A multi-talented performer best-known to most as the baritone voice of Disney's Baloo the Bear, Phil Harris was a major star in radio, television and film with a body of work stretching over eight decades. Born Wonga Phillip Harris on June 24, 1904 in Linton, IN, the lure of show business was seemingly ingrained within his DNA, thanks to his two circus-performing parents. It was within this big top environment that Harris was taught by his father to play several instruments, eventually settling on the drums (which he played within the circus band). By age nine he worked as a professional musician in a theatre, which was followed by a family move to Nashville, TN - and various band and orchestra incarnations thereafter for Harris. He went on to record such novelty songs as "Smoke, Smoke, Smoke that Cigarette," "Up a Lazy River" and (his signature) "That's What I Like About the South" for labels such as Victor, Columbia, Decca and Vocalion. His penchant for comedy within his musical act led to his filming of a short for RKO studios called "So This is Harris!" (1933). It earned an Academy Award for best short subject (comedy) with Harris following with his first feature, "Melody Cruise" (1933). His career ascension continued, as he then landed the musical director role on "The Jell-O Show Starring Jack Benny," with Harris singing and leading the band - and later - trading snappy one-liners with Benny himself as a brash, hard-drinking Southerner character. He remained a staple on the Benny program for several years, even after getting his own comedy show with second wife, Alice Faye - "The Fitch Bandwagon" - that followed Benny's on Sunday nights. It later morphed into The Phil Harris-Alice Faye Show and featured skits starring the couple and their two daughters. It ran through 1954, after which he returned to film, including "Good-Bye, My Lady" (1956), and music, appearing on several variety shows such as "The Dean Martin Show" (NBC) and "The Hollywood Palace" (ABC). In the late 60s, he began lending his signature deep voice to various animated characters in Disney's "The Jungle Book" (1967), "The Aristocats" (1970), and "Robin Hood" (1973). A move back to Disney in 1989 proved not-to-be, however, as the now 85-year-old Harris's would-be work as Baloo in "TaleSpin" (The Disney Channel) was replaced after one session by another actor. His last recorded character was for Don Bluth's "Rock-a-Doodle" (1991). He died in 1995 at his home in Rancho Mirage, CA at the age of 91. An avid golfer throughout his life, a tournament in his name continues annually in his birthplace of Linton, IN.
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