Bandleader, Vocalist, Actor. Phil Harris was a versatile performer excelling on many levels as a performer. After settling in California at an early age, he formed the Phil Harris Band which performed in the late twenties and early thirties while recording many novelty songs..."Smoke, Smoke that Cigarette," "Up A Lazy River," "Stars Fell on Alabama," "Row, Row, Row," "Is It True What They Say About Dixie," and his most successful "Thats What I Like About the South." Harris had a fledgling career in the movies with a film debut in RKO's "So This is Harris" which won the 1932 Academy Award for best short subject, comedy category. Phil became part of the popular radio show starring Jack Benny as the musical director. He would sing and lead the band while exchanging comedy quips with Jack. His signature song was "That's What I Like About the South." He would marry Actress Alice Faye and the couple would forever be linked synonymously. With Alice Faye, Harris hosted the "Fitch Bandwagon" radio series until the couple starred in their own radio program, The Phil Harris-Alice Faye Show, a domestic situation comedy where Harris and Faye played themselves while actresses played their real daughters. Work was scare in the 60's and 70's but he turned to appearances on popular television shows such as The Kraft Music Hall, The Dean Martin Show and Hollywood Palace but a few. His career was revitalized and children were delighted with his work in Disney films providing the voice in the animated feature, "The Aristocats" for Thomas O'Malley and again for Little John in the animated movie "Robin Hood." Probably his best, "The Jungle Book" an animated tale about a boy raised in the woods by animals where he provided the voice for Baloo the Bear while singing the tune, "The Bare Necessities." He was born Wonga Phillip in Linton, Indiana the only child of Harry and Dollie Harris his father a vaudeville musician. His dad would put him on the path to show business by teaching him to play several musical instruments including the drums. At age nine, he was drumming at the Nicklo Theater in Linton as well as doing various theatre sounds. The family moved to Nashville when eleven and although still a teenager found employment as a drummer with the Francis Craig's orchestra. He discarded Wonga Phillip becoming simply Phil Harris going on to form his own group called 'Dixie Syncopators" which performed throughout the south with Phil singing comedy vocals. In World War II, he served in the Merchant Marines. He kind of simply faded away from the Hollywood scene to being a business man in Palm Springs while becoming a spokesperson and benefactor for the famous resort with all the golf courses. A health problem forced a brief Palm Springs hospital stay. He would pass away some two years later at age 91 from a heart condition at his Rancho Mirage residence. Cremation was performed and his wife of fifty four years, Alice Faye kept his ashes until her own death. After her cremation, both urns were placed in a companion niche in the outdoor Palm Springs Mausoleum located at Forest Lawn Cemetery. Legacy...He had great empathy for his home town and gave back to Linton, Indiana. The Linton Library is the repository for the donated show business memorabilia collection of the famous couple. The small town is also home of the Phil Harris Celebrity Weekend. This is an annual event with friend Roy Clark continuing the tradition the couple began. It is held during the 4th of July weekend which includes a variety show featuring Clark. Phil was an avid golfer and the winner of many amateur golf tournaments. A namesake golf course outside Linton hosts a tournament with proceeds funding scholarships for local graduating seniors from Linton-Stockton High School. Many celebrities have taken part in this tournament including Jimmy Dean, Boots Randolph, Tommy Smothers but a few. Phil would attend annually until his death and relished strolling around the course signing autographs and huddling with the participants in picture taking sessions. He was inducted into the Indiana Hall of Fame two years before his death. Harris was a longtime resident and benefactor to the California desert city of Palm Springs. He was an early 1930 homeowner at the Thunderbird Country Club in Rancho Mirage, the first prototype community to be constructed surrounding a golf course. Many such area enclaves would follow and copy the concept while spawning a slew of classic golf tournaments televised nationally. Harris was a tireless promoter of the sport in the Palm Springs area chairing many charity events while doing golf commentary during tournaments. The Palm Springs Chamber of Commerce noted this and honored both Harris and Alice Faye "Honorary Mayor & Mayoress" holding this distinction until 1971.
Bio by: Donald Greyfield... Courtesy of find-a-grave
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