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Classiscsonline Home » Composers » B » Barris, Harry

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Harry Barris (1905 - 1962)

Singer, Songwriter, Actor

Harry Barris was a professional pianist at 14 and touring with his own group by 17. In 1926 Paul Whiteman, at the suggestion of his violinist Matty Malneck, hired Barris to join the vocal duo of Bing Crosby and Al Rinker (vocalist Mildred Bailey’s brother), and the Rhythm Boys were born. For the next three years they were featured with Whiteman’s band, which included legendary cornetist Bix Beiderbecke. Bix was prominently featured along with the Rhythm Boys on Whiteman’s successful 1928 recording of Barris’ “Mississippi Mud”. A 1930 feature film on Whiteman and his band, the King of Jazz, was the first film appearance for Crosby and the Rhythm Boys.

In May 1930 the trio joined Gus Arnheim’s popular orchestra, appearing with the group at the prestigious Cocoanut Grove in Los Angeles. It was with Arnheim’s band that Crosby had his first big hit as a soloist, in 1931, with the Barris/Gordon Clifford composition “I Surrender Dear.”

When Bing left to pursue a solo career, Barris married Arnheim vocalist Loyce Whiteman and the two toured as a duo. Barris continued to work with a number of bands, but he had developed a drinking problem which caused him to curtail his composing in 1935. Partly due to Crosby’s help, he appeared in small roles in dozens of films, often without credit, as a musician or bandleader, and he entertained troops during WWII along with comedian Joe E. Brown.



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