Phil Harris was a popular actor for many years on radio, television, and the silver screen. He served as a sidekick to Jack Benny, starred in several movies, and even became the voice of animated characters, such as Baloo in Disney’s "Jungle Book," and Thomas O'Malley (the alley cat) in “The Aristocats.” He and his wife Alice Faye co-hosted The Fitch Bandwagon, a comedy-variety radio program that followed the Jack Benny show on Sunday nights from 1946 to 1954. He was also known for his music, and was even an orchestra leader.
For residents of Harvey, North Dakota, it was Harris’s job as orchestra leader that gave them a link to the celebrity – one of their own was in Phil Harris's orchestra.
On this date in 1941, the Harvey Herald reported that Roy Wager, the son of Lydia and John Wager, had been a member of Harris's orchestra for almost eight years. It seemed that he enjoyed the job, and with good reason – Harris had earned a lot of respect, with Wager reporting that Harris was held in high regard by all the band members.
Roy Wager was born in December of 1905. He was raised in Harvey, where his father operated a meat market. When Wager was young, he showed his musical talent, playing any number of musical instruments. As the Harvey Herald reported, "It was noticed that when other boys of his age were playing games, he preferred to practice on some band instrument."
After graduating from the Harvey high school, Roy Wager became even more immersed in music, eventually joining a traveling orchestra and earning accolades and honors – a musical road that led from Harvey to Hollywood, and his job with Phil Harris's orchestra.
Dakota Datebook written by Sarah Walker
Harvey Herald, July 17, 1941