These days the name Phil Harris is recognized by fans of the TV series Deadliest Catch, but years before Discovery Channel made a star out of the fishing boat captain, there was another Phil Harris ... one that Disney fans might recall.
On this day in 1904 Phil Harris - a singer, songwriter, musician, comedian and actor - was born in Linton, Indiana. Though successful as an orchestra leader, Harris is remembered today for his recordings as a vocalist, the radio comedy series in which he co-starred with his second wife, singer-actress Alice Faye, his countless TV appearances, and of course for his voice work in animation.
His first Disney animated feature was the 1967 The Jungle Book, in which he voiced the easygoing and fun-loving bear Baloo. As Baloo, Harris sang "The Bare Necessities," a performance that introduced him to a new generation of young fans who had no awareness of his versatility. He also joined Louis Prima (the voice of King Louie) in "I Wanna Be Like You," delivering a memorable scat-singing performance. (In fact it was record producer & Disney Legend Tutti Camarata who encouraged Harris and Prima to take part in the animated feature.)
The 1970 The Aristocats featured Harris as alley cat Thomas O'Malley. Harris sang the signature tune "Ev'rybody Wants to Be a Cat," with Scatman Crothers - the voice of Scat Cat. (Harris and Crothers had known each other since the 1940s!) A few years after the release of the The Aristocats, the two reunited on a Disney television special to sing that very same feline number.
Harris voiced another bear in 1973, this time named Little John in the animated Robin Hood. He sang the popular anti-Prince John tune "The Phony King of England" (written by the legendary Johnny Mercer).
In 1989, Harris briefly returned to Disney to once again voice Baloo, this time for the cartoon series TaleSpin.
A long time resident and benefactor of Palm Springs, California, Phil Harris passes away in that very town at age 91 in 1995.
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