Monday, December 31, 2012

BING AND 2012


Hard to believe it is the end of another year. This year was very mixed I believe for Bing Crosby fans. October 14, 2012 marked an unbelievable 35 years since Der Bingle last sang for us, and unfortunately it was barely reported on. Bing Crosby Enterprises, which is run by the Crosby family continues to provide an informative website of their own, full of audio and video gems. However, no new Crosby items were released for sale to the general public. There have been some hints, but nothing concrete to report on. Another release that did not happen in 2012 was the issue of Gary Giddins second book on Bing Crosby. It is reportedly near completion, although I can not get a confirmation from Giddins himself or his publisher.

The chronological series on the Sepia label has sadly come to an end. However, Sepia promises more Bing issues in the future. Their next issue will come in February of 2013 and will be the soundtrack to Say One For Me and The Road To Hong Kong - both soundtracks were better than the actual movies. Other than that issue, I am not sure what else will come out. Hopefully more songs from Bing's vast amount of radio shows will be issued.

2012 saw the issue of High Time (1960) on Blu Ray. Unfortunately it was not issued on conventional DVD format, so I did not purchase the rare and underrated Bing movie gem. Other than another "ghost" appearance with young crooner Michael Buble on his television special and iTunes issue, not much else to report on in 2012.

On a personal note, my step father of 20 years passed away. While he was not a Bing Crosby fan, he did help me with my Bing collection early on. Before he married my Mom, he had Cinemax at his house, and he taped me the film We're Not Dressing (1934) since at the time it was not on video. He watched the whole movie and other than Bing's singing he said the movie was unwatchable. It always became a joke between us that We're Not Dressing was his favorite movie. My stepfather was 59, and I continue to miss him but appreciate him taping the old Bing movie for me.

Thank you everyone for continuing to visit this little Bing Crosby blog. Since I started the blog in January of 2010 I have made many friends, and I hope this blog will continue to inform and entertain in 2013. May each and everyone of you have a wonderful New Year!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

BING AND MICHAEL BUBLE'S MOM



Michael Buble may have had the best-selling festive album last year  but it's Bing Crosby's music his family plays to get into the Christmas spirit.
The Canadian crooner topped the festive charts at the end of 2011 with his holiday compilation Christmas, and the release continues to dominate the yule gift market this year but the singer admits his mum Amber would rather listen to the classics.

He tells Britain's Daybreak talk show, "There's one record in the house and that's Bing Crosby's Christmas record. You know, I try to force a little Elvis Presley on them but it's pretty much my mother - it's all about Bing and that is a tradition we've had since we were kids. It was always playing. I mean, come July, I loved Christmas music so much that I think I was still singing, 'It's Christmas in Killarney, it's wonderful to see...

SOURCE

Monday, December 24, 2012

REWATCHING WHITE CHRISTMAS

Here is yet another great reflection on Bing's career. No one like Steve Fay can weave his words around in such an interesting and thought provoking manor...


Not having cable or satellite TV, I have gotten more and more used to movies becoming a rarity on American broadcast TV, and consequently I expect to see fewer older movies on the stations I get. With the holiday season, a few Christmas-related movies have been showing so far, but they are either ones from the last 10-15 years or they are cartoon features. It's not like the old days when two or three stations would repeat each of the major Christmas movies from the 1940s & 50s. To watch those, we have resort to our tapes and DVDs. So this past Saturday night became "White Christmas" night at our house.

There are probably not many films I have watched as many times as "White Christmas," so obviously all of the scenes and songs are intensely familiar, yet I still get choked up at the end when the stage backdrop rises to show the snow falling, and in those moments when Rosie's and Bing's characters fall back in love. The drama of the old general and his former troops' devotion to him still affects me, too. Then there are the seasonal songs, and not just the title song, but also "Snow" which still deserves more radio play than I ever think it got.


But there are also occasionally new or surprisingly-deepening impressions that come along in these later viewings. One particularly strong one is how great Danny Kaye's singing and dancing are in the song: "The Best Things Happen While You're Dancing." The effortlessly-looking high spins around those posts are quite amazing. Another thing that stood out for me Saturday was just how good Rosemary Clooney was, not just her great singing, but how convincing she was with all of the attitudes and emotional states her character travels through. And then how she is entirely lovely in the scene that included the "Count Your Blessings." What a shame that she and Bing didn't do another movie together.

Another impression came through to me more than in the past, too, and that was about Bing's own dancing ability. While he certainly could have been upstaged by co-stars like Astaire, O'Connor, or Kaye, Bing always seemed to hold his own in dance scenes with their lot. He might not look like he could be as light on his feet as they were, but he matched them step for step, unless he didn't for comic effect. While it rarely seems to get mentioned, Bing Crosby is quite a competent hoofer! I wonder what kind of effort went into keeping him on his toes so well.


A cultural issue also came to mind in my watching this time, about how different the impression of the US military was in post-WWII films like "White Christmas." Then the US had a 'civilian' army. The great majority signing up or drafted for that War, assuming they survived, were only there on temporary assignment from their lives at home. Some of their sloppiness or unruliness, joked about in this movie, comes from their not being career soldiers like General Waverly, who managed a great deal of tolerance toward them in leading them. But now, after decades of a 'professional' all-volunteer army, in which troops serve many enlistments, even several tours of duty in wars longer than WWII, I wonder whether today's soldiers are as able to identify with that image of WWII soldiers, even as much as Vietnam era soldiers were able to do?

In any case, "White Christmas" seems to offer more to appreciate and to ponder...


SOURCE

Friday, December 21, 2012

A LETTER FROM BING

Here is a letter that Bing wrote to his musical director John Scott Trotter on May 9, 1954. It is an unusually open Bing, and it says a lot about Bing as a person... 


Dear John,

Please excuse the long delay between receipt of your letter of August 24 and my reply thereto. Too many golf tournaments and too much fishing up here, I guess, for one to pay the proper attention to one’s correspondence.

First, in connection with Gary, I think that he did make remarkable progress in the 13-week period just concluded. A lot of people don’t realise just how little experience he had in the past. Outside of the appearances with me and the three or four records he made, he had absolutely no experience in front of the public or recording or on the radio. In school, contrary to what most kids with a little talent are accustomed to do - he didn’t participate at all in amateur theatricals or the university productions. This I deplore of course, but there seems to be little I can do about it. He tells me that the boys around the fraternity house consider anybody a square who in any way indulges in campus activities or assumes student offices. A whole new philosophy seems to have developed since I went to school. In order to be attractive now, apparently, a kid must be a complete clod. Of course if a boy gets very good marks and likes to study and shows an interest in the course that he is taking, he is utterly loathsome. 



I think your suggestion about him working a little on tone production and singing to a tape machine is a very good one. Ampex owes me just such a machine, and I may grab it and have it sent up to him this fall. I don’t know whether he’d ever plug it in or not, but it’s an experiment that’s worth a try. Doubtless the fraternity would pick up his pin if he ever demonstrated such unique interest in the career he intended to pursue when he got out of college. Of course I am determined that he should complete his college course, if it takes two years. Getting him into Stanford was quite a chore, and keeping him there has been an even more onerous assignment, and I certainly am not about to let him blow it with only a year or so to go. It’s my belief that he can still keep in the public eye and keep in action through the medium of phonograph records, if they go at all.

I of course, John, feel pretty sad about not going back on the radio this season. I have given many reasons for this decision to many different people, but I feel I can tell you the truth and that you will believe and understand me. John, I don’t sing anywhere as good as I used to, and I feel sincerely that it’s getting worse. I don’t see any purpose in trying to stretch something out that was once acceptable and that now is merely adequate, if that. I don’t know what the reason for this condition is, unless it’s apathy. I just don’t have the interest in singing. I am not keen about it any more. Songs all sound alike to me, and some of them so shoddy and trivial. I don’t mean I didn’t sing some cheap songs in the old days, but I had such a tremendous interest in singing and was so wrapped up in the work that it didn’t matter. . . . The sycophants that hang about, the press, the photographers, the song publishers and pluggers and the pests of all descriptions that grab me every time I step outside my front door weary me indescribably. Succinctly, John, I seem to have had it. Maybe a year or so away will make me feel differently, and my interest will revive.

I certainly hate to see the wonderful organisation we have break up, and it gives me a wrench to be an instrument in its dissolution. I shall never forget all the good years you and I had together, and all the wonderful unselfish things you did for me and my interests. You had a great deal to put up with at times, and your patience and forbearance was always incredible. You must know how grateful I am to you for everything that you have done. And I don’t mean just professionally either. Much of the same goes to Murdo. There’s a great boy, and I think the radio industry should prepare some sort of a plaque or citation for him for just putting up with Morrow through the years, if putting up with me wasn’t enough. I’ll be back in Pebble Beach after the 21st of the month, John, and probably will stay around there for a couple of weeks, and then will be on into Hollywood. If you are in the Carmel area be sure and give me a ring and we can get together. My very best to you.

As ever,
Bing


Monday, December 17, 2012

BING AND DAVID BOWIE


Bing and Bowie—The Story Behind the Song—Peace on Earth and Little Drummer Boy
By Gary Shannon 3 days ago

It was in September of 1977 that Bing Crosby began filming what would be his last Christmas special. Bing, whose recording of “White Christmas” was, and still is, the best selling record of all time, had become a sort of symbol of Christmas and his yearly Christmas TV specials were always a big favorite.

As was the custom back then, stars like Bing Crosby or Andy Williams would always include a contemporary artist as one of the special guest. Exactly how that year’s special guest came to be David Bowie is a mystery. Someone in Crosby’s stable must have thought it would be a unique idea to have Bowie teamed with Bing.

The duet between host and guest star was a standard in those days. The problem was, that Bowie didn’t like the song, “Little Drummer Boy.” So, plan “B” went into action and thus was born a very famous duet.

When Bowie announced he didn’t really want to sing “Little Drummer Boy”, production on the filming of the special went into emergency mode. The task of writing something Bowie might like fell to composers Ian Fraser, Larry Grossman and Alan Kohan.

Legend has it that the trio of composers went to the NBC studio piano and wrote the song “Peace on Earth”, to be sung as a counter-point melody with “Little Drummer Boy.” They played the song for Bowie who gave it his approval and one hour later the cameras rolled and history, of a sort, was made.

The response to the duet was fantastic. A bootleg copy of the performance made it’s way to radio and the song has been played annually since then.

I’ve heard that Bing enjoyed the duet with Bowie. Many people have wondered if Bing Crosby was even aware of Bowie as a performer. One insider told an interviewer that Crosby was still up on music and no doubt knew who Bowie was even if he learned from his kids.

Kind of sad to say that Bing never got to see this Christmas Special. One month after the show was filmed, Bing Crosby died of a heart attack on a golf course in Spain...

SOURCE

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

BING AND HIS DENIM TUXEDO


In 1951 famous actor/singer Bing Crosby tried to check in at a Vancouver, British Columbia hotel. He was in hunting clothes and sported an unkempt appearance - Crosby was on the tail end of a hunting trip. The clerk pursed his lips, lifted his nose into the air and slowly scanned down the man and decided one of the most well known entertainers in the world was a common bum. He would not allow Bing to register as a guest.

Bing told the clerk, "I'm sorry I didn't bring my blue serge suit. I haven't worn it since high school and it probably wouldn't fit anyway."

Bob Hope, a close friend who made several popular movies with Crosby, later gave the hotel clerk a small part in one of his movies because "he knew how to recognize a bum."

Back in Elko, Silver State Stampede members saw a way to get some great publicity for the big rodeo and for Elko. After all, Crosby had been Honorary Mayor of Elko since 1948. Besides, he was a local rancher up at North Fork when he wasn't busy back in Hollywood.

Levi Straus Company in San Francisco was asked by the Stampede committee to make two Levi tuxedos - one for Crosby, the other for Elko Mayor Dave Dotta. Plans called for Elko to celebrate "Blue Serge Day" on June 30, 1951 during the Silver State Stampede.


They were beauties. The double breasted tuxedos were, of course, traditional dark blue denim. Lapels were light blue and each jacket had a red boutonniere made of Levi's red tags. Inside the coats were leather labels signed by the president of the American Hotel Association, D.J. O'Brien, that insured the mayor and Bing of lodging registration anywhere in nation.

Crosby shrugged into his tuxedo, buttoned it, and declared, " Hell's fire, ain't that a wizard!"

Both garments are on exhibit at the Northeastern Nevada Museum in Elko...

SOURCE



Saturday, December 8, 2012

BING CROSBY AND OTHER SINGERS

Bing Crosby was definitely a singer's singer. Many of his peers and people that came after Bing idolized and looked up to him. Here are some quotes from other singers and what they thought about Bing...

EDDY ARNOLD:
"Bing was fantastic. I have many, many of his records today. He recorded so many of the country songs like "You Are My Sunshine," "It Makes No Difference Now," "Walkin' the Floor Over You." He recorded the first hit I ever had [Just a Little Lovin']. On and on and on. And he did them straight. He never made fun of them. He always did 'em in a melodic way. And, of course, the songs became well known because of his popularity. The songs took on the popularity of the whole country. Do you know who was Winston Churchill's favorite singer and song during World War II? It was Bing Crosby's record of "You Are My Sunshine." (Eddy Arnold: An Inside Look, interviewed by Ralph Emery, TNN, 1991.)

TONY BENNETT:
"Just imagine something five times stronger than the popularity of Elvis Presley and the Beatles put together. Bing Crosby dominated all of the airwaves. He was the only guy who had hour shows on radio stations, where other artists would just have one record played." (PBS interview, 1999)


ROSEMARY CLOONEY:
"Over the years Bing and I have done movies together, recordings, radio, television -- the whole entertainment circle.... The best way to get along with Bing was to forget first of all that he was Bing Crosby. It was not always easy. I know that every now and then something would strike me when we were working together -- the tilt of his pipe or the set of his hat -- the Crosby image -- and I'd say to myself, "What the hell am I doing singing here with Bing Crosby?" (Clooney, This for Remembrance, p232)

SAMMY DAVIS JR:
"I'm working with three of the biggest guys in the business -- so I can't wait for the first day when we all get around the piano to rehearse a song called 'Mr Booze.' In this there are so many Crosbyisms, all the things that we and millions of people have loved him for. And I'm standing there, and I missed my cue five times because I'm watching him. Frank [Sinatra] said, "What the hell is wrong with you?" I said "To hell with you, Frank, I'm listening to Bing Crosby!" Everybody just broke up."


PEGGY LEE:
"He took me out to dinner once and I got up nerve enough to tell him about how I felt at one movie when he didn't get the girl. I was so in sympathy with him that when he sang this song 'Down by the River' I cried and cried. So he pretended that we were sort of sightseeing in San Francisco and we went around to different little bistros until finally he found a pianist who knew the song and Bing sang it especially for me."

MEL TORME:
"In 1975 he invited me and my family to lunch at his home just outside of San Francisco. Mary Frances and Harry, Bing's kids, were on hand as well as Kathryn, and it was a funny, jolly, loving luncheon, full of stories and remembrances. After lunch, Bing, sans hairpiece, asked Harry to go get his guitar. We adjourned to the music room, and, just like that, Bing sat down and began to sing. He did about eight tunes, invited me to join him, which I did, and that's the way the afternoon went .... That night he brought the whole family to the Fairmont, sat at a front table (still sans toupee), and stayed through my whole performance. I never quite got over that." (Torme, My Singing Teachers, p19)

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

SPOTLIGHT ON JOHN SCOTT TROTTER

Bing's musical director during his hey-day was an easy-going mountain of a man, John Scott Trotter. Trotter weighed in at 12 pounds when he was born in Charlotte, North Carolina, in 1908. As an adult he weighed nearly 300 pounds. Trotter's professional music career began at the University of North Carolina in 1925 when he became pianist and arranger for a college band led by Hal Kemp.

Trotter's chance for national fame came 12 years later in 1937. Bing was hosting the Kraft Music Hall with Jimmy Dorsey conducting the orchestra. Kraft insisted that the show include a concert spot of classical music, and Dorsey was having difficulty delivering an acceptable product. He gracefully left the show. In searching for a new musical director, Crosby asked his songwriter friend, Johnny Burke, about the arranger for singer Skinnay Ennis of the Hal Kemp Orchestra. Burke told him "John Scott Trotter." Crosby said "Get him."

Trotter was tracked down in New York and offered the job as Crosby's orchestra leader. Trotter accepted, and took over for Dorsey on the 8 July 1937 broadcast. Soon he was arranging and conducting for Crosby's Decca recordings as well. Their first Decca session was the up-tempo It's the Natural Thing to Do, recorded July 12, 1937.

Carroll Carroll, chief writer on the Kraft show, recalled Trotter's massive volume and appetite:

"Trotter, a monolith of a man, stood astride pop and 'long hair' music, as it was then called, like a colossus, and occasionally flew from Hollywood to New Orleans for the weekend (something not done often in the thirties) just to cater to his gourmet tastes with a decent plate of oysters Rockefeller. During the war, when home economist M.F.K. Fisher was a guest on the show to plug her wartime conservation cookbook, How to Cook a Wolf, she told Bing that her book explained how to use leftovers. The heartily-fed Trotter stepped to the mike and, in his most polite and gentle North Carolina drawl, asked, 'Pardon me, ma'am, but what are left-overs?'" (from The Old Time Radio Book by Ted Sennett, p70)
                            

Trotter arranged and conducted for Crosby for 17 years. During that time several members of his orchestra went on to greater fame. Jerry Colonna (1905-86) was Trotter's trombonist when his comedic skills were discovered. While playfully singing "On the Road to Mandalay" with Trotter at the organ, Colonna began on a high note reminiscent of an air raid siren and went up from there. The next week he was featured as the guest 'concert star' on the Kraft show. Soon Colonna joined Bob Hope's radio show as his comedy side-kick.

Trotter hired Spike Jones (1911-65) in 1937 to beat the drums in his orchestra. Jones became a celebrity during World War II when he moonlighted on a novelty song called "Der Fuhrer's Face." The song became such a hit that Jones left the Trotter orchestra late in 1942 to make a career for himself as conductor of a not-so-serious band, the City Slickers. Jones' raucous sound was invented by Trotter's orchestra to accompany (and cover) the dischordant notes of comedian Bob Burns on the bazooka. Later Jones and his City Slickers returned as guests on the Crosby show. After the City Slickers accompanied Bing on a song, Crosby was heard to say, "John Scott, don't ever leave me!"


Trotter remained as Crosby's musical director until 1954. Their last recording together was "In the Good Old Summertime" in May. That summer Bing decided to end his big-budget radio variety show and with it went his need for a full-time musical director. Bing wrote Trotter on Sept. 9: "I certainly hate to see the wonderful organization we have break up, and it gives me a wrench to be an instrument in its dissolution. I shall never forget all the good years you and I had together, and all the wonderful unselfish things you did for me and my interests. You had a great deal to put up with at times, and your patience and forbearance was always incredible. You must know how grateful I am to you for everything that you have done."

Trotter moved on to television, becoming musical director for the George Gobel show from 1954-60. He remained friends with Bing and was a frequent visitor to Bing's home, even helping redecorate Bing's San Francisco mansion. Trotter served as musical director of several of Bing's TV specials as well as his 1964-65 ABC situation comedy, The Bing Crosby Show. Later he directed the music for the Charlie Brown cartoon specials. In 1970 Trotter was nominated for an Oscar and a Grammy for his musical score for the movie "A Boy Named Charlie Brown."

Bing once said of Trotter, "I'm not musically educated enough to really describe what he was in music terms. I just knew he was very good and he had marvellous taste."

Trotter died of cancer October 30, 1975, a month after arranging a Boston Pops special for PBS...