Sunday, December 28, 2008

Bing Crosby on Radio, Pt. 1

Reprinted in the December, 2007, Old Radio Times.

Bing Crosby – The Radio Directories
(out of print)
compiled by Lionel Pairpoint

Authors Notes -
It seems that these directories have taken most of my life to prepare, and sometimes I believe I would have been better employed working in a mattress factory. I have wandered down countless blind alleys, reversed into innumerable brick walls, and with some notable exceptions, most frustratingly of all, have encountered a stony silence when I have called upon some of the scions of Crosbyana for information. Fortunately, I am still able to publish a list of credits and I am indebted to the following, Ron Bosley, Charlie Campbell, Philip R. Evans, Gary Hamann, Ralph Harding, David W. McCain, Malcolm & Pat Macfarlane, George O’’Reilly, Joyce Pairpoint, Jim Reilly, Greg Van Beek, E. Scott Whalen and Wig Wiggins. Some of these are acknowledged for their knowledge of matters concerning Bing Crosby, some for their unqualified support and assistance, and others for their forbearance of a hobby that has gotten completely out of hand! There may be those who would have preferred not to have their names associated with this enterprise and here I should point out that any opinions expressed or errors perpetrated in the main directories are my responsibility alone.

This is not intended to be ‘‘Bing Crosby For Dummies’’. If you are reading this, it is fairly safe to assume that you will probably know more than a little about the man and his background. I hesitate to make any sweeping claims on his behalf. I am not even going to suggest that he was the greatest singer of popular songs that ever lived, in the certain knowledge that, on this point, he would have agreed with me. I have only a personal statement to make: He had the ability to sing the songs that I enjoyed, in the manner in which I liked to hear them.

From the outset he displayed a universal appeal. His endeavours in every chosen medium reached the heights. His record sales are still legend. In the main, his movies were lightweight and required no profound thought process to be enjoyed but enjoyed they were, establishing him as a top box office star for over fifteen years. There is no need to go too far out on a limb to say that the fountainhead of his success was radio and that he was the first popular singer to benefit from the worldwide representation offered by the medium. Without pretentious vocal gymnastics, he had a fundamental ability to make the most prosaic lyric sound as though he meant every word that he was singing and he portrayed a relaxed, easy-going persona that would prove to be a boon to his script writers.

The claim that over a long period Crosby’s voice was, "the most heard voice in the world" cannot be dismissed as extravagant hype when it is remembered that, in addition to his own long running weekly radio series, many stations world wide ran complete programmes composed entirely of his recordings. Some were enterprising (or devious), enough to insinuate to the listeners that what they were hearing was live, as the following quote from Variety of 29th April 1936 will illustrate, "¼¼copy has the announcer open periods, hailing them as entertainment by Crosby and then mumbling the word 'recordings'. From then on the warbler is addressed as though he were delivering songs in the flesh. Sample spiels: 'Well, Bing, what are you going to sing for us today?¼¼.Let's see now. I notice we have you down to give us your rendition . . . (and at the record's conclusion): Fine work, Bing. You were never in better voice, etc., etc." (And then as the programme nears end): 'Just have time for one chorus of Bing's next song' (Then after orchestra on record barely gets through the opening bars) 'Sorry, Bing; we just couldn't squeeze that one in. We'll have to do it on tomorrow's programme'."

As well as a massive proliferation of these platter programmes, there were guest appearances on the radio series of others. There were countless interviews examining his film and recording career, his sporting and business interests, and his private life. He participated in star-studded celebrations of not only his own anniversaries but also those of other personalities, including presidents, composers, and even the radio networks themselves. There were sporting commentaries, Bond Drives, Christmas Seal Campaigns, propaganda broadcasts, and charity appeals for the Red Cross, religious institutions, medical research, and Boys Clubs. Both before and after his death, bulky radio biographies were compiled of his life and times and indeed it will be a black Christmas should his voice not be heard on radio at that season of the year.

I am indebted to Malcolm Macfarlane for his work in supplying a representative catalogue of many of the guest appearances. Although sections of these Directories are still incomplete, every known piece of information has been included and for the sake of posterity I can only hope that others will step forward and add their greater knowledge to anything that has been set down here.

The Programmes
These directories detail in chronological order every programme of the various series. To facilitate reference the programmes have been numbered consecutively within the dates of the original broadcasts. It should be noted that Bing Crosby's name has been accorded priority in musical items and/or sketches, no matter how small his contribution to such items may have been. Those items in which he participated are indicated by an asterisk (*). No special reference has been made to the spoken commercials featured in these programmes, although Bing may have been involved in these.

Harry Lillis Crosby was born on May 3, 1903 and after picking up a childhood nickname of ‘‘Bing’’ he was educated at Gonzaga High School in Spokane, Washington State. He entered Gonzaga University in 1920 and when he reached his junior year in 1922 he elected to study law. During his time at university he had become heavily involved in the Dramatic Club and enjoyed some success in several roles. Singing in public had followed naturally and Bing soon became part of a small band called The Musicaladers. His part time earnings from that source were greater than he was likely to earn as a lawyer and he dropped out of his University law course in the final year to follow a show business career. When the Musicaladers disbanded, Bing and his friend Al Rinker entertained locally in the Spokane area as The Clemmer Entertainers for a while before travelling down to Los Angeles to seek their fortune. The act, which was known as Crosby and Rinker, prospered and within a year, was signed up by Paul Whiteman, one of the biggest names in the entertainment world. Early successes with the Whiteman organisation were followed by abject failure with the result that ‘‘Crosby and Rinker’’ were amalgamated with another entertainer called Harry Barris and became The Rhythm Boys. The trio was very popular on the vaudeville stage and on record, but then came radio.

On January 4, 1928, the Paul Whiteman troupe starred in a nation -wide broadcast over NBC which was sponsored by Dodge Brothers Automobile Company and known as the Victory Hour. Bing took part in this but was not mentioned much to the chagrin of his family listening in Spokane. Radio was still in its infancy and Bing's radio work until February 1929 when he joined Whiteman on the Old Gold Show can be summarised as follows.

January 4 (10:30 - 11:30 p.m.) The Victory Hour. The band plays "Rhapsody In Blue", "Among My Souvenirs" and "Changes".
March 29 (9:00 –– 10:00 p.m.) Whiteman takes part in a second Dodge Brothers radio show which is entitled Film Star Radio Hour. The Whiteman Orchestra plays "Chloe", "Ramona", "Mississippi Mud", "My Heart Stood Still", "Changes" and "Sunshine". It is reasonable to assume that Bing participated in some of these.


At 1:14 AM, Anonymous Bruno Leicht said...

Der Bingle is pretty much of a joke, in my humble opinion. But I do like his pro-Reich opinions. Otherwise, he was not very talented.

Thank you

Bruno Leicht

At 1:11 PM, Blogger jazzgirl1920s said...

I have looked for the Crosby Directories Radio Directories book on but it never shows up for sale and it is out of print unfortunately. Does anyone know if any seller in the U.S. has one for sale?

At 5:52 PM, Blogger Old Time Radio Researchers said...

I don't believe the book was every published commercially. I have never seen a hardcopy of it.

At 5:26 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

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