Friday, April 26, 2013

LE BING: SONG HITS OF PARIS


Le Bing is a 1953 album by Bing Crosby. It was Crosby's first long-playing album, and was released by his longtime label Decca Records. Le Bing is a concept album where all the songs are sung in French.

Crosby recorded the album in Paris on May 16, 1953, during an extended visit to Europe that spring. He had filmed parts of the movie Little Boy Lost in France the previous year. The orchestrations were by Paul Durand, a French arranger who also worked with Edith Piaf, among others.

Le Bing was released later in 1953 as a 10" LP and in December Billboard magazine called it "very nice," saying: "This set could move very well."

Two songs - "Embrasse-Moi Bien" and "Mademoiselle de Paris" - were recorded separately in English at the May 16 session but weren't released on Le Bing. All 10 tracks were released by Sepia Records on the 2010 CD Through the Years: Volume Five (1953).

In 1958, after Crosby had left Decca, the label issued a compilation album titled Bing in Paris, subtitled "Bing Crosby Sings the French Hits." Unlike Le Bing, some songs on Bing in Paris are sung in English.

Track listing
1."Mademoiselle de Paris" (Paul Durand, Henri Contet)
2."Au bord de l'eau" (Paul Durand, Henri Contet)
3."Mon coeur est un violon" (Maria Laparcerie)
4."La vie en rose" (Louiguy, Edith Piaf)
5."La Seine" (Guy La Farge-Flavienmonod)
6."Embrasse-moi bien" (André Grassi)
7."La mer" (Charles Trenet)
8."Tu ne peux pas te figurer" (Paul Misraki)



Monday, April 22, 2013

THE BING CROSBY HISTORICAL SOCIETY

This year marks a surprising 20 years since The Bing Crosby Historical Society officially closed up shop in Washington. Its founder and heart of the cause was Ken Twiss. I had the honor of knowing him for a couple of years, so I thought it would be fun to relive some memories of the organization:

"Living just north across the Washington State border on Vancouver Island in Canada gave me the opportunity to attend the Bing Crosby Historical Society banquets that were held occasionally in Tacoma. Usually a guest connected to Bing was invited to attend and give a short talk on his/her experiences in working with or knowing Bing. I remember Al Rinker attended in the early 80's. I met Carolyn Schneider who attended the banquet along with her daughter Mollie in 1989. Bill Osborne, who early in life was a radio programme director and DJ in Victoria B.C., was usually the MC. He was very knowledgeable of things Bing and was a very personable MC. Cathie and Hobie Wilson [Bing's Friends & Collectors Society] would drive up from Sonoma, California. Bob & Joyce Lundberg [Bingtalks Fan Club] were regular attendees. I made many new friends from my association with the Society. Unfortunately it folded with the serious illness and passing of founder Ken Twiss." (BEN)

"Ken Twiss enthusiastic Crosby fan and supporter opened his collection and museum to any all who were interested in Bing. Many Crosby enthusiasts also shared some of their treasures with the BCHS museum. Among those who so actively supported Bing's talent and now gone on to a better reward was Bill Osborn, VernTaylor, Russ Rullman, Pat Sullivan, Bob Lundberg, Herb Edleman, come immediately to mind. - The party would go on even after the banquet. Laughter would be heard and felt when the fellas got together and it was usually in an 24 hour restaurant. Happily some of the old timers are still with us and  I wish I could get these fans together in a room once againwith a nice bottle of spirits and let you have a listen. The  conversation would have done Bing and Phil proud, I would even venture to say they would have included themselves in the conversation and would come up with as many corny one liners. Not a cross word or envious remark would have been said and the sharing of information and collections was something to behold. " Hey Hobe, do you have Brunswick label #..... ?" Sure I have several copies, I will send it to you. Guys were always willing to share and be happy to do so.- No greed, no snarky remarks, just comradeship and long standing friendships. Hopefully that spirit will return once again ." (CATHIE WILSON)

More on the society...Established as a non-profit organization in 1977, the Bing Crosby Historical Society (BCHS) in Tacoma, WA achieved widespread recognition as the focus of attention regarding the history, life, and career of Bing Crosby. BCHS was founded by Kenneth Twiss, a longtime fan of Bing Crosby. Twiss dedicated himself and the society to preserving Crosby's memory and his place in history as a leading international radio and film personality. The society sponsored many events and activities, including an annual Tribute to Bing Crosby in Tacoma; the designation of Bing's birthplace as a historic landmark; and the pursuit of the issuance of a commemorative Bing Crosby postage stamp. One of the primary aims of the BCHS was to acquire Bing's birthplace in Tacoma and create a permanent museum of Crosbyana to replace the existing traveling exhibits that had been displayed at functions like the 1989 Washington State Centennial celebration. Unfortunately, this goal was not met. In 1993 with only 216 active members, the BCHS board decided to give its collection to Gonzaga in June 1993.

Those were the days! If anyone else has memories of Ken Twiss or The Bing Crosby Historical Society, please connect me...

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

GUEST REVIEWER: GOING HOLLYWOOD

Here is the usual interested Bing movie review from the Bing guru Bruce Kogan...

One of Bing fan said that this film was essentially about stalking. I had never thought of it in those terms, but it's true.

Marion Davies is a love starved French teacher at a girl's boarding school who's spare hours are taken up with the radio crooning of Bing Crosby. She follows the object of her affection out to Hollywood and in Hollywood cliché style gets her big break in the movies.

First if you're willing to accept the beautiful Marion Davies with this crowd of old spinsters at the boarding school then the rest of the plot simply follows. Second for Bing Crosby fans one has to remember that this is NOT a Crosby picture. He's the leading man in a Marion Davies film. Everyone is familiar with William Randolph Hearst and the Svengali like influence he had on her career. Marion's making a musical so you go out and buy the hottest singer currently as her leading man. And that, boys and girls, is the story of Bing's first film away from Paramount.

You also hire a topflight director in Raoul Walsh to keep things at a brisk pace. And you give Marion a good supporting cast that includes Fifi D'Orsay, Ned Sparks, Stu Erwin, and Patsy Kelly. Mix 'em together and you got Going Hollywood.

It's not a bad mix. Crosby had a lot of songs in this film. The big hit was Temptation, but there were other good ones from Nacio Herb Brown and Arthur Freed. One thing however, since this was not Paramount and MGM was known for the great production numbers in their films, Bing got some great numbers. I'm surprised frankly that Hearst allowed Crosby a huge number like the title tune, set in Grand Central Station, without Davies in it. Davies does join him in a dream sequence where she sings a couple of lines of We'll Make Hay While The Sun Shines with Marion and Bing dressed as a pair of Grand Wood rustics. Another big production number that Paramount would never spend the money for.


Davies had good if limited talents. Hearst however could only see her as a pure heroine. Since he discovered her in the Ziegfeld Follies, Davies's dancing should be no surprise. It's at least as good as Ruby Keeler's. She had a good gift for mimicry, her imitation of Fifi D'Orsay is a key point in the plot. One thing that would be considered in god-awful taste now is her donning black-face to get on Bing's movie set and imitating the dialect.

It's funny though. Think about pictures like Play Misty For Me and The Fan made two generations later. Stalking was looked on entirely differently back in those more innocent days...

BRUCE'S RATING: 7 OUT OF 10
MY RATING: 9 OUT OF 10

Friday, April 12, 2013

BING AND GEOFF MILNE

Here is an excellent story on Geoff Milne, who was one of Bing Crosby's music producers. This is from a 2010 story...


Bird noises, golf and teaching Bing to sing – producer Geoff Milne talks about working with the legendary entertainer on the 1976 album, Feels Good, Feels Right.

“It was almost through Bing Crosby that I came into the music business to start with,” says producer Geoff Milne.

“I started collecting his records in Germany in 1946. I was in the RAF and had been seconded into the entertainment division, where I ran a record library. People from other divisions would come in to borrow Bing records – even from the army divisions. He was very popular.”

After leaving the RAF, Geoff spent three years at British Airways, before deciding he’d be happier elsewhere. “I was brought up with music and films,” the 85-year-old says. “I can recall standing on a chair pretending I was conducting the afternoon broadcast from the Savoy Theatre.

“In 1950, only EMI and Decca were around, of any substance, so I made a nuisance of myself and Decca gave me a job to shut me up. I started in the accounts department, though my aim was to get to the artists department as soon as I got in – and I had determination.”

When Geoff joined Decca in 1950, Bing had been at the company for 20 years. “Crosby was a permanent artist on Decca and the company had been associated with his records since 1930,” he says. “Decca were interested in promoting him rather specially because of the longevity of his tenure.” Ultimately Geoff rose to be the manager of Decca’s London American label, spending more than 30 years at the company. It took until 1976, though, for him to meet the man who’d inadvertently launched his career in the industry.

Bing had come to England to create a spoken word, three-LP box-set, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, with Geoff working on the sound effects. While Crosby was there, Geoff had snapped up his latest record, A Southern Memoir.

“He said nobody wanted it. He had run out of steam, as far as the record labels were concerned,” Geoff says. “I knew John Scott Trotter [Crosby’s regular accompanist and director], whom I’d met in America, and he told Bing I would be interested.”

Having released the album, Geoff was given the chance to produce a new Crosby record: 1976’s Feels Good, Feels Right. “One can get very blasé about this sort of thing, but it was quite an event to meet him,” Geoff says. “It was very pleasant seeing him. I was always interested in Crosby – he was a bit of a legend, a little bit special.”

Geoff says being in the studio with the singer was a memorable experience: “It wasn’t just a job. It was exciting, in a way, listening to him. It’s hard to explain, but he was a man who had been singing since 1926 and he was still going strong – he had an incredible track record.

“He went through a period in the 1950s when he sounded a little bit tired and the records didn’t sound as good, but he seemed to recover from the early ‘70s onwards – there was a new timbre to his voice.”

The first step was to decide which songs Crosby would record, with Geoff driving up to the singer’s rented house at Holland Park to talk over possibilities. “We were going through all sorts of titles in the flat,” he says. “He knew most of them, having probably sung them on the radio at one time or another. But I remember having to sing one of them for him, and him saying: ‘That was very good – you ought to record it’, very much tongue-in-cheek.”

And Geoff did get a chance to croon in the studio, as Bing struggled with one particularly tricky melody line. “There was another song, either Rose in Her Hair or Old Fashioned Love, where he couldn’t get the melody quite right and had to reminded of how it went,” Geoff says.


“If you look on the back of the LP, there’s a photo of me singing to him, because he couldn’t get it right. Everybody found that very amusing. I suppose even the master professionals can have their weaknesses.”

Mostly, though, Geoff was taken aback by just how easy Crosby found the process. “The actual recording didn’t take very long,” he says. “Myself and the studio producer Kevin Daley suggested titles and Bing usually went along with what we had to say.

“He could nail a song in the first go. If you did it again, it was just a safety, just to be sure. I often heard the first take and thought: ‘How’s he going to improve on that?’”

The album was recorded in one three-day period in July, with a second session at the start of August where Bing recut four songs he was unhappy with, using a different style and tempo, including one that never made the record – That Old Black Magic. Geoff’s favourite song from the record is the enchanting, dreamy closing number. “The song that stands out from those sessions is When I Leave the World Behind,” he says. “He liked that song; I remember when we talked about it. Al Jolson had made it famous and we thought: ‘Hmm, is it the right sort of material?’, but Bing was convinced it was, and he was right.”

Geoff says that while Bing was “practical” and “no mug”, he had much in common with the happy-go-lucky persona he cultivated in films and on records. “He wasn’t particularly interested in money,” Geoff says. “We signed contracts with him for a very nominal amount. He was just happy to be working.”

Still, it wasn’t always easy for the singer to fit in studio time along with his other commitments. “Golf was more important to him than singing,” Geoff says. “We were fixing duties for the studio and he would say: ‘I shall be at the golf that day’ – that always came first.”


The singer used his trip to the UK to pursue several hobbies, going grouse-shooting near Ripon in North Yorkshire, playing cricket with youngsters at the High Side playing fields in Kirkby Malzeard which he had helped build, and attending a golf championship in West Sussex. While Crosby was in the country, Geoff did his best to make the star feel at home. “Bing used to come in with all sorts of requests,” he recalls. “That included getting hold of some records of bird noises for his wife Kathryn.” Feels Good, Feels Right was released during a major upturn in Bing’s fortunes.

“It did quite well in sales,” Geoff says. “Bing was in the middle of a resurgence of interest – people were saying his voice was even better than in the ‘50s. He was more relaxed. He had done a concert – two or three nights at the London Palladium, and that had sparked this big interest. By general consensus he was singing very well indeed.”

Geoff remembers Crosby as “a very down-to-earth sort of man”, matter-of-fact and unfailingly polite. “I remember while we were in my office, a West Indian waitress brought some drinks in, and he was up there like a shot to take the tray from her and thank her,” he says.

“He was on his feet instantly, a man of his stature. I can think of many artists who wouldn’t have moved.” Though the company tried to keep Bing’s visit quiet, word inevitably leaked out, with vast numbers of fans visiting the studio. “There are some who hate signing autographs, but Bing would sign anything,” Geoff says.

“He said when people stopped asking for his autograph, that would be the time to worry. People were constantly knocking on the office doors, but he never refused them. That just shows what kind of a man he was.”

Bing died on the golf course on October 14, 1977, meaning that a trio of planned albums with Geoff never saw the light of day. “When he died, we had already got a second LP all worked out,” Geoff says.

“He was going to sing an album of Noel Coward songs next. We had decided that two or three titles would just be with Keith Nichols’ piano accompaniment, which was a bit of a departure for that period. I had a complete itinerary worked out.”

The musicians had already been booked for the session when Bing passed away. “If you booked them, you had to pay a fee,” Geoff recalls. “Not a full fee, but a fee. The musicians came and said: ‘We’re not charging anything’, because they were so upset that they would not be doing the record. I think that’s the first time that had ever happen."

Geoff says the action illustrated just how other musicians felt about Bing. “I thought that was one of the finest tributes given to Bing Crosby – that showed what esteem he was held in by other musicians,” he says.

“He was very much a musician’s man – he would be in the studio with the orchestra as they recorded. It was a wonderful gesture.” As well as the Coward record, Bing had planned to make a Dixieland album with brother Bob Crosby’s band and return to the studio with friend and sparring partner Bob Hope, with whom he’d appeared in the popular ‘Road’ movies.

“The titles were set out and we’d talked about it. He said: “Bob Hope? Leave that to me.” In the years since Bing’s passing, Geoff has had a chance to work on more Crosby records, releasing numerous compilations, complete with scrupulously-detailed liner notes for the Jasmine label...




Monday, April 8, 2013

PHOTOS OF THE DAY: MORE CANDID BING

In October of 2011, I posted some candid pictures of Bing Crosby that you might not have seen before. You can still view them here.

 I figured it was about time I followed that post up with some more candid pictures of Bing that might be new to you...

with torch singer Ruth Etting

with Alan Mowbray - 1940


with Bob Mitchell's Boy Choir - 1944


with American troops in Germany - 1953



with Danny Kaye and Audrey Hepburn - 1954

 
with Diane Sherry - 1964

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

NEW BING CD: BING IN THE HALL

What great news! Some really great Bing Crosby to sink our teeth into. Sepia has done it again with a terrific issue dedicated to Bing's songs from the Kraft Music Hall...


BING IN THE HALL (SEPIA 1224)

tracks:
1. JOSEPHINE
2. CALL ME UP SOME RAINY AFTERNOON
3. ONE SONG
4. THE UMBRELLA MAN
5. PENNY SERENADE
6. I GET ALONG WITHOUT YOU VERY WELL
7. HONOLULU
8. YOU’RE THE ONLY STAR IN MY BLUE HEAVEN
9. I WONDER WHO’S KISSING HER NOW
10. SCATTER-BRAIN
11. LOOKING AT THE WORLD THROUGH ROSE-COLOURED GLASSES
12. (BACK HOME AGAIN IN) INDIANA
13. I THOUGHT ABOUT YOU
14. MA! (SHE’S MAKING EYES AT ME)
15. ANGEL IN DISGUISE
16. LET’S BE BUDDIES
17. BECAUSE OF YOU
18. EVERYTHING HAPPENS TO ME
19. I’LL BE WITH YOU IN APPLE BLOSSOM TIME
20. YOU’D BE SO NICE TO COME HOME TO
21. HIT THE ROAD TO DREAMLAND
22. I’VE GOT SIXPENCE
23. HOW SWEET YOU ARE
24. THE SURREY WITH THE FRINGE ON TOP
25. SATURDAY NIGHT (IS THE LONELIEST NIGHT IN THE WEEK)
26. MAGIC IS THE MOONLIGHT
27. MY DREAMS ARE GETTING BETTER ALL THE TIME
28. IT MIGHT AS WELL BE SPRING
29. DOCTOR, LAWYER, INDIAN CHIEF
30. G’BYE NOW

Release Date: May 2013

The 30 songs here were originally broadcast “live” between 1937 and 1946 from the NBC radio show “The Kraft Music Hall” (KMH) hosted by Bing Crosby. They capture him on a variety of songs in full versions of which he never recorded commercially and performed at a time when he was at the peak of his career. It is said that the broadcasts commanded a listening audience in excess of an astonishing fifty million! The rare material here has been digitally re-mastered.

Please support this CD release! You can order here!

Monday, April 1, 2013

SPOTLIGHT ON PAUL DRAPER

Usually when I spotlight one of Bing Crosby's contemporaries, it is someone that has a close connection with the legendary crooner. For this spotlight I am profiling forgotten dancer Paul Draper. What ties does he have with Der Bingle you may ask? Well, Draper does not have much of a connection with Bing other than Paul was supposed to star with Bing in the movie musical Blue Skies in 1946. That odd pairing was never to be though.

Paul Draper was born on October 25, 1909 to an artistic, socially prominent New York family. Despite the pressure his family put on him to become an engineer, Paul's love for dance persisted and ultimately won out. His passion and unique style led him to international stardom. Draper's training in tap dance was minimal. He was a self-taught tapper, having taken only six tap dancing lessons in his life, and he used his knowledge bank of ballet-based materials to influence his tap style. He learned tap at Tommy Nip's Broadway dance school in 1930. Much to the dismay of his family, Paul set off for London as a teenager hoping to find work as a tap dancer shortly after being introduced to the art form. He scraped together a living performing flashy routines in Europe and the United States, then enrolled in the School of American Ballet and realized the possibilities of combining tap and classical ballet.

In 1932, Draper made his solo debut in London. He introduced his new "Ballet-Tap" dance form and gained much notoriety for his unique style. He danced to a variety of music styles, but often incorporated Classical music into his routines. By 1937, he was performing at such venues as the Persian Room at the Plaza Hotel and the Rainbow Room. Carnegie Hall followed, then Broadway and a film version of William Saroyan's Time of Your Life (1948).

His big break in films was supposed to be in 1946's Blue Skies at Paramount Studios. He was cast the rival to Bing Crosby. Crosby was one of the biggest movie stars of the 1940s, and he was a fixture at Paramount for almost twenty five years. Bing was such a big star that he had approval of his co-stars. Bing and Draper did not get along. Crosby was laid back to his way of filming, while Paul approached every scene and nuance of the movie as if he was choreographing and intricate ballet. Draper did not endear himself to Crosby either but trying to get actress Joan Caulfield removed from the picture. He was constantly complaining about her lack of singing and dancing ability. During the first week of production Draper's speech impediment and his trenchant criticism of Caulfield's dance ability led Crosby to insist on his replacement by  Fred Astaire who, then forty-seven, had already decided that this would be his final film and that he would retire, having spent over forty years performing before the public. Paul Draper would never get his break in Hollywood movies. Draper even had a very close resemblance to Fred Astaire at this time.


Instead, he teamed up with Larry Adler, a virtuoso harmonicist. The two became a world-famous act, performing together until 1949. They appeared as regulars at New York's City Center. The act finally disbanded when jobs dried up after they were blacklisted as Communist sympathizers. (Adler, in response to these false charges, moved to the United Kingdom). In the 1950s, Draper was accused of affiliating with the Communist party. A routine of his was to appear on CBS's Toast of the Town, but was cut out of the segment due to protests the station received. During this period, Draper was forced to put a stop to his tour because many television programs and hotels felt they could not host such a controversial figure. He filed a libel suit against a Connecticut housewife who claimed he was a Communist, but still received negative press. Draper left the United States following this scandal and lived in Switzerland for three years.  In 1955, Draper returned to the stage performing in Stravinsky's Histoire du Soldat at the Phoenix Theater. Jerome Moross's Gentlemen, Be Seated became another piece Draper could add to his resume in the 1960s. Draper also choreographed pieces for George Kleinsinger's Archy and Mehitabel at Goodspeed Opera House, and performed in the Broadway musical Come Summer during the sixties.

Draper took a hiatus from mainstream performances in the late 1960s and began to teach in the theater department at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania until 1978. He was seldom seen in concert dance during this decade, but did manage to make appearances at and create pieces for the American Dance Festival and Lee Theodore's American Dance Machine.


Draper married Heidi Vosseler, a ballerina for George Balanchine's first American ballet company, on June 23, 1941, in Rio de Janeiro. Miss Vosseler lived with him in Europe until they returned to the United States in 1954 (they had three daughters.) She died from lung cancer in 1992. Draper died September 20, 1996 in Woodstock, New York at the age of 86. The cause of death was emphysema. His three daughters, Pamela, Susan, and Kate, and two grandchildren survive him. His family currently resides in New York.

Paul Draper struggled with people believing that tap dancing was not a legitimate art form. Some people put it on the same level as baton twirling or rope-skipping, so he was determined to convince the world that tap dancing is a credible art form. Draper was ashamed of how tap was being taught in conventions and institutions and did not like how it was being performed. He thought that anyone could be taught a tap routine, but not everyone could be taught how to dance. Paul Draper was more invested in the performance and entertaining aspects of tap dancing than the actual technique...