Harry Babbitt, the Kay Kyser orchestra lead vocalist who sang on such Kyser hits as “Three Little Fishies,” “On A Slow Boat to China” and “Who Wouldn’t Love You,” died in Aliso Viejo, Calif. April 9 of natural causes. He was 90.
Babbitt supplied a comic high voice in “Three Little Fishies,” sung with Kyser female lead singer Ginny Simms, trumpet player-comedian Ish Kabibble and sax player-singer Sully Mason.
Babbitt’s high baritone voice — a little-girl voice dubbed “Little Audrey” — was featured on several other Kyser band songs, and he later used it on a solo recording of “All I Want for Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth,” for which he included a lisp.
As part of the Kyser band, Babbitt also appeared in seven movies that starred Kyser. Babbitt was a radio and nightclub performer in his native St. Louis when Kyser’s band arrived on tour. Babbitt auditioned and joined the Kyser band on tour in 1938. For many years, the Kyser band opened the summer season at the Casino on Catalina Island.
The band was based in Hollywood during World War II, and when not touring, it played nearly every weekend at the Hollywood Canteen, the USO club where stars and starlets volunteered to entertain servicemen.
By the time the band disbanded in 1949, Babbitt was hosting “The Second Cup of Coffee Club,” a popular 15-minute early morning radio show that ran for 10 years on CBS. A television pioneer, he hosted two long-running musical shows on KTLA-TV in Los Angeles: “Bandstand Review” and “Hollywood Opportunity.” He also hosted a short-lived musical show on NBC called “Glamour Girl.”
After the 1985 death of Kyser, an agent urged Babbitt to re-create the Kyser band and he toured the country with the new band. He stopped performing in the mid-1990s.
Babbitt is survived by his wife of 69 years, Betty; three sons; a brother; six grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.
Donations may be sent to the Harry Babbitt Memorial Fund, Boy Scouts of America, Orange County Council, 3590 Harbor Gateway N., Costa Mesa, CA 92626.