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Former big-band singer Harry Babbitt dies

Kay Kyser baritone also was voice of Woody Woodpecker's laugh
/ Source: The Associated Press

Harry Babbitt, who sang in his warm, high-baritone voice with the Kay Kyser big band on such hits as “The White Cliffs of Dover” and who voiced the laugh of Woody Woodpecker, has died. He was 90.

Babbitt, of Newport Beach, died April 9 of old age in a nursing home, said his son Michael.

Babbitt sang with the Kyser band from 1938 to about 1949 but also served in the Navy from 1944 to 1946.

Dubbed “Handsome Harry” by Kyser, Babbitt sang on several hits, including “Three Little Fishies,” “On A Slow Boat to China,” “(Lights Out) ‘Til Reveille,” “He Wears a Pair of Silver Wings,” “Jingle, Jangle, Jingle” and “The Umbrella Man.”

Babbitt’s high voice was later used on a solo recording of “All I Want for Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth,” for which he included a lisp. He was even responsible for the laugh on “Woody Woodpecker,” Kyser’s 1948 hit novelty tune.

Babbitt also appeared in seven movies that starred Kyser and was featured on “Kay Kyser’s Kollege of Musical Knowledge,” a popular comedy-musical radio quiz show on NBC.

Babbitt retired from show business in 1964 and started a successful career in real estate.

After Kyser died in 1985, Babbitt obtained rights to the band’s name and catalog from Kyser’s widow and toured the country with a new band. He stopped performing in the mid-1990s.

Babbitt is survived by his wife of 69 years, Betty; sons Christopher, Michael and Stephen; a brother, Bob; six grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.