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Birth name: Harry Lillis Crosby Born: May 3, 1903(1903-05-03), Tacoma, Washington, USA
Died: October 14, 1977 (aged 74), Madrid, Spain
Genre(s): Jazz, Pop standards, Dixieland
Occupation(s): Singer, Actor
Years active: 19261977
Label(s) Brunswick, Decca, Reprise, RCA Victor, Verve, United Artists
Associated acts: Dixie Lee
Harry Lillis Bing Crosby (May 3, 1903 October 14, 1977) was an American popular singer and actor whose career lasted from 1926 until his death.
Bing Crosby was one of the first actors to work in multiple media formats. He made records (you know LPs?). He worked on the radio and made major motion pictures too. He is cited among the most popular musical acts in history and is currently the most electronically recorded human voice in history. Crosby is also credited as being the major inspiration for most of the male singers of the era that followed him, including Frank Sinatra, Perry Como, and Dean Martin. Yank magazine recognized Crosby as the person who had done the most for American G.I. morale during World War II and, during his peak years, around 1948, polls declared him the "most admired man alive," ahead of Jackie Robinson and Pope Pius XII. Also during 1948, the Music Digest estimated that Crosby recordings filled more than half of the 80,000 weekly hours allocated to recorded radio music. Clarinetist Artie Shaw described Crosby as "the first hip white person born in the United States."
Crosby had a lot of influence on the postwar recording history. In 1947, he invested US$50,000 in the Ampex company, which developed the world's first commercial reel-to-reel tape recorder, and Crosby became the first performer to pre-record his radio shows and master his commercial recordings on magnetic tape. He gave one of the first Ampex Model 200 recorders to his friend, musician Les Paul, which led directly to Paul's invention of multitrack recording. Along with Frank Sinatra, he was one of the principal backers behind the famous United Western Recorders studio complex in Los Angeles.
In 1962, Crosby was the first person to receive the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.
Bing Crosby Early life
Harry Lillis Crosby was born in Tacoma, Washington, on May 3, 1903, in a house his father built (1112 North J Street). His family moved to Spokane, Washington in 1906 to find work.
He was the fourth of seven children: five boys, Larry (18951975), Everett (18961966), Ted (19001973), Harry 'Bing' (19031977), and Bob (19131993); and two girls, Catherine (19051988) and Mary Rose (19071990). His parents were English-American Harry Lincoln Crosby (18701950), a bookkeeper, and Irish-American Catherine Helen (affectionately known as Kate) Harrigan (18731964), a daughter of a builder from County Mayo in Ireland. His paternal ancestors, Thomas Prence and Patience Brewster, were born in England and immigrated to the U.S. in the 17th century; Brewster's family came over on the Mayflower.
Bing Crosby got the name Bing from his childhood friend Valentine Hobart who enjoyed the humor of "The Bingville Bugle" with him. His friend compared Bing with Bingo from the humorous newsletter. The "O" was dropped so Harry became Bing.
In 1917, Crosby took a summer job as property boy at Spokane's "Auditorium," where he witnessed some of the finest acts of the day, including Al Jolson, who held Crosby spellbound with his ad-libbing and spoofs of Hawaiian songs. Crosby would later say, "To me, he was the greatest entertainer who ever lived."
In 1920, Bing attended Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington. He wanted to become a lawyer. He had a B+ average and was a prankster.
He started playing drums and got good at it. He was invited to play with a local band called "Musicaladers," managed by Al Rinker. He made a lot of money with the band and decided to drop out of school.
Bing Crosby Popular success
In 1926 Paul Whiteman discovered Crosby and his singing partner Al Rinker. Paul Whiteman was a famous bandleader of that time. He hired the duo for $150 per week. Can you imagine living on that amount today......no way Jose or ......Not........or another expression that might work is "go drink oil". It's an Indian thing. Maybe it has to do with oil making your insides slippery. That could help if your constipated. It's basically an insult like "go fly a kite" or "get bent" or.........We can explore this later.
Back to Bing Crosby.... Crosby and Rinker made their debut on December 6, 1926 at the Tivoli Theatre (Chicago). Their first recording, "I've Got The Girl" was a bad mark on their career. It was badly recorded.
A pianist and up and coming songwriter, Harry Barris, was added to the group. Whiteman called the group The Rhythm Boys. The trio joined Whiteman's vocal team, which included Bix Beiderbecke, Jack Teagarden, Tommy Dorsey, Jimmy Dorsey, and Eddie Lang and singers Mildred Baily and Hoagy Carmichael.
Crosby became the star of both the Rhythm Boys and Whiteman's band. In 1928 he had his first number one hit, "Ol' Man River." Crosby partied a bit and also wasn't satisfied with how things were going with Whiteman. He and the Rhythm Boys left the band and joined the Gus Arnheim Orchestra. They signed up with Brunswick Records and recorded under Jack Kapp. As time passed Crosby was given priority over the rest of the Rhythm Boys. Crosby and the other members of the Rhythm Boys couldn't see eye to eye anymore and split. Crosby's solo career began. Sounds similar to what happened with Elvis and some other bands that worked with famous singers.
In the 1930s ten of the top 50 songs were either Bing Crosby solo songs or him with others. In 1932 Crosby starred in The Big Broadcast, the first of 55 films that Crosby got top billing. He appeared in a total of 79 movies.
Bing Crosby Music continued
About the same time Bing started his solo radio work. He co-starred with The Carl Fenton Orchestra on a popular CBS radio show. He did a weekly show that lasted ten years.
Crosby did a lot of entertaining for the American troops fighting in Europe. He also did propaganda broadcasts to anger the German forces. Crosby was nicknamed "der Bingle." When it came to G.I. morale Crosby beat out President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, General Dwight Eisenhower, and even Bob Hope.
Crosby's biggest musical hit was his recording of Irving Berlin's "White Christmas," which he introduced through a 1942 Christmas-season radio broadcast and the movie Holiday Inn. The song remains Bing's best-selling recording of all time. Crosby's "White Christmas" has sold over 100 million copies around the world, according to Guinness World Records.
Bing Crosby Motion Pictures
According to ticket sales, Bing Crosby is, at 1,077,900,000 tickets sold, the third most popular actor of all-time behind Clark Gable and John Wayne. Crosby is also, according to Quigley Publishing Company's International Motion Picture Almanac, tied for second on the "All Time Number One Stars List" with three other actors: Clint Eastwood, Tom Hanks, and Burt Reynolds. Crosby's most popular film, White Christmas, grossed $30 million in 1954, which, when adjusted for inflation, equals $233 million in 2004 dollars. Crosby also won an Academy Award as Best Actor for Going My Way in 1944 and was critically acclaimed for his performance as an alcoholic entertainer in The Country Girl. He also partnered with Bob Hope in seven popular Road to comedies between 1940 and 1962.
Bing Crosby Style
Crosby also elaborated on a further idea of Al Jolson's, one that Frank Sinatra would ultimately extend further: phrasing, or more specifically, the art of making a song's lyric ring true. "I used to tell (Sinatra) over and over," said Tommy Dorsey, "there's only one singer you ought to listen to and his name is Crosby. All that matters to him is the words, and that's the only thing that ought to for you, too."
It is often said that Crosby made his singing and acting "look easy," or as if it were no work at all: he simply was the character he portrayed, and his singing, being a direct extension of conversation, came just as naturally to him as talking, or even breathing. Journalist Donald Freeman said of Crosby, "There is only one Bing Crosby and the time has come now to face the issue squarely he happens to be that unique, awesome creature, an artist."
Bing Crosby Career statistics
Bing Crosby's sales and chart statistics place him among the most popular and successful musical acts of the 20th century.
Crosby earned 23 gold and platinum records in his career, according to Joseph Murrells, author of the book "Million Selling Records."
Bing Crosby was the first recipient of the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1962. He was also inducted into the radio and popular music hall of fames. His overall music sales are estimated at between 500,000,000 (five hundred million) to 900,000,000 (nine hundred million). Bing is a member of that exclusive club of the biggest record sellers that include Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley, Michael Jackson, and The Beatles.
In 2007, Bing Crosby was inducted into the Hit Parade Hall of Fame.
Bing Crosby Entrepreneurship
Crosby preferred to pre-record his radio shows and there were never enough lacquer/aluminum recordings disks. This lead to the development of magnetic tape sound recording. He used his power to innovate new methods of reproducing audio of himself. In 1946, he wanted to shift from live performance to recorded transcriptions for his weekly radio show on NBC sponsored by Kraft. But NBC and competitor CBS refused to allow recorded radio programs (except for advertisements).
The musicians' union and ASCAP preferred radio shows to be aired live.
A rumor is that he wanted to record his work so he would have more time to golf. It does seem though that golf was not the most important reason for him liking prerecording.
Crosby was an early riser and worked hard. He felt that he could produce better quality work by recording it. He wasn't really looking for more spare time. He could avoid airing mistakes in timing and control that are bound to happen in live shows. He owned the company that produced the show so he could buy the best equipment and arrange it as he wanted. On CBS and NBC he had to wear a toupee but in his own productions he didn't need to. Crosby preferred to wear a hat. He could also record short promotions for his latest investment, the world's first frozen orange juice to be sold under the brand name Minute Maid.
The recording technology available was not really that great. The acetate surface coating of the aluminum discs was little better than the wax that Edison had used at the turn of the century, with the same limited dynamic range and frequency response.
In 1947 one of Bing Crosby's production staff got a look at the German Magnetophon that Jack Mullin had brought back from Radio Frankfurt. The machine was a magnetic tape recorder made by BASF and AEG in Germany. It could record 20 minutes of high-quality sound per reel.
In 1947 Bing Crosby hired Mullin to use his German machine to record his Philco show. The advantage to using this machine was that the work could be edited. As Bing wrote in his autobiography, "By using tape, I could do a thirty-five or forty-minute show, then edit it down to the twenty-six or twenty-seven minutes the program ran. In that way, we could take out jokes, gags, or situations that didn't play well and finish with only the prime meat of the show; the solid stuff that played big. We could also take out the songs that didn't sound good. It gave us a chance to first try a recording of the songs in the afternoon without an audience, then another one in front of a studio audience. We'd dub the one that came off best into the final transcription. It gave us a chance to ad lib as much as we wanted, knowing that excess ad libbing could be sliced from the final product. If I made a mistake in singing a song or in the script, I could have some fun with it, then retain any of the fun that sounded amusing."
Bing Crosby Mass Media continued
Mullins agreed with Crosby about the advantages of using the German recording machine.
Crosby had more machines made Ampex. In 1948, the seond season of Philco shows was taped using these new machines.
A hillbilly comedian, Bob Burns, made an appearance on Crosby's show and got great laughs. A couple weeks later he didn't get as many laughs and looked to Crosby for help. The laughs from the really funny show were dubbed in. This was one first laugh tracks that a lot of shows used as a standard device. The Ampex tape recorders reproduced things better than any other recording device of the time. Bob Hope started using tape recordings too.
Mullins and Crosby continued to work on making a videotape recorder. Crosby wanted to have the same recording advantage that he had with radio in his visual productions. The Fireside Theater, sponsored by Procter and Gamble, was his first television production for the 1950 season. Mullin had not yet succeeded with videotape, so Crosby filmed the series of 26-minute shows at the Hal Roach Studios. The "telefilms" were syndicated to individual television stations.
Crosby got out of television production so he could continue developing the idea of videotape. Mullins demonstrated an early sample of videotape in 1952 but was still having problems dealing with high tape speed. The Ampex team led by Charles Ginsburg made the first videotape recorder. Ampex solved the problem of tape speed by recording at a slant. In 1958 Ampex developed a color videotape system. Crosby sold his videotape interests to the 3m company and got out as a possible pioneer in the tape recorder. He did make a great contribution because he allowed Mullins machine to be used in 1948 and he financed the early years of the Ampex company.
Records that played at 78 rpms came out about 10 years after World War II. These were introduced by the Decca Company. 33 1/3 rpm vinyl records were introduced by Columbia in 1948. Was this the beginning of the Columbia Club that gave us 14 audiocassettes/cds for a penny and then a bunch more after at very high prices? I don't really regret it now because some of that music kept me sane. Of course I didn't eat well or study while I listened to the music. I did end up with an okay education though. Ask me about it if you want. There really is a clown college......just kidding. It's a car and all the clowns get in to learn and aren't allowed to come out until they graduate. Philco joined Columbia in selling a new $29.95 record player with a jeweled stylus (not steel). Records used to wear out after 75 plays before this happened.
Bing Crosby Thoroughbred horse racing
Bing Crosby liked bought a racehorse in 1935. He later became a founding partner and member of the Board of Directors of the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club. One of his friend's father, Charles S. Howard, owned Seabiscuit.
Bing Crosby Personal life
Crosby was married twice. His first wife was actress/singer Dixie Lee. Crosby was married to her from 1930 until her death from ovarian cancer in 1952. My mother died of ovarian cancer in November of 2010. You'd think by now they would have figured out how to cure cancer, at least some of it.
They had four sons. The rumor is that the 1947 movie: The Story of a Woman is loosely based on Dixie's life. After Dixie died Crosby played the field and then settled on Kathryn Grant. He married her in 1957. Bing and Kathryn had three children Harry, Mary (best known for portraying Kristin Shepard, the woman who shot J.R. Ewing on TV's Dallas), and Nathaniel.
In his younger years Crosby drank a lot and used marijuana. Crosby was influenced by Louis Armstrong's music and use of marijuana. Crosby and Armstrong both told interviewers that they wanted marijuana decriminalized. Crosby told his son Gary to stay away from alcohol and to try marijuana instead. Bing Crosby smoked two packs a day until his second wife made him stop. He quit smoking his pipe and cigars after he had lung surgery in 1974.
Crosby liked sports and from 1946 to the mid-1960s was part-owner of the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Crosby almost died from an infection in his right lung in 1974. He recovered and made some albums and did some concert tours. In 1977 Crosby had a stage accident when he backed off a stage and fell into an orchestra pit. He ruptured disc in his back and was in the hospital for a month. In England, Crosby recorded his final album, Seasons, and his final TV Christmas special with guests David Bowie and Twiggy. He did a duet with Bowie. They sang "Peace on Earth and Little Drummer Boy." This duet became an annual holiday classic. The duet was also listed by TV Guide as one of the 25 most memorable musical moments of 20th century television.
At the conclusion of his work in England, Bing flew alone to Spain to hunt and play golf. Shortly after 6:00 p.m. on October 14, Crosby died suddenly from a massive heart attack after a round of eighteen holes of golf near Madrid where he and his Spanish golfing partner had just defeated their two opponents. His last words were reported as, "That was a great game of golf, fellas." However, according to his companions and recorded by biographer Gary Giddins, Crosby then said, "Let's go get a Coke."
Bing Crosby Personal Life continued
Crosby's gravestone was mistakenly marked. It showed the year of his birth as 1904. The correct year was 1903. He was buried nest to his first wife and 9 feet deep so his second wife could be buried with him.
Crosby has been smart with his money and was known as one of Hollywood's wealthiest residents for many years right up to his death. The other residents that were also know as reasonably wealthy in Hollywood were Fred MacMurray, Lawrence Welk, and also Bob Hope.
In his will Crosby stated that his sons from his first marriage could not collect their inheritance until they were 65. Those sons had trust funds set up by their mother. They continued to collect from those funds up until their deaths. They didn't live long enough to collect from Crosby.
During Crosby's life he was seen as an ideal father but his son Gary wrote a very critical memoir that almost changed that. Gary describe his father as cold, remote, and both physically ad psychologically abusive.
Crosby's son Phillip defended his father in an interview in 1999 by the Globe.
Lindsay and Dennis actually agreed with Gary. They both eventually committed suicide.
Bing Crosby Personal Life continued
Phillip died in 2004.
Dennis' daughter, Denise is also an actress and known for her role as Tasha Yar on Star Trek: The Next Generation.
Crosby's youngest son from his second marriage, Nathaniel Crosby, was a great golfer and won the U.S. Amateur at age 19 in 1981. That made him the youngest-ever winner of that event. Tiger Woods broke the record.
Crosby's, widow Kathryn Crosby did some local theater work and also did television tributes to Crosby. She didn't have money problems because Crosby had left her a bunch of money in his will. The money Kathryn got was controlled by a foundation Bing had set up for her.
Bing Crosby Legacy
The house that Crosby lived in during his childhood in Spokane, Washington is now being used as the Alumni association office for Gnzaga University.
Crosby is a member of the National Association of Broadcasters Hall of Fame in the radio division.
The family has established an official website. It was launched October 14, 2007, the 30th anniversary of Bing's death.
Bing Crosby Filmography
The King of Jazz (1930)
Reaching for the Moon (1930)
Confessions of a Co-Ed (1931)
The Big Broadcast (1932)
College Humor (1933)
Too Much Harmony (1933)
Going Hollywood (1933)
We're Not Dressing (1934)
She Loves Me Not (1934)
Here Is My Heart (1934)
Two for Tonight (1935)
The Big Broadcast of 1936 (1935)
Millions in the Air (1935) (singing voice for Paul Newlan)
Anything Goes (1936)
Rhythm on the Range (1936)
Pennies from Heaven (1936)
Waikiki Wedding (1937)
Double or Nothing (1937)
Dr. Rhythm (1938)
Sing You Sinners (1938)
Paris Honeymoon (1939)
East Side of Heaven (1939)
The Star Maker (1939)
Road to Singapore (1940)
If I Had My Way (1940)
Rhythm on the River (1940)
Road to Zanzibar (1941)
Birth of the Blues (1941)
My Favorite Blonde (1942) (Cameo)
Holiday Inn (1942)
Road to Morocco (1942)
Star Spangled Rhythm (1942)
Going My Way (1944)
The Princess and the Pirate (1944) (Cameo)
Here Come the Waves (1944)
Out of This World (1945) (singing voice for Eddie Bracken)
Duffy's Tavern (1945)
The Bells of St. Mary's (1945)
Road to Utopia (1946)
Blue Skies (1946)
My Favorite Brunette (1947) (Cameo)
Welcome Stranger (1947)
Variety Girl (1947)
Road to Rio (1947)
The Emperor Waltz (1948)
A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court (1949)
Top o' the Morning (1949)
The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad (1949)
Riding High (1950)
Mr. Music (1950)
Here Comes the Groom (1951)
Angels in the Outfield (1951) (Cameo)
The Greatest Show on Earth (1952) (Cameo)
Son of Paleface (1952) (Cameo)
Just for You (1952)
Road to Bali (1952)
Scared Stiff (1953) (Cameo)
Little Boy Lost (1953)
White Christmas (1954)
The Country Girl (1954)
Anything Goes (1956)
High Society (1956)
The Joker Is Wild (1957) (Voice Only)
Man on Fire (1957)
Alias Jesse James (1959) (Cameo)
Say One for Me (1959)
Let's Make Love (1960) (Cameo)
High Time (1960)
Pepe (1960) (Cameo)
The Road to Hong Kong (1962)
Robin and the 7 Hoods (1964)
Cinerama's Russian Adventure (1966) (documentary) (narrator)
Cancel My Reservation (1972) (Cameo)
That's Entertainment! (1974)
Bing Crosby Short subjects
Two Plus Fours (1930)
I Surrender Dear (1931)
One More Chance (1931)
Dream House (1932)
Billboard Girl (1932)
Hollywood on Parade (1932)
Hollywood on Parade No. 11 (1933)
Blue of the Night (1933)
Sing, Bing, Sing (1933)
Hollywood on Parade No. A-9 (1933)
Just an Echo (1934)
Star Night at the Cocoanut Grove (1934)
Screen Snapshots Series 16, No. 5 (1937)
Don't Hook Now (1938)
Hollywood Handicap (1938)
Screen Snapshots Series 18, No. 4 (1938)
Screen Snapshots Series 18, No. 9 (1939)
Screen Snapshots: Hollywood Recreations (1940)
Swing with Bing (1940)
Angels of Mercy (1941)
Meet the Stars #6: Stars at Play (1941)
Show Business at War (1943)
Road to Victory (1944)
The All-Star Bond Rally (1945)
Hollywood Victory Caravan (1945)
Screen Snapshots: Hollywood Celebrations (1945)
Screen Snapshots: Famous Fathers and Sons (1946)
Screen Snapshots: Hollywood's Happy Homes (1949)
Alberta Vacation (1950)
You Can Change the World (1951)
Crusade for Prayer (1952)
Screen Snapshots: Hollywood Mothers and Fathers (1955)
Showdown at Ulcer Gulch (1956) (voice)
Bing Presents Oreste (1956)
The Heart of Show Business (1957)
Just One More Time (1974)
Bing Crosby Television
The Bing Crosby Show (1954)
The Edsel Show (1957)
Bing Crosby in London (1961)
The Bing Crosby Show (1964-1965)
Bing Crosby in Dublin (1965)
Goldilocks (1971) (voice)
Dr. Cook's Garden (1971)
Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire: A Couple of Song and Dance Men (1975)
The Bell Telephone Jubilee (1976)
Bing Crosby Discography
These are Crosby's LPs.
1945 Merry Christmas 1953 Le Bing: Song Hits of Paris
1953 Some Fine Old Chestnuts
1954 Selections from White Christmas (w/ Peggy Lee and Danny Kaye)
1954 Bing: A Musical Autobiography
1955 Merry Christmas (retooling of 1945 78rpm album of the same name, later re-named White Christmas in 2000)
1956 High Society [Soundtrack] (w/ Frank Sinatra, Grace Kelly, and Louis Armstrong)
1956 Songs I Wish I Had Sung the First Time Around
1956 Bing Sings Whilst Bregman Swings
1957 Bing With A Beat
1957 How Lovely Is Christmas
1957 New Tricks (album)
1958 Fancy Meeting You Here ( w/ Rosemary Clooney)
1958 A Christmas Sing with Bing Around the World
1958 That Christmas Feeling
1959 How the West was Won
1959 Join Bing and Sing Along
1960 El Senor Bing
1960 Bing and Satchmo (w/ Louis Armstrong)
1960 101 Gang Songs
1961 Holiday in Europe
1962 On the Happy Side
1962 I Wish You a Merry Christmas
1963 Return to Paradise Islands
1963 Great Country Hits
1964 America, I Hear You Singing (w/ Frank Sinatra and Fred Waring)
1964 Robin and the 7 Hoods Soundtrack (w/ Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and Sammy Davis, Jr.)
1964 12 Songs of Christmas (w/ Frank Sinatra and Fred Waring)
1965 That Travelin' Two-Beat (w/ Rosemary Clooney)
1965 The Songs I Love
1968 Thoroughly Modern Bing
1968 The Songs I Love
1968 Hey Jude Hey Bing
1971 A Time to Be Jolly
1972 Bing 'n' Basie (w/ Count Basie)
1975 A Southern Memoir
1975 That's What Life Is All About
1975 Bingo Viejo
1975 A Couple of Song and Dance Men (w/ Fred Astaire)
1976 Live at the London Palladium
1976 At My Time of Life
1976 Feels Good Feels Right
1976 Beautiful Memories
Bing Crosby Radio
First Network Radio Program (1931, CBS), unsponsored, 6 nights a week, 15 minutes.
The Cremo Singer (1931-1932, CBS), 6 nights a week, 15 minutes.
Unsponsored (1932, CBS), initially 3 nights a week, then twice a week, 15 minutes.
Chesterfield's Music that Satisfies (1933, CBS), broadcast two nights, 15 minutes.
Bing Crosby Entertains for Woodbury Soap (1933-1935, CBS), weekly, 30 minutes.
Kraft Music Hall (1935-1946, NBC), Thursday nights, 60 minutes until Jan. 1943, then 30 minutes.
Armed Forces Radio (1941-1945; World War II).
Philco Radio Time (1946-1949, ABC), 30 minutes weekly.
Chesterfield (1949-1952, CBS), 30 minutes weekly.
The Minute Maid Show (1949-1950, CBS), 15 minutes each weekday morning; Bing as disc jockey.
The General Electric Show (1952-1954, CBS), 30 minutes weekly.
The Bing Crosby Show (1954-1956, CBS), 15 minutes, 5 nights a week.
A Christmas Sing with Bing (1955-1962, CBS, VOA and AFRS), 1 hour each year, sponsored by the Insurance Company of North America.
Ford Road Show (1957-1958, CBS), 5 minutes, 5 days a week.
The Crosby-Clooney Show (1960-1962, CBS), 20 minutes, 5 mornings a week, with Rosemary Clooney.