Friday, February 25, 2011


One of the people that really cemented Bing Crosby's image as a superstar in the early 1930s was song writer Ralph Rainger. Rainger, under contract to Paramount as Bing was, wrote some of Bing's greatest movie hits of that time. Before I did research on Rainger's life, I did not know much about the man. other than the songs he wrote.

Ralph Rainger was born in New York City on October 7, 1900. Showing an early talent for composition, he won and accepted a scholarship to New York’s prestigious Damrosch Institute of Music, however, under pressure from his family for a more sensible career, Rainger dropped out after just a year and began working his way through Law School and graduated from Brown University Law School in the late 1920’s.

Throughout the years, however, he had studied with instructors such as Paolo Gallico, Clarence Adler and Arnold Schoenberg and shortly after his graduation from Brown, he decided to devote his life to music and began taking jobs as a professional pianist, arranger and accompanist for vaudeville entertainers.

In 1928, he formed a team with Edgar Fairchild and the two co-led an orchestra in the Broadway production, Cross My Heart. However, it wasn’t until 1929 in the revue The Little Show, starring Clifton Webb, that Rainger had his first commercial success with the song “Moanin’ Low”. Webb had gotten Ralph the job as pianist in the pit orchestra and during one of the rehearsals they felt that a song was needed. Rainger, with a lyric by Howard Dietz, provided “Moanin’ Low”.

In 1930, Rainger had another hit song featured in the Broadway revue Tattle Tales, entitled “I'll Take an Option on You”, which had a lyric by Leo Robin. This was the beginning of a great Robin and Rainger team.

Teaming up with Leo Robin at Paramount, the duo wrote major Bing hits such as: "Love In Bloom","June In January","Blue Hawaii","I Wished On The Moon" and "Empty Saddles". The last Bing movie that they wrote for was WAIKIKI WEDDING (1937).
On Oct. 23, 1942, Rainger boarded an American Airlines DC-3 at the Burbank airport. He was headed to New York for a meeting with a sheet-music publisher. Robin had gone ahead by train. The night before, the airliner's co-pilot, Louis Reppert, had encountered a flight-school buddy, Army Lt. William Wilson, at a café in Long Beach. Wilson was to pilot a military B-34 bomber to Dallas two days later. In court-martial testimony, Wilson's own co-pilot, Staff Sgt. Robert R. Leight, testified that Wilson decided to leave a day early and told him, "One reason I want to take off today instead of tomorrow is that I know the co-pilot of an airliner and I want to thumb my nose at him."

Wilson did not file a changed flight plan. The pilot of the passenger plane, Charles F. Pedley, evidently knew nothing of Reppert and Wilson's rendezvous plans.

The next morning over Palm Springs, Wilson wiggled the B-34's wings in the vicinity of the DC-3. Getting no response, he moved closer and made another pass. His bomber struck the airliner, knocking off three-quarters of its rudder. The commercial plane spiraled to the desert floor, bounced, crashed again and exploded. Its crew of three and its nine passengers, including Rainger, were killed. The B-34 landed safely.

Rainger's wife, Betty, collapsed when she got the news of her husband's death. Until she died in 1973, she kept her memories of him to herself. Her older daughter, Connie, said years later, "Mom never spoke of him or played his music." Rainger's son was age 8 and his two girls were just 1 and 5 when he died -- they grew up knowing little about their father.

Lt. Wilson, the pilot of the B-34, was charged with manslaughter. The Army court-martial panel exonerated him.

Histories of American popular music have given Rainger short shrift. The man behind some of our most enduring songs deserves better.

Thursday, February 24, 2011


What do you give someone when you’ve already given them the greatest present they’ll ever know?

I ask because I lost a bet and have to pay off.

I didn’t really lose the bet myself as much as I lost it on behalf of all residents of Tacoma. If we had surpassed Spokane as the state’s second-most-populated city, I would be the one accepting the payoff.

But you all dropped the ball in the procreation department. As reported Wednesday by the U.S. Census, Spokane retains the silver medal as runner-up to the mutually resented Seattle. It wasn’t even close, with Spokane building a 10,519 human advantage after leading by just 2,073 in 2000.

I bet Doug Clark, a columnist for The Spokesman-Review of Spokane. I should say the columnist since Doug has been writing three columns a week since 1984.

It will be tough, because we’ve already given Spokane something so amazing, so life-changing, that anything else will seem like a Thomas the Tank Engine PEZ dispenser by comparison.

I speak, of course, of what Tacoma gave Spokane more than a century ago. I speak, of course, of Harry Lillis “Bing” Crosby.
For those less than say, I don’t know, 50 years old, I may need to explain the phenomenon that was Bing. For four decades in mid-century, Bing was at the top of the recording industry, movies and television. All at the same time.

I tried to think of a modern equivalent and couldn’t. Good luck naming someone who has dominated just one of those entertainment fields in recent years? Look it up on Bing: Der Bingle was Der Kingle.

Sure, he was raised in Spokane, schooled there, began performing there. But he was born in Tacoma, and only those who buy into that whole nurture-over-nature rubbish could conclude his three years in Tacoma weren’t what made him great.

Crosby died in 1977, living just longer than Spokane did. Think though: Had he stayed in Tacoma, he might have really made something of himself.

Doug has more experience in this civic rivalry game than I do. A year ago after the state’s population estimate showed Spokane had extended its lead to 2,273 (after Tacoma had climbed to within 600 in 2005), he sent the Tacoma City Council some cool stuff, including an Expo ’74 Viewmaster along with a sympathy card.

“Dear Tacoma,” it read. “Eat my dust! Respectfully yours, Spokane.”

Councilman Marty Campbell responded with an all-Tacoma gift box, including what Doug thought was gourmet coffee until he opened it up for a full-on whiff.


So that’s out, because I doubt Doug’ll fall for it a second time (then again, he is from Spokane).

Give me some ideas. I will present them when he and I meet halfway for lunch (I have to buy) and an exchange of gifts. I’m not exactly sure what lies halfway between Spokane and Tacoma, but I’m told I’ll recognize it. It’s where prosperity and hope begin to wither.

That Spokane – the city – remains No. 2 is something of a demographic anomaly, because Spokane – the county – is far behind Pierce County. Way behind. Like 294,000 people behind and in fourth place behind Snohomish.

It seems Spokane staves off Tacoma’s spirited run at the booby prize of second city for two reasons. First, it annexes every suburban block with more than six people on it. Second, a much-higher percentage of people in their county live within the big-city limits – 44 percent compared to Tacoma’s 25 percent.

I used to wonder why. I stopped after visiting Spokane during December. Once the quite horrific and seemingly unending winter arrives, Spokanites huddle as close together as possible for warmth and mutual protection against wolves.

Only in the spring, long after the census has ended, do they venture outside the city limits and head to the lake.

Tacomans are a heartier people who don’t feel the need to cluster so tightly.

That, and we have central heating.


Wednesday, February 23, 2011


Bing Crosby and the "Youth Crusade"
by the Associated Press

We have already seen how Hollywood actors, Ronald Reagan, Clark Gable and Kirk Douglas contributed their time and effort for the Crusade for Freedom and Radio Free Europe.

Famed singer, entertainer, television, radio and movie star Bing Crosby was seen in movie theaters during the 1951 campaign, appealing in a short advertising film for support of the Crusade for Freedom:

"I want to tell you something I found out over in Europe: we’ve got plenty of good friends behind the Iron Curtain, probably fifty or sixty million of them.

Naturally they’re not Russians, they’re not Communists. They’re freedom-loving peoples in the captive countries, who refuse to believe the big Red lies the Commies tell them. And you know why they don’t believe those lies?

It is because we, yes, you and I, and millions of other private US citizens have found a way to pierce the Iron Curtain with the truth. And that way is Radio Free Europe, the most powerful weapon in the Crusade for Freedom."

Bing Crosby and his four sons, Gary, Dennis, Michael and Lindsay, were featured in a nation-wide half-hour radio program on NBC on Friday September 28, 1951, entitled “Youth Crusade with the Crosbys.”

The Crosby family show was a combination entertainment and solicitation program. Bing Crosby asked his youthful listeners, “Are you willing to give up three pieces of bubble gum?” He explained that “three cents will buy one brick for a new Radio Free Europe station to carry the truth behind the Iron Curtain.” He urged them to sign the Freedom Scrolls, which had been sent to schools throughout the country, and to contribute a few cents to the Crusade for Freedom. A young Czech boy living in Munich, Germany, was interviewed for broadcasting in the Crosby show.

The Crosby "Youth Crusade" show was repeated over the NBC radio network on Saturday, September 29, 1951.

Wednesday, October 3, 1951, was designated as “Youth Crusade Day” in the United States, and the Bing Crosby radio program was rebroadcast for “in-school” listening by students in various schools around the country. For example, in Pennsylvania the program was broadcast to Warren County schools at nine a.m. Wednesday, October 3, which had been officially designated as „Youth Crusade Day“ in a notification sent by County Superintendent H. L. Blair, to all principals. Both high and grade schools heard the radio show as part of the regular in-school listening program in Warren, Youngsville, Tidioute, Sheffield, Sugar Grove and in rural schools, wherever possible.

The Warren County Crusade campaign ran from September 24, 1951 to October 30, 1951, with a goal of $735 in contributions and 5,582 signatures on the Freedom Scrolls--the nation-wide goal was $3,500,000 and 25 million signatures. Warren County chairman David Potter hoped that students would sign "several thousand" Freedom Scrolls. Potter said that this was "A campaign for the future, and no one is more interested in the future than the children of the present.


Monday, February 21, 2011


Here is an interesting profile on Bing that I found on the internet. It details Bing's radio career...

Bing Crosby was, and still is, one of America's most popular singers. His voice is still heard everyday around the world. He recorded an estimated 17,000 songs, most for Decca records, who luck it was to hold his recording contract from 1934 -55. Yet many of Bing's most enjoyable performances were done on radio, and were relatively unavailable to the general public until now. Radio allowed Bing to be intimate, and give a subtle delivery of a song as if he were singing it "just for you." It allowed for witty repartee with the cast and guests, too, and Bing's sly wordplay and perfect timing with an offhand line is usually overlooked as one of his stellar traits. Of course, aided and abetted by Bob Hope, the two were a duo unstoppable and unstoppable in movies. But from 1931 until 1962, Bing was the star of radio.
Bing's most famous old time radio show was sponsored by Kraft Foods. Bing first appeared as guest host of the Kraft Music Hall on Dec. 5, 1935. Originally the Kraft show was an hour-long variety show, but in January 1943 it was cut to a half-hour a week. The Kraft show was broadcast live, as were all prime time network shows of that era. Bing Crosby has a streak of the entrepreneur in him, as well as perfect taste in songs. Early on, Bing had decided to keep the Kraft show more intimate by not having a "noisy" audience, as did most shows of the time. Crosby disliked the inconvenience of the late broadcast hour and the necessity of repeating a show for different time zones.

In 1945 he appealed to Kraft and NBC for more money to allow him to pre-record his shows on disc, knowing how well the V-Discs worked. He was turned down, as broadcast radio had its standards, so Bing refused to return to the show in the fall of 1945, then returned in February of 1946, and then left the show for good in May of 1946. Bing was determined to use recording in radio, as he had done with Decca for many years. Of course, all of this went on behind the scenes, and the Kraft Show is considered first-class Crosby, and near-perfect radio entertainment. Philco Radio Time, starring Bing Crosby, made its debut on Oct. 16, 1946, with Bob Hope as Bing's first guest. The show was first recorded on standard large wax transcription disks, but Crosby was already working with engineers, studying German WWII confiscated tape recorder technology. Bing used the tape recorder to tape, and then delay broadcast his show on American radio in 1947, which was a great success. The recorders were manufactured for the public by Ampex and revolutionized the recording industry. Bing's sponsor from 1949 through 1952 was Chesterfield cigarettes, and then GE took the sponsorship.
The Bing Crosby Show in the mid-50s was a modest 15 minute daily weekday show, with announcer Ken Carpenter and the Buddy Cole Trio with Rosemary Clooney. They offer dual portraits of the icon with guest icons (such as Fred Astaire, Tallulah Bankhead, and Johnny Mercer), and the singer with trio and songstress. The pre-eminence of Bing and network radio coincided, as by the mid 1950s, television took the action and money away from network radio broadcasting. Bing went on to TV, like so many others including his pal, Bob. But most will agree he did his best work on radio.

Bing is a part of everyone's memories of days and evenings past. He was a star of the first magnitude on radio, the movies and television. Funny, witty, one of the best voices of the century- what is left to say? Bing has to be in the top ten of American popular entertainment. You can add your own favorite nine to the list.


Friday, February 18, 2011


Highlighting Bing Crosby’s story
by Nelson Daily

Many people know about legendary entertainer Bing Crosby, who enjoyed international fame and respect as a beloved singer and actor for decades, going back to the 1930s.

But far fewer people, especially younger generations, know that Crosby was born and raised in The Evergreen State of Washington. And even fewer know about the Crosby family’s history in Tumwater, Tacoma and Spokane.

A free event in Spokane on Saturday, March 5, will shine a spotlight on the history of Crosby and his family during their Spokane years. The event also will enable attendees to learn more about their own family’s history.

Road to Spokane: Bing Crosby’s Family History will be held at Gonzaga University’s Wolff Auditorium from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., with the doors opening at 8 a.m. The auditorium is in Jepson Center on the Gonzaga campus (502 E. Boone Ave).

Space is limited, so people wishing to attend the Crosby event need to register soon. For more information and to register, call (360) 902-4171 or go to


Thursday, February 17, 2011


Crosby Estate Loses Bid to Toss Claim by First Wife’s Heirs
By a MetNews Staff Writer

The estate of Bing Crosby’s first wife may have a community property interest in Crosby’s right of publicity under a 2008 law retroactively making such interests transferable, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Michael I. Levanas ruled Friday.

Levanas, who issued a tentative ruling in favor of Dixie Lee Crosby’s estate last month, denied a motion for judgment on the pleadings brought by the Bing Crosby estate.

The judge agreed with the Dixie Lee Crosby estate that the interest should be considered newly-discovered property for probate purposes. But he also ruled that Crosby’s second wife, Kathryn Grant Crosby, may have am interest in the property and gave the first wife’s estate 20 days to name her in an amended petition.

Born Wilma Wyatt, actress and singer Dixie Crosby married Bing Crosby in 1930. She died of cancer in 1952 at age 40, predeceasing her husband, who died in 1977.

The pair had four sons: Gary, twins Dennis and Phillip, and Lindsay. Bing Crosby, who was born Harry Lillis Crosby, married his second wife in 1957; they had three children together.

In 1979, the California Supreme Court ruled in Lugosi v. Universal Pictures (1979) 25 Cal.3d 813 that an individual’s right of publicity “protects against the unauthorized use of one’s name, likeness, or personality.”

In 1984, the Legislature created a post-mortem right of publicity for deceased personalities, which could be willed or transferred. In 2007, however, federal judges in New York and California ruled that Marilyn Monroe could not have passed post-mortem rights of publicity through the residuary clause in her will because those rights did not exist when she died.

Later that year, however, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a law expanding Civil Code Sec. 3344.1’s statutory right of publicity to be retroactive and transferable, even if the celebrity died before the 1984 law was enacted.

The law provided that where a deceased celebrity’s statutory heirs did not assert those rights on or before May 1, 2007, and there was no specific disposition of them in the testamentary instrument, the rights would pass under the instrument’s residuary clause.

Probate proceedings in Dixie Crosby’s estate were revived shortly thereafter, and her grandson, Philip Crosby’s son Bing, in May 2009 petitioned for ownership. He argued that Dixie Crosby’s community property interest in her husband’s publicity rights was now the property of her trust, pursuant to her will.

Opposing her petition, HLC Properties, Ltd., which was established to manage Bing Crosby’s assets after his death, argued that the petition was untimely.

HLC also contended that the claims were foreclosed by a detailed agreement between Bing and Dixie Crosby’s estates whereby Dixie Crosby’s estate received $1.5 million in exchange for warranting that all community property rights had been transferred and waiving any other obligations pre-dating the agreement or that the estate “might have.”

The petitioner, however, argued that the 1999 settlement merely resolved issues of money owed, and did not contemplate any question of ownership of publicity rights.

Levanas explained Friday that the legislation enacted in 2007 “rendered the decisions of the courts in [the Marilyn Monroe litigation] invalid and cut-off the rights of statutory heirs where there is a testamentary instrument with a residual clause.”

The new law “in effect caused a ‘reboot’ of” Sec. 3344.1 “with a January 1, 2008 effective date for a new statute of limitations period for testamentary heirs,” the judge said in a footnote.

The judge went on to say that because the 1999 agreement was confidential and not made a part of the record in the prior litigation, he could not consider it as part of the motion for judgment on the pleadings.

Susan Cooley of Oldman Cooley Leighton Sallus in Encino represented HLC Properties, Ltd., while Henry K. Workman of Sullivan, Workman and Dee represented the Dixie Lee Crosby interests.


Wednesday, February 16, 2011


BING CROSBY: SCREEN LEGEND COLLECTION by A.T. Hurley You may think you’re a Bing Crosby fan, but if all you know is Holiday Inn, The Bells of St. Mary’s, or the On the Road movies, brother, you only know half the story. Crosby had a rich, long film career, and this collection features some of the best of Der Bingle’s lesser-known films: Waikiki Wedding, Double or Nothing , East Side of Heaven, If I Had My Way, and Here Come the Waves. All showcase Crosby’s easygoing persona and, of course, plenty of crooning. Waikiki Wedding, for instance, costars Martha Raye, Anthony Quinn, and Shirley Ross, and features the Oscar-winning song “Sweet Leilani” and “Blue Hawaii.” The premise of Double or Nothing could be a modern-day reality competition, with four people, including Raye again, feverishly trying to double their inheritance within a 30-day window. East Side of Heaven costars the always appealing Joan Blondell and showcases Crosby at his bemused best as a cabbie with an abandoned baby on his hands, trying desperately (and with a few showtunes) to find the infant’s parents. In If I Had My Way, Crosby’s a blue-collar worker who helps an orphan girl (Gloria Jean) find her long-lost uncle, and delivers a show-stopping version of the title song. And Here Come the Waves has Crosby as a popular songster enlisting and creating havoc in the Navy, falling for twins (played by Betty Hutton) and singing classics like “That Old Black Magic” and “Ac-cent-u-ate the Positive” (the latter, unfortunately, in blackface). The collection is a great cross-section of Crosby’s career and shouldn’t be missed by fans of him or of American film in the 1940s. SOURCE

Tuesday, February 15, 2011


Although Bing Crosby never graduated from Gonzaga University, he never forgot his time at the college. Throughout his life, Bing continued to give back as the university's most famous alumni. By the mid-1950s, Gonzaga was in need of a library building. Recognizing the importance of a good library, Bing was a major financial supporter. He contributed to the library building campaign by organizing a television show and giving the production rights to Gonzaga to secure funds for the library. The show, starring Bing, Frank Sinatra, Louis Armstrong, Bob Hope, and Rosemary Clooney, was sponsored by the Ford Motor Company to introduce its new "car of the future". The Bing Crosby Edsel Show, aired on CBS on October 13, 1957 and received an Emmy Award. Although sponsored by the Ford Company, Crosby was able to remind his nation-wide audience that he was a “Gonzaga man” through some skits. Through his efforts a new $700,000 library was constructed and dedicated as a memorial to the Crosby family on November 3, 1957. On the occasion of the library dedication he said to the crowd of 5000: "If I am any kind of a success here or in show business, it is the result of the time I spent at Gonzaga in the elocution, the debating and the dramatic societies…. If I am a good Catholic, and I hope I am, it is directly attributable to the influence of the good priests here; and if I am successful, it is because of what I learned here…. I am tremendously grateful and I love this school and the people here.” In the audience were Bing’s new wife Kathryn and other family members. One room in the Crosby Library, now the Crosby Student Center, was set aside to display his memorabilia. Prior to and after the opening of the Crosby Library in 1957, Bing sent materials through his business manager and brother Larry for the Crosbyana Room. Bing sent his gold records, photographs, fan scrapbooks, records, trophies and citations, and even an Oscar, which he won in 1944 for best actor in “Going My Way”. These shipments of donations arrived as Bing earned the awards or citations until his death in 1977. In 1961 Bing narrated a promotional film for Gonzaga called “Take Gonzaga”. In this 30-minute color film, Bing gave advice to his young male caddy about the importance of getting a college degree before trying to become a professional golfer. The film was designed to highlight Gonzaga’s forthcoming 75th anniversary, which would be celebrated in 1962. On Saturday, March 9, 1968, Crosby returned to Spokane to participate in a special academic convocation. This was his first appearance on the Gonzaga campus in eleven years. Bing arrived via private plane owned by 3M. Nathaniel 6, Mary Frances 8, and Harry Crosby 9, Bing’s three children from his second marriage, joined him. Bing’s wife Kathryn was unable to come as she was in a play in Florida. At this academic convocation held at the Kennedy Pavilion, Bing through 3-M presented Gonzaga University a microfilm research collection and three 3-M microfilm machines. This microfilmed collection gave Gonzaga selective access to the 4.3 million volumes in the New York Public Library as well as making copies of the projected page in six seconds! 3-M company officials were on hand to install the machines. As a surprise, Gonzaga honored alumnus and regent Bing Crosby with its highest award, the DeSmet Medal. The medal is named for a Jesuit missionary, Father Pierre Jean DeSmet. More than 2,000 people attended the dedication and ceremony, which coincided with Parent’s Weekend. Bing and Kathryn came to Spokane in 1974 to participate in Expo ’74, the World’s Fair. He came to Gonzaga campus and met with students. Bing died in Madrid, Spain after completing 18 holes of golf on October 14, 1977. News of his death spread quickly around the Gonzaga campus. The flag was flown at half-mast, and all over campus students asked, “Did you hear that Bing Crosby died?” The student body thought of Crosby as “Uncle Bing” a generous benefactor of their university and a talented entertainer. A citywide memorial Mass was held at St. Aloysius Church, where Bing once served as an altar boy. Fr. Art Dussault, Bing’s former classmate and friend, delivered the homily for the Memorial Mass. A cash bequest of $50,000 from Bing’s estate was placed in an endowment fund at Gonzaga University and at Gonzaga High School. The fund’s earnings are used annually to support many important budgetary needs, like salaries, scholarships, computer resources and building improvements. By the time of his death, he had given the University and High School over one million dollars. In 1980, the Gonzaga Alumni Association bought Bing’s boyhood home for $60,000 from the Higgins Family, who were only the second owners of the house. Called the Crosby Alumni House, it now houses the university’s alumni association. On the main floor, there are displays of Crosby memorabilia. A bronze statue sculpted by local artist Deborah Copenhaver was placed at the Crosby library's main entrance and dedicated on his birthday on May 3, 1981. The piece is a faithful construction of the Crosby image, portraying the late singer in a semi-standing position with the right forearm resting on the right knee. On his head is the familiar hat and golf bag with clubs, which rests next to him. Kathryn Crosby, Rich Little, and other celebrities attended the dedication ceremonies. Bob Hope talked via telephone broadcast. Although Bing died over 30 years ago, he still has a presence at Gonzaga. Campus folklore tells the story that Bing Crosby was kicked out of Gonzaga because he threw a piano out of DeSmet Hall, an all boys dormitory. This event could not have happened, because Bing left campus in 1924 and the dormitory was not constructed until October 1925. After the Crosby bronze statue was dedicated in 1981, Crosby’s pipe kept being broken off and stolen. For security reasons, the pipe now is screwed in for special events and then removed soon after. In 1972, the Oscar was removed and replaced with a Mickey Mouse plastic figurine. Luckily, the student prank ended after 3 days when the Oscar was returned. There is a student a cappella group who call themselves the “Big Bing Theory.” Additionally, by the late 1980s, the Crosby Library could not keep up with the growing university and technological advances. Consequently, a new library was built. After the library moved into the Foley Center in 1992, the Crosby Library was converted into the Crosby Student Center. Here, students gather to get their mail, have meetings, and buy a latte at the Crosby Café. The building still houses the Crosbyana Room, where visitors can see his memorabilia. Bing gave Gonzaga much more than money; he gave the University his name, his loyalty and the credit for his success.

Saturday, February 12, 2011


I am not sure the exact time that Bing started wearing toupees, but I would guess sometime around the 1933 period. Even while he was a Rhythm Boy in his mid 20s, Bing was balding. Even though Bing hated those toupees, he wore one all his life. He did love the opportunity to wear hats to cover up his balding, and it looks pretty good on Bing. Here are some pictures that capture Bing without his rug...

Wednesday, February 9, 2011


To serious Bing Crosby fans, I think "Swinging on A Star" is the most widely issued Bing recording - next to "White Christmas". In the old days of collecting Crosby CDs, it would appear on almost every issue. For a few rare Bing recordings, the collector would have to endure "Swinging On A Star" again. However, listening to this song again, I find it is a pretty good song. It was definitely a song that captured music lover's attention in 1944. Here is a little history on this song: "Swinging on a Star" was composed by Jimmy Van Heusen and Johnny Burke. It was sung by Bing Crosby in the 1944 film Going My Way, winning an Academy Award for best song. Song writer Jimmy Van Heusen was at Crosby’s house one evening for dinner, and to discuss a song for the movie Going My Way. During the meal one of the children began complaining about how he didn’t want to go to school the next day. The singer turned to his son and said to him, “If you don’t go to school, you might grow up to be a mule. Do you wanna do that?” Van Heusen thought this clever rebuke would make a good song for the movie. He pictured Bing, who played a priest, talking to a group of children acting much the same way as his own child had acted that night. Van Heusen took the idea to his partner lyricist Johnny Burke, who approved. They wrote the song. The first recording of Swinging on a Star took place in Los Angeles on February 7, 1944, released by Decca Records. The Williams Brothers quartet, including legendary crooner Andy Williams, sang backup vocals to Crosby. The song was recorded by countless other singers such as Frank Sinatra, Burl Ives, and Tony Bennett - but Bing's version is the best...

Monday, February 7, 2011


Our guest reviewer Bruce Kogan is back for another insightful review of one of Bing Crosby's films. This time around he reviews Bing's only "western", RHYTHM ON THE RANGE (1936).

Another source of recording material for Bing Crosby were western songs. He recorded a good many of them in his career. About the time Rhythm on the Range was being made the singing cowboy was just getting started as a movie staple. When Bing's 78s were being compiled into vinyl albums in the 1950s he had recorded enough for several albums. Lots of the songs of Gene Autry and Roy Rogers are in the Crosby catalog in fact a young Roy Rogers can be spotted in the I'm An Old Cowhand number.

Runaway heiresses were another movie staple especially in the 1930s and that's Frances Farmer's part. She's running away from a marriage she's not terribly thrilled about and stowing away on a freight boxcar she finds Bing Crosby who unbeknownst to her works as a ranchhand on her aunt's Frying Pan Ranch out in Arizona. Bing is nursemaiding a bull named Cuddles and Bing, Frances and Cuddles make their way west with several adventures. Trailing them are a trio of hoboes played very well by James Burke, Warren Hymer, and George E. Stone who have found out who Frances is and are looking to make a quick buck. Their machinations go for naught of course. In Frances Farmer's book, Will There Ever Be A Morning, she describes a not very happy life in Hollywood. However she liked this film, as it had no pretensions and similarly her leading man. She described Bing Crosby as a pleasant unassuming fellow who she liked, but didn't get to know real well. Frances had a best friend, a matron of honor to be, for the wedding that didn't come off. She was played by Martha Sleeper and I think a lot of her part was edited out. Sleeper gave some hints of a really juicy Eve Arden type character that could have been used more.

The second leads were played by Bob Burns and Martha Raye. Burns, the Arkansas Traveler and regular on Crosby's Kraft Music Hall, played his usual rustic type and in this film introduced his patented musical instrument, the bazooka. Made out of two gas pipes and a funnel, the bazooka was a kind of countrified bassoon. The army's anti-tank device in World War II looked something like it and it was named as such. Martha Raye made her debut in this film and would go on to do two other films with Crosby. She sings her famous Mr. Paganini number here and her bumptious character complement Burns quite nicely. Crosby sings A Cowboy's Lullaby to Cuddles trying to calm him down during the train ride and the famous Empty Saddles during a scene at the Madison Square Garden Rodeo. He gets a ballad entitled I Can't Escape From You to sing while on the road with Farmer.

The most famous song to come out of this film is I'm An Old Cowhand which was a big seller for him. It's an ensemble number with just about everyone in the cast participating including as I said before, Roy Rogers and also a young Louis Prima. Now there's an interesting combination. I'm An Old Cowhand was written with words and music by Crosby's good friend and sometime singing partner Johnny Mercer. IT's a good film and I'm surprised Paramount didn't come up with any more Western type material for Bing considering he did a lot of recording of that material. The only other western type ballads he ever sung on the screen were The Funny Old Hills from Paris Honeymoon and When The Moon Comes Over Madison Square from Rhythm on the River. Crosby would have to wait until he essayed Thomas Mitchell's part in the remake of Stagecoach during the 1960s to be in another western. And there he sang no songs at all.

One song that was cut out from the film was a duet by Crosby and Farmer called The House Jack Built for Jill. Crosby did record it for Decca as a solo and it is heard towards the end of the film in background. I was lucky to get a bootleg recording from the cut soundtrack. Frances talk/sings a la Rex Harrison and Bing sings it in his inimitable style. I think this was supposed to be a finale and it was cut at the last minute. The film does end somewhat abruptly and you can tell there was more shot. Maybe one day it will be restored. Rhythm on the Range was remade by Paramount with Martin and Lewis as Pardners. Dean and Jerry are good, but it ain't a patch to the original.

Saturday, February 5, 2011


As reported on this blog and elsewhere, Kathryn Crosby, the widow of Bing Crosby, suffered a horrible accident before Christmas. Kathryn was seriously injured, and her 2nd husband was killed. I am pleased to report that Kathryn is doing a lot better, and she is on the mend.

Here is what Malcolm MacFarlane, editor of the International Crosby Club had to say:

"The latest news is that Kathryn is doing very well, surprising her doctors and surgeons. She is at one of her homes, with a part-time nurse, and has started receiving ‘guests’. Her friends are starting to visit in order to play cards with her, and she’s quite excited at how well 2010 turned out for Bing Crosby Enterprises as the Bing/Bowie duet on iTunes was downloaded tens of thousands of times. She’s also getting back involved in planning the 2011 BCE activities, including a very revamped website. So, the ‘old’ Kathryn is starting to roar back"

Our thoughts and continued prayers go out to Kathryn and the Crosby family...

Thursday, February 3, 2011


The Clemmer Theatre, as the Bing Crosby Theater was originally called, opened in 1915. That is also the year many film historians consider the beginning of the modern era of the motion picture. These important events all occurred in 1915: • An attempt by Thomas Edison and other inventers of movie-making equipment to control the production and distribution of movies was finally defeated in the courts. Filmmakers were released to experiment and competition spurred them on. • D.W. Griffith’s “The Birth of a Nation” premiered and set the standard for all future films. Griffith’s movie created the language of modern film, with thematic narrative, naturalistic acting, and “shots” inter-spliced to tell a smooth story. • Charlie Chaplin left his old film company and started making his own, more nuanced kind of film comedy. His “The Tramp” and “The Bank”, both released in 1915, set a new standard for comedies, just as Griffith had set the pattern for drama. • In 1915 theater owner Carl Laemmle traveled from New York to the tiny town of Hollywood, California, where he established the first modern film studio. His Universal Pictures Company was soon followed by Warner, Fox and MGM, and a new industry was underway. The Clemmer Theater played a part in this transformation of the movie industry. As late as 1912, the typical movie theater was a converted storefront with a sheet on the wall for a screen and benches for seats. Then a few New York entrepreneurs realized that it was not just the content of movies but also their settings that was limiting their appeal. These entrepreneurs built the first “movie palaces”, theaters that looked like opera houses and seated thousands. The first two were the magnificent Regent and Mark Strand Theaters in New York City, both built in 1913. The first of the luxurious Roxy Theater chain opened on Broadway in 1915. The idea was to shed the slightly disreputable image of movies and lure all classes to them. Just the fact that a more educated class started attending movies had an effect on their content. Movies moved from the amusement park model to the theatrical model. The Clemmer was in the first wave of this movie palace tradition. It opened before more famous theaters, such as Los Angeles’ the Million Dollar Theater (1918) and Grauman’s Chinese Theater (1922). The Bing Crosby Theater is one of only a handful of these very early movie palaces still in existence. After its first decade, The Clemmer was scooped up in a campaign by movie studios to own the theaters where their films were shown. Paulsen and Clemmer sold their interests to Carl Leammle’s Universal Studios in 1925. The new manager, Roy Boomer, decided to try to generate interest by hiring live acts to perform between movies. One of the performers he hired was a local jazz drummer and sometime singer by the name of Harry Crosby( aka Bing Crosby). In 1929, Universal sold the theater to a new Spokane owner who renamed it the Audian. Two years later the theater changed hands again and became the State Theater. Operating under that name for the next half century, it became a fixture of Spokane’s entertainment scene until it closed as a movie theater in 1985. The building was purchased by the Metropolitan Mortgage Company and completely renovated before reopening in 1988. Its stage was enlarged and it began a new life as a theater for live shows under the name of Metropolitan Theater of Performing Arts, “The Met.” When its sponsor, the Metropolitan Mortgage Company, went out of business in 2004, the theater was purchased by Spokane businessman Mitch Silver and continued its roll as a venue for touring shows and for local organizations that use it as their home stage. In 2006, a citizens group received Silver’s permission to rename the theater and raised money to build a new marquee. It has been The Bing Crosby Theater ever since...

Wednesday, February 2, 2011


Here is a review I discovered online that I did for Amazon way back in 2001. I think I still have this CD, even though I have all of the tracks now on the "Chronological" from Jonzo. Those were the days... This masterpiece of a CD was issued by Decca/MCA in 1991, and I can not believe that it is taking me this long to review it. Unfortunately, sales of the CD was not what they expected, but I see no reason not to like it. Bing Crosby is often remembered only for "White Christmas" and pitching Minute Maid orange juice, and that is not the case. Bing could sing ANY type of song from country to jazz, and he also sang with the best of them. Actress Jane Wyman once said "if you can't sing with Bing, you can't sing!" This CD is full of goodies. Included is Bing's two great duets with Louis Jordan, "Your Socks Don't Match" and (my favorite)"My Baby Said Yes". Louis was kind of the Fats Waller of the late 1940s, but Bing actually sounded great with him. There are also a few duets that Bing did with the underrated Connee Boswell. I think that Connee was the best white jazz singer of all-time. Other favorites on the disc include:"On The Sunny Side Of The Street" with Lionel Hampton,"I Still Suits Me" with Lee Wiley, and "When My Dreamboat Comes Home" with Bob Crosby. The only track that I think was a poor choice for this collection was "Pennies From Heaven" with Louis Armstrong and Frances Langford. It's a good recording, but not really a jazz selection. Once again, I can not say enough about this CD. The sound is of high quality, and the selections are nearly perfect. Even if you are not a huge fan of Bing Crosby, if you are looking for some great jazz, then this is your CD...

Tuesday, February 1, 2011


Paul Whiteman not only had one of the greatest bands of the 1920s, but he also was responsible for introducing the world to such future icons as Bing Crosby, the Dorsey Brothers, Eddie Lang, and countless others. In the late 1940s and early 1950s, he also had a teen show which was the forerunner of American Bandstand and gave a young Dick Clark his first job. Today many people do not remember Whiteman much, but he was the pioneer in many facets of entertainment. Whiteman was born in Denver, Colorado in 1890. After a start as a classical violinist and violist, he led a jazz-influenced dance band, which became popular locally in San Francisco, California in 1918. In 1920 he moved with his band to New York City where they started making recordings for Victor Records which made the Paul Whiteman Orchestra famous nationally. Whiteman became the most popular band director of the decade. In a time when most dance bands consisted of six to 10 men, Whiteman directed a much larger and more imposing group of up to 35 musicians. By 1922, Whiteman already controlled some 28 ensembles on the east coast and was earning over a $1,000,000 a year. In May 1928 Whiteman signed with Columbia Records, and stayed with that label until September 1931, when he returned to Victor. He would remain signed with Victor until March 1937. In the 1920s the media referred to Whiteman as "The King of Jazz". Whiteman emphasized the way he had approached the already well-established style of music, while also organizing its composition and style in his own fashion. While most jazz musicians and fans consider improvisation to be essential to the musical style, Whiteman thought the genre could be improved by orchestrating the best of it, with formal written arrangements. Whiteman's recordings were popular critically and successful commercially, and his style of jazz music was often the first jazz of any form that many Americans heard during the era. For more than 30 years Whiteman, referred to as "Pops", sought and encouraged musicians, vocalists, composers, arrangers, and entertainers who looked promising. In 1924 Whiteman commissioned George Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue, which was premiered by Whiteman's orchestra with George Gershwin at the piano. Another familiar piece in Whiteman's repertoire was Grand Canyon Suite, by Ferde Grofé. Whiteman hired many of the best jazz musicians for his band, including Bix Beiderbecke, Frankie Trumbauer, Joe Venuti, Eddie Lang, Steve Brown, Mike Pingitore, Gussie Mueller, Wilbur Hall (billed by Whiteman as "Willie Hall"), Jack Teagarden, and Bunny Berigan. He also encouraged upcoming African American musical talents, and initially planned on hiring black musicians, but Whiteman's management eventually persuaded him that doing would be career suicide due to racial tension and America's segregation of that time. However, Whiteman crossed racial lines behind-the-scenes, hiring black arrangers like Fletcher Henderson and engaging in mutually-beneficial efforts with recording sessions and scheduling of tours.In late 1926 Whiteman signed three candidates for his orchestra: Bing Crosby, Al Rinker, and Harry Barris. Whiteman billed the singing trio as The Rhythm Boys. Crosby's prominence in the Rhythm Boys helped launch his career as one of the most successful singers of the 20th century. Paul Robeson (1928) and Billie Holiday (1942) also recorded with the Paul Whiteman Orchestra. Whiteman had 28 number one records during the 1920s and 32 during his career. At the height of his popularity, eight out of the top ten sheet music sales slots were by the Paul Whiteman Orchestra. During the 1930s Whiteman had several radio shows, including Kraft Music Hall and Paul Whiteman's Musical Varieties, which featured the talents of Bing Crosby, Mildred Bailey, Jack Teagarden, Johnny Mercer, Ramona, Durelle Alexander and others. In the 1940s and 1950s, after he had disbanded his orchestra, Whiteman worked as a music director for the ABC Radio Network. He also hosted Paul Whiteman's TV Teen Club from Philadelphia on ABC-TV from 1949–1954 (with announcer Dick Clark), and continued to appear as guest conductor for many concerts. His manner on stage was disarming; he signed off each program with something casual like, "Well, that just about slaps the cap on the old milk bottle for tonight. Whiteman was married four times; to Nellie Stack in 1908; to Miss Jimmy Smith; to Mildred Vanderhoff in 1922. In 1931 Whiteman married motion picture actress Margaret Livingston following his divorce from Vanderhoff that same year. The marriage to Livingston lasted until his death. Whiteman resided at Walking Horse Farm near the village of Rosemont in Delaware Township, Hunterdon County, New Jersey from 1938 to 1959. After selling the farm to agriculturalist Lloyd Wescott, Whiteman moved to New Hope, Pennsylvania for his remaining years. The King Of Jazz died at the age of 77 in Doylestown, Pennsylvania on December 29, 1967...