running! Bill Harley Live in 2007 and 2009, and five additional Grammy nominations. He has also won numerous Parents' Choice awards, ALA (American Library Association) awards and the highest award from the Oppenheim Toy Portfolio for his concert DVD Yes to Running.

Harley has also published numerous books. His latest books are a series about the trials and tribulations of fourth grader Charlie Bumpers. The first book in the series, Charlie Bumpers vs. The Teacher of the Year won the Beverly Cleary Children's Choice award and is part of the One School One Book programming from Read to Them. His first novel for elementary students, The Amazing Flight of Darius Frobisher was chosen by Bank Street School of Education as one of the best children's books of the year . His second novel for children, Night of the Spadefoot Toads, was released in October 2008 and won a Green Earth Book Award. His picture books, based on his songs, stories and poems also stand out with recognition from Booklist, School Library Journal, Kirkus and Publishers Weekly. They include: Sitting Down To Eat (illustrated by Kitty Harvill) which was selected as an American Booksellers Association Pick of the list; Dirty Joe the Pirate: A True Story (illustrated by Jack Davis) and Lost and Found (illustrated by Adam Gustavson).

Harley has performed in more than 2500 schools over the years. In addition to children's music, he performs at storytelling festivals around the country including appearances at the National Storytelling Festival. He tours nationwide as an author, performing artist and keynote speaker from his home in Seekonk, Massachusetts.



  • 1999 Grammy Award Best Spoken Word Album For Children; Weezie And The Moon Pies
  • 2000 Grammy Award Best Spoken Word Album for Children; The Battle of the Mad Scientists and Other Tales of Survival
  • 2008 Grammy Award Best Musical Album for Children; I Wanna Play
  • 2010 Grammy Award Best Spoken Word Album For Children; The Best Candy In The Whole World
  • 2012 Grammy Award Best Album For Children; High Dive and other things that could have happened…


  • 2001 National Storytelling Network's Circle of Excellence Award[2]
  • 2006 Storytelling World Award; Joey, Chloe and the Swamp Monsters
  • 2007 Grammy Award Best Spoken Word Album For Children - Blah Blah Blah: Stories About Clams, Swamp Monsters, Pirates & Dogs
  • 2009 Grammy Award Best Spoken Word Album For Children - Yes to Running!
  • 2009 Green Earth Book Award Children's Fiction - Night of the Spadefoot Toads[3]
  • 2010 Rhode Island Humanities Council Lifetime Achievement Award[4]


  • 1984: Monsters in the Bathroom
  • 1986: 50 Ways to Fool Your Mother
  • 1987: Dinosaurs Never Say Please
  • 1987: Cool In School (with ZANZIBAR!!)
  • 1987: Coyote
  • 1988: You're in Trouble
  • 1990: Grownups Are Strange
  • 1990: Come On Out and Play
  • 1990: I'm Gonna Let It Shine
  • 1994: Already Someplace Warm
  • 1995: Wacka Wacka Woo
  • 1995: From the Back of the Bus
  • 1995: Sitting On My Hands
  • 1996: Lunchroom Tales: A Natural History of the Cafetorium
  • 1996: Big Big World
  • 1996: Who Made This Mess? (Video/DVD)
  • 1997: There's A Pea On My Plate
  • 1998: Weezie and the Moonpies
  • 1999: The Battle of the Mad Scientists and Other Tales Of Survival
  • 1999: Play It Again
  • 2001: Down in the Backpack
  • 2002: Sandburg Out Loud (with Carol Birch, Angela Lloyd & David Holt)
  • 2002: Mistakes Were Made
  • 2003: The Town Around the Bend
  • 2004: cELLAbration! A Tribute to Ella Jenkins (with various artists, from Smithsonian Folkways)
  • 2004: The Teachers' Lounge
  • 2005: One More Time
  • 2005: Blah Blah Blah
  • 2007: I Wanna Play
  • 2008: Yes to Running! Bill Harley Live Double CD
  • 2008: Yes to Running! Bill Harley Live DVD
  • 2009: First Bird Call
  • 2010: Rock & Roll Playground (with various artists, from Putumayo)
  • 2010: The Best Candy in the Whole World
  • 2012: High Dive
  • 2013: It's Not Fair to Me (with Keith Munslow)
  • 2014: Nothing For Granted


  • 1989: Peter Alsop & Bill Harley: In the Hospital
  • 1994: Carna and the Boots of Seven Strides
  • 1995: Open Ears
  • 1995: Nothing Happened
  • 1996: Sarah's Story
  • 1996: Sitting Down to Eat
  • 2001: Bear's All Night Party
  • 2005: Dear Santa
  • 2006: Do It Together: A Collection of Favorite Songs
  • 2006: The Amazing Flight of Darius Frobisher
  • 2008: Dirty Joe the Pirate
  • 2008: Night of the Spadefoot Toads
  • 2010: Between Home and School
  • 2012: Lost and Found
  • 2013: Charlie Bumpers vs. the Teacher of the Year
  • 2014: Charlie Bumpers vs. the Really Nice Gnome
  • 2014: Charlie Bumpers vs. the Squeaking Skull
  • 2015: Charlie Bumpers vs. the Perfect Little Turkey
  • 2016: Charlie Bumpers vs. the Puny Pirates

Harley's "Rules of the Universe" and philosophy[edit]

"Rules of the Universe"[edit]

  • It's always harder to put something back together than it is to take it apart.
  • If you spend all your time cleaning your desk, you'll just have a clean desk. That's not enough.
  • Listen - you're missing something cool.
  • All children should be given a ukulele when they're born.
  • We're more alike than we are different.
  • If you're older than two, and can't sing a song and tell a story, you're in trouble.
  • Sometimes, a plate of spaghetti is the best thing in the world.[5]

Philosophy ("Free advice, if you want it")[edit]

"Everybody worries about things being 'educational' with kids. I believe everything is educational, in that it says something about how one looks at the world - it imparts a knowledge, or world-view. Children learn more from context than they do from explicit lessons, so assume they're working to understand something - they learn vocabulary and language not from a dictionary or worksheet, but from conversation, they learn songs not from reading music, but from singing with someone who loves to sing, and they learn hope and kindness and cooperation not from being told to have them, but by experiencing them."[5]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Swift, P.J. "Bill Harley - Biography". AllMusic. Retrieved 15 July 2011. 
  2. ^ "Circle of Excellence Award Recipients". National Storytelling Network. Retrieved 15 July 2011. 
  3. ^ "The Green Earth Book Award". Newton Marasco Foundation. Archived from the original on 21 July 2011. Retrieved 15 July 2011. 
  4. ^ Morgan, Thomas. "R.I. Humanities Council picks Harley, Kazarian for prizes". Projo 7 to 7 News Blog. The Providence Journal. Archived from the original on 15 July 2010. Retrieved 15 July 2011. 
  5. ^ a b Bill Harley Bio Archived January 15, 2008, at the Wayback Machine. from Retrieved January 23, 2008.

External links[edit]