November 25, 1905|
New York City, New York, United States
|Died||December 13, 1962
Burbank, California, United States
|Occupation(s)||Vocalist, composer, pianist|
|Instruments||Piano and vocal|
|Associated acts||Gus Arnheim, Duke Ellington, Jimmie Grier, The Rhythm Boys, Paul Whiteman|
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." He was educated in Denver, Colorado. Barris became a professional pianist at the age of 14. He led a band which toured the Far East at the age of 17.
Barris married Hazelle Thompson in 1925.
The same year, Barris played the piano and occasionally sang in Paul Ash's orchestra. 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.
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. Barris joined Arnheim's singing group The Three Ambassadors. 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 1932, Barris signed a contract to star in six shorts for Educational Pictures, similar to Bing Crosby's launch into films. The first of these shorts was That Rascal. 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 had a lifelong drinking problem. In a fall, he fractured his hip in March 1961. Despite a series of operations, he developed a cancerous tumor. He died in Burbank, California, aged 57. His composition "Never Been So Lost" was published shortly before his death.
- "Hong Kong Dream Girl" (1924), with George E. Springer
- "'Tain't Cold" (1925), with Jack Mills
- "And She'll Do It For a Long, Long Time" (1926)
- "Brown Sugar" (1926)
- "I'm Out in Nowhere, Going to Go Somewhere" (1926)
- "I Got a Sweet Lil' Girl" (1926)
- "Jimmy-Da-Walk, Da Boss-A New York" (1926), with Howard Johnson and James Cavanaugh
- "Why Does My Sweetie Love (Nobody But Me)" (1926), with Irving Mills
- "Mississippi Mud" (1927), with James Cavanaugh
- "That's Grandma" (1927), with Bing Crosby and James Cavanaugh
- "Play It, Red" (1927)
- "Sweet L'il" (1927)
- "From Monday On" (1928), with Bing Crosby
- "Wa-Da-Da (Ev'rybody's Doin' It Now)" (1928), with James Cavanaugh
- "What Price Lyrics?" (1928), with Bing Crosby and Matty Malneck
- "My Blue Print of Dreams" (1929), with Billy Moll
- "So the Bluebirds and the Blackbirds Got Together" (1929), with Billy Moll
- "That's What's Troubling Me" (1929), with Billy Moll
- "Ev'rything's Agreed Upon" (1930), with Bing Crosby
- "At Your Command" (1931), with Bing Crosby and Harry Tobias
- "Chances Are" (1931), with Gus Arnheim and Ralph Freed
- "It's the Darndest Thing" (1931)
- "I Surrender Dear" (1931), with Gordon Clifford
- "It Must Be True" (1931), with Gordon Clifford
- "Lies" (1931), with George E. Springer
- "What Good Would Be Tomorrow (Without You, Dear)" (1931), with Gus Arnheim and Ralph Freed
- "What Is It?" (1931), with Harry Tobias
- "Wrap Your Troubles in Dreams" (1931), with Ted Koehler and Billy Moll
- "I Got the Ritz From the One I Love (I Got the Big Go-By)" (1932), with J. C. Lewis
- "It Was So Beautiful" (1932), with Arthur Freed
- "Music Has Charms" (1932)
- "We're Alone" (1932), with Arthur Freed
- "It Will Be Too Bad for You" (1933)
- "I'm Satisfied" (1934), with Ralph Freed
- "Little Dutch Mill" (1934), with Ralph Freed
- "Lonesome China Boy" (1934), with Mort Greene
- "Flirtation" (1935), with Mort Greene
- "Thrilled" (1935), with Mort Greene
- "Never Been So Lost" (1962)
- Rambling 'Round Radio Row (1932)
- That Rascal (1932)
- He's a Honey (1932)
- Now's the Time (1932)
- Hot Competition (1933)
- Some Like It Hot (1939)
- Birth of the Blues (1941)
- San Diego, I Love You (1944)
- You Were Meant for Me (1948)
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In 1926, Barris, billed as "Happy Harry Barris," made a solo record performing his own composition, "And She'll Do It For a Long, Long Time" (Cameo 1080), showcasing his talents as a pianist, vocalist, and songwriter. While this record survives, his few other solos recorded in 1926 have been destroyed. They include:
- "Could I, I Certainly Could" (Victor Matrix BVE-37174)
- "I'm Out in Nowhere, Going to Go Somewhere" (Victor Matrix BVE-37175)
- "I Got a Sweet Lil' Girl" (Victor Matrix BVE-37176)
During the 1930s, it was uncommon to hear Barris perform completely solo outside of films. A rare example is a Cocoanut Grove broadcast tape of "It's the Darndest Thing."
- "Harry Barris". Cafe Songbook. CafeSongbook.com. 2016. Retrieved January 23, 2016.
- Layne, Joslyn (2016). "Harry Barris". AllMusic. All Media Network, LLC. Retrieved February 29, 2016.
- "Harry Barris, of Crosby's Original Trio, Dies at 57". Flickr. Yahoo. August 21, 2012. Retrieved February 24, 2016.
- "Paul Ash and his Orchestra". The Red Hot Jazz Archive. Redhotjazz.com. 2016. Retrieved January 23, 2016.
- "Al Rinker talks about Bing Crosby and the Rhythm Boys". YouTube. YouTube, LLC. February 21, 2009. Retrieved January 23, 2016.
- "Six Big Band singers reminisce". YouTube. YouTube, LLC. December 21, 2013. Retrieved January 23, 2016.
- "Men of the Mike". Silver Screen (New York: Screenland Magazine, Inc.). June 1932. Retrieved February 22, 2016.
- "Hollywood Kindergarten". The New Movie (New York: Tower Magazines, Inc.). June 1932. Retrieved February 19, 2016.
- Zwisohn, Laurence J. (1978). Bing Crosby - A Lifetime of Music. Los Angeles: Palm Tree Library. p. 45.
- "Fox Stars to Be Honored at Miramar Hotel Sunday Night". Hollywood Filmograph (Hollywood: Hollywood Filmograph, Inc.). July 29, 1933. Retrieved February 24, 2016.
- Abrams, Steve; Settlemier, Tyrone (July 6, 2014). "Cameo records 1926 to 1927". The Online Discographical Project. The Online Discographical Project. Retrieved February 29, 2016.
- "Victor matrix BVE-37174. Could I, I certainly could / Harry Barris". Discography of American Historical Recordings. UC Santa Barbara Library. 2016. Retrieved February 29, 2016.
- "Victor matrix BVE-37175. I'm out in nowhere, going to go somewhere / Harry Barris". Discography of American Historical Recordings. UC Santa Barbara Library. 2016. Retrieved February 29, 2016.
- "Victor matrix BVE-37176. I got a sweet lil' girl / Harry Barris". Discography of American Historical Recordings. UC Santa Barbara Library. 2016. Retrieved February 29, 2016.
- Donald Shepherd and Robert F. Slatzer, Bing Crosby: The Hollow Man (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1981), ISBN 978-0-523-42164-3