April 24, 2004 by

Harry Babbitt


Categories: Musicians

hbabbitt.jpgHarry Babbitt, a big band singer who once voiced the laugh of Woody Woodpecker, died on April 9 from age-related causes. He was 90.
Known as “Handsome Harry,” Babbitt served in the Navy during World War II. When he wasn’t on duty, however, his smooth voice accompanied the Kay Kyser Band at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York, the Aragon Ballroom in Chicago and the Hollywood Canteen, a USO club.
The St. Louis native sang on several hits, including “The White Cliffs of Dover,” “Three Little Fishies,” “(Lights Out) ‘Til Reveille” and “The Umbrella Man.” He provided the distinctive laughter of Woody Woodpecker on Kyser’s 1948 novelty tune of the same name.
Babbitt appeared in seven movies that starred Kyser, and on the NBC quiz show, “Kay Kyser’s Kollege of Musical Knowledge.” As a solo artist, he recorded “Frosty the Snowman” and “All I Want for Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth,” complete with a childish lisp. He also spent a decade performing on the weekday CBS radio program, “The Second Cup of Coffee Club,” and briefly hosted the musical TV show, “Glamour Girl.”
In 1964, Babbitt retired from show business. He spent 20 years working in real estate, but returned to performing in 1985 when Kyser died. Babbitt obtained the rights to the band’s name and its song library from Kyser’s widow and toured the country until the mid-1990s. An interview with Babbitt will appear in the upcoming documentary, “Kay Kyser, the Ol’ Professor of SWING!”
Listen to a Tribute From NPR

10 Responses to Harry Babbitt

  1. marty wilson

    As a former DJ on WNEW in the ’80’s, a lot of people weren’t aware of some of the great
    work Kay Kyser’s band did. They only remembered “3 Little Fishies” and the other
    novelty tunes that we’ve read about in the obituary. I was particularly fond of Harry’s
    work on “Who Wouldn’t Love You.” He had a lot of talent.

  2. Steve Beasley

    Harry was VERY good at what he did, and was an eagle in a business full of vultures. His faith, family, and common sense kept him afloat, and he was extremely well thought of by everyone who ever worked with him.
    There ARE a couple of things I’d like to add regarding his professional history. Harry always said he joined Kyser in ’38. It was ’37, as there are several Brunswick Kyser releases that prove his presence at that time. Not that it’s THAT important, but it IS history, and should be as correct as possible. Another thing I wish was better known- Harry sang the ORIGINAL DEMO of the much loved Xmas classic, SILVER BELLS. He told me he ran into Bing Crosby on the street shortly after Bing had scored a huge success w/ it, and Bing put him on cloud nine by telling him he tried to phrase it as closely as he could to Harry’s demo.

  3. Bill Hodges

    Margret and I both knew Harry quite well in the sixties and seventies when we all were members of the Newport Beach Tennis Club. He held our highest respect as a human being although neither of us was ever into American pop music. He and Betty both were wonderful people and we have missed them.

  4. H. Kramer

    There was Sinatra and Crosby. Frankly they couldn’t carry Harry’s microphone stand. In my opinion Harry Babbitt was the best male singer of the big band era -not even a close second – period – end of story!

  5. mike phillippe

    I was saddened to read about Harry Babbitt. My last tour on the road was lead trumpeter for him, Maxene Andrews, The Ink Spots and Jimmy Rogers. Harry sang great. I had dinner often with him and Betty on the tour. Great people. And his charts were a gas to play. Heres to ” Thinking of you Harry”
    Mike Phillippe

  6. Scott Clark

    I have a senior annual from his high school with his and Elizabeths photos side by side if anyone wants to see it I’ll scan it and post it (If I can figure out how)

  7. lonnie Cook

    I was actually looking for a forum or a Harry Babbitt website. I have an acetate from the forties that he sings on and the song is said to be from ‘The Harry Babbitt Show’. The label says it is a CBS Radio Personal Platter to Roy. On the disc he gives a personal greeting to whomever the Roy is and then sings a song called “It’s later than you think”. The acetate is autographed by Harry and is at 78 speed, i only have 33 & 45.

  8. James Reilly

    I am saddened to hear of the family’s loss and the loss of a lovely voice to Americas ears.
    I live in Lincoln Nebraska. Did Harry or any of his immediate family have connections to Nebraska at any time?

  9. stan

    i was a disk jockey in savannah ga back in the early 50. played a lot of harry with gloria wood.
    my favorite was on a slow boat to china.
    is gloria still around. any pictures of her
    harry we miss you

  10. Roland Boulware

    I believe whole-heartedly that Harry Babbitt stood out amongst the best of them. His vocals were warm and heart felt with perfect use of vibrato. Just an amazing talent that can never and will never be replaced. Good bye, Mr.Babbitt.

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