PHIL HARRIS: Thought probably best remembered for starring with his wife Alice Faye on radio together and on Jack Benny's radio program (or his turn as "Baloo" singing "Bare Necessities" in The Jungle Book animated film), Phil began as a successful and popular bandleader.
Phil came from a musical family, including a father who played piano for the Ringling Bros. Circus. AS a teen, Harris and four high school classmates formed a jazz band called The Dixieland Syncopators. His outgoing personality seemed to be destined for show business and in 1928, he teamed with Carol Lofner to form an orchestra. They spent three years at the St. Francis Hotel in San Francisco.
Harris formed his own orchestra for the Cocoanut Grove engagement in 1932, bringing some of his Harris/Loftner arrangements and hiring vocalists Jimmy Newell and 17-year-old beauty Leah Ray, from Norfolk, Virginia. In a nod to her heritage, Harris frequently referred to Leah as "the dimples from Dixie."
At the Grove, the Three Ambassadors remained the house trio, but Harris also introduced The Three Rhythm Kings additionally.
In 1934, Harris went on to an extended East Coast tour and then moved on to became famous in radio, television and film.
TED FIO RITO AND HIS ORCHESTRA: If Ted Fio Rito hadn't become a bandleader, he could have made a comfortable living as a songwriter; among titles to his credit are "I Never Knew," "Toot, Toot, Tootsie, Goodbe," "Laugh, Clown, Laugh," and "Alone at a Table for Two."
Musically, the orchestra Fio Rito brought the Grove was clever, playing highly danceable music accented with temple blocks, triplets and an occasional solo on the Hammond organ by Ted.
Because of a recording contract obligation, on transcription discs the live broadcast announcer had to use pseudonyms for Fio Rito and his vocalists Muzzy Marcellino (Fio Rito's guitarist and primary vocalist), Howard Phillips and his vocal trio The Debutantes.
THE COCOANUT GROVE: These recordings are from 1930s transcription recordings of live broadcasts from The Cocoanut Grove ballroom in the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles, California; a hot spot for movie stars of the day.
The lavish club, part of the massive 23-acre resort, was decorated in Moroccan style and featured full-sized palm trees allegedly salvaged from Valentino's "The Sheik" film set. Additionally, it's "night sky" was filled with stars, thanks to 1,000 small light bulbs in the ceiling.TED FIO RITO AND HIS ORCHESTRA: