Sunday, December 22, 2019


"White Christmas" was Bing's biggest holiday recording, but it was not his only one. Bing recorded more than 70 songs that fit in with the Christmas holiday season beginning in 1935 when Jack Kapp, the head of Decca, suggested that Bing record "Adeste Fidelis" and "Silent Night," Bing was reluctant, saying he did not want to record sacred tunes for commercial gain. Eventually Bing consented to recording them, after arrangements were made to donate the profits to charities.

Here is a list of Bing's winter holiday recordings. Der Bingle was definitely the king of Christmas...

1 9 3 5
Silent Night (recorded for private charitable distribution)
Adeste Fidelis
Silent Night

1 9 4 2
Happy Holiday
I've Got Plenty to be Thankful for
White Christmas
Adeste Fidelis
Faith of our Fathers
God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen
Let's Start the New Year Right

1 9 4 3
Jingle Bells (with the Andrews Sisters)
Santa Claus is Coming to Town (with the Andrews Sisters)
I’ll Be Home For Christmas
Going My Way

1 9 4 5
Ave Maria from The Bells of Saint Mary’s
The Happy Prince (narrative)
The Sweetest Story Ever Told

1 9 4 7
White Christmas
Silent Night
The Christmas Song
Oh Fir Tree Dark
The Small One (narrative)

1 9 4 9
Twelve Days of Christmas (w Andrews Sisters)
Here Comes Santa Claus (w Andrews Sisters)
The First Noel
You're All I Want for Christmas
Deck the Halls / Away in a Manger / I Saw Three Ships
Good King Wenceslas / We Three Kings / Angels We Have Heard on High 

1 9 5 0
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
A Crosby Family Christmas -- Parts 1 and 2
That Christmas Feeling
Poppa Santa Claus (w Andrews Sisters)
Mele Kalikimaka (w Andrews Sisters)
Silver Bells (w Carole Richards)
Marshmallow World
Looks Like a Cold, Cold Winter

1 9 5 1
Christmas in Killarney
It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas

1 9 5 2
Sleigh Ride
Little Jack Frost Get Lost (w Peggy Lee)
Sleigh Bell Serenade (

1 9 5 4
White Christmas (w Danny Kaye, Peggy Lee, Trudy Stevens)
Snow (w Danny Kaye, Peggy Lee, Trudy Stevens)

1 9 5 5
Christmas is a Comin'
Is Christmas Only a Tree?
The First Snowfall
A Christmas Sing with Bing [CBS radio broadcast released on LP]

1 9 5 6
I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day

1 9 5 7
How Lovely is Christmas

1 9 5 8
Say One For Me
The Secret of Christmas
Just What I Wanted for Christmas

1 9 6 2
Winter Wonderland
Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas
What Child is This?
The Holly and the Ivy
The Little Drummer Boy
Holy Night
The Littlest Angel
Let it Snow!
Hark the Herald Angels Sing
It Came Upon a Midnight Clear
Frosty the Snowman 
I Wish You a Merry Christmas 
While Shepherds Watched their Sheep

1 9 6 3
Christmas Dinner Country Style
Do You Hear What I Hear?

1 9 6 4
It's Christmas Time Again (w Fred Waring's Pennsylvanians)
Go Tell It On the Mountain (w Frank Sinatra and Fred Waring's Pennsylvanians)
The Secret of Christmas (w Fred Waring's Pennsylvanians)
Christmas Candles (w Fred Waring's Pennsylvanians)
We Wish You the Merriest (w Frank Sinatra and Fred Waring's Pennsylvanians)

1 9 6 5
The White World of Winter

1 9 7 0
A Time to Be Jolly
I Sing Noel
Round and Round the Christmas Tree
The First Family of Christmas
The Song of Christmas
A Christmas Toast
And the Bells Rang
Christmas Is
When You Trim Your Christmas Tree
Christmas is Here to Stay

1 9 7 3
Christmas Star

1 9 7 7
Peace on Earth / The Little Drummer Boy (w David Bowie)
On the Very First Day of the Year
Sleigh Ride

Sunday, December 15, 2019


It took Hollywood nearly 15 years to craft the cheerful and unabashedly sentimental musical White Christmas out of Irving Berlin’s hit song. But the 1954 movie starring two of America’s most popular stars—Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye—was worth the wait, becoming the biggest box office hit of 1954 and to this day consistently ranking on lists of classic holiday movies.

Bing Crosby first performed the song “White Christmas” on his CBS radio show on Christmas Day in 1941. He reprised it in the 1942 film Holiday Inn, in which he starred with Fred Astaire, when his character impresses a love interest by crooning a new song he’d just written called “White Christmas.” It impressed the Academy too, winning the Oscar for Best Song. The song hit the charts and became the all-time best-selling single for over 50 years. (Until Elton John’s tribute to the late Princess Diana, “Candle in the Wind,” finally took that honor.)

So it seemed a no-brainer to build another movie around the hit song. Irving Berlin wrote new songs and repurposed some earlier ones, and a story was strung together featuring a male song-and-dance act and singing sisters on their way to a Vermont inn run by a general the men knew from the war. The set for the Vermont Inn appears in both Holiday Inn and White Christmas. By the time principal photography began, Paramount had acquired the new wide-screen Technicolor and VistaVision technologies, which would show off the song and dance numbers in vibrant color.

White Christmas was supposed to reunite Bing Crosby with Fred Astaire, who’d appeared together in both Holiday Inn and Blue Skies (1946). But there was a snag: Fred Astaire didn’t like the script and refused to participate. Paramount replaced him with Donald O’Connor (who’d later gain acclaim as Cosmo the piano player in Singin’ in the Rain), but when O’Connor fell ill right before production was to begin, he had to pull out. Desperate for a replacement, Paramount contacted Danny Kaye, who asked for, and received, a then unheard-of fee: $200,000 plus 10 percent of the gross.

“It is the first movie that I’ve been connected with since Holiday Inn that has the feel of a Broadway musical,” an excited Berlin wrote to his friend Irving Hoffman as production began.

As the song-and-dance team, Crosby and Kaye had fun together, improvising on set, as did the singing sisters played by Vera-Ellen and Rosemary Clooney (yes, the cousin of George). The classic number “Sisters,” in which Crosby and Kaye vamp around waving blue-feathered fans, wasn’t even in the original story. But the actors were goofing around on set, and director Michael Curtiz found their capers so funny, he wrote them in. The actors kept cracking up during the take, but everyone loved the authenticity of the moment, so the laughter stayed. The scene where Crosby’s character tells Clooney’s his theory of what foods cause which dreams before launching into “Count Your Blessings” was almost completely improvised. Crosby even made up words like “weirdsmobile.”

Rosemary Clooney, a trained vocalist, sang her own songs in the movie, and sometimes those of her co-star Vera-Ellen. (The other vocalist covering Vera-Ellen’s songs was Trudy Stevens). Vera-Ellen came to White Christmas an accomplished dancer—at 18 she’d been one of the youngest Radio City Rockettes. Danny Kaye could cut the rug, but wasn’t nearly as nimble on his feet as Vera-Ellen, and toward the end of “The Best Things Happen When You’re Dancing,” he accidentally tripped her. (Luckily he caught her gracefully, saving the take.) Though he wasn’t the principal choreographer, Bob Fosse, who would go on to create the distinctive dance moves in Chicago, Cabaret, and All That Jazz, staged some of the dance numbers.

While the public adored the sweetly good-natured musical, some critics felt it was too saccharine. Bowley Crowther wrote a harsh review in The New York Times on October 15, 1954, saying, “The confection is not so tasty as one might suppose. The flavoring is largely in the line-up and not in the output of the cooks. Everyone works hard at the business of singing, dancing and cracking jokes, but the stuff that they work with is minor.”

But audiences didn’t care. White Christmas took in $12 million, the biggest box office hit of the year. And it endures as a heart-warming Christmas classic to revisit at this time of year. Even the New York Times admitted it was a good-looking film, saying, “The colors on the big screen are rich and luminous, the images are clear and sharp, and rapid movements are got without blurring.”

Tuesday, December 10, 2019


Here is a really nice article that was featured in the British newspaper Express. It was written by Deborah Collcutt...

Christmas Day is planned to ­perfection. Preparations don’t start too early – traditionally in mid-December – but no detail is too small to be considered. From the meticulously-selected Christmas tree decorations to the lunch menu of baked ham, everything is just right.

The highlight of the day is a rendition of Christmas songs, performed live by the ­children for assembled friends and family. All hardly surprising, perhaps, given the household in question is that of Bing Crosby’s son Harry, whose late father’s name encapsulates the magic of Christmas as much as Santa Claus himself. Bing’s grandchildren even perform their grandpa’s world-famous song White Christmas every year in tribute to the master crooner. “My son, Nicholas, and daughter, Thea, sing and play White Christmas on the piano for everyone,” says Harry, who lives in New York.

Harry, 61, continues: “It’s funny, I used to cringe at the idea of playing my father’s music but not now. People really love it – it’s a sustainable thing.”

Nearly 80 years after its 1942 release, White Christmas remains the world’s ­biggest-selling single – a whopping 50 million copies globally. Unsurprisingly, it remains a staple of radio and in-store music playlists over the festive season.

Now it is back in the Top 10 after 40 years and on course for a Christmas Number One after a new album, Bing at Christmas, a remastered recording with the London Symphony Orchestra, was released last month.

And the family is making a concerted effort to keep Bing’s memory alive and ­introduce him to new audiences. To that end, they are in talks about a dramatization of his life, along the lines of hit series The Crown on Netflix.

Harry was just 19 when his famous father died aged 74 on a golf course in Spain. At the time, Harry had been performing with Bing and singer Rosemary Clooney, aunt of movie star George, on an international tour, which had started in Britain.

“We had played several shows at the Palladium in London and were due to tour Japan and Australia but Dad wasn’t feeling well,” recalls Harry, who had classical ­training in piano, composition and orchestration.

“He terminated the tour because he wasn’t feeling up for stuff, travelling for six months over the world.”

Father and son closed the tour in Brighton on October 10, 1977 – Dame Gracie Fields was there to see the show – then went their separate ways. It was the last time Harry would see his father alive.

“I had just turned 19 and I decided to go back to school. I applied to Rada (Royal Academy of Dramatic Art) and Lamda (London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art) to major in theatre and music but they were full up. The school year had started.

“I invited the dean of Lamda to come and see me perform at the Palladium with my dad. I sang a duet with Rosemary and I sang alone. Afterwards he said, ‘Start Monday!’

So I went to school during the day and ­performed with dad at night. I didn’t go out of my way to tell people who my dad was.

My objective was to ­assimilate as part of the group. But, of course, I couldn’t join them for a pint in the pub in the evenings because I was performing, plus Dad and I were living in an apartment in Mayfair.”

So Bing, who had been in generally good health according to his son, went to Spain on his own to play golf. Harry believes his father never ­recovered after falling off the stage seven months earlier at his 50th anniversary ­concert in California.

Having toppled 30 feet into the orchestra pit and ruptured a disc in his back, he spent a month in the hospital. In Spain, four days after their last concert, Bing collapsed and died of a massive heart attack at the end of his first day’s game of golf.

Harry, the only family member in Europe, had to fly home to California with his father’s body.

There his mother, Bing’s second wife, actress Kathryn Grant, now 86, his actress sister, Mary, and young brother Nathaniel, an amateur golfer, were waiting. After the funeral, Harry returned to Britain to ­continue his studies.

Harry Crosby says his father never pushed him into the music business.

“Certainly at that time I didn’t feel guilty that I wasn’t with him – you can’t change the outcome of things – but you grow up quickly when you lose a parent that young,” he says.

“Dad and I had a really strong ­relationship, both professionally and personally. As a father and a son, we were exceptionally close.”

Harry remains deeply saddened by ­comments made by his late half-brother, Gary – Bing’s eldest son from his first ­marriage to actress and nightclub singer, Dixie Lee – after their father’s death.

In a highly critical memoir, Going My Own Way, Gary depicted Bing as cruel, cold, remote, and physically and psychologically abusive.

But it is a description that Harry does not recognise. “I don’t know where it came from. I only know my own experience with my dad which was one of love, ­support, friendship and respect,” he says.

“My dad never pushed us into music or entertainment – we were exposed to it and I loved working together.

“We went fishing together and golfing and he was able to impart on us not just that we were loved but also the rules of the road – the way to behave. So I was sad to read those things.”

But there have been disputes between Bing’s two families dating back to Dixie’s death from cancer in 1952 when she left her share of their estate in trust to her sons.

Bing left his estate to Kathryn, and HLC Properties, Ltd was formed to manage his interests. In 1999, the families settled a ­dispute over the estates for a reported £1.2million. Now Harry and descendants of his half-siblings no longer see each other.

“It’s sad. I wish we did but we were raised in a different town and we never did see much of each other because of the age difference.

While Bing dedicated his life to singing –he didn’t play an instrument, apart from drums early on in his career – he also helped develop recording equipment so artists didn’t always have to perform live to ­preserve their voices.

After Bing’s death, Harry went into banking.

He studied business after a spell writing jingles for commercials but he maintains a passionate interest in music and he and his Croatian wife, Mihaela, support the performing arts Lincoln Center in New York.

These days, Harry plays at home for ­pleasure with Nicholas, 15, and Thea, 11, and loves the anonymity living in New York affords him.

“Mihaela is from Zagreb and her background is in microbiology,” he says.

“It was a joy she didn’t know who my father was,” laughs Harry.

“When we met, she said, ‘I love the fact your dad likes music, like you. Can I meet him?’”

The Crosby and Clooney families remain close although Harry hasn’t seen George for some time.

Now Harry is preparing to start his Christmas shopping, always a ­poignant moment because it means going into a mall where a certain song is always playing.

But while his younger sister Mary, says she found White Christmas heartbreaking to listen to after their father’s death, it’s always been a pleasure for Harry.

“It’s always wonderful to hear, it makes me feel good,” he says. “Mind you Little Drummer Boy is great, too.”

Bing recorded the latter as a duet with David Bowie in London a month before he died for a television ­special, Bing Crosby’s Merrie Olde Christmas, which was to be his last. It was broadcast posthumously on Christmas Eve 1977.

“They just banged it out. They were going to cover it as a duet and then it turned into a single,” says Harry.

“They barely rehearsed but they were both such pros and of course they had a lot of respect for each other.”

But if he had to choose one festive single to save from the waves on a desert island? “White Christmas. Absolutely. Game over"...

Sunday, December 8, 2019

Sunday, December 1, 2019


Bruce Krogan is back to kick off our Christmas season with a review of the popular 1942 Bing flick Holiday Inn...

Finally Paramount gave Crosby a big budget musical and didn't rely on his charm and personality to carry the film. The budget went to hire such outside talent as Fred Astaire and Irving Berlin. And none of them disappoint.

In the first of two films Astaire and Crosby did together the characters are remarkably the same. Astaire is the elegant and charming show business professional who's ambitious for success. Crosby is the talented, but lazy partner who just wants a life of ease and comfort and not to work more than he has to. Small wonder that their double act broke up. But now enter a complication. They both get interested in the same girl who in this film is Marjorie Reynolds.

Crosby dreams up the idea of a nightclub/hotel called Holiday Inn where they only work on holidays. He wants Reynolds to help with the shows there. Astaire wants her for his act after his other girl partner Virginia Dale runs off with a millionaire. And the fun starts. Now since this was Crosby's home studio and he's first billed, just who do you think gets Reynolds in the end? As maid Louise Beavers put it, don't sit and mope because some slicker stole your gal.

Irving Berlin writes a majority of new songs to supplement a couple from his vast trunk of songs mostly about our holidays. By that time Berlin had extracted an agreement which became standard for all the films he wrote for. Not one note of non-Berlin music is ever heard in a score he writes. Just listen to this and just about any other film Berlin is associated with. Even music in the background is his.

The hit song in this was supposed to be Be Careful It's My Heart, the Valentine's Day song, sung by Crosby and danced to by Astaire and Reynolds. It did have a good deal of success. But the success of White Christmas was exponentially phenomenal. It netted Irving Berlin his one and only Academy Award and for Bing Crosby his number one item on vinyl. In fact everyone's number one item on vinyl.

I don't know if Bing Crosby ever set out to become the voice of Christmas, but if he did he was a marketing genius. If he's known and appreciated for anything with today's audience, it's for that. White Christmas became the first Yule song he was identified with although he had recorded some Christmas material before that. After this he started doing the holiday music in serious. Just think, along around Columbus Day, record companies even now reissue his Christmas stuff every year and his totals as largest selling recording artist in history grow once again. That's why the Beatles and Elvis, etc. don't have a prayer of overtaking him.

In fact White Christmas's initial success was so great that Decca wore out the original master putting out records to meet the demand. So in 1945, Decca got Bing, the Ken Darby Singers and John Scott Trotter to re-record it almost note for note. The original 78 had White Christmas with the flipside of Let's Start the New Year Right also from Holiday Inn. The newer version which most people hear has as it's flipside God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen.

I don't want to ignore Fred Astaire's contribution here. He does a nice comic turn with I Can't Tell a Lie, the Washington's birthday number where Crosby keeps changing the tempo to upset him and Reynolds. The Fourth of July yields a number for each. Reynolds is kept from the show by Bing's machinations and Astaire has to "improvise" something. He "improvises" Firecrackers and anyone who knows anything about Astaire knows how hard he worked to get that spontaneous feeling in his dancing. Bing sings The Song of Freedom, reminiscent of James Cagney's Grand Old Flag number from Yankee Doodle Dandy also out in 1942 and Song of Freedom is also reminiscent of what Paramount could have given Bing in the 1930s had they hired someone like Busby Berkeley to give Bing some of the production numbers that Dick Powell had at Warner Brothers.

So what more is there to say, but sit back and enjoy the fun...