Columbia 1773-D – Bing Crosby – 1929

Bing Crosby in the early 1930s, as pictured in the Eveready Book of Radio Stars, c. 1932.

Old Time Blues has honored the iconic Bing Crosby before, with a look at his theme song “Where the Blue of the Night”, at which point I eulogized him quite thoroughly.  But now let us turn our attention two years earlier to Der Bingle’s first solo effort, while he was still just one of Paul Whiteman’s Rhythm Boys.

Born on May 3, 1903 in Tacoma, Washington as Harry Lillis Crosby, Bing got his nickname from a local girl, after a popular comic strip in the Spokane Spokesman-Review called The Bingville Bugle.  That is unless you’d prefer to take Bing’s own version of how he acquired the moniker: when he was “a mere broth of a lad,” he liked to play cops and robbers (or cowboys and Indians, by another account), and carried around a pair of toy six-guns all the time, saying “bing! bing! bing!” in imitation of firing.  One way or the other, Crosby was inspired by Al Jolson to turn from binging to singing.  While he was in college at Gonzaga University, Bing joined a band of high school students, including Al Rinker, called the Musicaladers.  Later, Bing dropped out of college to go with Rinker south to California (he got the last laugh though, when Gonzaga U awarded him an honorary doctorate), where the duo cut their first record in 1926: “I’ve Got the Girl” and another unissued title with Don Clark’s Los Angeles Biltmore Hotel Orchestra (evidently before Earl Burtnett took over the gig), albeit recorded a bit too slow.  With help from Rinker’s big sister Mildred Bailey, the pair got their big break later that year when they were hired by Paul Whiteman to sing—with the addition of singer and songwriter Harry Barris—as the Rhythm Boys.  Though the Rhythm Boys made several records of their own, Bing didn’t make his solo recording debut until 1929.  Crosby remained with Whiteman’s troupe, recording for Victor and Columbia, until 1930; the band had traveled to California to make their blockbuster motion picture King of Jazz, and the Rhythm boys decided to stick around afterward to try and make it big in Hollywood.  They made one record with Gus Arnheim’s Cocoanut Grove Orchestra for Victor—”Them There Eyes”—but parted ways thereafter, so Bing embarked upon his solo career in earnest.  He continued to sing with Arnheim’s orchestra until 1931, when he signed with Brunswick.  He continued to record for Brunswick until producer and manager Jack Kapp “poached” him for his new Decca label in 1934.  The rest (as they so often say) is history, Bing continued to skyrocket to stardom through the 1930s and 1940s, securing his position as one of pop-culture’s first “superstars,” which he maintained until his death on October 14, 1977.

Columbia 1773-D was recorded on March 14, 1929 in New York City.  It is Bing Crosby’s first solo record, though many more preceded it with Bing taking a secondary role.  Bing is backed by Matty Malneck on violin, Roy Bargy on piano, and the seldom heard Ed “Snoozer” Quinn on guitar.

First up, Bing sings the charming Jo Trent and Louis Alter composition “My Kinda Love”, delivering a performance quite a bit jazzier than he would later become known for.

My Kinda Love, recorded March 14, 1929 by Bing Crosby.

He backs it up with “Till We Meet”, another fine performance.  You may note that Bing in these earlier days tended to sing in a higher register than in his “crooner” days.

Till We Meet, recorded March 14, 1929 by Bing Crosby.

Brunswick 6472 – Bing Crosby with Guy Lombardo and his Royal Canadians – 1933

Guy Lombardo. From 1932 P&G publication.

Guy Lombardo. From 1932 P&G publication.

Today we honor the consummate bandleader Guy Lombardo, whose Royal Canadians were a staple on records and radio for many decades—and who better to help celebrate the occasion than old Der Bingle?

Gaetano Alberto Lombardo was born in London, Ontario on June 19, 1902.  His father had each of his children learn to play different instruments so they could accompany his singing.  The Lombardo brothers put their first orchestra together when they were still children, and they first played in public in 1914.  Ten years later, Guy Lombardo and his Orchestra made their first recordings for the Starr Piano Company in Richmond, Indiana, released on the Gennett label.  After Gennett, the Royal Canadians recorded briefly for Brunswick, which yielded two issued sides on Vocalion in 1927, and then with Columbia, with whom he stayed until 1931.  Following his engagement with Columbia, he took his band to Brunswick from 1932 to ’34, then to Decca, as many Brunswick artists did after former employee Jack Kapp founded the company.  The Royal Canadians switched to Victor for a period, before returning to Decca in 1938.  Lombardo’s was perhaps most famous for his New Years Eve shows, which began at the Roosevelt Hotel in 1929, and continued until after his death, with the tradition carried on by his band, despite competition from Dick Clark.  Though Lombardo’s “sweet” style of music was derided by many jazz fans who preferred their music served hot, he was reportedly hailed by the likes of both Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington.  Guy Lombardo died of a heart attack on November 5, 1977.

Brunswick 6472 was recorded January 12, 1933 in New York City by Bing Crosby accompanied by Guy Lombardo’s Royal Canadians.  Both songs originate from the 1933 musical film 42nd Street.

First, Bing croons “Young and Healthy”, with Lombardo’s Royal Canadians in fine form.

Young and Healthy

Young and Healthy, recorded January 12, 1933 by Bing Crosby with Guy Lombardo and his Royal Canadians.

On the flip-side, Lombardo takes top billing on “You’re Getting to Be a Habit With Me”.

You're Getting to Be a Habit With Me

You’re Getting to Be a Habit With Me, recorded Janury 12, 1933 by Guy Lombardo and his Royal Canadians with Bing Crosby.

Brunswick 6226 – Bing Crosby – 1931

Old Der Bingle, circa 1932.

Old Der Bingle, circa 1932.

May 3, 2016 marks the 113th birthday of the best selling recording star of the 20th century, and one of the biggest pop-culture icons in all of history, Bing Crosby who was born on this day in 1903.

Harry Lillis Crosby was born May 3, 1903 in Tacoma, Washington, and moved to Spokane at the age of three.  As a youngster, he acquired the nickname “Bingo from Bingville” from a neighborhood girl with whom he shared an interest for The Bingville Bugle, a weekly feature in the Spokesman-Review.  The nickname was later shortened to “Bing.”  As a boy, Crosby worked at the Spokane Auditorium, where he saw Al Jolson perform.  While attending Gonzaga University, Bing joined a band of high school students, including Alton Rinker, called the Musicaladers.  After the group disbanded, Bing and Al went south to California, making their first record with Don Clark’s orchestra in October of 1926.  Crosby and Rinker were soon discovered by Paul Whiteman and drafted into his band as the “Rhythm Boys”, with Harry Barris added to make it a trio.  The Rhythm Boys stayed with Whiteman’s troupe until 1930, when they decided to remain in California after appearing in King of Jazz.  The group broke up later in 1930, leaving Crosby as a solo act.  Appearing for a time with Gus Arnheim’s orchestra at the Cocoanut Grove, Bing had a early success with “I Surrender, Dear”, and after leaving Arnheim’s company, had his first big hit with “Out of Nowhere” for Brunswick records.  On September 2, 1931, CBS began airing 15 Minutes with Bing Crosby, which helped to further catapult Bing into his huge success.

Crooning popular ballads in the same vein as Russ Columbo, with periodic whistling and interjections of his trademark “buh-buh-buh-boo”, Bing hit his peak in the 1930s, and stayed there for about a decade.  Over the course of the decade, Crosby made numerous appearances in motion pictures.  His first starring role came in 1932 with The Big Broadcast, which also featured the Boswell Sisters, Cab Calloway, and many other great talents.  His greatest film success came in 1944 with Going My Way, his performance in which won him an Academy Award for Best Actor  In 1934, Bing followed producer Jack Kapp to the newly founded Decca records (and in the process sacrificed much of the jazz that his style had previously held).  On Christmas Day in 1941, Bing introduced Irving Berlin’s “White Christmas”, becoming the best-selling single record of all time with his May 1942 recording for Decca.  In the 1940s, Crosby pioneered the practice of pre-recording his radio programs.  Though his style of music fell from favor by the 1950s, Bing remained popular throughout the rest of his life, at the end of his life appearing in a Christmas special with David Bowie.  After a game of golf in Madrid, Bing Crosby collapsed and died from a massive heart attack on October 14, 1977.

Brunswick 6226 was recorded November 23 and December 3, 1931 in New York City.  The band, probably a studio group, as Brunswick commonly employed, may have included Mannie Klein and Jack Mollick on trumpets, Tommy Dorsey on trombone, Benny Krueger on alto sax, possibly Harry Bluestone or Harry Hoffman, Walter Biederman, Walt Edelstein, Joe Baum on violins (lordy, that’s a whole lot o’ violins!), possibly Joe Meresco on piano; Eddie Lang on guitar; Hank Stern on tuba and Larry Gomar on drums.

First up is Bing’s radio theme song, “Where the Blue of the Night (Meets the Gold of the Day)”.  It’s worth noting that this take, “A”, is different than the one I’ve heard on modern reissues.

Where the Blue of the Night Meets the Gold of the Day

Where the Blue of the Night—Meets the Gold of the Day, recorded November 23, 1931 by Bing Crosby.

The reverse, “I’m Sorry, Dear”, is a fairly typical of Bong’s early ’30s romantic songs, much like his classic “Just One More Chance”.

I'm Sorry, Dear

I’m Sorry, Dear, recorded December 3, 1931 by Bing Crosby.

Victor 21274 – Paul Whiteman and his Orchestra – 1928

Whiteman's famous "Potato Head" emblem.

Whiteman’s famous “Potato Head” emblem.

On this day, March the twenty-eighth, we remember the the “King of Jazz” himself, the eminent Paul Whiteman, on the 126th anniversary of his birth.  To commemorate the occasion, I present one of his finest records, from the height of his fame, a time when his band contained the likes of Bix Beiderbecke, Bing Crosby, and so many other great figures of roaring twenties jazz.

Paul Whiteman was born in Denver, Colorado to a musical family.  His father, Wilberforce Whiteman, was a music instructor at the Denver County public schools, and at one point had as a pupil a young Andy Kirk, who later became the leader of the Twelve Clouds of Joy in Kansas City.  As a youngster, Paul took up the viola, and played in several symphony orchestras, and led a band in the U.S. Navy during the Great War.  After the war’s end, Whiteman started his own dance band, and began recording with Victor as “Paul Whiteman and his Ambassador Orchestra.”  His first record, featuring “Whispering” paired with “The Japanese Sandman”, was a great success, and started him on the path to fame.

Over the next years, Paul Whiteman was a mainstay in the Victor catalog, and his records sold well, but he did not achieve his greatest fame until the last years of the decade.  In 1924, Whiteman commissioned George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue”, which he premiered with his concert orchestra at An Experiment in Modern Music at Aeolian Hall in New York.  In 1927, Whiteman was able to hire away some of the top musicians from Jean Goldkette’s band, including Frankie Trumbauer and Bix Beiderbecke, and he also picked up the Rhythm Boys: Al Rinker, Harry Barris, and Bing Crosby.  By that time, he was making his name as the “King of Jazz” (the legitimacy of which is hotly debated), and was among the most famous names in music of the 1920s.  In 1930, the Whiteman band starred in a grand technicolor motion picture vaudeville revue entitled King of Jazz.  Into the Great Depression, Whiteman maintained his status for several years, introducing talent such as the charming Ramona (and her Grand Piano).  Eventually, as swing became king, Whiteman’s time in the limelight began to fade.  Though he made several generally immemorable swing records, and appeared on the first issue of Johnny Mercer’s Capitol Records in 1942, he never returned to the fame he knew in the 1920s.  Whiteman continued to lead bands sporadically into his twilight years, and died of a heart attack in 1967.

Victor 21274 was recorded in two separate sessions in 1928, the first on February 18, and the second ten days later on February 28.  The band, featuring some of the top white jazz talent of the day, included Bix Beiderbecke on cornet, Eddie Pinder on trumpet, Bill Rank on trombone, Frankie Trumbauer on C-melody sax, Chester Hazlett on alto sax. Izzy Friedman on clarinet, Charles Strickfaden on tenor sax, Roy Bargy on piano, Min Leibrook on tuba, Mike Pingatore on banjo, Mike Trafficante on string bass, and Hal McDonald on drums.

One of the great classics introduced by Whiteman’s orchestra, and a mainstay of his repertoire was Harry Barris’ “Mississippi Mud”.  The outstanding vocals on this side are provided by Miss Irene Taylor, assisted by the Rhythm Boys: Bing Crosby, Harry Barris, and Al Rinker, and a second vocal trio consisting of Jack Fulton, Charles Gaylord, and Austin Young.  This is take “3” of this side, take “2” was later issued on Victor 25366.

Mississippi Mud, recorded February 18, 1928 by Paul Whiteman and his Orchestra.

On “From Monday On”, another Harry Barris composition, Bing takes the lead vocal, backed up by the same group featured on the first side.  This side is take “6”, take “4” was later issued on Victor 25368 and take “3” appeared on Victor 27688.

From Monday On, recorded February 28, 1928 by Paul Whiteman and his Orchestra.

Really fine tunes, both of them.

Updated on May 31, 2018.