De Wayne Fulton, 64; Classical Harpist Popularized Instrument


De Wayne Fulton, who popularized the harp by taking it from concert stage to drawing room to barroom, has died. He was 64.

Fulton died Monday in his sleep in Los Angeles. He had been planning to retire from performing, move to New Mexico and write an autobiography, which he had titled “Have Harp, Will Travel.”

The harpist was the first American invited to join the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra under the legendary conductor Herbert von Karajan.


But he also played such requests as “Chariots of Fire” and “Lara’s Theme” at the Warehouse in Marina del Rey.

“This is my missionary work for my instrument,” Fulton told The Times in 1982 during his nightly stint in the special lounge created for him at the popular Marina del Rey restaurant. “A lot of people won’t go to a harp recital, but they’re willing to give it a chance in a lounge.”

Fulton recorded 20 albums, played for Presidents Lyndon B. Johnson and Ronald Reagan and the late Japanese Emperor Hirohito and operated a harp music publishing company called Safari Publications.

Growing up in San Francisco, Fulton studied piano until he encountered his first harp when he was 15.

“It was love at first sight,” he later said. “I became obsessed with the whole aesthetic experience, the way it looked and sounded.”

Fulton studied the harp at the Academy of Music in Vienna and later joined the Vienna Philharmonic and the Vienna State Opera Orchestra. He was also principal harpist for the Istanbul Symphony and later the Honolulu Symphony.

In Hawaii, Fulton experimented with a lounge act and so impressed vacationing Warehouse owner Burt Hixson that the restaurateur invited him to work in Marina del Rey. Fulton performed at the Warehouse from 1969 until recently, with time out to give concerts around the country.

He made his New York recital debut at Lincoln Center in 1983. Typically, he performed a program of classical, popular and folk music on three harps--a concert grand, an Irish folk harp and a harp modified with electronic sound.

Fulton was a pioneer in electronically amplifying harps and in performing jazz and pop on the instrument.

“The harp is very sensuous and can tap incredible emotions,” he said in 1986. “I want people to love the instrument, to know what it can do.”