Saturday, May 25, 2019


A forgotten player in the early years of Bing was Al Rinker. Rinker was an American musician who began his career as a teen performing with Bing Crosby in the early 1920s in Spokane, Washington in various musical groups. In 1925 the pair moved on to Los Angeles, eventually forming the Rhythm Boys trio with singer/songwriter/pianist Harry Barris.

Barris wrote the songs "Mississippi Mud", "I Surrender, Dear", and "Wrap Your Troubles in Dreams" among others. The singing group worked with Paul Whiteman's Big Band for three years. They went out on their own for a year until Crosby effectively dissolved the group to go solo. The Rhythm Boys were filmed for the Paul Whiteman movie The King of Jazz (1930) singing "Mississippi Mud", "So the Bluebirds and the Blackbirds Got Together", "A Bench in the Park", and "Happy Feet".

According to a filmed interview of Rinker, Crosby performed the first two weeks on his first film while on daytime work release from jail after crashing his car into a telephone pole while driving drunk. After the Rhythm Boys broke up, they reunited only once, to appear together on the Paul Whiteman Presents radio broadcast on July 4, 1943.

In 1952, a song for which Rinker wrote the music with lyrics by Floyd Huddleston, "You Can't Do Wrong Doin' Right", appeared in the films Push-Button Kitty and The Affairs of Dobie Gillis. He also wrote the song "Everybody Wants to Be a Cat" also with Floyd Huddleston for the Disney animated children's movie The Aristocats (1970). Rinker had also written the songs for the MGM musicial The Duchess Of Idaho starring Van Johnson in 1950.

Rinker was born on December 20, 1907 in Tekoa, Washington; his mother, Josephine, was an enrolled member of the Coeur d'Alene Tribe and a devout Roman Catholic. He and his siblings grew up on the Coeur d'Alene Indian reservation near DeSmet, Idaho.

It was a musical family: their father, Charles, played fiddle and called square dances, and their mother played piano every evening after supper. His younger brother Charles Rinker became a lyricist who worked frequently with composer Gene de Paul. Rinker married Elizabeth Neuberger on October 25, 1938.

Their older sister Mildred, under her married name of Mildred Bailey, had embarked on a musical career in Los Angeles before Rinker and Crosby became known. She became a well-known jazz singer after the Rhythm Boys arranged for Paul Whiteman to "discover" her singing at a party; he hired her to sing with his band. For a time she was known as "Mrs. Swing."

Julie Rinker is Al Rinker's daughter. Julie Rinker was one of Dean Martin's original Dean's Girls on The Dean Martin Show. Julie Rinker is also the female voice of the Three's Company Theme Song. Al died suddenly at on June 11, 1982 at the age of 74. In later years, Al appeared to be bitter towards to Bing Crosby. He seemed to say that Bing forgot his Rhythm Boy roots and discarded his former partners. Bing did give numerous movie roles to Harry Barris, and he recorded a couple of Rinker's sons, so whether or not the bitterness was deserved is beyond me. Al Rinker was talented in his own right, and he was a part of an exciting time in popular music...

1 comment:

  1. Not to pass over, Al was a very good looking young man.

    I Gidden's first volume on Bing he quotes Al's daughter as saying that Harry Barris needed the help, but her didn't need any help from Bing.