Sunday, August 28, 2016

FLASHBACK: 1967

On February 4, 1967 - Bing Crosby was appearing with underrated husband and wife talents Phil Harris and Alice Faye on the TV variety program "Hollywood Palace". Those were the days...



Monday, August 22, 2016

REVISITING THE EDDIE RICE TAPES

With nearly (but not every Bing recording) almost available in one form or another, I thought it would be fun to revisit a more simpler time, when Bing fans had to rely on bootleg records or 3rd generation cassette tapes for their fill of rare Bing material. One man that helped to bring great Bing Crosby radio recordings to the foreground was Eddie Rice. Younger Bing collectors may not recognize the name, but us "old timers" sure do!

The Rice tapes were also the source of 3 JSP LP´s(Bing Crosby In The Thirties),that were issued between 1984 to 86 by Geoff Milne with transfers and engeneering by Dave Bennett and John R. T. Davis from the Derek Parkes collection.The sound is good. Even better are the CD A Bing Crosby Calvacade Of Song(Festival-Interfusion also taken from Trotter acetates (Rice tapes?) and was mastered by David Carrington.

How Eddie Rice get to the "Rice tapes":

"...But he is a collector with a difference.When he began to rebuild his collection (His first collection Eddie sold financing the medical treatment for one of his parents) a mutual friend gave Ed Rice the address of John Scott Trotter, Bing´principal music director and orchestra leader. Rather than waste time writing letters, Ed impulsively drove to Trotter´s address and knocked on the door .Each discovered that the other was sincerely devoted to the music of Bing Crosby and they became great friends. Once during a visit Ed asked John Scott Trotter if he ever kept reference recordings of the Kraft Music Hall and was thrilled to learn that most had been kept .In fact, he was told, the reference recordings were beneath their feet,stored away in a crawl space under the floor boards! John Scott took his friend around to a small access door. In an instant his guest was under the floor where he discovered dusty stacks of acetate recordings;mostly 10" mixed with a few 12" records.


He carried an armload back into the apartment and looked over them carefully .Their labels were blank white with date notations and a few song titles scribbled on them. As Ed sorted, John Scott explained how he had used them to compare musical passages or review a number with Bing they planned to repeat.Most were Bing solos with bits of dialogue before and after with cast and guests.Few collectors had ever been in such a remarkable position! Rice asked his friend if he might borrow and copy the material onto tape.Trotter hesitated only because the music on them was now old fashioned. He and Bing were into modern arrangements.In fact,Trotter had been considering donating them to a university anxious to use them as study-resource material. Ed Rice continues:

"well I was exited of course and concerned too.I asked John Scott to consider that the material represented a great opportunity to share and preserve this once very popular style of orchestral composition.Since Bing had a legion of followers,these people too would be greatly enriched with copies of such material on a no cost basis.It seemed to me that preservation would be ensured among Bing´s friends in the collecting society around the world.I argued that the material could still be made available on a non-exclusive basis to a university but should not be limited to that.We talked many times about this and finally he generously agreed. I can still remember John Scott Trotter´s response,´Alright Eddie,take them home,put them on tape.`


For the next several months,I guess it was well into 1963, I spent most of my free time copying out the soft acetate recordings,the test or reference recordings. Most of the 500 were clear enough to tape although some had a few technical faults. I also compiled a list detailing all the known information such as broadcast,rehearsal dates,support musicians,titles and voices.I sent this along to fellow collectors knowing these would be copied endlessly.I expected this.Even the list I compiled has now become a kind of classic publication distributed among Bing´s admirers.Over the years that followed I´ve noticed some of the songs appear on óldtime´radio broadcasts and records.And I´m happy about it!Here he is still young as,so very lightly,he sang those ten years of Kraft Thursdays.Perhaps never again would Bing Crosby sing quite so easily and carefree as on those wonderful radio programmes.

As a collector the most exiting time in my career was to be invited by Bing Crosby himself to put his personal record collection in library order.....""

(Sheldon O´Connell:Bing-A Voice For All Seasons)

Eddie Rice sadly died in 2006 at the age of 91...


Monday, August 15, 2016

BING 'N' BASIE

When I first discovered this album in the early 1990s when I was beginning my acquiring of everything Bing, I had high hopes for the album. I am a big fan of both Bing and Count Basie. The album was sort of a let down, but it is worth a listen to...


Bing 'n' Basie is a 1972 vinyl album recorded for Daybreak Records by Bing Crosby, accompanied by Count Basie and his Orchestra. The orchestral tracks were laid down over three days at the end of February and the beginning of March, 1972 at Amigo Studios, North Hollywood. Crosby added his voice to the pre-recorded orchestral tracks during three sessions on March 14, 15 and 16, 1972 at Coast Recorders Studio, Bush Street, San Francisco. Bing Crosby also added his voice to "If I Had A Hammer" and while this has appeared on pirate issues it has never been commercially released.

The album was issued on CD by EmArcy Records (824 705-2) in 1988.

Howard Lucraft writing in Variety commented:"Interesting that Bing sounds better today to many than in his Paul Whiteman days over 40 years ago when his keys were about a third higher. He could be more adventurous range-wise back then. He used to feature ‘Old Man River’ in D flat, going to a top F. On this new LP wisely tunes are mainly up-tempo. Crosby reportedly sang to tracks prerecorded by the Basie band. Sam Nestico’s charts are swinging. Something should have been done about that final top D flat on ‘Put Your Hand in the Hand’. Otherwise album is highly effective - simple with charm. The slower ‘Sugar, Don’t You Know’ by Louis Bellson is a great new number."

Down Beat said: "This release is likely to do considerably more for Crosby’s reputation than for Basie’s. That’s usually the way it works when a jazz group teams with a popular vocalist. On the other hand, it is Crosby’s reputation that is in considerably greater need of a boost than Basie’s, so perhaps in the long run it’s a fair shake for everyone... (Crosby) is in fine voice all the way, and the choice of material is from among the best contemporary tunes, excepting two ringers (Hangin’, Day), which are the sort of nonentities that singers use to open TV variety specials."

Track listing:

SIDE ONE
1. "Gentle on My Mind" John Hartford 3:45
2. "Everything Is Beautiful" Ray Stevens 3:19
3. "Gonna Build a Mountain" Leslie Bricusse, Anthony Newley 2:36
4. "Sunrise, Sunset" Jerry Bock, Sheldon Harnick 2:43
5. "Hangin' Loose" Sammy Nestico, Johnny Mercer 2:32
6. "All His Children" Henry Mancini, Alan Bergman, Marilyn Bergman 3:01


SIDE TWO
7. "Put Your Hand in the Hand" Gene MacLellan 3:12
8. "Snowbird" Gene MacLellan 2:56
9. "Little Green Apples" Bobby Russell 3:15
10. "Sugar, Don't You Know" Peggy Lee, Louis Bellson, Jack Hayes 3:23
11. "Have a Nice Day" Sammy Nestico. Johnny Mercer 2:55


SOURCE

Monday, August 8, 2016

THE MOVIE THAT ALMOST ENDED BING'S CAREER

Legendary crooner Bing Crosby was offered a big solo number in his film debut. Instead, he ended up in jail for driving under the influence and getting into a car wreck during Prohibition.

“King of Jazz’’ (1930), which will be restored, is a super-lavish color musical revue presided over by the film’s namesake, Crosby’s then-employer, famed bandleader Paul Whiteman.

Crosby appears in four numbers with early partners Harry Barris and Al Rinker — they were jointly billed as the Rhythm Boys — and sings alone over the opening credits. The crooner was also assigned a solo production number, “Song of the Dawn.’’

That didn’t happen, partly because Whiteman arranged for his performers to all purchase discounted Fords — each including a spare tire on the rear emblazoned with a caricature of Whiteman — to drive around Los Angeles.

On Nov. 16, 1929, Crosby took time out from rehearsing his solo to attend a college football game.

“There was quite a shindig after the game in our studio bungalow, involving tippling, but not to excess,’’ Crosby recalled in an article he wrote for the Hollywood Reporter in 1955.

The accident occurred while Crosby was dropping a female guest off at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel with his convertible.


“Bing made a left turn into an oncoming car with such force that he and his passenger were knocked over the windshield and onto the pavement,’’ writes Crosby biographer Gary Giddins. “He was fine, but the woman was bloody and unconscious.’’Modal Trigger

Police arrested Crosby and the other driver, “who in Bing’s account was ‘more drunk than he was,’ ” Giddins told the Los Angeles Times in 2007. Crosby “felt it was an injustice,’’ Giddins said.

A week later, Crosby showed up for his court appearance in golf attire, infuriating the judge, who sentenced the crooner to 60 days in the slammer. But the accident was never reported in the newspapers at the time and, after he became a star, Crosby’s arrest and court records vanished, the LA Times says.

Despite an incident that film historian David Stenn says “could have well ended Bing’s career,’’ Crosby went on to lasting fame and fortune as a singer and actor, recording the all-time classic “White Christmas’’ and winning a Best Actor Oscar for “Going My Way’’ in 1945.

Two decades before his death in 1977, the beloved performer came clean about the accident and was philosophical about losing his big number in “King of Jazz,’’ which went to singer John Boles.

“[Boles] had a bigger voice and a better delivery for that kind of song than I had, and I often wondered what might have happened to me if I had sung it,’’ Crosby wrote. “I might have flopped with the song. I might have been cut out of the picture. I might never have been given another crack at a song in any picture.”

Monday, August 1, 2016

NATHANIEL CROSBY: MY DAD WAS NO MONSTER

A recurring dream haunts Bing Crosby’s youngest son Nathaniel. In this vision the legendary crooner lies on his deathbed and with his final breath whispers to his son: “I love you.”

Nathaniel Crosby has given insights to his life growing up with his famous dad Bing Crosby.

Nathaniel shakes his head. “I’d always wanted to hear this but never did. My father was never good at expressing his emotions. He never said, ‘I love you.’”

Crosby won an Oscar for 1944 movie Going My Way but would never be nominated as Father of the Year. His son Gary Crosby wrote an excoriating 1983 memoir accusing Bing of vicious childhood beatings inflicted with a metal-studded leather belt, enforcing a draconian discipline on the four boys from his first marriage.

Two of Bing’s sons ultimately committed suicide. “In music Bing was the greatest thing there ever was,” said Gary.

“As far as raising kids, he didn’t have a clue.” But Nathaniel, aged 54, from Bing’s second marriage, insists: “He never hit me. I can’t say what happened with my father’s first family. I believe he had more time to spend with us as his career was less of a priority later in life.”

Yet despite his millions, Bing made life challenging for Nathaniel, his older brother Harry and younger sister Mary. “Dad was a very humble man and demanded that we have the same humility,” says Nathaniel.

“Privately he was shy and was determined that we didn’t grow up to be Hollywood brats.”

Nathaniel, whose new memoir, 18 Holes With Bing, is published this week in America, recalls: “In the summer he had his children working 14-hour days on his ranches baling alfalfa and vaccinating cattle. It was hard manual labour. I always longed for summer to end so I could go back to school.”

Crosby was hard to impress and parsimonious with praise, forcing Nathaniel to connect with his father the only way he could. “I learned golf so that I could spend more time with him,” Nathaniel admits.



“Dad’s happiest days were any that were spent on a golf course. And the happiest times of my childhood were spent on the golf course with him.” When a teenage Nathaniel won Crosby’s local country club golf tournament, Bing hailed it as “the happiest day of my life ”.

Crosby’s second wife Kathryn was understandably offended, lamenting: “That was Bing’s happiest day. Not the songs or the films or any of his showbusiness successes. Not our wedding. Not the birth of his little girl. The fact that his teenage son had become the men’s champion at the Burlingame Country Club.”

Crosby reigned at the peak of entertainment for more than half a century. He sang the most popular recording in history, White Christmas, and had 396 hit records – more than Elvis and The Beatles combined. He was the top Hollywood box office attraction for five years in a row, starred in 31 years of radio shows and hosted decades of television shows and Christmas specials.

Bing had four sons by his first wife Dixie Lee, who died of cancer aged 40 in 1952 , and in 1957 he married former beauty queen Kathryn who was 30 years his junior.

She gave Bing two more sons and a daughter Mary, who later became a famed trivia answer as the actress who shot Larry Hagman’s oilman J R on TV soap Dallas (she played JR’s scorned mistress and sister-in-law Kristin Shepard).



The crooner was 58 when his youngest son was born and Nathaniel admits: “I was very aware of his mortality… and wanted to spend every moment with him that I could. From the age of 12 I’d wake at 6am to spend time with him as he sat with insomnia and a pot of coffee reading the newspaper.”

But Bing would often play golf in the morning before filming or recording and spent afternoons at a race track, leaving little time for his children. Crosby considered golf “good therapy, a wonderful relief from tensions, from the problems of showbusiness”.

But he wouldn’t teach his son golf. He hired a former Irish golf pro to help Nathaniel practise his swing from the age of three, later sending him for lessons.

“He wanted to enjoy his golf, not lecture me,” says Nathaniel, who went on to play hundreds of rounds with his father and began competing in tournaments. “Dad would watch me through binoculars from a fairway away to avoid attracting a crowd.”

Living in California, Crosby kept his children away from Hollywood yet for two weeks each year the clan descended on Tinseltown as Bing filmed his annual Christmas television special, which always costarred his family and attracted up to 50 million viewers.

“It just horrified me,” says Nathaniel. “I was embarrassed wearing neon leotard outfits with sequins and dancing and singing.” As for his vocal skills? Producers turned off his microphone during recording. Surprisingly Bing felt equally uncomfortable with his own celebrity. “He was immensely understated and embarrassed by his fame,” says Nathaniel.

“If he took me out he would always wear sunglasses and a hat and an overcoat so that he would be unrecognisable.” Bing’s wife Kathryn endured her own struggles with the emotionally inaccessible Crosby.

“She was a golf widow,” says Nathaniel, adding that Kathryn “may have avoided marriage counselling” only by learning to hunt with her husband. Nathaniel’s worst fears were realised when Crosby suffered lung cancer in 1974 and had half a lung removed. He recovered only to fall 20 ft off a Los Angeles stage three years later.

He recuperated to star in an acclaimed run at the London Palladium that October and the following week flew to Spain to golf and hunt. He had just completed 18 holes in Madrid when he suffered a heart attack.

There was no dying confession: “Tell Nathaniel that I love him.” “His last words weren’t particularly memorable,” says Nathaniel. “He said, ‘That was a great game of golf, fellas,’ and then ‘Let’s go have a Coca-Cola.’”



Nathaniel was only 15 and admits: “His death left me with an emotional void.” But not a financial one. Bing structured his will so that Nathaniel received his inheritance staggered over several decades.

“I had enough to keep me afloat but not so much that I wouldn’t want to work my hardest to make a success of my own life,” he says. “His death devastated me but also motivated me to excel. ”

Now a father of four plus two stepchildren from his two marriages, he sells luxury timeshares on the world’s top golf courses. And he plans to revive his father’s fading glory. Dead celebrities can earn fortunes – Michael Jackson, Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley still rake in millions – but Crosby’s image and brand have barely been promoted.

“I think dad’s legacy has been neglected and there is so much for new generations to discover – his hundreds of hits, his movies and TV shows, ” Nathaniel says.

“And though he couldn’t say, ‘I love you’, I never stop saying it to my children. I never doubted my dad’s love and it’s great that I can listen to his songs or watch his movies and he’s back with me.”


SOURCE