Harry Barris

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Harry Barris
Harry Barris - Motion Picture, June 1930.jpg
Background information
Born (1905-11-25)November 25, 1905
New York City, New York, United States
Died December 13, 1962(1962-12-13) (aged 57)
Burbank, California, United States
Genres Jazz
Occupation(s) Vocalist, composer, pianist
Instruments Piano
Associated acts Gus Arnheim, Duke Ellington, Jimmie Grier, The Rhythm Boys, Paul Whiteman
Barris scats a solo in his own composition with Gus Arnheim & His Orchestra. Loyce Whiteman sings.

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Barris sings a solo with Gus Arnheim & His Orchestra

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1932 advertisement for That Rascal featuring Barris

Harry Barris (November 24, 1905 – December 13, 1962) was an American popular singer and songwriter, and is one of the earliest singers to use "scat singing" in recordings. Barris, one of Paul Whiteman's Rhythm Boys, along with Bing Crosby and Al Rinker, scatted on several songs, including "Mississippi Mud," which Barris wrote in 1927.


Barris was born to Jewish parents in New York City. Gary Giddins described him as "small, wiry, and moon-faced with glittery eyes, and dark hair slicked back and parted in the middle."[1] Barris married Hazelle Thompson in 1925.

In 1926, Barris played the piano and occasionally sang in Paul Ash's orchestra.[2] In the same year, Al Rinker and Bing Crosby became members of Paul Whiteman's Orchestra as a singing duo. However, at the Paul Whiteman Club, where there were no microphones, they could not be heard by the audience. They were promptly dropped from the bill. However, a band member who knew Barris suggested that they add him to make a trio. With Barris's help, they were heard, and The Rhythm Boys were formed.[3]

In 1930, Barris divorced Hazelle Thompson. The Rhythm Boys left Paul Whiteman the same year and joined Gus Arnheim's Cocoanut Grove Orchestra. After one recording together, "Them There Eyes" (November 1930), the boys decided to quit, and they went their separate ways. However, Barris changed his mind and returned to the Cocoanut Grove to complete his contract.[4] Barris joined Arnheim's singing group The Three Ambassadors. He sometimes performed completely by himself, though this is quite rare outside of his films. A broadcast of "It's the Darndest Thing" is one example of him singing alone. Barris met Loyce Whiteman, who also sang with the Orchestra, and married her in 1931. They appear together in an episode of Rambling 'Round Radio Row. They had one daughter, Marti Barris, who also became a musician. They divorced in 1946.

Barris appeared in 57 films between 1931 and 1950, usually as a band member, pianist and/or singer. In The Lost Weekend (1945), he is the nightclub pianist who humiliates Ray Milland by singing "Somebody Stole My Purse". An unusual change of pace for Barris was his comedy role in The Fleet's In (1942), as a runty sailor named Pee Wee who perpetrates malapropisms in a surprisingly deep voice.

Barris was also a successful songwriter. His most popular compositions include "Mississippi Mud" (popularized by The Rhythm Boys), "I Surrender, Dear", "Lies", "Wrap Your Troubles in Dreams", "At Your Command", and "It Was So Beautiful". Other songs include "What Is It?", "Music Has Charms", "It Must Be True", "I Got the Ritz From the One I Love", and "So the Bluebirds and the Blackbirds Got Together."

Barris had a life-long drinking problem.[1] He died in Burbank, California, aged 57.

Selected filmography[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Harry Barris". Cafe Songbook. CafeSongbook.com. 2016. Retrieved January 23, 2016. 
  2. ^ "Paul Ash and his Orchestra". The Red Hot Jazz Archive. Redhotjazz.com. 2016. Retrieved January 23, 2016. 
  3. ^ "Al Rinker talks about Bing Crosby and the Rhythm Boys". YouTube. YouTube, LLC. February 21, 2009. Retrieved January 23, 2016. 
  4. ^ "Six Big Band singers reminisce". YouTube. YouTube, LLC. December 21, 2013. Retrieved January 23, 2016. 


External links[edit]