The Phil Harris-Alice Faye Show, a comedy radio program which ran on NBC from 1948 to 1954, evolved from an earlier music and comedy variety program, The Fitch Bandwagon. Singer-bandleader Phil Harris and his wife, actress-singer Alice Faye, became the earlier show's breakout stars, and the show was retooled into a full situation comedy, with Harris and Faye playing fictionalized versions of themselves as a working show business couple raising two daughters in a slightly madcap home.
Harris had been a mainstay and musical director for The Jack Benny Program; Faye had been a frequent guest on programs such as Rudy Vallée's. Their marriage provoked a 1941 episode of the Benny show.
In 1946, they were invited to co-host The Fitch Bandwagon, a musical variety and comedy show that had been a Sunday night fixture on NBC since 1938, featuring such orchestras as Tommy Dorsey, Jimmy Grier, Harry James, Freddy Martin and Jan Savitt and Harry Sosnik. In The Big Broadcast 1920-1950 Frank Buxton and Bill Owen wrote: "Even though many people thought that The Fitch Bandwagon was lucky to be sandwiched in between Jack Benny at 7pm and Edgar Bergen at 8pm on NBC, the [show] pioneered Sunday evening entertainment programming, because prior to its appearance most broadcasters felt that Sunday programming should be of a more religious or serious nature."
The growing popularity of the Harris-Faye family sketches turned the program into their own comic vehicle by 1947. When announcer Bill Foreman hailed, "Good health to all... from Rexall!" on October 3, 1948], The Phil Harris-Alice Faye Show launched its independent life under Rexall's sponsorship with a debut storyline about the fictitious day the couple signed their sponsorship deal.
The show was a quick success and its position in that powerhouse NBC Sunday lineup didn't hurt. Playing themselves as radio and music star parents of two precocious young daughters (played by actresses Jeanine Roos and Ann Whitfield, instead of the Harrises' own young daughters), Harris refined his character from the booze-and-broads, hipster jive talker he had been on the Benny show ("Hiya, Jackson!" was his usual hail to Benny) into a slightly vain (particularly about his wavy hair and the dimpled smile that always hinted mischief) and dunderheaded husband who usually needed rescuing by Faye as his occasionally tart but always loving wife. References to his hair and vanity became a running gag.
Harris often passed wisecracks about buddy Frank Remley's taste for the spirits, a contrast to Harris' former Benny character. The show's writers, Ray Singer and Dick Chevillat, also used Faye's experience making the ill-fated film Fallen Angel as a source of gags, to say nothing of setting up situations in which Harris was recognized (if at all) as her husband or "Mr. Alice Faye." In the closing, Foreman said, "Alice Faye appears through the courtesy of 20th Century Fox." Gerald S. Nachman (Raised on Radio) and other radio historians believed that was a conscious jibe at the studio, since Faye's contract had been torn up when she walked out rather than abide Darryl Zanuck cutting her scenes in favor of Linda Darnell.
Harris's radio character was also scripted as an occasional language and context mangler, six parts Gracie Allen and half a dozen parts Yogi Berra. ("Why, The Mikado never would have been written if Gilbert didn't have faith in Ed Sullivan!") The sardonic humor that laced the show was far beyond the gentility of that other show which featured a bandleader and his singing wife, The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet...
Harris's character was often led into trouble by his buddy, guitarist, Remley. Frank Remley was the real name of a musician from the Jack Benny Show band, who was often the butt of references to heavy drinking, but in the fictional version played by Elliott Lewis, Remley was portrayed as a cheerful, amoral, incredibly dumb woman-chaser, essentially the kind of character Harris had played on the Benny program. "What would you do without me, Curly?" Remley might ask Harris, who would shoot right back, "The same thing you're doing with me - be a moron!"