Charles K. Harris was born in Poughkeepsie, New York on May 1, 1867.
He began his career as a banjo player, wrote special material for vaudeville acts and later for silent films. One of the first songwriters to establish themselves as a publisher as well, Harris set up firms in Chicago and New York under the identity Charles K. Harris Publishing Co.
Harris’ biggest success came with the song “After the Ball”, which reached #1 in 1893 with a recording by George J. Gaskin. It debuted in 1892 when actor Sam Doctor sang performed it in a Milwaukee theater. The song was a flop, mainly due to Sam's forgetting the lyric halfway through the song but soon after, “After the Ball” was interpolated into the Broadway show A Trip to Chinatown, performed by J. Aldrich Libby. The song was a huge hit selling over 5 million copies of sheet music and catapulting Harris’ publishing company to the top of the business. At the 1893 Chicago World's Fair, John Phillip Sousa included it in his daily concerts.
Other highlights from the Harris catalog include “I’m Trying So Hard to Forget You”, “Fallen by the Wayside”, “For Sale, A Baby”, “Why Don’t They Play With Me?”, “In the City Where Nobody Cares”, “There’ll Come a Time”, “Better than Gold”, “Just Behind the Times”, “I’ve Just Come to Say Goodbye”, “Break the News to Mother”, “Mid the Green Fields of Virginia”, “For Old Time’s Sake”, “I’ve a Longing in My Heart for You, Louise”, “Hello Central, Give Me Heaven”, “Always in the Way”, “Would You Care>”, “The Best Things in Life”, “Nobody Knows, Nobody Cares” and “Songs of Yesterday”.
Charles K. Harris died in New York City on December 22, 1930.