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Ken's One Kat Kombo takes stage in Ohr-O'Keefe exhibition on Biloxi

TAMMY SMITH/SUN HERALDThis photo of Clarence 'Ken' Harder is part of the exhibition 'Ken's One Kat Kombo' at the Ohr-O'Keefe Museum of Art in Biloxi.
TAMMY SMITH/SUN HERALDThis photo of Clarence 'Ken' Harder is part of the exhibition 'Ken's One Kat Kombo' at the Ohr-O'Keefe Museum of Art in Biloxi.

It's appropriate that a museum dedicated to the self-described "Mad Potter of Biloxi" has an exhibit paying homage to another "different" artistic Biloxi son.

The Ohr-O'Keefe Museum of Art in Biloxi is housing "Clarence 'Ken' Harder: Ken's One Kat Kombo" through the end of October. The small but fascinating exhibition features musical instruments Harder repurposed into lamps, cigarette ash tray stands or other useful things.

Harder, whose music career began in the 1940s, was known for his one-man band, Ken's One Kat Kombo. He created a complicated contraption that included solenoids from a washing machine; they charged a motor on the reed instruments. An upside-down turntable strummed a guitar. A modified trombone rested on his shoulder as Harder rocked back and forth to move the slide, and he played a song's melody with his right hand on a half-size piano. It all was mounted on an open-air trailer for mobility.

Harder, one of 10 children, was born in Biloxi in 1916 and died in 1999. The 1947 hurricane sidelined his music career, and Harder learned body and fender repair. Ever connected to music, however, he also began repairing musical instruments at his shop, the Idle Awhile Shop on Lee Street. Instruments beyond hope became transformed into the lamps and other items.

"Augie Taconi found videos and materials for the exhibit," Ohr-O'Keefe executive director Kevin O'Brien said. "They really add to the whole exhibit. When you hear him play, you can hear how truly great he was."

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