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Phil Harris

Phil Harris (born Wonga Philip Harris) was an American singer, songwriter, jazz musician, actor and comedian. Though successful as an orchestra leader, Harris is remembered today for his recordings as a vocalist, his voice work in animation and as a pioneer in radio situation comedy, first with Jack Benny, and then in a series in which he co-starred with his second wife, singer-actress Alice Faye, for eight years.

Bandleader

Harris was born in Linton, Indiana, but actually grew up in Nashville, Tennessee, and identified himself as a Southerner (his hallmark song was “That's What I Like About the South”). His upbringing accounted for both his trace of a Southern accent and, in later years, the self-deprecating Southern jokes of his radio character. The son of two circus performers, Harris' first work as a drummer came when his father, as tent bandleader, hired him to play with the circus band. Harris began his music career as a drummer in San Francisco, forming an orchestra with Carol Lofner in the latter 1920s and starting a long engagement at the St. Francis Hotel. The partnership ended by 1932, and Harris led and sang with his own band, now based in Los Angeles. Phil Harris also played drums in Henry Halstead Big Band Orchestra in the mid 1920s.

From December, 1936, through March, 1937, he recorded 16 sides for Vocalion. Most were hot swing tunes that used a very interesting gimmick; they faded up and faded out with a piano solo (these were probably arranged by pianist Skippy Anderson). This was a novel approach and quite unusual for the time.

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