Bing Crosby talks about Elvis Presley
March 3, 2015
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Bring Crosby talking with his biographer Pete Martin in 1957.
Harry Lillis Crosby was born in Tacoma, Washington on May 3, 1903 in a house that his father built (Tacoma, Washington). His family later moved to Spokane, Washington in 1906 to find work. He was the fourth of seven children - five boys Larry (1895-1975), Everett (born 1896), Ted (born 1900) and Bob (1913-1993) and two girls Catherine (born 1905) and Mary Rose (born 1907) - born to English-American Harry Lowe Crosby (1883-1950), a bookkeeper and Irish-American Catherine Harrigan (1883-1964), the 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.
The nickname 'Bing' was bestowed upon on him by a childhood friend, Valentine Hobart, who shared Bing's interest in a newspaper comic strip called 'The Bingville Bugle'. Valentine Hobart began calling Harry Crosby 'Bingo from Bingville'. Eventually the nickname was shortened to 'Bing'.
Bing Crosby's parents loved music and they both loved to sing. Bing was even sent away to singing lessons, but dropped out because he did not like the demands of the training. Bing's favorite singer and idol was Al Jolson. However, Bing's style is quite different from Jolson's loud, high volume approach to singing.
Bing enrolled in the Jesuit-run Gonzaga College in Spokane in the fall of 1920 with the intent to become a lawyer. While in Gonzaga he sent away for a set of mail order drums. After much practice he soon became good enough and was invited to join a local band which was made up of mostly local high school kids called the 'Musicaladers', managed by one Al Rinker. He made so much money doing this he decided to drop out of school during his final year, to pursue a career in show business.
Elvis Presley receiving the Bing Crosby Award : August 28, 1971
Bing Crosby with Ingrid Bergman and their Oscars for the movie 'The Bells of St. Mary's'. In 1926, Crosby caught the eye of Paul Whiteman (a.k.a The King of Jazz) while singing on the vaudeville in Los Angeles. Hired to join one of the most popular bands in America, the fledgling vocalist would receive a musical education from the greatest musicians of the era. Unlike the typical vaudeville 'shouters', he learned to work the microphone (and the crowd) drawing the audience in with his smooth, gentle crooning.
Bing soon became the star attraction of the band and sang Whiteman's biggest hit of 1928, 'Ol' Man River'. However, his repeated youthful peccadilloes forced Whiteman to fire him 1930. Crosby had no desire to step out on his own, but was now forced into a solo career.
In early 1931, Bing landed his first hit under his own name with 'I Surrender, Dear'. He continued to chart throughout the year with 'Out Of Nowhere', 'Just One More Chance', 'Wrap your Troubles In Dreams' and 'I Found A Million Dollar Baby'. Crosby became so popular that Mack Sennett (of Keystone Kops fames) signed him up for six two reelers, each based on one of his songs. (Today this is Redistributed under the title of 'Road to Hollywood'.) That same year (1931), Bing made his solo debut, co-starring with The Carl Fenton Orchestra on a popular CBS radio show and by 1936, replaced his former boss, Paul Whiteman, as the host of NBC's Kraft Music Hall, a weekly radio where he would remain for the next ten years.
Crosby's entertainment trifecta led to major motion picture contract with Paramount Pictures beginning with The Big Broadcast Of 1932. He went on to star in some 55 full-length films. For five consecutive years, from 1944 thru 1948, Bing was the the #1 box office draw in America. In 1944 Bing won an Oscar for his performance in Going My Way. Crosby's biggest musical hit was his recording of Irving Berlin's (now famous) 'White Christmas' which is one of the (if not the) most popular songs ever recorded, besides being Number #1 three times, 'White Christmas,” is the only single to make American pop charts twenty times, every year but one between 1942 and 1962 and in 1998, after a long absence, his 1947 version hit the charts in Britain (This is just Bing Crosby's versions of the songs). He collected 21 other gold records, including 'I'll Be Home for Christmas', 'Too-Ra-Lo-Ra-Loo-Ral' and 'Swinging on a Star'.
Crosby's desire to pre-record his radio shows, combined with a dissatisfaction with the available aluminum recording disks, was a significant factor in the development of magnetic tape recording and the radio industry's adoption of it. Crosby became an investor in Ampex, and Bing Crosby Enterprises became a distributor of the Ampex 200 tape recorder used to record the radio programs. History repeated when Crosby was asked to do a television show and demanded that it be pre-recorded, spurring the development and adoption of videotape.
As arguably the most popular musical act of the 20th century Bing Crosby played a central role in American cultural and musical history. Even today his statistics are dazzling; 1700 recordings, 383 of those in the top 30 and of those 41 hit number one. For 15 Years (1934, 1937, 1940, 1943-1954) he was among the top ten in box office draw and for five of those years (1944-49) he was the largest in the world. He won four Academy Awards (For his songs Sweet Leilani, 1937, White Christmas, 1942, Swinging on a Star, 1944, In the Cool, Cool, Cool of the Evening, 1951 and for his Going My way, 1943) two Golden Globe Awards and in 1962 became the first recipient of the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award which list now contains a plethora of musical legends. He has been inducted into the respective Hall of Fame's for Radio and Popular Music.
At his death, he was worth over $150 million USD due to his shrewd investments in oil, real estate, and other commodities, making him one of Hollywood's then wealthiest residents along with Fred MacMurray and best friend Bob Hope. He left a clause in his will stating that his sons from his first marriage could not collect their inheritance money until they were in their 80s. Bing felt that they had already been amply taken care of by a trust fund set up by their mother, Dixie Lee. All four sons continued to collect monies from that fund until their deaths. However, none lived long enough to collect any of their inheritance from their father.
Bing Crosby died after a round of eighteen holes in which he shot a respectable 85. Of his death, biographer Giddins has written: 'His last words were characteristic. Walking off the eighteenth green of the La Moraleja Golf Club, in a suburb of Madrid, Bing Crosby said, 'That was a great game of golf, fellas', and then took a few steps and was gone'. Shortly after 6:00 p.m. October 14, 1977, he suffered a massive heart attack.
It is interesting arguably the two greatest vocalists in the world both died in 1977.
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