Friday, June 28, 2013


Although movies were seen by almost everybody in the country in the early 1900s, the equipment used to produce and see them made it a limited medium. Radio waves, on the other hand, were easier to control as all you needed was a receiver (radio) that was small, easy to carry and inexpensive to operate. Millions of moviegoers enjoyed a weekly trip to the movie house, but millions more heard the radio broadcasts day and night at home, in the car and at work every day.

Movies during the ’10s and ’30s that people paid to see at the movie houses were simple, rapidly made sometimes in only a couple of hours, lacking in quality sound and presentation. The quality of the film was so bad that many were made to be destroyed after using it in only a few runs. Color film did not exist, but this new industry was learning fast how to perfect and how to present stories that had some meaning. Both sound and color, however, was on the horizon.

But the radio was more personable and the people liked the variety presented for their enjoyment. One big problem that plagued the producers was the presentation of programs on the East Coast and the West Coast. The western listeners could not hear the programs at the same time as the eastern listeners due to differences in time. All of the major stations, ABC, CBS, NBC, etc. were on the East Coast so to present the same program on the West Coast, it had to be rebroadcast to be presented for the western time slot.

When a show is done live, too many mistakes can occur. People sneeze, talk out of turn, forget lines, are sometimes inattentive and don’t come in at the right time. Many things can happen that the sponsors of shows don’t want to happen. Bing Crosby, the most popular singer in the 1920s, had a different type of voice that the traditional singers at that time had. Al Jolson, another top singer had to “belt” his songs out to audiences loud enough for people 50 to 75 feet away could hear him as he had no microphone. Bing Crosby became popular enough that he began demanding his sponsors begin pre-broadcasting his 30-minute show. They refused so Crosby quit. Crosby had heard recordings from German equipment and, after exploring what turned out to be a “game changer” for the radio industry, bought two recorders and tape that he believed was superior to any recorder available at the time.

In 1947, he invested $50,000 in Ampex Company and they built America’s first commercial reel-to-reel tape recorder. Crosby left NBC and began performing for ABC and became the first performer to pre-record his radio shows and master his commercial recordings on magnet tape. This opened the door for the Crosby Research Company to patent many inventions pertaining to radio that we use today, such as the Laugh Track. His friend, musician Les Paul, was given a record and this was all he needed to perfect a multi-layer soundtrack so he could record his fabulous music that made him one of the biggest stars in Hollywood.

In 1936, Crosby hosted the popular Kraft Music Hall, a weekly program that ran for 10 years. “Where the Blue of the Night (Meets the Gold of the Day)” became his theme song and signature tune.

Ten of top 50 songs for 1931 featured Crosby. In 1942, he recorded his biggest hit song, White Christmas.

Crosby was not only a top singer but he starred in more than 70 movies and he won an Academy Award for Best Actor for his role of Father Chuck O’Malley in the 1944 motion picture Going My Way. More awards were forthcoming in his role in the Bells of St. Mary the next year.

Crosby was married twice. His first wife, singer Dixie Lee, died from ovarian cancer in 1952. Their four sons, Gary, twins Dennis and Phillip, and Lindsey. Bing’s second wife, actress Kathryn Grant, increased the family by having three children.

In 1937, Crosby bought his first race horse and, in 1937, he became a founding partner in the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club and a member of its Board of Directors. He and Lindsey Howard (son of Charles Howard, owner of Seabiscuit) formed Binglin Stable to race and raise thoroughbred horses. The Binglin Stables partnership came to an end in 1953. In 1965, Crosby purchased the 40-room Hillsborough estate from Lindsey Howard and his second family, with Kathryn Grant, moved to the Bay Area.

Crosby was a caddy at the age of 12 and became passionate about golfing in 1930 while producing a film. He became a two handicap player and competed in both British and American Amateur championships. In 1937, he hosted the first National Pro-Am Golf Championship at Rancho Santa Fe Golf Club in Rancho Santa Fe, Calif. It became known as the “Crosby Clambake” and was moved to Pebble Beach, Carmel, Calif., in 1947.

While golfing in Spain on Oct. 14, 1977, Bing Crosby died of a massive heart attack on the greens after playing 18 holes of golf...


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