Phil Harris

Instrument

Wonga Philip Harris (June 24, 1904 – August 11, 1995) was an American musician, actor and comedian. He was an orchestra leader and a pioneer in radio situation comedy, first with The Jack Benny Program, then in The Phil Harris-Alice Faye Show in which he co-starred with his wife, singer-actress Alice Faye, for eight years. Harris is also noted for his voice acting in animated films. As a voice actor, he played Baloo in The Jungle Book (1967), Thomas O'Malley in The Aristocats (1970), Little John in Robin Hood (1973), and Patou in Rock-a-Doodle (1991). As a singer, he recorded a #1 novelty hit record, "The Thing" (1950).

Harris was born in Linton, Indiana, but grew up in Nashville, Tennessee,[1] and identified himself as a Southerner. His hallmark song was "That's What I Like About the South." He had a trace of a Southern accent and in later years made self-deprecating jokes over the air about his heritage. His parents were circus performers. His father, a tent bandleader, gave him his first job as a drummer with the circus's band.[2]

His unusual first name "Wonga," is said to derive from a Cherokee word meaning "messenger of fleet" or, perhaps more accurately translated, "fast messenger."[3]

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 a band in Los Angeles for which he was the singer and bandleader. During the mid-1920s, he played drums in the Henry Halstead Big Band Orchestra. In the 1930s, Lofner-Harris recorded swing music for Victor, Columbia, Decca, and Vocalion.

On September 2, 1927, he married actress Marcia Ralston in Sydney, Australia; they had met when he played a concert date.[2] The couple adopted a son, Phil Harris Jr. (born 1935). Harris and Marcia divorced in September 1940, and Harris married Alice Faye in 1941.