Phil Harris (born Wonga Philip Harris) (June 24, 1904 – August 11, 1995) was an American singer, songwriter, jazz musician and comedian. Though successful as an orchestra leader, Harris is remembered today for his recordings as a vocalist, his voice work in animation and the radio situation comedy in which he co-starred with his second wife, singer-actress Alice Faye, for eight years.
Although he was born in Linton, Indiana, Harris 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. 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. On September 2, 1927, he was married to actress Marcia Ralston in Sydney, Australia. The couple adopted a son, Phil Harris, Jr. (b. 1935). They were divorced in September, 1940.
Harris married Alice Faye in 1941; it was a second marriage for both (Faye had been married briefly to singer-actor Tony Martin). The Faye-Harris marriage lasted 54 years, until Harris's death. In 1942, Harris and his entire band enlisted in the U.S. Navy and they served for the duration of World War II. By 1946 Faye had all but ended her film career. She drove off the 20th Century Fox lot after studio czar Darryl F. Zanuck reputedly edited her scenes out of Fallen Angel (1945) to pump up his protege Linda Darnell.
Harris and Faye were invited to join a radio program, The Fitch Bandwagon. Originally a vehicle for big bands, including Harris's own, the show became something else entirely when Harris and Faye became its breakout stars. Coinciding with their desire to settle in southern California and raise their children without touring heavily, Bandwagon evolved into The Phil Harris-Alice Faye Show, strictly a situation comedy with one music spot each for Harris and Faye.
The Phil Harris-Alice Faye Show debuted on NBC in 1948 and ran until 1954, by which time radio had all but succumbed to television. (Harris continued to appear on Jack Benny's show, along with his own, from 1948 to 1952.) Because the Harris show aired immediately after Benny's on a different network (Harris and Faye were still on NBC, whereas Benny jumped his show...including Phil Harris as his bandleader...over to CBS in 1949), Harris would only appear during the first half of Jack's show; he would then leave the CBS studio and walk approximately one block to his own studio down the street, arriving just in time for the start of his own program.
After the show ended, Harris revived his music career. He made numerous guest appearances on 1960s and 1970s TV shows, including the Kraft Music Hall, The Dean Martin Show, Hollywood Palace and other musical variety programs. He worked as a vocalist and voice actor for animated films, with performances in the Disney animated features The Jungle Book (1967) as Baloo the Bear, The Aristocats (1970) as Thomas O'Malley, and Robin Hood (1973) as Little John.
Song hits by Harris included the early 1950s novelty record, "The Thing." The song describes the hapless finder of a box with a mysterious secret and his efforts to rid himself of it. Harris also spent time in the 1970s and early 1980s leading a band that appeared often in Las Vegas, often on the same bill with swing era legend Harry James.
Harris was also a close friend and associate of Bing Crosby; in fact, after Crosby died, Harris sat in for his old friend doing color commentary for the telecast of the annual Bing Crosby Pro-Am Golf Tournament. An old episode of The Phil Harris-Alice Faye Show began with Harris telling the story of how he once won the tournament.
Harris was a longtime resident and benefactor of Palm Springs, California, where Crosby also made his home. Harris was also a benefactor of his birthplace of Linton, Indiana, establishing scholarships in his honor for promising high school students, performing at the high school, and hosting a celebrity golf tournament in his honour every year. In due course, Harris and Faye donated most of their show business memorabilia and papers to Linton's public library.
Phil Harris died of a heart attack in Palm Springs 1995 at age 91. Alice Faye died of stomach cancer three years later. Two years before his death, Harris was inducted into the Indiana Hall of Fame. Both Harris and Faye are interred at Forest Lawn-Cathedral City in Riverside County, California. (edited from Wikipedia)