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Scatman Crothers
Born Benjamin Sherman Crothers
May 23, 1910(1910-05-23)
Terre Haute, Indiana, U.S.
Died November 22, 1986 (aged 76)
Van Nuys, California, U.S.
Occupation Actor, dancer, musician, singer
Years active 1932—1986
Spouse(s) Helen Sullivan (1937-1986)

Benjamin Sherman "Scatman" Crothers (May 23, 1910 – November 22, 1986) was an American actor, singer, dancer and musician known for his work as Louie the Garbage Man on the TV show Chico and the Man, and as Dick Hallorann in The Shining in 1980. He was also a prolific voiceover artist, and provided the voices of Meadowlark Lemon in the animated TV version of The Harlem Globetrotters, Jazz the Autobot in Transformers and the title character in Hong Kong Phooey.


Early life

Crothers was born in Terre Haute, Indiana. He got the name Scatman when he auditioned for a radio show in 1932 at the former WSMK (now WING) in Dayton, Ohio. The director didn't think his given name was catchy enough, so Crothers quickly concocted the handle Scat Man, although this talent, scat singing, would later develop. He continued to enjoy this talent throughout his career, even teaching scat singing to college students. Later, the nickname was condensed to Scatman by Arthur Godfrey.

Crothers started his musical career as a 15-year-old drummer in a speakeasy band in his home town of Terre Haute. He played a variety of instruments, including drums and guitar, on jazz club band circuits in his early days as an entertainer. Among the people he performed for was notorious gangster, Al Capone. Crothers formed his own band in the 1930s and traveled to California with the band in 1948.


Crothers made his official debut in the movie Meet Me At The Fair (1953). He worked in both the movies and television, often taking bit parts. He also made musical shorts and played drums with Slim Gaillard in the mid 1940s. Good friends with Jack Nicholson, he appeared in four of his films: The King of Marvin Gardens (1972), The Fortune (1975), One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975), and The Shining (1980). His later film appearances included the role of a train conductor in Silver Streak (1976), in the The Shootist (1976) as liveryman, as a ringmaster of a struggling wild west show in Bronco Billy (1980) and finally, as an angel in Two of a Kind (1983) and Mr. Bloom, a magician in the guise of an old man in the "Kick the Can" segment of Twilight Zone: The Movie.

Some sources erroneously list him as a dancer in the Duke Ellington short, Symphony in Black (1935), who is first seen dancing with a woman in his apartment before taking her out. Later, he encounters his jilted lover, played by the also uncredited Billie Holiday. They briefly have words, he pushes her down and exits with his new girlfriend before her song. This role was actually played by Earl Snakehips Tucker, who also appears at the end of the short.


Even though Crothers worked in television at the beginning of his career, he really came into his own in the medium doing voiceover work on several animated series, beginning with his voicework in Disney's The Aristocats. In the 70s, fans recognized his voice as Hong Kong Phooey, and the voice of Meadowlark Lemon in the Harlem Globetrotters cartoon series. He made guest appearances on many popular shows, including Dragnet in 1967, Bewitched in 1971, Ironside in 1973, Kolchak: The Night Stalker and Sanford and Son in 1974, Charlie's Angels in 1978 and Magnum P.I. in 1980. In the 80s, he gained a new fanbase, providing the voice of the Autobot Jazz on the Transformers television series.

During his appearance on Sanford and Son he joined Redd Foxx for two musical numbers. One of which was a memorable version of the standard "All of Me", where he accompanied Foxx on ukulele. Crothers starred in three short-lived 1980s television series: One of the Boys (1982), Casablanca (1983), and Morningstar/Eveningstar (1986).

Though of all television characters that he played, he was most noted for his supporting role Louie Wilson (the garbage man) on the sitcom Chico and the Man.


Crothers performed on piano and drums in several bands, most notably 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 Bob Dylan's The Death of Emmett Till. This song was about the murder of 14-year old Emmett Till for allegedly whistling at a white woman. He also recorded several solo albums and singles.

Personal life and death

Crothers married Helen Sullivan in 1937 and had one daughter, Donna, in 1949. In 1985, he developed a malignant tumor behind his left lung. He tried to work through the illness, but the inoperable tumor spread to his esophagus in 1986. He died of pneumonia brought on by the lung cancer on November 22, 1986 in Van Nuys, California.

He is buried next to his wife Helen (1918–1997) in Forest Lawn, Hollywood Hills Cemetery.



External links

Preceded by
Voice of Jazz
Original Series and Animated Movie
Succeeded by
Andrew Kishino
Video Game

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