Phil Harris Radio Works
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Now playing on the MPIR Comedy OTR stream is some of the radio works of Phil Harris.
Wonga Phillip "Phil" Harris (June 24, 1904 – August 11, 1995) was an American comedian, jazz musician, and singer. He found much success as an orchestra leader, and was a pioneer in radio situation comedy, first with Jack Benny, and then in a series in which he co-starred with his wife, singer-actress Alice Faye, for eight years.
In 1936, Harris became musical director of The Jell-O Show Starring Jack Benny (later renamed The Jack Benny Program), singing and leading his band, with Mahlon Merrick writing much of theshow's music. When he showed a knack for snappy one-liners, he joined the Benny ensemble portraying himself, but scripted as a hip-talking, hard-drinking, brash Southerner, whose good nature often overcame his ego. His first trademark was his jive-talk nicknaming of the others in the Benny orbit. Benny was "Jackson," for example; Harris's usual entry was a cheerful "Hiya, Jackson!". (Addressing a man as "Jackson" or "Mr. Jackson" became popular slang in the late 1930s and early 1940s.) He usually referred to Mary Livingstone as "Livvy" or "Liv". His signature song, belying his actual Hoosier birthplace, was "That's What I Like About theSouth." His comic persona—that of a musical idiot who never met a bottle he didn't like or a mirror he could bypass—masked his band's evolution into a smooth, up-tempo big band. Many of Harris's vocal recordings were comic novelty "talking blues" numbers not unlike the talking numbers of African-American comedian Bert Williams, a style sometimes considered a precursorto modern rap music.
The Phil Harris-Alice Faye Show. 1948, Become a full-fledged situation comedy featuring one music spot each for Harris and Faye. Harris was the vain, language-challenged, stumbling husband, and Faye was his acid but loving wife on the air. Off the air, as radio historian Gerald Nachman has recorded, Harris was actually a soft-spoken, modest man. "But it was the 'Phil Harris' character," wrote radio historian John Dunning (in On the Air: The Encyclopedia of Old-Time Radio), "that carried [the show]: his timing was exceeded by none, including [Jack] Benny himself. Like Benny, Harris played a character who in real life would be intolerable. That both men projected themselves through this charade and made their characters treasures of theair was a notable feat."
Young actresses Jeanine Roos and Anne Whitfield played the Harris' two young daughters on the air; unlike Ozzie and Harriet Nelson's two young sons, the Harris's real-life children did not seem to have any inclination to join their famed parents on the air. The series also featured Gale Gordon as Mr. Scott, their sponsor's harried representative, and Great Gildersleeve co-star WalterTetley as obnoxious grocery boy Julius Abruzzio. Elliott Lewis – already a distinguished radio performer and producer/director – found himself in a comic role that would be long remembered, playing Frank Remley, a layabout guitarist whose mission in life seemed to be getting Harris into and out of trouble almost continuously; his "I know a guy . . ." – usually, referring to a shady character he'd enlist to help Harris out of a typical jam – became one of the show's catch-phrases. The show aired through 1954.
Included in the line up are several episodes of The Phil Harris and Alice Faye Show, several comedy songs by Phil Harris, and a rare not widely circulated 1933 remote broadcasts recording of Phil Harris and his orchestra from the Coconut Grove in LA, California. A real treat demonstrating his early performance.
During an interview Harris once said: He remained grateful to radio for the difference it made in his professional and personal life. He was quoted as saying, "If it hadn't been for radio, I would still be a traveling orchestra leader. For 17 years I played one-night stands, sleeping on buses. I never even voted, because I didn't have any residence."
A true all around show business entertainer, enjoy the shows.
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