Crothers performing in 1960
Benjamin Sherman Crothers
May 23, 1910
Terre Haute, Indiana, U.S.
|Died||November 22, 1986 (aged 76)|
Van Nuys, California, U.S.
|Resting place||Forest Lawn Memorial Park - Hollywood Hills, California|
Benjamin Sherman Crothers (May 23, 1910 - November 22, 1986), known professionally as Scatman Crothers, was an American actor and musician. He played Louie the Garbage Man on the TV show Chico and the Man and Dick Hallorann in Stanley Kubrick's The Shining (1980). He was also a prolific voiceover actor who provided the voices of Meadowlark Lemon in the Harlem Globetrotters animated TV series, Jazz the Autobot in The Transformers and The Transformers: The Movie (1986), the title character in Hong Kong Phooey, and Scat Cat in the animated Disney film The Aristocats (1970).
Crothers was born in Terre Haute, Indiana, and began his musical career as a teenager. He sang and was self-educated on guitar and drums. He was in a band that played in speakeasies in Terre Haute.
During the 1930s, he formed a band, spent eight years living in Akron, Ohio, and performed five days week on a radio show in Dayton. The station manager thought he needed a catchier name, so Crothers suggested "Scatman" for his scat singing. He married Helen, a native of Steubenville, in 1937. In the 1940s, the couple moved to California.
He performed in Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and at the Apollo Theater in Harlem. Capitol released several of his singles: "I'd Rather Be a Hummingbird", "Blue-eyed Sally", and "Television Blues". High Fidelity Records released his album Rock and Roll with Scatman Crothers. He went on USO tours with Bob Hope.
He performed with bandleader Slim Gaillard. According to the jacket notes of the Let Freedom Sing CD set, Crothers was part of the music group The Ramparts, who sang "The Death of Emmett Till" (1955), a song by A. C. Bilbrew.
Crothers made his debut in the movie Meet Me at the Fair (1953). He had roles in the film musicals Hello Dolly! (1969) and The Great White Hope (1970) before providing the voice of "Scat Cat" in the animated film The Aristocats (also 1970). He appeared in four films with Jack Nicholson: The King of Marvin Gardens (1972), The Fortune, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975), and The Shining (1980). He had the part of a fable-telling convict in the animated film Coonskin (1975), a train porter in Silver Streak (1976), a liveryman in The Shootist (1976), a ringmaster in Bronco Billy (1980), a baseball coach in Zapped! (1982), an angel in Two of a Kind (1983) and a magician in Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983).
He became the first black person to appear regularly in a Los Angeles television show when he joined Dixie Showboat. After The Aristocats in the 1970s, he found voice acting jobs as Meadowlark Lemon in the Harlem Globetrotters cartoon series and as the title character in Hong Kong Phooey. For four years he played the role of Louie the garbage man on Chico and the Man. He also had a part in the television series Roots. During his appearance on Sanford and Son he joined Redd Foxx for two musical numbers. One was a version of the standard "All of Me" in which he accompanied Foxx on tenor guitar.
In 1966, Hanna-Barbera aired an animated special called The New Alice in Wonderland (or What's a Nice Kid Like You Doing in a Place Like This?), an updated version of the Lewis Carroll story featuring Sammy Davis Jr. as a cool Cheshire cat. The special was followed by an audio adaptation for HB Records, but since Davis was signed to Reprise, Crothers provided the cat's voice for the album.
Crothers had guest roles on Dragnet in 1967, Bewitched and McMillan & Wife in 1971, Adam-12 in 1972 (as "George Strothers"), Kojak and Ironside in 1973, Kolchak: The Night Stalker and Sanford and Son in 1974, Starsky and Hutch in 1977, Charlie's Angels and The Love Boat in 1978, Magnum, P.I. in 1980, and Taxi in 1983. Also in 1980, he was on two episodes of Laverne & Shirley as a porter. In the 1980s, he provided the voice of the Autobot Jazz on the television series The Transformers.
On November 22, 1986, Crothers died at the age of 76 in Van Nuys, California, after struggling for four years with lung cancer. He is buried at Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery in Los Angeles.