Benjamin Sherman "Scatman" Crothers was an American actor, singer, dancer and musician best known for his work as Louie the Garbage Man on "Chico and the Man" and as Dick Hallorann in the "The Shining" in 1980. He was also a prolific voiceover artist, providing voices for numerous animated projects.
Crothers was born in Terre Haute, Indiana on May 23,1910, the son of Benjamin and Donell "Donnie" Crothers. He started his musical career as a 15-year-old drummer in a speakeasy band in his home town of Terre Haute and got the name "Scat-Man" when he auditioned at the former WSMK (now WING) in Dayton, Ohio in 1932. The director didn't think his given name was catchy enough, and Crothers quickly concocted the handle "Scat-Man." His talent for scat-singing, ironically developed later in his career. Crothers enjoyed singing through his career, even teaching scat singing to college students. Later, the nickname was condensed to Scatman by Arthur Godfrey. With his name shorted to "Scatman," he was associated with many of the Cleveland-based acts that played on the scene in Ohio.
Crothers played a variety of instruments, including drums and guitar, on jazz club band circuits in his early days as an entertainer, once performing for the notorious gangster, Al Capone. He formed his own band in the 1930s and traveled to Oakland, California with the band in 1948. He played piano at the Port O' Call and Walt's 405 Club and appeared in a 1950 episode of "The Phil Harris/Alice Faye Radio Program." He left Oakland to stay in Los Angeles in 1952. Often working in bit parts as musicians in both movies and television, Crothers made his official debut in the movie, "Meet Me at the Fair" in 1953, later starring on television, particularly the TV series, "Sanford And Son," as well as roles in "Dragnet," "Bewitched," "McMillan & Wife," "Adam-12," "Kojak," "Ironside," "Kolchak: The Night Stalker," "Starsky and Hutch," "Charlie's Angels," "Love Boat," "Magnum, P.I." "Taxi" and "Laverne & Shirley." He also made a series of failed TV-pilots, "One of the Boys," "Casablanca" and "Morningstar/Eveningstar," before landing a major supporting role in the 1970 animated film, "The Aristocats," for Walt Disney Productions. He became good friends with both Redd Foxx and actor Jack Nicholson, with whom he appeared with in four films, "The King of Marvin Garden," "The Fortune," "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" and "The Shining." His later film appearances included "Coonskin," "Silver Streak," "The Shootist," "Bronco Billy," "Zapped," "Two of a Kind" with Olivia Newton John and a re-make of the "Kick the Can" segment from "The Twilight Zone" in the movie version of the series. His distinct scratchy voice let to more animated work, particularly in "Hong Kong Phooey" and "The Harlem Globetrotters" cartoon series for Hanna-Barbera. He also did the voice of Jazz in "The Transformers," reprising his role in "The Transformers: The Movie." According to "Transformers" co-star, Dan Gilvezan, Crothers often played guitar during their long wait times to record their voice work for the TV series. Because of his connection to the "The Harlem Globetrotters" cartoon series, Crothers became indubitably linked to the basketball team and appeared with them in The Harlem Globetrotters on Gilligan's Island as their manager in one of his last screen roles. A heavy smoker most of his life, Crothers was diagnosed with lung cancer in Late 1985, a condition he kept secret in order to continue working. Unfortunately, the cancer eventually spread to his esophagus by the middle of 1986 and left him unable to speak. He died of pneumonia on November 22, 1986 at his home in Van Nuys, California at age 76. He was buried at Forest Lawn Cemetery in Hollywood, California.