BING CROSBY—Day By Day
The International Club Crosby is pleased to be able to place this continually updated version of the ground-breaking book by Malcolm Macfarlane on to the Internet for all to see. Originally published by Scarecrow Press in 2001, all copies of the book have now been sold although it is still possible to obtain second-hand copies. The book looks at Bing’s activities virtually on a day-to-day basis and is an incredible record of an incredible life.
Click on the links below.
Bing Crosby is almost the forgotten man of show business—a situation that could not be contemplated in the mid-1940s when he was probably the most famous man in the world. To put his impact into modern terms, just imagine that, say, Tom Hanks (an award winning actor and cinema box office star) was also the top popular singer of today and in addition had a top rated weekly television show. You would then have some idea of Bing’s fame and ubiquity during his peak years.
However nowadays, to those persons under the age of twenty-five, Bing is simply the old man who sings with David Bowie in a Christmas video shown on MTV each year. To those a little older, Bing is the person who sang “White Christmas” and the one who appears in that film White Christmas which is shown annually around December 25. If they are a little more aware of the past, they may remember the film High Society. It is not hard to understand this situation; Bing died in 1977 and another generation has been born and come to maturity with fresh influences on them from the changing face of show business.
To those over sixty-five however, the name Bing Crosby has quite a different connotation, because his impact on them was considerable and he was the singer whose songs still bring back memories of precious occasions in their lives. But as this older generation passes on, the influence Bing had on the show business scene will gradually be forgotten. Also, since Bing’s death, and almost inevitably as is the custom of the times, there has been negative publicity about him arising from two books written in the mid-1980s which distorted and exaggerated certain facts.
For fame to be “legendary” nowadays, it helps to have died young, perhaps from a drug overdose or AIDS or even a car or plane crash. The more vulnerable the individual, the greater the fame and Bing simply does not qualify under any of the aforementioned headings. He had many problems to contend with but they were all hidden underneath his bland, easygoing Bing Crosby persona. The qualities he sought to display, particularly in his later years, of religious faith, the setting of a good example for youth, and the observance of high moral standards are not “commercial” in the media today. Also, in the last fifteen years of his life, Bing was only appreciated by the parents and grandparents of the emerging generation which naturally wanted their own cult figures instead of the smooth relaxed veteran who, seemingly, was constantly appearing in Minute Maid advertisements and who popped up every Christmas in what was hardly an avant-garde show.
Time moves on and new icons emerge to replace those of the past. This is how it should be, but we should never forget our history and the book you are now holding, Bing Crosby: Day by Day, is a detailed account of Bing’s existence and is an attempt to put the record of his life straight once and for all. It is intended to be objective and factual without putting a fan’s gloss on it, and the numerous reviews used are both critical and complimentary. Memories are notoriously unreliable and contemporary accounts have been used where possible. The book will also document Bing’s achievements for the generations to come and to put Bing’s own life into context, dates of important and relevant other events are included and quoted in italics.
During his lifetime, Bing Crosby was one of the best-loved entertainers of the twentieth century. He made his name as a singer with a distinctive and innovative style, which he developed into an easy and deep-voiced delivery that convinced the average man in the street that he could sing like Bing. He helped to transform the musical scene of the early thirties, and many singers modeled themselves on him. Stars such as Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Perry Como and Dean Martin always acknowledged the debt they owed to Bing. Radio and films brought Bing national prominence, and then as his film career developed, he achieved worldwide renown through his portrayal of Father O’Malley and from the Road films. His fame was unsurpassed during his peak years, but he seemed to be able to keep it all in perspective. Bing was the top film box office star in the USA for a record five consecutive years in the 1940s. He had over 300 chart hits in the United States, including thirty-six number one record hits. Bing received a plaque for sales of over 300 million records in 1970 and even now his achievements as a recording artist are still to be found in the Guinness Book of World Records with his version of “White Christmas” remaining as the most successful record ever.
Bing, the man, came from an ordinary background with strong religious overtones. An interesting mixture of a basically shy man who liked to sing, he was constantly aware of what he considered to be his good fortune and in a quiet way he was involved in many philanthropic undertakings. A complex person who despite many difficulties, particularly those involving his health and his family, successfully maintained a public image of an easygoing likable man throughout his life. Bing was widely read and enjoyed many different interests ranging from sports to wild life to objets d’art. His second wife described him as “a golfing priest,” which was undoubtedly an understatement, but which perhaps reflected the most important things in Bing’s life at that time. His religious faith, always a meaningful part of his day-to-day existence, became deeper as he aged. He had tired of the false glitter of show business as he got older, but nevertheless he was clever enough to perpetuate his image sufficiently to keep him as active in the entertainment industry as he wanted to be in his later years. Severe difficulties in his home life during the 1940s resulted in Bing spending much time away from his family and he probably remained guilty about this throughout his life. He tried very hard with the children of his second marriage, and certainly the results would appear to confirm that he was successful.
Something which is perhaps unusual for top stars is that Bing was a prolific letter writer. In his peak years, his secretaries churned out standard responses to the many basic fan letters while more detailed letters were dealt with by Bing himself. If a gift was sent to Bing, he would always reply personally and he kept up correspondence with many people over a considerable period of years. Some of these letters appear in this book.
What follows is a detailed chronology of Bing’s life, which I can confidently say is the most detailed and accurate account ever of his existence in terms of day-to-day activities. The picture created of Bing by this publication is of a hardworking man from a commonplace home who throughout his life was involved in charitable work. His passion for sports stands out and you may be surprised to read of his poor health in his later years. The various key dates in his family life are highlighted and it is not hard to imagine the pressures on Bing at certain times. I hope that you will find it as fascinating as I did as you trace Bing’s existence from his childhood, through his early show business career to the peak years when he was, arguably, the most well-known man on the planet. The change in his life in the 1950s and his reduced involvement in show business activities is documented, with the final years providing a glorious finish to an incredible story.
Bing’s career went through three distinct stages—singer—movie star—personality—and it was the last named which sustained his appeal for so long. This is not just a diary of a lifetime, but it is a record of one of the most important figures in the show business world during the twentieth century.
The basic idea for this project came from veteran Crosby author, Fred Reynolds, during a meeting at his house in Birmingham, England, in March 1992. Fred was explaining to Crosby biographer Gary Giddins how he had drawn up a detailed chronology of Bing’s life, which in fact had been shown to Bing in 1961. I said then that it would make interesting reading for Bing followers everywhere, but we did not take it any further because Fred was in the middle of putting together his marvelous series of books The Crosby Collection. It was Roger Osterholm who was the catalyst for me to sit down in 1995 and start to draw together information from every possible source about Bing’s life. Roger’s book Bing Crosby: A Bio-Bibliography contained a brief chronology and I decided to build on this and put together a more detailed diary which would also be virtually a history of the show business world of the time. Many years of research have followed, culminating in the book you now hold.
The bibliography gives details of the vast number of books, magazines, and newspapers I consulted, but I should like to pay particular tribute to the bible of the showbiz industry—Variety magazine. The many quotes I have used, both favorable and unfavorable, from the pages of this wonderful reference source have added immeasurably to this book and I can scarcely find words to express my thanks. Bing was of course an international star and to reflect this, I have drawn heavily on the prestigious British publication The Gramophone for the reviews of Bing’s records over the years. In turn, I am delighted to recognize the contribution of Trevor Wagstaff who spent many hours obtaining The Gramophone information.
Although their names are listed separately below, I must pay especial tribute to fellow researchers and kindred spirits, Lionel Pairpoint, Ron Bosley, and Gary Hamann who shared my enthusiasm for some of the minutiae I have unearthed in my studies. Lionel has produced an incredible book called . . . And Here’s Bing! covering Bing’s radio appearances and he and his long suffering wife, Joyce, have given great assistance to me throughout this project. Ron Bosley, who like me, was fascinated by the details of Bing’s life, was the conduit for the photographs used, not only from his own collection but also from those of Greg Van Beek, Carol Sherland, and Jim Cassidy, and again my thanks are due to him for this and also for access to his voluminous scrapbooks. Also I must not overlook Vera Bosley who fed and watered me on numerous occasions as I continued my investigations at their home. What can one say about Gary Hamann? The author Gary Giddins calls him “a one-man clipping factory” and not only have Gary Hamann’s several books proved invaluable but he has always been willing to drop everything to investigate one of many queries about the contents of the Los Angeles newspapers.
involved me in visiting many libraries to look at microfilms of old newspapers
and I should like to recognize in particular the help given by the staff at the
British Library, Newspaper Library, Colindale Avenue, London, and the staff at Manchester Library, England. Also my grateful thanks to
I was also helped tremendously by various libraries via e-mail as they answered my queries about Bing’s movements and sincere appreciation is expressed to the library establishments at Binghamton (New York), Birmingham (Alabama), Boise (Idaho), Bonner County Historical Society Museum (Idaho), Buffalo and Erie County (New York), Clark Fork (Idaho), Columbus (Ohio), Dayton and Montgomery County (Ohio), Detroit (Michigan), Edmonton (Alberta, Canada), El Centro (California), Elko County (Nevada—where Susan Roberts excelled in producing long lost clippings and booklets), Erie (Pennsylvania), Georgia State University (where Chris Paton delved into their Johnny Mercer collection), Grand Rapids (Michigan), Harrisburg (State Library of Pennsylvania—Emily Geschwindt, the reference librarian went far beyond anything I had expected), Indianapolis–Marion County (Indiana), Jasper–Yellowhead Museum and Archives (Alberta, Canada), Louisville (Kentucky), Madison (Wisconsin), Miami (Oklahoma), Minneapolis (Minnesota), Montreal (Canada), New Haven (Connecticut), Oakland (California), Oklahoma City, Omaha (Nebraska), St. Louis (Missouri), Merriam Park Branch Library, St. Paul (Minnesota—whose Cheryl Anderson was most persistent and diligent in obtaining the desired extracts from the local papers), San Jose (California), Santa Barbara (California), Sioux City (Iowa), Spokane (Washington—Nancy Gale Compau exceeded my expectations with a mass of photocopies), Toledo–Lucas County (Ohio), Tulsa City-County (Oklahoma), Youngstown and Mahoning County (Ohio) and the Bermuda National Library.
A special mention is due to Stephanie Plowman, Special Collections Librarian, Gonzaga University, for her invaluable help, and I would also like to thank Sylvia Kennick Brown (Archivist, The Whiteman Collection) at Williams College, Massachusetts, Jan Morrill, (Archivist for Bob Hope), and Jacqueline Reid, Reference Archivist, Duke University, Durham, North Carolina, (for her help with the J. Walter Thompson collection). I have had the opportunity to read Bing’s FBI files thanks to APB News who placed them on the Internet where they could be accessed by anyone interested in them.
My thanks are also given to the following, all of whom made significant contributions to the preparation of this book:
Gord Atkinson, Charlie Baillie, Ken Barnes, Greg Van Beek, John Bercsi (current owner of Bing’s yacht True Love), Bert Bishop, Alix Bonnette (Bonnette Hunting and Fishing Club), Ron and Vera Bosley, Ted Burnell, Ruth Carr, Jim Cassidy, Robert Conte (Archivist, The Greenbrier Hotel, White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia), Kathryn Crosby, Phillip Crosby, Ken Crossland, Bailey G. Dick, the late Philip R. Evans, Alan Fisher, Sam Fleshman, the late Jean-Paul Frereault, Gary Giddins, Gary Hamann, Richard G. Hanley, Gwen Harvey, Ted Jeal (Advertising Manager, Calgary Stampede), Frans van der Kolff, Steven Lewis, Pat Macfarlane, Patti Maghamfar (Bellarmine College Preparatory), Wayne Martin, Geoffrey A. Milne, Ray Mitchell, Barbara Openchain, George O’Reilly, Michael O’Toole, Lionel and Joyce Pairpoint, Keith Parkinson, Fred Reynolds, Eddie Rice, Lars Roth, Mark Scrimger, Mozelle Seger, Carol Sherland, Vernon Wesley Taylor, Trevor Wagstaff, Chris B. Way, E. Scott Whalen, Stan White, F. B. “Wig” Wiggins, and Norman Wolfe.
This project has been under way for many years and was undertaken in a very casual and disorganized way in the first year or so as a hobby. It is quite possible that I have overlooked people who gave me vital information along the way in those early days and my sincere apologies are extended to them if this is the case.
Background and Genealogy
The name “Crosby” is Danish in origin and means “Town of the Cross.” Cros is a transposition of the Danish kors and by is a diminutive of the Danish burg. It is possible that the earliest ancestors of Bing Crosby were Vikings who migrated to Ireland, Scotland, and Northern England, although this cannot be verified.
The line appears to trace through:
1. John Crosby (1440–1502). Born, lived and died at Holme-on-Spalding-Moor, near York in England.
2. Miles Crosby (born in 1483) in Holme-on-Spalding-Moor.
3. Thomas Crosby (1501–1558). Born, lived and died at Holme-on-Spalding-Moor.
4. Anthony Crosby (1545–1598). Again, a resident of Holme-on-Spalding-Moor.
5. Thomas Crosby (1575–1661). Born at Holme-on-Spalding-Moor and died in Rowley, Essex, Massachusetts.
6. Simon Crosby (1608–1639), born at Holme-on-Spalding-Moor. He was a Puritan who fled England with his family to escape religious persecution and who arrived in Boston cradling his five-month-old son, Thomas, in his arms.
7. Thomas Crosby (1635–1702) became a minister in Eastham, on Cape Cod, Massachusetts, and had twelve children including a son named Simon.
8. The said Simon (1665–1718) became a merchant and he had fourteen children, including a son named Nathaniel.
9. Nathaniel Crosby (born 1695 in Harwich, Barnstable, Massachusetts) went on to have seven children of his own including another Nathaniel.
10. This Nathaniel (1733–1827) also had a son called Nathaniel (1782–1867) and in turn his son, yet again a Nathaniel, who was born in Brewster, on Cape Cod, Massachusetts, became a swashbuckling sea captain.
11. Captain Nathaniel Crosby, Jr., (1810–1859) married Mary Lincoln and influenced his family to move to Portland, Oregon, in 1850 where he set up a lumber shipping business. The family moved to Tumwater, near what is now Olympia, Washington, where they bought a general store and purchased the grist mill.
12. The Captain’s son, inevitably another Nathaniel (born in Maine - 1837–1885), lost money in a steamship business and finished up as the postmaster in Olympia. He and his wife, Cordelia Jane Smith (born in Indiana), had two children, one called Frank Lawrence (born 1862), and another named Harry Lowe (sometimes Harry Lincoln, after his grandmother) Crosby who was born on November 28, 1870, and went on to marry a certain Catherine Helen Harrigan.
Catherine Helen Harrigan was born at Stillwater, Minnesota, on February 7, 1873, to Dennis and Kate Harrigan (nee Ahearne). Dennis had been born on September 6th, 1832, a year after his family arrived in Williamstown, Miramichi, New Brunswick, Canada, from Schull, County Cork in Ireland. He and his bride emigrated to the United States about 1867 and settled in Stillwater. Catherine had a sister (Annie) and five brothers, William John, Alexander Ambrose, Edward, Francis Albert, and George Leo. Her father was a building contractor and brought up four of his sons to be respectively lather, plumber, plasterer, and electrician. Apparently it was said that they could build a house or win a fight, without any outside help. Her mother was a very good cook who also possessed a lovely singing voice.
Young Catherine and her family moved around in Minnesota, first to Cloquet, then to St. Paul where she and her brother Ed became famous at the Ice Palace; he as a maker of ice skates, and she as his demonstrator. It was noted that she could write her name on the ice while skating. The Harrigans moved to Tacoma, Washington, in 1889 and Catherine joined the church choir.
Harry L. Crosby was a member of the “Peep-O-Day” boys, a singing group in nearby Olympia. Both Harry and Catherine Harrigan had another hobby—he was in Olympia’s “Silver Cornet Band” and she frequently took part in amateur theatricals staged by employees of the Stone-Fisher Department Store, where she was a hat designer. After dropping out of college, Harry moved to Tacoma where his older brother lived. Harry and Catherine met for the first time when she was appearing in a department store theatrical and eventually marriage ensued on January 4, 1894. He converted to Catholicism on their marriage and children quickly followed. Laurence Earl (Larry) was born on January 3, 1895, Everett Nathaniel, born in Roslyn on April 5, 1896, and Edward John on July 30, 1900.
In 1902, President Theodore Roosevelt was in the White House following the assassination of President William McKinley. The previous year Guglielmo Marconi had demonstrated the feasibility of global communication by wireless, a new safety replaceable razor had been developed by a businessman named King Camp Gillette, and Thomas Alva Edison had invented a new electrical storage battery to follow his earlier inventions of the phonograph and the electric light bulb. Meanwhile in Tacoma, Harry Crosby, a bookkeeper in the Pierce County Treasurer’s office, had learned that he and his wife were expecting their fourth child and he decided that they needed a larger home. In December 1902, he purchased two plots of land on the upper side of J Street, Tacoma, for $850, and according to the local paper, he commenced the erection of a $2,500 residence there. The house was completed in January 1903 and placed in the name of his wife on January 6. In due course, on May 3, 1903, a son named Harry Lillis Crosby was born.
It may be helpful to appreciate the real value of the money amounts quoted and a dollar in 1903 was equivalent to $19.07 in the year 2000 (Source: U.S. Department of Labor).
The Early Years, 1903–1925
Precise dates relating to the early life of Harry Lillis Crosby (soon known as “Bing”) are hard to come by and we have to rely on his autobiography plus other biographies for much of the outline. Certain facts were gleaned from the archives at Gonzaga University and overall we gain an impression of a man brought up in a large family in which the Roman Catholic Church played a major part. Bing’s father was said to have been a happy-go-lucky character who was somewhat imprudent with money, while his mother was the strict disciplinarian who undoubtedly influenced Bing considerably. Bing was introduced to activities such as fishing by his father, but it was his mother who ensured that religious faith played a large part in Bing’s daily life.
From the age of three until he was twenty-two, Bing lived in a pleasant, mainly Catholic, area in Spokane, Washington. He would probably have had the same friends through grade school, high school, and then university. For pocket money, he had a variety of jobs and as a thirteen-year-old he became an altar boy. The important part played in his formative years by the Jesuit priests at Gonzaga was always acknowledged by Bing and as we examine the key dates of his time there, we can observe how first he was heavily involved in sporting activities and then worked his way through elocution and debating to drama, where the drug of applause would have well and truly entered his system. His early forays into singing and comedy can be seen and then in the fourth year of the six he was planning to spend at Gonzaga University, he had a starring role in a play and also started to earn good money as one of the Musicaladers. One can imagine his feelings that year as he fell behind with his studies and perhaps realized that his chances of eventually graduating were receding. The lure of show business finally convinced him to drop out of university and then he struggled for a while after the Musicaladers disbanded, before picking up work in the Clemmer Theater with the seventeen-year-old Al Rinker as his accompanist. They appreciated that the Spokane area was limited as regards a show business career and eventually they plucked up the courage to travel almost 1,500 miles to Los Angeles in an open Model-T Ford. There they sought employment and Bing’s real show business career began.
A dollar in 1925 was equivalent to $9.80 in the year 2000.
May 3, Sunday. Harry Lillis Crosby is born at home, 1112 North J Street, Tacoma, Washington, fourth child of Harry Lowe (sometimes Lincoln) Crosby and Catherine Helen “Kate” (nee Harrigan) Crosby. “Lillis” was after a neighbor friend. Young Harry’s date of birth was usually incorrectly given as May 2, 1904 (sometimes 1901), from 1933 onward. May 2 was used from childhood so that a younger sister, Mary Rose, would have a birthday to herself.
Mr and Mrs. H.L. Crosby are receiving congratulations on the arrival of a son at their household May 3.
(The Tacoma Daily News, May 6th. 1903)
A little son arrived May 3 in the home of Mr. and Mrs. H. L. Crosby.
(The Daily Ledger, May 7th.1903)
May 29, Friday. Leslie Townes Hope is born in Eltham, London, England. He later changes his name to Bob Hope.
May 31, Sunday. The new arrival is baptized Henrieum Lillis Crosby at St. Patrick’s Roman Catholic Church at 1123 North J Street in Tacoma. His sponsors are Francis Harrigan and Edith Carley.
June 16, Tuesday. The Ford Motor Company is formed in Detroit.
February 1, Monday. Enrico Caruso stars in “L’Elisir d’Amore” at the New York Metropolitan Opera. He has recently made his first American recording, a ten-inch disk of “La Donna e Mobile.”
October 3, Monday. Catherine Cordelia Crosby, a sister, is born.
Winter (undated). Bing’s father, who had advanced to deputy in the Pierce County treasurer’s office, loses his job due to a change in administration. He decides to move 300 miles inland to Spokane to be a book-keeper for the Inland Brewing & Malting Co. in Second Avenue. He leaves the family behind temporarily while Kate awaits the birth of her next child.
April 6, Friday. The Crosbys sell their house to Kate’s younger sister Annie and brother-in-law (Edward J. Walsh) for a dollar and rent a property at 1214 South I Street, Tacoma.
April 19, Thursday. The San Francisco earthquake. Over 1,000 die.
May 3, Thursday. Mary Rose Crosby, a sister, is born at 1214 South I Street, Tacoma.
July (undated). The family is reunited in Spokane and live in a rented house at 303 East Sinto Avenue.
My mother tells that when we moved to Spokane we arrived on very short funds, rented a house, and ran up a sizable grocery bill as well as a large tab for fuel and other household necessities. But when Mother plagued Dad about the bills he was never seriously concerned. He merely opened his newspaper, put his feet up, lit his pipe and said, “Don’t bother, Kate. It’ll work out all right.” It always did.
(Bing Crosby, Call Me Lucky, page 56)
Fall (undated). Father buys the family’s first phonograph.
Jim Day: “So there was a musical environment in your home when you were quite young?”
Bing: “Oh, there certainly was. We had a piano. Both my sisters played piano, my mother too. And we had a Victrola, one of the first in the area, I guess.”
Jim: “You tell the story, as I recall, of how your father bought this Victrola and your mother wasn’t too happy with it.”
Bing: “Yes, we were seriously in arrears with the grocer, the meat market and a few other folk and he took his check and bought a Victrola and some records, brought it home, happy as a clam. My mother was furious. He said, ‘well you have to have music and entertainment in the home, and the grocer, he’ll wait…he knows that, I’m good for it.’”
(Bing, interviewed by Jim Day on Channel 9, Station KQED, San Francisco in the Kaleidoscope program, June 6, 1966)
Fall (undated). Young Harry enrolls at Webster Grade School in East Sharp Avenue, Spokane.
Undated. Harry’s friend, Valentine Hobart (age fifteen, who lives two doors away on East Sinto Avenue) dubs him “Bingo from Bingville” after a comic feature called “The Bingville Bugle” in the Spokesman-Review newspaper. The “o” is soon dropped and Harry becomes “Bing” for the rest of his life, although his mother continues to call him Harry until her death in 1964. (The Bingville Bugle was a weekly satire column that poked fun at an imaginary town - Bingville - and its imaginary residents. It was written by Newton Newkirk of The Boston Post and syndicated nationally.)
June 1, Thursday. Bing’s mother purchases a lot on East Sharp Avenue and, with help from the family and a mortgage, construction of a new house begins.
September (undated). Bing enters the fourth grade at Webster and his teacher is Gertrude Kroetch.
November 4, Saturday. Wilma Winifred Wyatt is born in Harriman, Tennessee to Evan Wyatt (1881-1973) and Nora Matilda Scarbrough Wyatt (1882-1946). Wilma later changes her name to Dixie Lee and marries Bing on September 29, 1930.
April 15, Monday. R.M.S. Titanic sinks in the North Atlantic and over 1500 die.
April/May (undated). Bing plays on Webster School baseball team.
September (undated). Bing enters the fifth grade at Webster and his teacher is Miss Agnes Finnegan.
Undated. Bing’s theatrical debut at North Central High School auditorium. One of twelve children bouncing up and down on pogo sticks as part of a story called “Beebee.”
February 6, Thursday. Al Jolson stars in the Broadway run of “The Honeymoon Express” at the Winter Garden commencing today. His performances in the show and in Sunday concerts at the same venue represent Jolson at his peak and he later becomes known as “The World’s Greatest Entertainer.”
July (undated). The Crosbys move into the nine-room house at 508 East Sharp Avenue, Spokane, which they have had built.
August 25, Monday. George Robert “Bob” Crosby is born, the youngest of the seven children.
September 7, Sunday. George Robert Crosby is christened at St. Aloysius Church.
Undated. Bing appears in black face in a benefit to raise money for the Webster School.
March 20–21, Friday–Saturday. Al Jolson appears in the show “The Honeymoon Express” at the Auditorium, Spokane.
August 4, Tuesday. Britain declares war against Germany and the First World War begins.
September (undated). Bing goes into the seventh grade at Webster and this time his teacher is Miss Helen (Nell) Finnegan.
Undated. Bing fights Jim Turner after he has insulted Mary Rose Crosby and bloodies Turner’s nose.
November 4, Wednesday. Bing attends the birthday party of his friend Gladys Lemmon.
December (undated). Bing’s class presents a Christmas play taken from the Ladies Home Journal and Bing plays the part of a girl, much to his embarrassment.
Undated. Has a summer job as a locker boy in the municipal swimming pool in Mission Park.
August 27–29, Friday–Sunday. Al Jolson appears in the show “Dancing Around” at the Auditorium, Spokane.
September 18, Saturday. Bing’s grandfather, Dennis Harrigan, dies in Tacoma at the age of eighty-three.
January 1, Saturday. Prohibition is introduced in the state of Washington. Bing’s father becomes unemployed until early 1917 as his employer, Inland Brewery, is virtually put out of business.
Undated. Bing is believed to have given his first public performance at the Parish Hall singing “Alice Ben Bolt,” “One Fleeting Hour,” and “What D’ye Mean You Lost Yer Dog?” (aka “My Dog Rover”).
My mother encouraged me to sing, so there’s no doubt that she’s the person who influenced me the most.
There were others who had strong influence on my life, of course. The great Al Jolson was one of them. He was my idol. I saw him perform many times when I was a youngster in Spokane, Wash., and if there’s anyone I’ve tried to emulate, it’s Jolson.
But it was my mother, Kate Harrigan, who pushed, prodded and guided me into singing. There were seven of us children in the family, but mother used to say that I had a special gift - a talent - that should be developed and shared with the world.
When I was 10 she took me to a local voice teacher. I had exactly two lessons and quit. The teacher had me practicing nothing but scales. “Not for me,” I said. Then Mother took over. She taught me two soggy, sentimental songs - “One Fleeting Hour” and “At the End of a Perfect Day”. Mother made me practice until I knew the songs perfectly, then arranged for me to entertain at a local church affair. It was the first of many, many unpaid performances I gave around Spokane for the next few years.
It was rough, but after a while I started to enjoy the applause. I’d get upset if the audience didn’t appreciate my singing.
Mother kept influencing me through my high school years. She insisted that I enter elocution contests and join the school debating society. In later years I realized that this had given me experience in projecting and talking on my feet that proved invaluable.
Mother was a strict disciplinarian always. But that helped all of us children become productive adults. And along with the discipline, we received a lot of love and attention, and a feeling of the importance of family and religion.
(Bing, as quoted in a feature in the National Enquirer, April 22, 1973)
Bing had never been hesitant about singing for friends, but performing for church groups was another story, inclining him to play harder with the gang. “My mother dressed me up in some fantastic attire, the knickerbockers and the flowing ties,” Bing said. “That embarrassed me more than the singing, I believe. And of course the fellas I ran around with all thought singing was for girls or for sissies, certainly not for anyone who was going to be an athlete. Because we were mostly, as a group, concerned with rock fights and going down to the millpond and running logs and hooking rides on railroad trains and robbing the bakery wagon and things of that caliber, which were considered a little more adventurous and colorful than standing up in front of a ladies’ sodality and singing ‘One Fleeting Hour.’ He was reprieved for a while when his voice changed, after which he was less shy about asserting himself in style and repertoire.
(A Pocketful Of Dreams, page 52)
He is said to have had singing lessons around this time and years later, his mother recalled the Sunday nights the family gathered around the piano.
“We had all the musical instruments and the whole family sang,” she said. “Harry studied with a very good teacher for two years and sang in several concerts. That was when he was still in knee-pants and even then he had an outstanding voice. But we decided it was time to stop right then, if he was going to have a good voice later on.”
(Lucie Neville, interviewing Bing’s mother as reported in the San Francisco Chronicle, February 6, 1938)
June (undated). Overseen by his mother, Bing wins seven medals at a local swimming gala. He is promoted to be a lifeguard at the municipal swimming pool in Mission Park as well as having other jobs such as selling eggs, mowing lawns, and delivering newspapers in order to get pocket money.
“When I was about 12, I got a job in the summer as a locker boy in the municipal swimming pool. I could swim pretty well, so the next year I got a job as a lifeguard and got to going to swimming meets.... I used the Australian crawl, which was very new then. A fellow who had come up from Hawaii taught us.
“Once I was invited to a meet up in Idaho. Nobody would go with me, none of my brothers. They thought I had no chance, so I had to suffer the ignominy of going with my mother, which was embarrassing.”
At the memory he squirmed in his chair like a 12-year-old.
“I went because I wanted to be a man. Anyway, my mother and I went up and I came back with seven medals; firsts for diving and plunging for dives; several seconds in the 100-and 220-yard events; and some thirds in others.”
(Joan Flynn Dreyspool, Sports Illustrated magazine, January 13, 1958)
September 6, Wednesday. Enters Gonzaga High School as a “commuter.” The subjects studied were:
1st Year - 1916-1917, 'Division A
Latin (6 hours a week) - Ancient History - Religious Instruction - English - Elementary Algebra - Elocution
Undated. Elected as “Sergeant-At-Arms” in First Year High School, Division One.
Undated. Becomes an altar boy at St. Aloysius. He has to attend the service at 6:30 a.m. each day during every third week. This continues throughout his time in Gonzaga High School.
November 3, Friday. Reads his own original composition at First Year High Class Specimen of Work.
November 11, Saturday. Woodrow Wilson is re-elected President of the United States.
January (undated). Bing’s father returns to work as
Inland Brewery changes its name to Inland Products. At first they manufacture
near-beer and vinegar and soon they add pickles and other products as well.
Father becomes secretary of the company.
April 6, Friday. The United States enters the First World War. Larry Crosby applies for the officers’ training camp at the Presidio, San Francisco, and leaves within the week.
May 26, Saturday. Larry Crosby, then a student cadet at the Presidio, completes his WW1 Draft Registration Card. He goes on to Camp Funston, Kansas, where he becomes an acting colonel in command of a battalion of Negro recruits.
Undated. Bing achieves distinctions in History, English, and Christian Doctrine in First Year High, Division One.
June 11, Monday. Everett Crosby, by then a book keeper at the Montana Power Company in Lewiston, Montana, enlists in the Cavalry and is eventually posted to France where he becomes a sergeant in an artillery battery.
June 14, Thursday. Commencement day (i.e. the beginning of the summer vacation).
June 19/20, Tuesday/Wednesday. Al Jolson appears at the Auditorium, Spokane, in Robinson Crusoe Jr. Bing has a job backstage.
Jolson Takes House By Storm
Not since McIntyre and Heath came in “The Ham Tree” has blackface comedy been so embellished and exalted as in “Robinson Crusoe Jr.”, Al Jolson’s new show from the Winter Garden, which began a two night’s engagement at the Auditorium last night… Mr. Jolson is, of course, the majority of the show, and he has never appeared to better advantage than in the role of Gus and “Good Friday.” His spontaneous and inimitable methods and his dynamic style of singing captured this house from the moment of his appearance…
(Spokane Daily Chronicle, June 20, 1917)
An event that occurred when he was a teenager of fourteen made it clear that Bing was probably not destined for the clergy. He had taken a summer job as a property boy at Spokane’s prize theater, the Auditorium, and saw some of the finest acts and revues of the day. On the evenings of June 19 and 20, Bing watched backstage as Al Jolson played his standard character, Gus, in Robinson Crusoe Jr. It was a role he had created a few years earlier: the canny black servant - in this farce, a chauffeur doubling as Friday - who always saves the day. A whirlwind comedian, Jolson raced around the stage ad-libbing lines and business, even song lyrics. During the show’s fifteen-month tour, he was billed for the first time as “the World’s Greatest Entertainer.”
Bing was spellbound by the electrifying blackface performer. Jolson brought the house down with his spoof of Hawaiian songs “Yaaka Hula Hickey Dula” and the lunatic “Where Did Robinson Crusoe Go with Friday on Saturday Night?” (cowritten by the same team that wrote Bing’s early signature song ten years later, “In a Little Spanish Town”). Bing and his friends knew and admired Jolson’s recordings, but neither records nor all the live vaudeville he soaked up on week-end evenings prepared him for the man’s galvanizing energy. “I hung on every word and watched every move he made,” he recalled. “To me, he was the greatest entertainer who ever lived.” At fourteen, Bing began to imagine himself before the footlights; he kept those dreams to himself.
(A Pocketful Of Dreams, page 59)
September 12, Wednesday. Opening of classes at Gonzaga High School. The syllabus this year was:
- 1917-1918, Division B
Religious Instruction - English - Latin (6 hours a week) - Greek (4 hours a week) - Algebra II - Medieval to Modern History - Military Drill - Elocution and Debate
September (undated). Bing is elected as Consultor in Second Year High School, Second Division.
Undated. Captains the “Dreadnoughts” football team against the “Submarines” in the Junior Yard Association Midget League.
October (undated). Joins the High School Junior Debating Society.
November 2, Friday. Takes part in Second Year High School, Division Two Specimen Public Speaking Competition. He is one of four reciting Poe’s poem “Bells.”
November/December. Takes part in the last debate of the semester.
March 5, Tuesday. Takes part in the Annual Elocution Contest at St. Aloysius Hall and recites “Romancin’”.
May (undated). Bing makes the Junior Yard Association baseball team.
Undated. Achieves “First Honors” in English in Second Year High School, Division Two and “Next in Merit” behind the gold medal winner in Elocution.
June 12, Wednesday. Commencement day.
Undated. Obtains a part-time job as a caddy at the local municipal golf course.
September 11, Wednesday. Opening of classes at Gonzaga High School. The syllabus included:
3rd Year - 1918-1919
Religious Instruction - English - Latin (6 hours a week) - Geometry - English History - French - Elocution and Debate
October 13, Sunday. The influenza epidemic reaches Gonzaga and a member of staff dies. Classes are suspended on October 24 because of the continuing influenza outbreak.
October 25, Friday. Bing’s grandmother, Catherine Harrigan (nee Ahearne) dies in Tacoma at the age of eighty-one.
October 28, Monday. Classes restart at Gonzaga.
November (undated). Bing plays on the Junior Yard Association football team.
November 11, Monday. Germany admits defeat and signs the armistice to end the First World War.
It was a time for rejoicing in the Crosby household, for Ev and Larry had come through safely. Larry was disgusted because he hadn’t gone overseas, and Ev kept writing home about his big plans for the future.
But Kate Crosby’s hopes for a rapid betterment of the family’s economic situation after the war were not realized. Larry was a long time finding work, finally obtaining a high school teaching position in Tacoma, with a night newspaper reporting job on the side to supplement his income. Everett returned a few months later, bronzed, carefree and full of French phrases which delighted his younger brothers and sisters. He could not be reinstated in the position he had held in Montana, so he began looking around Spokane for a job. When nothing materialized, he finally headed for the Coast, already disillusioned.
(Ted Crosby, writing in The Story of Bing Crosby, page 65)
January/February (undated). Member of Junior Yard Association basketball team.
February (undated). Elected as Sergeant-At-Arms in Third Year High School.
February 24, Monday. Bing has a small part as “second citizen” as the Third Year High School class present Julius Caesar at St. Aloysius Hall.
April 14, Monday. Bing recites “In Freedom’s Cause” in the Annual Elocution Contest held in the Parish Hall.
May 31, Saturday. On the Junior Yard Association baseball team.
Undated. Achieves a distinction in Elocution and a merit in the Senior Academics Debating Society.
June 19, Thursday. Commencement day.
September 10, Wednesday. Opening of classes at Gonzaga High School. The subjects studied were:
Religious Instruction - English - Latin (5 hours a week) - Physics - U.S. History and Civics - French -Elocution and Debate
September 12, Friday. President Woodrow Wilson visits Spokane.
December 19, Friday. Gonzaga Night (described as an annual “fun fest”) takes place in the Parish Hall. Bing takes part, with other members of the fourth year high school class, in a black-face burlesque on Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar.
December (undated). Works at the local post office.
January 5/6, Monday / Tuesday. The Fourteenth Census of the United States is completed and indicates that all of the children of Harry and Catherine Crosby are still living at home on this date.
January 16, Friday. The Eighteenth Amendment to the US Constitution, prohibiting the manufacture and sale of alcohol, comes into force. Prohibition had already been introduced into Washington State in 1916.
Undated. Bing is the janitor at the Everyman’s Club (for loggers and miners), working between 5:00 a.m. and 7:00 a.m. until summer.
I was raised in a family in comfortable but moderate circumstances. Although the necessities of life were always provided, spending money was never forthcoming. Being a young fellow who liked to get around, see all the new shows and, on Saturday nights, whisk over the waxed floors with the chickadee of the moment, it became incumbent on me at an early age to rustle around each week and snag a few bucks. I sold newspapers and magazines, mowed lawns, cut wood, picked apples, sold magazine subscriptions, worked in a law office, janitored in a man’s club and pursued a variety of occupations. . . . The only explanation I can offer for my industry is that I hated being broke worse than I hated labor.
(Bing Crosby, writing in an article called “Me!” which was published in Picture Play in November, 1934)
April 14, Wednesday. Awarded Premium Place for Elocution in the High School Contest, Senior Section. (This is the second place).
June 5, Saturday. Takes part in the Grand Concert held in St. Aloysius Hall which is presented by the new Glee Club and Orchestra. Bing delivers an elocution selection called “As You Like It” with two others during the intermission.
Undated. Is a member of the “Bolsheviks,” a group that takes part in elocution contests and debates against “The Dirty Six.”
Undated. As part of the Fourth Year High School, Section A, Bing achieves distinctions in Christian Doctrine, English, Latin, History, and Civics.
June 9, Wednesday. Graduation Day ceremonies at Gonzaga High School begin at 2:30 p.m. in the gymnasium and Bing is the first speaker with a graduation exercise called “The Purpose of Education.” Other speakers are Joseph Lynch, Theodore Schott and Francis Corkery. Bing graduates in the Classical Course.
July (undated). Works on an alfalfa farm at Cheney with his friend Paul Teters but after a week or two they stow away on a train to Portland, Oregon, to try to see Bing’s brother, Everett. They cannot trace him so they stow away on a train again, this time the “Shasta Limited” to Roseburg in south Oregon, where they are spotted and put into a cattle car returning to Portland. They do eventually find Everett in Portland working as a bootlegger but they later spend a night in jail after failing to pay for a Chinese meal.
Undated. Bing badly cuts his knee with an axe while working as topographer with the Weyerhaeuser Timber Company, near Westdale.
September 15, Wednesday. Enters Gonzaga University as a day student and the fees are $80.50 per semester. He soon becomes Assistant Yell Leader on the Advisory Board on Athletics.
September/October (undated). Sings as a member of the “Republican Quartette.”
October 27, Wednesday. The Gonzaga Dramatic Club presents the comedy The Dean of Ballarat in St. Aloysius Hall. Bing plays a colored aristocrat.
November 2, Tuesday. Warren Harding, the Republican candidate, is elected President of the United States.
November 29, Monday. Gonzaga Glee Club presents A Study in Tone and Color at St. Aloysius Hall. Bing plays one of the colored “end” men and also sings a solo “When the Moon Shines.”
March 15, Tuesday. The Gonzaga Dramatic Club presents a three-act Irish playlet entitled The Curate of Kilronan at St. Aloysius Hall. Bing has a supporting role.
. . . Doug. Dyckman and Harry Crosby used well their experience on the stage and acquitted themselves in fine style as true friends of the unfortunate curate.
(Gonzaga, March 1921)
April 19, Tuesday. Sings “vocal selections” at the annual “Gonzaga Night” held at the Knights of Columbus Hall. Music is provided by the Dizzy Seven (aka the Juicy Seven). (During this period, Bing occasionally joins this group as drummer.)
April/May (undated). Plays varsity baseball at Gonzaga.
May (undated). Takes part in the Junior Philhistorian Debating Society annual banquet.
May 4, Wednesday. The Dramatic Club of Gonzaga presents Gonzaga’s Chief at the Auditorium Theater.
June 5/6, Sunday/Monday. Al Jolson is in Spokane appearing in Sinbad at the Auditorium. Bing has a part-time job in the props department and is heavily influenced by Jolson’s performance.
Jolson Spills Wads Of Comedy
Spokane Audience Kept in Uproar by Famous Blackface King.
Al Jolson in “Sinbad,” the famous New York Winter Garden production made a large audience at the Auditorium “hold its sides” with laughter. The house was packed and gave the king of blackface comedy an ovation seldom recorded a stage favorite in Spokane.
Jolson was supreme with that famous hesitating “bunched up” jazz ragtime style of singing which has found thousands of imitators over the country.
The famous blackface does not depend entirely upon his catchy manner of singing, but uses his eyes to great advantage. The angle at which he holds them after he “spills” a joke, seemed to get the audience every time.
The star has an usually strong supporting company. The scenery is beautiful, costumes of the chorus and the leads gorgeous and the general theme of the light plot is interesting.
His biggest song hits were “My Mammy” and “Avalon.”
(Spokane Daily Chronicle, June 6, 1921)
Bing received another shot of inspiration the summer after his freshman year, when he worked as prop boy at the Auditorium and Jolson made his second visit to Spokane. Bing had been fourteen the first time Jolson passed through; he was eighteen when Sinbad played two nights in town. “[Jolson] was amazing,” Bing said. “He could go way up high and take a soft note, or belt it, and he could go way down. He really had a fabulous set of pipes, this fella.” He spoke of unconsciously imitating Al and of the lessons he learned: “I got an awful lot of mannerisms and I guess you could say idiosyncracies [from Jolson] — singing traits and characteristics and delivery.” Bing marveled at how he seemed to personally reach each member of the audience, a feat for which Bing would be credited as a radio crooner. But the difference between working live and electronically was not lost on him. If Bing was inspired by Jolson, he was also humbled. He nursed the lifelong conviction that he could not really hold a stage, not like Jolie. “I’m not an electrifying performer at all,” he cautioned one admirer. “I just sing a few little songs. But this man could really galvanize an audience into a frenzy. He could really tear them apart.”
(A Pocketful of Dreams, page 85)
June 9, Thursday. Commencement day.
Undated. Bing plays for the Ideal Laundry baseball team in the Spokane City League.
August 3, Wednesday. Enrico Caruso dies of peritonitis in Naples, Italy at the age of 48.
September 15, Thursday. Opening of classes at Gonzaga.
Undated. Bing acts as librarian for the House of Philhistorians in the first semester.
December 8, Wednesday. Bing attends the Gonzaga football banquet in the east room of the Davenport Hotel which is followed by a dance in the Hall of the Doges at the hotel.
January 8, Sunday. Sunday night vaudeville shows begin at Gonzaga University and continue until May. Bing appears in the first show and sings comedy songs as well as taking part in a comedy skit. The audience of 600 helps raise $150 for the university’s athletic board.
Undated. Bing is the recording secretary for the House of Philhistorians in the second semester.
February 7, Tuesday. The sophomore class play It Pays to Advertise is presented at St. Aloysius Hall before a large crowd of students and members of the Faculty. Bing receives a favorable review in the Gonzaga magazine.
Making the most of a play replete with comical situations, the cast time and time again caused gales of laughter to sweep through the house. Harry Crosby as the genial press agent ‘Ambrose Peale’ kept the audience in constant uproar.
March 30, Thursday. Plays at third base in a baseball game which is a trial for the Gonzaga team.
May 5, Friday. Acts in The Bells for
the Henry Irving Dramatic Society of Gonzaga University at the Woodward
Theater. Bing plays the part of a villager. The play was said to be
“of a caliber that might well benefit a professional performance” and a review
stated that Crosby handled the part of Hans “competently”.
Undated. Receives a “Distinguished” in English.
June 9, Friday. Commencement day
Undated. Works in the pickle factory at Inland Products where his father is company secretary.
July (undated). Joins a weekend party at Honeymoon Bay on Newman Lake.
September 18, Monday. Begins his junior year at university and declares a prelaw major which requires him to undertake a four-year course. His classes are in the morning and evening and he works afternoons for Colonel Charles S. Albert, local attorney for the Great Northern Railway for $30 per month.
December 8, Friday. Bing sings a solo of “Oh Lord, I Am Not Worthy” in the Gonzaga chapel as part of the observance of the Immaculate Conception Holy Day of Obligation.
Undated. Bing’s father is demoted to shipping clerk at Inland Products as he is replaced by the senior partner’s son as secretary.
February 12, Monday. Bing acts in Seven Keys to Baldpate presented by the Gonzaga Dramatic Club at the American Theater. He plays “Lou Max”, the humorous feature of the cast.
May 3, Thursday. Bing takes part in “Letter Night” at Gonzaga and performs in a comedy skit. Also sings as a member of the Gonzaga Harmony Trio at the event.
June 13, Wednesday. College and law commencement day at Gonzaga.
September 19, Wednesday. Bing enrolls for the fall semester and attends classes at Gonzaga.
November 8, Thursday. The Gonzaga Dramatic Club presents the three-act comedy It Pays to Advertise at the American Theater and Bing again receives a favorable mention as he reprises his performance as “Ambrose Peale.”
Fall (undated). Buys a set of drums. The Charleston becomes the biggest dance craze of the decade.
Undated. Bing joins the Musicaladers as drummer and singer. Al Rinker is the band’s pianist and the other members of the band are James Heaton, Miles Rinker, Robert Pritchard and Clare Pritchard. They make their debut together at the Manito Park Social Club, appearing on Sunday nights. Also they are used as part of the “Frank Finney and his Laughlanders” presentation at the Auditorium Theater.
The Musicaladers, as the new band was called, was a six-piece outfit of almost conventional 1920 jazz instrumentation. Miles Rinker played alto sax and clarinet; Bob Pritchard played C melody; Jimmy Heaton played cornet; Fats Pritchard clunked the banjo; Bing was the drummer and Al the pianist and general manager. The voicings followed the simple three-part harmony that had come out of New Orleans with the Original Dixieland Jazz Band, the New Orleans Rhythm Kings, and the other early emigres. The library ranged from the genuine jazz patterns of Prince of Wails and Jimtown Blues and Beale Street Blues to the merely romantic phrases of My Wonderful One and Whispering. As the Musicaladers’ experience broadened and their jobs increased, their repertory did, too; soon most of the pop tunes of the day were included, Alice Blue Gown, I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles, Love Sends a Little Gift of Roses, A Pretty Girl Is Like a Melody, Avalon, Margie, My Man, Three O’clock in the Morning; soon, each of the precious jazz records that made their way into Spokane was being scanned for a good variation on the blues chords, for a new solo idea, a new way of using the two saxes together or the cornet and clarinet. The band found inspiration in the records of the Memphis Five and the Tennessee Ten, in new jazz novelties, such as Duck’s Quack and Louisville Lou, and they were not at all sure that they would ever hear anything again as exquisitely constructed and as touching as Ted Lewis’s record of Fate.
(The Incredible Crosby, pages 39-40)
February 3, Sunday. Former President Woodrow Wilson dies.
February 12, Tuesday. Paul Whiteman and his band play “Rhapsody in Blue” by George Gershwin for the first time at Aeolian Hall, New York.
March 28, Friday. The Musicaladers commence a week’s engagement at the Casino Theater where they are described in the billing as “Masters of Jazz”.
A dual attraction of the Musicaladers and Colleen Moore in ‘Painted People’ is being featured by the Casino Theater in the presentation of a well-rounded program this week. . . The Musicaladers prove a real winner and dispense a program worth listening to.
(Spokane Daily Chronicle, March 29, 1924)
The boys’ biggest thrill came when they were offered a week’s engagement at the Casino Theater. “The reason they put us on,” Al Rinker says, “is because it was kind of a novelty to have neighborhood boys with a band. You didn’t find six-piece bands like that in Spokane. And it was a lot of fun. We even had all the professional musicians from the Davenport Hotel—the top hotel in Spokane—coming down to hear us. So we were all kind of puffed up a little bit; we thought that was great—and I guess it was, at the time, considering that we were just kids.”
(Bing Crosby, The Hollow Man, page 44)
Undated. The Musicaladers go on to obtain an engagement on Friday and Saturday nights at the Peking Cafe, a second-story Chinese restaurant in the Fidelity Mutual Building, W518 Riverside Avenue.
For three or four months the Musicaladers had a job playing twice a week in a Chinese restaurant on Riverside Avenue. It had a dubious reputation, but The Pekin was a favorite Friday and Saturday night hangout for high-school kids. There were rumors that alcohol was available to teenagers there, and my mother was purse-lipped about it. But the pay was more than I’d ever taken home before, and I was able to allay some of my mother’s doubts about the restaurant’s respectability by pointing to its most respectable financial rewards.
(Bing Crosby, Call Me Lucky, page 75)
Undated. Ted Crosby marries Hazel Nieman.
April (probably) Bing decides to drop out of university on realizing he earns more money singing than he would as an assistant lawyer. He takes a temporary job as a clerk with the Great Northern Railway.
The student of Cicero, Ovid, and Augustine; the declaimer of Horatio at the Bridge; the incipient minstrel; the energetic athlete and yell leader: the devout altar boy; the promising mirror of a rigorous education was slipping out of Gonzaga’s grasp. The law had not suited him. Had Bing continued in the arts and sciences college, he would most likely have graduated, for he had only two or three months remaining of his fourth year when he dropped out. But in the law school, he faced an additional two years. Kate was on his back, complaining about his slipping grades and lapsed attention, and he bridled, telling her he would rather sing than eat. By spring, Bing was earning more money with the Musicaladers than in Colonel Albert’s office and let everyone know it. He saw no contest between following in the footsteps of his uncle George and executing wage-garnishment forms. For weeks he sat in class, whistling under his breath and practicing a paradiddle with pencils on his desktop. He finally told his parents of his decision to withdraw from Gonzaga.
(A Pocketful of Dreams, page 99)
July–August (undated). The Musicaladers play at Lareida’s Dance Pavilion at E4902 Sprague, Dishman, receiving $25 for three nights a week.
November 4, Tuesday. President Calvin Coolidge is reelected.
The Columbia Company becomes the first to issue electrically recorded discs, the condenser microphone having replaced the acoustic horn.
Spring (undated). The Musicaladers disband. Bing and Al Rinker learn to play golf at Downriver Park.
May 9, Saturday evening. The gala reopening of the Clemmer Theater in Spokane features the film Raffles starring House Peters. The new manager, Roy Boomer, takes on a vocal trio called ‘The Three Harmony Aces’ which includes Bing, with Al Rinker accompanying on piano from the pit, to entertain between the films
…The added attraction of the program, the Three Harmony Aces and Gwendolyn Hayden, interpretative dancer, put a lot of life into the program and received encores that were too numerous to take.
(The Spokesman-Review, May 10, 1925)
May 16, Saturday. The advert for the attractions at the Clemmer Theater states “The Three Harmony Aces held over by popular demand. Songalists par excellence.”
May 23, Saturday. There is no mention of The Three Harmony Aces in the weekly advert for the Clemmer Theater.
The manager of the theater got a quartet together and wanted us to do a little stage presentation. We did, but the quartet wasn’t very good. I was in the pit playing piano for the guys. The manager finally let the quartet go but he kept Bing. He thought he’d let Bing try it alone. I played in the pit for Bing and he did songs like “Red Hot Henry Brown.” He’d sing and dance a little. We did this for a couple of weeks and then Bing came down into the pit and we started doing duets. . . . Bing had a little cymbal and I’d play piano and sing with him. We stayed at the Clemmer Theater for a few more weeks. We were each making $30 a week. That was big money for us.
(Al Rinker, as quoted in Bing Crosby, A Lifetime of Music, page 9)
Bing and Al continue at the Clemmer Theater for several months often with three other men - Wee Georgie Crittenden, Frank McBride and Lloyd Grinnell - and they are billed as ‘The Clemmer Trio’ or ‘The Clemmer Entertainers’ depending which men are used.
August 14, Friday. The advert for the Clemmer is for the Lon Chaney film The Unholy Three and The Clemmer Trio (Frank McBride, Lloyd Grinnell and Harry Crosby) are shown as being presented with special stage effects.
August 22, Saturday. The Clemmer advert again shows the Clemmer Entertainers to be McBride, Grinnell and Crosby “in something new”.
The Clemmer trio will appear on the picture program in a new cycle of songs and harmony numbers. Harry Crosby, Lloyd Grinnell and Frank McBride compose the group. Special stage scenery has been made for the novel presentation.
(Spokesman-Review, August 22, 1925)
August 29, Saturday. The film advertised at the Clemmer is Reginald Denny in California Straight Ahead. The Clemmer Trio remains on the bill.
Included on the program will be a musical sketch by the Clemmer trio composed of Crosby, McBride and Grinnell, and George Crittenden, Spokane’s boy soprano, and Al Rinker. “California, Here I Come” will be the feature song presented by the group, who will use a “wayward” Ford in their comedy act. Several trio, quartet and quintet numbers will be included on their program.
(Spokane Daily Chronicle, August 29, 1925)
September 23, Wednesday. The Spokane Daily Chronicle reviews the Clemmer’s presentation.
Clemmer Gives Fine Prologue
By far the best prologue performance of the Clemmer entertainers this fall is being presented this week at the Clemmer Theater. Crosby, McBride and Chittendon (sic), composing the group, are singing their way into the hearts of the daily audiences. A South Sea Island setting furnishes the locale for the group of entertainers and their repertoire is based upon the plaintive melodies of the palm-fringed islands. An effective lighting arrangement adds greatly to the presentation. “Lorraine of the Lions” is the picture showing. Patsy Ruth Miller is the featured star of the production.
(Spokane Daily Chronicle, September 23, 1925)
September 28, Monday. The Clemmer advert indicates that the Clemmer Entertainers will be featured in “A Carolina Morning”. The film is Sun Up! starring Conrad Nagel and Pauline Starke.
October 3, Saturday. The Lon Chaney and Norma Shearer film The Tower of Lies is at the Clemmer. The Clemmer Entertainers are featured in ‘Harmony Farming’.
October 9, Friday. The billing at the Clemmer Theater reads “The Clemmer Entertainers in ‘Autumn Time’”.
October 16, Friday. The Clemmer advert includes Hoot Gibson in the comedy film The Calgary Stampede. The Clemmer Entertainers enter into the theme with a presentation called “Rodeo Days”.
Just where the Clemmer entertainers got their live stock for “effect” in the current prologue presentation was the question of the audience Saturday night. Bing Crosby evidently has the animal under his personal protection and keeping, judging by the “cowboy’s” manner and affection showed him by his charge.
(Spokane Daily Chronicle, October 19, 1925)
October 23, Friday. The Clemmer advert promotes the film The Storm Breaker starring House Peters and it shows the Clemmer Entertainers in “Shipmates Ashore”. It is said that this is “their farewell week”.
October 29, Thursday. The final appearance at the Clemmer Theater
October 30, Friday (possibly). Bing and Al leave Spokane for Seattle in a 1916 Model-T Ford and play a weekend with Jackie Souders’ band at the Hotel Butler there before deciding to go to Los Angeles. They are said to entertain at a movie theater in Tacoma and sing in several speakeasies at Portland and San Francisco en route.
November 7, Saturday. They arrive in Los Angeles and make contact with Al’s sister, Mildred Bailey, who lives at 1307 Coronado, and with Bing’s brother, Everett, who is acting as a truck salesman as a front for selling liquor.
It may seem curious, but Mildred Bailey gave me my start. Curious, because I believe Mildred was younger than I—well, anyhow, it was pretty close.
You know, when I was going to college in Spokane, Mildred was singing in a local night spot, Charlie Dale’s Cabaret. Her brother Alton Rinker and I had a six-piece band around school, named, with what we thought remarkable inventiveness, The Musicaladers. I wince at the recollection.
Now Mildred used to get some great records from the East from time to time—stuff by the Memphis Five, Gene Rodemick, Jack Chapman, the Wolverines—groups like this, and Alton and I and our band would copy them, Believe me, with such a library in those days in Spokane, we were pretty “avant.” All of this was in 1925.
About that time Mildred took off for Hollywood for newer and broader fields, and a year or so later, Alton and I followed her there, arriving “tap city” and seeking bed, board and an entree into some of the booking offices. In her great goodness of heart, Mildred took in these two strolling players.
She was singing in a very plush speakeasy called The Swede’s, and I’ll never forget on my first visit there how my eyes bugged when I saw Gene Pallette, eminent actor of the period lay a “Benjy” on her for two choruses of Oh Daddy Blues. Ace in the Hole was good for a brace of “Benjies,” and Sweet Mama Where Did You Stay Last Night might get pretty near anything.
There it was that she introduced us to Marco, at that time a very big theatrical producer, and we were on our way—with a lot of her material, I might add. Ah. She was mucha mujer. A genuine artist, with a heart as big as the Yankee Stadium, and a gal who really loved to laugh it up. She had a beautiful sense of humor, and a way of talking that was unique, Even then, I can recall her describing a town that was nowhere as “tiredsville” or a singer who was a little zingy as “twenty dash eight dash and four.”
And Mildred’s singing. How timeless it is! Just as appealing now as it was then. Certainly seems to me Columbia has put between the covers of this album things of Mildred’s that prove this over and over again. Things that prove there’s just nothing like style—and this lady had it in great abundance. All of it good. I surely hope this album meets with the great success it deserves.
(Bing Crosby, writing the sleeve notes for the Columbia album “Mildred Bailey—Her Greatest Performances”)
November 9, Monday. Bing and Al are driven down to Tijuana, Mexico, by their friend Jimmy Heaton. On the way back, Bing and Al take a short ride in the rear cockpit of a plane from Ryan Airfield, San Diego. They are both terrified!
Undated. Bing and Al have a tryout at the Cafe Lafayette where Harry Owens recommends they audition for Rube Wolf at the Boulevard Theater.
This one was arranged by Ev at the Cafe Lafayette. Harry Owens, who would play an important role in Bing’s career (as the composer of “Sweet Leilani”), led the band at the Lafayette, and Ev was a frequent customer. Having fared poorly with a “big, brassy and rhythmic” orchestra, Owens fired his expensive star soloists and switched to the “sweet ‘corn’ of ballads and violins.” Success followed, and Everett pressed Owens to audition the boys. Owens tried to dissuade Ev from encouraging his kid brother in a career as unstable as show business, but Ev insisted that the kid had his mind set.
Owens agreed to the tryout, and Bing and Al showed up in time to sit through an hourlong rehearsal. Then they took the stand, Al at the piano, Bing with a small cymbal in his hand. Before they completed their first number, the orchestra musicians, who had been filing out for their break, stopped and came back to applaud the finish. “Bing had a terrific beat,” Owens recalled, “but the voice was the thing.” He scheduled them for the show on the following Tuesday; their opening went over well, but afterward Owens told them that he lacked the budget to offer a regular job. By his own subsequent reckoning, Owens “missed the boat” and allowed the duo to sail away into Whiteman’s orchestra. Yet he recalled the young Bing with affection: “What a sweet guy he was and so sincerely grateful.” In the last days of 1925, Bing told a reporter that he and Al got their start in Los Angeles at the Lafayette.
(A Pocketful of Dreams, page 125)
December 7, Monday. The Fanchon and Marco Time Agency hire them for thirteen weeks to take part in a revue called The Syncopation Idea, starting at the Boulevard Theater in Los Angeles and then on the Loew’s circuit. They each earn $75 a week. The revue includes a troupe of dancing girls called “The 16 California Flashes.”
December 30, Wednesday. The silent film Ben Hur has its New York premiere at the Cohan Theater, New York.
December 31, Thursday. The Syncopation Idea is part of the entertainment at Loew’s State Theatre in Los Angeles.
The Apprentice, 1926–1930
Bing and Al Rinker began as a minor part of The Syncopation Idea, a short revue put out by the Fanchon and Marco agency, and it was there that they started to develop as entertainers. They had a lively and individual style and they were particularly popular with college students. After The Syncopation Idea closed, Bing and Al obtained work in the Will Morrissey Music Hall Revue which must have been fascinating if insecure. However, their skills were further honed during their time with Morrissey and when they subsequently had the chance to present their own independent act, they blossomed and were quickly spotted by the Paul Whiteman organization. At that time, it was felt that Whiteman needed something different and entertaining to break up the musical selections he was presenting and Crosby and Rinker filled this requirement admirably. After less than a year in full-time show business, they had become part of one of the biggest names in the entertainment world. We can imagine their pride when they returned to Spokane to entertain for a week at the Liberty Theater before going off to join Whiteman in Chicago.
Initial successes with Whiteman were followed by disaster when they reached New York and for a while Whiteman must have thought of letting them go. Possibly Bing might have been retained as Whiteman was already using him as a solo performer on record, but the prospects for Rinker must have been bleak. However, the addition of Harry Barris made all the difference to the act and the Rhythm Boys were born. The additional voice meant that the boys could be heard more easily in the large New York theaters and they quickly became a real success. A year touring with Whiteman provided valuable experience and then they were sent out on tour alone. Much has been written about the escapades of the three men during this period and clearly they were living life to the full. Despite all of this, Bing was continuing to develop and when the Rhythm Boys rejoined the Whiteman troupe in 1929, he had matured considerably as a performer. He was constantly in demand as a solo artist on record and radio. An offer to go out on his own was, however, refused by Bing and he stayed faithful to the Rhythm Boys. Perhaps he simply felt more secure as a member of a group and a similar trait was exhibited some years later when he refused to accept single star billing in films.
The famous trip to Hollywood in mid-1929 aboard the Whiteman Old Gold Special followed and Bing started to become noticed in Hollywood. Early screen tests were unsuccessful but the Rhythm Boys carved out a reputation as they starred at the Montmartre Cafe for several weeks. The delays in filming King of Jazz led Whiteman and the Rhythm Boys to return to the east coast for a while, but then they all returned to California at the end of October 1929 to finally begin filming. Around this time, Bing was jailed following a car crash as he had been drinking and he lost a solo spot in King of Jazz to John Boles. The Rhythm Boys did however have a couple of featured spots in the film and Bing also sang over the opening titles. After completing filming, Whiteman took his troupe up the West Coast to Seattle prior to returning east for the New York premiere of King of Jazz. However, the lure of his girlfriend, Dixie, and of the sunshine in California proved too strong for Bing, so he and the Rhythm Boys left Whiteman in Portland, Oregon, and returned to Los Angeles.
Although some books indicate that the act then went into the Montmartre, there may be confusion with their earlier appearance there in 1929. They did appear on local radio and sing for film sound tracks, but it was not until they went into the Cocoanut Grove at the Ambassador Hotel in July 1930 “that the action picked up a little,” to quote Bing. Singing with the Gus Arnheim Orchestra, Bing’s solos began to steal the show, while the Rhythm Boys act gradually became redundant. His apprenticeship was well and truly over. Marriage was to change him too.
Details of Bing’s earnings are quoted in several places and it should be noted that $100 in 1929 was equivalent to $1003 in the year 2000.
January 1, Friday. (8 p.m.) Bing and Al Rinker appear on the regular radio program of West Coast Theaters, Inc., on station KNX.
Crosby & Reeker (sic), syncopated jazz songsters, also appearing at Loew’s State this week in the “Syncopation Idea,” will sing popular numbers.
(Los Angeles Evening Express, January 1, 1926)
The Spokane Daily Chronicle carries an article about Bing and Al Rinker under a heading “Los Angeles captured by Spokane pair; Rinker, Crosby make theatrical hit.” The text continues:
An old Ford, a song and an open road, and incidentally a little gas, and Harry (Bing) Crosby and Alton Rinker were happy for all the world was theirs.
So it was that a couple of months ago the two chums embarked for the sunny south, there to seek their fortunes, provided the limited gas supply held out. After a series of various adventures they arrived in San Francisco. Here they tarried a few days before making their way to Los Angeles. Once there, the dilapidated ‘flivver’ was discarded and the two surveyed the new-found land.
A little bit of this and that, including a few song numbers, was gathered together and the pair sought an audience with Fanchon & Marco, international dancing stars and entertainers. This famous team approved their offering and sought to book them over the west coast theater circuit and secure them an Orpheum contract. The latter offer is now being tentatively arranged for the coming season.
During the last month, the boys have made successful appearances at four of the leading theaters in Los Angeles, Crosby singing and the two doing a humorous comedy sketch. They started singing at the Lafayette cafe and then were engaged at the Boulevard and Alexandria theaters. At present the versatile pair are appearing on the program at Loew’s State, the largest theater in the southern city.
Crosby and Rinker were first brought to the attention of the theater-going public by Manager Roy R. Boomer of the Clemmer Theater, when he presented them as the Clemmer Entertainers last summer. Crosby is the son of Mr. and Mrs. H. L. Crosby, E508 Sharp Avenue, and Rinker of Mr. and Mrs. C. D. Rinker, formerly of this city. Both young men attended Spokane schools, Crosby at Gonzaga and Rinker, at North Central.
A copy of the Chronicle is sent to Bing.
January 9–15, Saturday–Friday. The Syncopation Idea revue appears at the Balboa Theater, San Diego. While in San Diego, Bing and Al visit Tijuana, Mexico, and attend the Foreign Club, the largest gambling casino, where Bing has a nice win.
January 18–23, Monday–Saturday. The Syncopation Idea is at Long Beach. On January 23, Bing and Al travel to Santa Ana and stay at the Hotel Santa Ana.
January 24, Sunday. Bing writes to his friend Dirk Crabbe in Spokane on Hotel Santa Ana notepaper.
How’s everything and have you watered any showcases of late? Received a letter from Walter the other day and he tells me that you and the little Anderson girl are quite thick. I expect you will be pulling off that marrying business before long. Good groceries at their hut anyhow so you’re not so dumb at that.
We came in here from Long Beach yesterday and this is a pretty little town of about 75,000 souls. Long Beach is the niftiest town I was ever in. Swell golf course, good bathing and beauteous gals. I was indeed sorry to leave. We play San Bernardino and then go into L.A. for a week before going to Frisco, Oakland, etc. which territory will consume about 10 weeks.
Received a copy of the Chronicle containing a clipping relating to our work. I expect a number of the cornfeds up there thought it was applesauce, but it is all quite true. We have been very fortunate and are situated now in an envious position which should make us some real dough. At any rate I am sufficiently satisfied with this locality to stay here as long as I’m getting groceries and a flop and if I ever return to Spokane it will be merely for a visit. People up there have no conception of the opportunities present down here, both commercial and recreational. Long Beach has only 100,000 people but it makes Spokane look like Tekoa. Of course the larger towns are even more wonderful.
I have seen Hazlett Smith several times at the Ambassador. The next time I’m in L. A. we’re going to get together and do things. He certainly plays classy looking twists.
While in San Diego I ran into Pete and Ed Smith (Kappa Sig from W.S.C.) and of course we must go to Tia Juana and get stiff. Am enclosing a portrait taken in the Holy City. We had just come from the Foreign Club where I won some dough. Hence the happy grin. While down there (San Diego) we stayed with Jay at the Beach and we didn’t miss a thing.
Was quite surprised to learn that Wink and Alice are still clubby and that Betty and Ray Johnson are likewise afflicted. Understand that the Band might go to Frisco in which count I shall probably see them there. I hope so.
There are certainly plenty of filthy bands around L.A. Tone don’t mean a thing. Rythm (sic) and heat are the only requisites together with novel arrangements. There are so damn many hot sax-men down here that it isn’t even peculiar. All the good men make plenty dough. Anywhere from 85 to 150 per week and the cafe jobs are a snap.
Well Dirk I fear this letter is getting a bit lengthy and tiresome so will cease. Drop me a line soon and give me all the dirt on the boys and girls. Say hello to the gang.
(as reproduced in BINGANG magazine, July 1988)
January 25–31, Monday–Saturday. The Syncopation Idea show is at Santa Ana for the week.
February 1–3, Monday–Wednesday. The show moves on to San Bernardino.
February 4–12, Thursday–Friday. Appearing at the Boulevard Theater in Los Angeles, Crosby and Rinker are billed in Variety magazine separately from The Syncopation Idea.
February 13–19, Saturday–Friday. The show is at Loew’s Warfield, San Francisco, where the cast of The Syncopation Idea is given as “Crosby and Rinker, Bobby Thompson and Doreen Wilde, Dan Payne, Mac Curry, Mabel Hollis, and the 16 Lightning Flashes—Fanchon’s own steppers.” The feature film is The Torrent starring Ricardo Cortez and Greta Garbo.
February 20–26, Saturday–Friday. The Syncopation Idea moves on to the Oakland T & D Theater for another cine-variety show.
“Syncopation Ideas,” staged by Fanchon & Marco, a prologue to the picture, is according to Marco, who is here this week, a combination of scintillating melodies and beautiful stage settings.
(Oakland Tribune, February 18, 1926)
March (undated). The Syncopation Idea closes in Sacramento, having also been seen at Pomona and Glendale. Bing and Al are invited to a party at San Simeon by William Hearst Jr., and they eventually return to Los Angeles where they rent an apartment.
April (undated). Bing and Al are hired for Will Morrissey’s Music Hall Revue at the Orange Grove Theater in Los Angeles at $150 weekly for the act. Rehearsals take place in readiness for the planned opening on April 29.
April 26, Monday. Ted and Hazel Crosby have a daughter, Patricia Antonia.
April 30–June 19, Friday–Saturday. Will Morrissey’s Music Hall Revue at the Orange Grove Theater. The show opens a day late, having been postponed one hour before it was due to open on April 29 because of a lack of costumes.
May 4, Tuesday. Larry Crosby, then an editor at the Wallace-Press Times, Idaho, weds Elaine Couper of Spokane.
May (undated). Bing and Al perform at a Hollywood party for the cast of Charlot’s Revue (including Bea Lillie, Jack Buchanan, and Gertrude Lawrence). Bing makes an impact singing “Montmartre Rose.”
June 20–August 4, Sunday–Wednesday. Will Morrissey’s Music Hall Revue at the Majestic Theater, Los Angeles. During this period there is publicity about Morrissey being arrested for drunken driving and also about checks payable to the cast being dishonored. Partway through a show on July 27, Morrissey tells the audience that the performance cannot continue as he has not been paid by his partner. The agent Edward Small is in the audience and he puts up $1,000 to allow the show to be completed.
July 27, Tuesday. Bing and Al take part in a huge entertainment evening for the American Legion at the Olympic Auditorium in Los Angeles. Stars such as Eddie Cantor, Fanny Brice, Bebe Daniels, George Jessel, and Charles Chaplin perform.
August 9–12, Monday–Thursday. Will Morrissey’s Music Hall Revue at Spreckels Theater in San Diego. A matinee performance is given on August 11.
“Just Two Boys and a Piano” as Crosby and Rinker are known, are appearing tonight, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday with the Will Morrissey Music Hall Revue, at the Spreckels theatre. Although strangers to the theatre going public of the Pacific coast, wherever this “different revue” has played the boys have won instantaneous recognition for their splendid work. Previous to Will Morrissey engaging this team of entertainers their days behind the footlights had been spent in the large eastern cities where they had played all the large eastern vaudeville circuits, as well as with some of the best known musical successes. They will do their stuff on a specially constructed stage down among the audience. This is said to be only one of the usual stunts that will be offered the Bohemian San Diegans tonight.
(San Diego newspaper, August 9, 1926)
“If they like that, give ‘em some more. There’s a few things about our show they don’t like.” So Will Morrissey instructed Crosby and Rinker, two young men whom the audience at Morrissey’s revue at the Spreckels Theater last night wanted to take home and use for permanent amusement. Crosby and Rinker, who, by the way, sang all of the “red hot mama” songs that have been written in months, did “give ‘em some more,” stealing the show from those billed as stars.
(San Diego newspaper as quoted in Bing Crosby—The Hollow Man, page 58)
August 13/14, Friday/Saturday. Will Morrissey’s Music Hall Revue at the Lobero Theater, Santa Barbara. Bing and Al are advertised in the local newspaper as “Corsey and Rinker.”
August 16–September 11, Monday–Saturday. The Revue moves to the Capitol Theater in San Francisco where it finishes with the midnight performance on September 11, having struggled throughout its run. During this period, William Hearst Jr. invites the entire cast to the campus at Berkeley where he is a student. The entertainment put on by the troupe outrages the campus officials and they issue a prohibition order banning the students from attending the Morrissey show.
August (undated). Bing’s sister, Catherine, marries Edward Mullin in St. Ignatius Catholic Church, San Francisco.
August 23, Monday. Rudolph Valentino dies in New York at the age of 31.
September 14, Tuesday. Bing and Al go to Union Station in Los Angeles to see the Paul Whiteman Orchestra’s arrival at 2:00 p.m. The Whiteman troupe are transported in twenty cars in a parade to City Hall where Mayor Cryer crowns Whiteman the ‘King of Jazz’.
September 18–October 14, Saturday–Thursday. Paul Whiteman and his orchestra are at the Million Dollar Theater in Los Angeles.
September 18–24, Saturday–Friday. Under contract to Paramount-Publix, the duo appears at the Granada in San Francisco in Jack Partington’s Purple and Gold Revue. They are billed as “Crosby and Rinker—Two Boys and a Piano—Singing Songs Their Own Way.” The act is paid $300 per week.
The team worked sans orchestra—in fact, we didn’t even know what the duo was going to do until the first show. After the M.C.’s announcement, we played the boys on with a short intro, during which they emerged from the wings pushing a small upright piano which had a small sock cymbal at one end. What followed was (for 1926) some of the farthest-out jazz we had ever heard. Even at that time our Mr. Crosby had that wonderfully loose-jointed, totally relaxed vocal style which later made him a world figure. At that time, most of the audience didn’t know what the hell was going on, but we in the band were completely gassed. Oh, yes—Bing, without ever being a belter, somehow managed to project without benefit of microphone in a theater seating 1,750, which ain’t bad at all.
(Hugo Friedhofer, arranger for the orchestra at the Granada, as quoted in The Great American Popular Singers by Henry Pleasants, page 138)
September 25–October 1, Saturday–Friday. The boys continue at the Granada in another Partington revue called Bits of Broadway and their repertoire of songs includes “Mary Lou.” They receive favorable comment from the local press and from Variety.
Two boys from Spokane and not new to show business but new to picture house work. They appeared with Will Morrissey’s Music Hall Revue and were a success in a show that was a flop. Bringing their methods to the Granada, they registered solidly and on the crowded Sunday performances practically stopped the show. The duo works with a piano and minus orchestral accompaniment. Blues of the feverish variety are their speciality. They are well equipped with material, presumably their own. Young and clean cut, the boys found a quick welcome. When they have completed their weeks locally, they will unquestionably find a market for their wares in other presentation houses. Wherever the public goes for “hot” numbers served hot, Crosby and Rinker ought to have an easy time.
(Variety, October 6, 1926)
October 8–14, Friday–Thursday. Bing and Al sing at the Metropolitan Theater in Los Angeles in a cine-variety show which is also called Bits of Broadway and stars Eddie Peabody. They do four shows a day and five at weekends. Having seen the recent favorable review in Variety, Paul Whiteman’s manager, Jimmy Gillespie, goes to see the act and the boys are called to meet Whiteman at the Million Dollar Theater. To their amazement, Whiteman hires them for $150 weekly each. They are to join Whiteman in Chicago in December when the duo will have completed their existing commitments.
Novelty musical numbers, which hit the popular fancy immediately, were offered by Crosby and Rinker, who sing and play the piano and treat old and new popular songs with their own personal fantasy to the delight of their hearers.
(Los Angeles Examiner, October 9, 1926)
…the Metropolitan framed a presentation that got over because of two teams, Crosby and Rinker, harmony boys, last seen in Will Morrissey’s Revue, got most of the cream, and Barnett and Clark, boy and girl tap dancers, were next in popularity.
(Variety, October 13, 1926)
Los Angeles, a tougher town, Bits of Broadway expanded to include a fourteen-piece pit orchestra, additional acts, and the banjo-playing emcee, Eddie Peabody, who was entrusted with much of the responsibility for keeping the show running on time (a necessity as the four and five daily performances were programmed around an unwavering movie schedule). For their spot, Crosby and Rinker commenced with the surefire “Five Foot Two” and then debuted their version of the new song appropriated from Whiteman, “In a Little Spanish Town.” The stage was dimmed except for small blue spots trained on each of them. Microphones were not yet in use, but as Al recounted, the team had the complete attention of a capacity audience of 2,500 when they did the tune. It instantly became one of their biggest successes, a signature song like “Mary Lou,” and the first in a long string of modern standards associated with Bing – if only during his season in vaudeville.
(A Pocketful of Dreams, pages 137-138)
There is an interesting postscript to this story, however. Just before Whiteman approached Crosby and Rinker, the duo were offered a three-year contract by Mort Harris, Paramount-Publix assistant to Jack Partington. This was in addition to the contract the two had already signed with Partington. At first, the contract sounded great to the boys, but when the time came to sign it, they balked, for the contract was not with Paramount-Publix, but solely with Mort Harris. Furthermore, it stated that Harris would receive 10 percent of their earnings and royalties from stage engagements, recordings, or other sources of income. Suspicious, Al and Bing sent the contracts back home for their parents to scrutinize.
While Mort Harris’s unfavorable contract was still in limbo, Whiteman made his offer. After Whiteman talked with Crosby and Rinker, booking agent Leonard Goldstein brought Rinker’s father, Charles, in to talk with Whiteman. They had a good conversation, during which Mr. Rinker pointed out that he could not see any tangible benefits for the boys under the Harris contract, and that if Whiteman had a definite salary to discuss he would be interested in talking. Whiteman repeated the offer he had made to Bing and Al personally. Mr. Rinker thought it very promising and signed the contract for Al. By this time, Bing had signed on his own. When word got back to Harris that Whiteman had the duo under contract, he was furious. He sent threatening wires to Goldstein and Whiteman and put through an official request that Crosby and Rinker be banned from appearing at any Paramount-Publix theatres. Whiteman stood his ground firmly, however, and soon a detailed report appeared in Variety, exonerating Whiteman as well as Crosby and Rinker.
(Paul Whiteman, Pioneer in American Music, page 144)
October 15–21, Friday–Thursday. Bing and Al continue at the Metropolitan and the show this week is called Russian Revels. During their spare time they golf at Griffith Park.
Eddie Peabody and his band are seen in “Russian Revels” this week. Settings and costumings are among the best seen there recently, but some chorus numbers could stand some more rehearsing. Crosby and Rinker, two lively, personable lads, seen here recently with the Morrissey revue, got a big reception with their songs.
(Marquis Busby, Los Angeles Times, October 16, 1926)
October 16–29, Saturday–Friday. Paul Whiteman is at the California Theater in San Francisco.
October 18, Monday. Bing and Al make their first record, “I’ve Got the Girl,” singing the chorus without label credit with Don Clark’s Biltmore Hotel Orchestra in a converted warehouse at Sixth and Bixel in Los Angeles for Columbia Records. Peggy Bernier also makes recordings at the same session.
The record was cut on 18 October 1926, in a converted warehouse in Los Angeles. The song: a vocal duet called ‘I’ve Got the Girl’. It was the first disc Bing ever made ...
The studio was primitive. Against one wall stood an ancient, battered upright piano. Opposite, a megaphone-type contraption—which Bing had to sing into—protruded from a pine-planked recording booth.
The recording machine was a great hulk of a thing and a steel needle carved the sound of Crosby and Rinker into the thick wax that was used in those days. But there was no stopping and starting, as there is with the tape of today, when various ‘takes’ can be edited and joined. Once you began to record you kept right on to the end. After a couple of takes, Crosby and Rinker had a master disc and recording history had been made. For Bing it was the first of thousands ...
But ‘I’ve Got the Girl’, issued on the Columbia label, didn’t set the world alight. It didn’t sell a million. Nor did it bring anyone running with a recording contract. It was a start and that was the nicest thing that could be said about it.
(The Complete Crosby, pages 22-23)
Clark gave them lead sheets for two tunes, asking them to work up a harmonized chorus on each. The material was undistinguished: “I’ve Got the Girl!,” a weak tune by Walter Donaldson, who later wrote some of their most important Whiteman records, and “Don’t Somebody Need Somebody,” a throwaway by Abe Lyman, the cowriter of “Mary Lou.” No major recording career got off to a more dismal start than Bing’s.
The session took place in a hastily converted warehouse at Six and Bixel, and was engineered acoustically. Bing and Al had to sing into a megaphone-like horn built into the planks of the recording booth. The Lyman tune was abandoned when Bing and Al could make nothing of it, and Peggy Bernier, a vaudeville trouper with pretty eyes and long bangs, fared no better. For all the good it did the boys or Clark, “I’ve Got the Girl!” ought to have been junked, too. Singing into a horn for the first time, Bing and Al could not sustain the blend of their voices. As a result, their recorded chorus is dominated by Al’s higher voice, though it is moored by Bing’s weighty, more controlled timbre. They sing Rinker’s treatment of the nattering tune energetically, inserting a measure of scat at the first turnback and attempting a unison portamento that got away from them. The performance did not do justice to their act - but then again, it wasn’t meant to. Their names did not appear on the label, and their complicity was further disguised by an accident: the record—backed with another Clark performance, “Idolizing,” vocal by one Betty Patrick—was inadvertently released at a fast speed. Bing and Al sound like chipmunks.
(Gary Giddins, Bing Crosby, A Pocketful of Dreams, The Early Years, 1903-1940, page 146.)
October 22–28, Friday–Thursday. The show at the Metropolitan is called Joy Week and although Eddie Peabody is still the star, Crosby and Rinker are billed second.
Aside from the band and Eddie Peabody, but five people were used on the stage, and of the five, three got over. Crosby and Rinker, a future Van and Schenck, stopped the show.
(Variety, October 27, 1926)
October 30–November 5, Saturday–Friday. Crosby and Rinker back at the Granada in San Francisco in another Partington show called Dancing Around. Peggy Bernier is also in the show.
November 6–12, Saturday–Friday. Bing and Al continue at the Granada in a show called Jazz a La Carte. Peggy Bernier is again in the show.
November 13–19, Saturday–Friday. Crosby and Rinker continue at the Granada, San Francisco, and this time the revue is called Way Down South.
November 15, Monday. NBC Radio goes on the air using 3600 miles of telephone wire to carry its signal from New York to ten million listeners through nineteen stations as far west as Kansas City.
November 22, Monday. Bing and Al arrive back in Spokane. His mother says that Bing has put on weight.
November 24–28, Wednesday–Sunday. Starting at 11:00 p.m. on November 24 for the “midnight” performance, Bing and Al perform at the Liberty Theater in Spokane (alternating with the film We’re in the Navy Now) giving four performances each day and earning $175 each. During their stay, a thief steals their money from the dressing room while they are on stage.
Spokane Boys Who Are Catapulting Into Fame “Get Over” at Liberty.
“Bing” Crosby and “Al” Rinker, two Spokane Boys with an unquenchable desire to burst into music and song, last night “arrived” in their home town with presentation of their act at the Liberty midnight matinee.
The two Spokane entertainers left the city a year ago to seek their fortune on the Coast. Gradually reports drifted back to old friends of their marked success before audiences of California. After the manner of friends the reports were discounted, but last night every one in the audience who knew the pair even by sight at once joined “the I knew him when” club.
Rinker plays the piano and adds his bit of vocal acrobatics to the singing of Crosby. About the only innovation from the usual piano and song numbers of vaudeville, is that the piano is only an abridged edition in size and Crosby spices the jazz selections with timely crashes on a diminutive cymbal. It isn’t what the boys do, but the way they do it.
The pair has been signed by Paul Whiteman and his band to appear on Broadway this winter. After their remarkable reception last night by a “hard-boiled” hometown audience there is little doubt that they will succeed in the East.
(Spokane Daily Chronicle, November 25, 1926)
November 27, Saturday. (10:00-12:00 p.m.) Bing and Al perform at the after-theatre dance in the Italian Gardens at the Davenport Hotel in Spokane. They are billed as “Two Boys with a Piano and a Voice.”
November 28, Sunday. After their performance at the Liberty Theatre, the boys catch a train for Chicago where they stay at the Eastgate Hotel on Michigan Avenue.
November 29–December 4, Monday–Saturday. Paul Whiteman is at the Chicago Theater, Chicago.
December 6–12, Monday–Sunday. Bing and Al open with Whiteman at the Tivoli Theater in Chicago and are a hit. They give four shows a day.
The first evening show was about to start and we were all made-up and ready. There was a full house out front. Whiteman told us that we would go on about the middle of the show and that he would introduce us as Crosby and Rinker, who were making their first appearance with his band. Well, our turn finally came and Paul walked out and started our introduction. What he said was far different than what we had expected. He told the audience that he had heard two young boys singing in an ice cream parlor in a little town out west, called Walla Walla. “They sang some songs and I wondered what they were doing in Walla Walla. These kids were good, too good for Walla Walla, so I asked them to join my band. This is their first appearance with the band and here they are. I want you to meet Crosby and Rinker. Come on out boys.” The little piano was moved on stage and Bing and I came out from the wings. All I know is that we got a big hand after our first song and even more applause on our second number. To top it all, we were called back for an encore. That was our first appearance on the big time. You can bet we were two happy guys. Whiteman came over to us after the show and said, “Well, how do you feel? I knew they’d like you. Welcome to the band!”
(Al Rinker, writing in his unpublished memoir, as reproduced on page 149 of Bing Crosby, A Pocketful of Dreams, The Early Years, 1903-1940 by Gary Giddins)
“Music’s the same all over,” Pops said. “They liked you in Los Angeles and they’ll like you here. You’ve nothing to worry about. Just do your stuff the way you’ve already done it.”
We listened, and when we walked out there to face our first matinee audience, we were cocky on the outside, but inside the butterflies were fluttering restlessly.
Pops introduced us by telling the crowd, “I want you to meet a couple of boys I found in an ice-cream parlor in Walla Walla.” Afterward he told us he’d picked Walla Walla because its name sounded funny to him. Funny or not, it struck exactly the right note. We went out there, did our stuff, and if I do say it, we were very big. I’m confident that oldsters who attended the Tivoli Theater on Chicago’s South Side in those days will bear me out in this.
(Call Me Lucky, page 44)
December (undated). Bing sees Louis Armstrong perform at the Sunset Cafe, Chicago.
December 13–19, Monday–Sunday. The Whiteman show moves to the Uptown Theater in Chicago.
December 16, Thursday. Paul Whiteman and his band appear in an all-star program for the 15th. Annual Chicago Herald and Examiner Christmas Basket at the Erlanger Theatre. Also appearing are George Jessel, the Marx Brothers, Ethel Waters and the Brox Sisters.
December 22, Wednesday. (2:00–5:20 p.m.) In the Orchestra Hall, Chicago, Bing and Al record “Wistful and Blue” with Paul Whiteman and his Orchestra for the Victor Talking Machine Company. Another song “Pretty Lips” is rejected after four takes.
The session’s only acceptable number was a rendition of Ruth Etting’s “Wistful and Blue.” Coupled with an instrumental from the day before, it was the first of nearly one hundred titles Bing and Al recorded under Whiteman’s aegis. Dated as it is today, their record debut was novel in 1926. Max Farley, a Whiteman saxophonist, arranged “Wistful and Blue”’s odd eighteen-bar theme for the orchestra, but the vocal chorus was treated separately; the singers were backed by viola, guitar, and bass. Matty Malneck, waiting for this kind of opportunity, arranged the vocal passage, using his viola as a third voice in unison with Bing and Al. With Wilbur Hall strumming guitar and John Sperzel keeping a yeoman beat on bass, they sing a straight chorus with a two-bar break, followed by a stop-time scat chorus that evolves into a chase between voices and viola. Rinker’s voice dominates the duet, but it was the general jazziness of the vocal interlude—not the individual talents of the singers—that made the record a turning point for Whiteman; this zesty brand of singing was unknown to most of his public. Bing credited Malneck’s arrangement with helping him and Al forge “a new style ... a vocal without words.”
(Gary Giddins, Bing Crosby, A Pocketful of Dreams, The Early Years, 1903-1940, pages 150-151)
December 24, Friday. The Whiteman troupe travel to St. Louis.
December 25–January 8, Saturday–Saturday. The Whiteman ensemble is at the Ambassador Theater, St. Louis, where they break all house records as a total of 113,223 people pay $57,761 to see them in the first week. They give five shows each day at 1, 3, 5, 7 & 9 p.m. as part of a cine-variety show. They had only been booked for one week but they are held over because of the demand to see them.
Paul Whiteman and his band, making their first appearance in a local movie house, is the main attraction, and he gives the audience just what it wants and almost as long as it wants it from Gershwin’s ‘Rhapsody in Blue’ to ‘Pop Goes the Weasel.’
(St. Louis Post-Dispatch, December 27, 1926)
There are other features on the Ambassador program this week, but they pale before the stage presentation of Paul Whiteman in person and his orchestra of thirty. ‘The Girl Friend’ serves to get the audiences acquainted with the band as a whole and ‘Meet the Boys’, the bandsmen as individuals. Whiteman says: “I am so proud of them, I want you to meet them personally.”
Gershwin’s ‘Rhapsody in Blue’ is on the list, as are several other selections, offered as harmony numbers, solos, duets and otherwise by singers, and in various ways by the musicians. ‘Mary Lou’ and ‘Pop Goes the Weasel’ form the backbone of two other stunts. The band is excellent, but it is on Whiteman himself, that the interest centers at all times.
Whiteman’s cherubic grin, roly poly wiggles of syncopation and jazz squeal that seems to say: “Well, how do you like us?” had the Christmas crowds at the Ambassador literally crying for more…
(St. Louis Daily Globe-Democrat, December 27, 1926)
... Then there is Paul Whiteman on the stage for a second week. It is well worth anyone’s while to spend another half-hour or so listening to him again. He has changed the color scheme of his stage to blacks and dull golds, carried out in the suits, the instruments and the really gorgeous beaded curtain that serves as a background. His music is the same so far as excellence goes. It is jazz at its pinnacle. What more need be said? The program has been changed, of course, to ‘In a Spanish Town’ and other numbers Whiteman has made popular on the air, on records, in theaters, at dances, and such.
His musicians, individually, are given opportunities again to score with specialties of their own—particularly the two-man jazz band, whose ‘Baby’ and ‘Red-Hot Mamma’ lyrics have made harmony history.
Last, but by no means, least, his cherubic-faced majesty, Paul himself, is even more willing to please and more genial than he was last week —if that is at all possible!
(St. Louis Daily Globe-Democrat, January 3, 1927)
December 31, Friday. The Orchestra plays at “Whiteman’s New Year’s Eve Ball” at The Coliseum, St. Louis.
January 7, Friday. Whiteman plays at The Palm Room of the Hotel Chase in St. Louis.
January 9–15, Sunday–Saturday. Whiteman show at the Allen Theater, Cleveland.
Program is a diversified, expertly staged affair, offering first rate entertainment. There is some ingratiating clowning between Henry Busse, a clever cornetist, and Whiteman, whom he resembles. Wilbur Hall cuts up on a violin a la Joe Termini’s style, and provides some melody with a bicycle pump. Rinker and Crosby put across several familiar songs in a rousing fashion, while ‘Snowball’ Harris is especially good in his dancing and banjo specialties.
(Cleveland Plain-Dealer, January 11, 1927)
By the third day, word had spread that there would be no Whiteman broadcast. The crowds then began to flock to the Allen, breaking attendance records. And the music soon made believers out of even the most hardened critics like Eleanor Clarage of the Cleveland Plain-Dealer. . . . To Clarage, accustomed to symphonic offerings, Al Rinker and Bing Crosby were indeed an enigma. She couldn’t fathom “why the band allowed itself to be interrupted for the none-too-clever pair of young men who did the occasional harmony stunt at the piano in scarcely audible voices. It seemed a crime to let anything hold up the gorgeous orchestral music, yet the audience stamped and howled and drowned out Whiteman’s next orchestral section with its insistent applause after these mediocre entertainers signified that their last encore had been given.” This gives one some idea of how well Rinker and Crosby were faring with Midwestern audiences. Their act represented something new and fresh that greatly appealed to Whiteman’s followers. The lack of volume in their singing without the aid of microphones, would soon catch up with them, however.
(Paul Whiteman, Pioneer in American Music, page 152)
January 16–22, Sunday–Saturday. The Whiteman troupe moves on to the Hippodrome, Youngstown, Ohio, where they give four shows daily at 2:00 p.m., 4:30 p.m., 7:00 p.m., and 9:30 p.m.
Paul Whiteman has taken the word jazz and made it signify joy, art, zip, and zest…Two of the boys in the band [Crosby & Rinker] sing a la Van and Schenk, and are artists of real ability.
(The Youngstown Vindicator, January 17, 1927)
January 21, Friday. The Orchestra plays for the Youngstown Kiwanis at the YMCA, beginning at 12:15 p.m.
January 23–29, Sunday–Saturday. Whiteman and his group are at the Circle Theatre, Indianapolis. The show is put on four times daily.
He has a positive sensation in Rinker and Crosley [sic], two harmony singers, one playing the piano. Here is an intimate singing duo that uses a new way of putting over their numbers. Stopped the show cold, and Whiteman was so grand that he allowed them to be a sensation. The man knows how to please an organization.
(Indianapolis Times, January 24, 1927)
January 29, Saturday. The Whiteman band plays a dance date at the Columbia Club in Indianapolis at 10:00 p.m.
January 30–February 4, Sunday–Friday. Whiteman at the newly remodeled Castle Farm, Cincinnati.
February 7, Monday. The Whiteman troupe arrives at Grand Central Station, New York, in the morning and Whiteman is taken by motor parade down Broadway to City Hall where the acting mayor greets him. The parade goes on to the Paramount for a “grand ballyhoo” and then to the Hotel Astor for a “welcome home” lunch.
February 10, Thursday (1:30–5:20 p.m.). Bing and Al are part of a vocal group which records with Paul Whiteman in New York for Victor.
February 12–18, Saturday–Friday. Whiteman is at the Paramount Theater in New York in a cine-variety show. He is paid a salary of $9500 for the week. The show opens on February 12 and Bing and Al receive favorable comment in Variety magazine.
From the coast, he has brought in Rinker and Crosby, a smart two man piano act who sing pop ditties differently and are of the Van and Schenck class. After Whiteman gets through grooming the boys, they’ll be plenty in the money. At the Whiteman restaurant, they will be even more impressive. . . . Rinker and Crosby vocalized two numbers and accepted as many encores.
Unfortunately the Crosby and Rinker act cannot be heard in certain parts of the theater and, at the request of the theater management, is withdrawn after only three performances. Thereafter Bing and Al sing in the lobby to the overflow crowd waiting to enter the theater.
February 18, Friday. Paul Whiteman’s “Broadway at 48th” Club opens on the site of the former Trianon at 11:00 p.m. in front of a host of celebrities, including the brother of the King of Spain and Charlie Chaplin. The orchestra is advertised as playing during dinner and supper. Crosby and Rinker are hardly noticed when they perform during the intermission and they are eventually relegated to fill in as stagehands pulling back the curtains.
Whiteman’s orchestra of 33 is guaranteed $6,000 a week, which is included in the running expenses of the room. This ahout covers the Whiteman salary “nut.” Of the profits, Whiteman receives 50 per cent, which is estimated should run over $10,000 a week for Whiteman personally at that gait.
(Variety, March 2, 1927)
February 25, Friday. (1:45–4:15 p.m.) More group work for Bing and Al on “That Saxophone Waltz” at a recording session in New York with Whiteman for Victor.
February 28, Monday. (1:45–4:30 p.m.) Bing and Al record “Pretty Lips” with Whiteman, this time successfully.
March 3, Thursday. Bing and Al record “I’m Coming Virginia” but all four takes are rejected. Elsewhere, a son, John Dennis, is born to Larry and Elaine Crosby.
March 7, Monday. (1:45–4:00 p.m.) Bing records “Muddy Water” with Whiteman in New York for Victor. His first solo, albeit only a chorus, and without label credit.
Victor No. 20513 and No. 20508. Three-quarters Paul Whiteman on these two records. The first is all Whiteman. “It All Depends on You” and “That Saxophone Waltz” are an excellent coupling and “Muddy Water” with “Ain’t She Sweet” (Nat Shilkret) are equally fetching.
(Variety, April 20, 1927)
Three days after that, on March 7, at New York’s Liederkranz Hall, Whiteman’s faith was rewarded as the band essayed another Malneck arrangement, “Muddy Water,” a song recently introduced by Harry Richman, the egocentric headliner who graduated from burnt cork to top-hat-and-cane elegance. It was the work of white composer Peter De Rose, at the outset of a career that produced “Deep Purple” and “Wagon Wheels,” and black lyricist Jo Trent, whose “Georgia Bo-Bo” Louis Armstrong had recorded the previous year. This time Al was left out altogether.
“Muddy Water” did not electrify the music world. It was no “Heebie Jeebies” or “Heartbreak Hotel,” though sales were respectable. Yet Crosby’s first recorded chorus—thirty-two measures—was every bit as radical. Nothing remotely like it had been heard before. The song, with its bucolic theme of an idyllic life “down Dixie way,” was cannily appropriate for a Dixiephile like Bing. Yet his delivery is never patronizing or sentimental. He bets everything on his rhythmic phrasing and gives each word its due. The introductory trombone, answered by strings, and a bold unison ensemble chorus promise a jazz record; but only the vocal, backed by viola and rhythm, make good on the promise. Though stilted and even formal, Bing’s time and articulation are assured, especially on the bridge, where he emphasizes there and care with trilling vibrato that displays his growing affinity for swing.
No singer had ever come close to swinging on a Whiteman record or with any other white ballroom band…Crosby’s very presence was singular. He was the first ever full-time band singer, not an instrumentalist who doubled vocals.
(Gary Giddins, Bing Crosby, A Pocketful of Dreams, The Early Years, 1903-1940, pages 156-157)
March 9, Wednesday. Variety quotes the cabaret bill at the Paul Whiteman Club as being the Paul Whiteman Orchestra and the “Whiteman Boys.” The latter act presumably includes Bing and Al Rinker.
March 22–May 21, Tuesday–Saturday. The Whiteman troupe is featured in the musical comedy Lucky starring Mary Eaton at the New Amsterdam Theater. Ruby Keeler and Skeets Gallagher are also in the cast. The Whiteman band appears each night for twenty-five minutes at about 11:00 p.m. in a New York cabaret sequence late in Act Two and plays five numbers. Bing and Al sing “Sam, the Old Accordion Man.” High prices have to be charged to cover the cost of including the Whiteman orchestra. The show, which has matinees on Wednesdays and Saturdays, lasts for only seventy-one performances. The orchestra also continues to perform at the Whiteman night club during this period.
…The big smash in the second act is Whiteman and regardless of Whiteman’s ultra syncopation, it is a far better second half than the first act. The dramatic action is excellently built up, and where the initial stanza relied too much on impressive scenic gorgeousness for general effect, there is more genuine entertainment and comedy in the first two scenes of the last act when, of course, the Whiteman smash cinches everything. Discounting a favorable position for the ultra type of Whiteman’s symphonic syncopation, there is no question but that Whiteman is the biggest individual click of the evening. His concert alone makes the show very worthwhile.
Coming on at close to 11— about five minutes of— he held them until 20 after, and that is no small assignment, considering the hour. The tardiness of the getaway is probably the only criticism of the entertainment. It should be speeded up for an earlier curtain, and there is room for elision in that first half.
Whiteman was impressively set in a maize and blue setting, opening with “When Day Is Done,” followed by an unabridged version of “Rhapsody in Blue.” Wilbur Hall was but mild with his fiddling, and might concentrate only on the bicycle pump “music.” The colored midget clicked heavily with his banjo and hoofing contributions, and Whiteman showed how “Sunday,” “Sam, the Old Accordion Man” and “In a Little Spanish Town” should be glorified musically.
Whiteman’s score at the Amsterdam determines beyond a doubt that Whiteman belongs primarily on the stage. It is only in the confines of a theatre or concert hall auditorium, with an attentive audience, not confused by booze or babble, that the charm of Whiteman’s blah-grade syncopation is best appreciated. His 28 men are the last word in ultra syncopation.
(Variety, March 30, 1927)
With book and lyrics by Otto Harbach, Bert Kalmar, and Harry Ruby and score by Jerome Kern, and with supporting performances by Walter Catlett, Skeets Gallagher, and Ruby Keeler, it seemed to have everything going for it. Paul Whiteman’s orchestra also played in the second act of Lucky, including a version of Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue.” And even though that was a very popular attraction, it was not enough to keep the show going very long. (It seems clear, looking back, that any musical comedy that pauses for “Rhapsody in Blue” in its second act is bound to have problems.) Each evening, the show ran until a quarter to midnight, and even those who liked the show thought that it was simply too long. And there was not a compelling story to hold it all together or memorable songs (“Dancing the Devil Away,” “When the Bo-Tree Blossoms Again,” and “The Same Old Moon”). That same year, Kern was doubtless pouring his genius into Show Boat, not into Lucky. While it had a lot going for it, the show’s tragic flaw was its extravagance, Dillingham tried to outdo Ziegfeld in extravagance and splendor and it proved very costly. The reports were that Dillingham ended up losing $133,000.
During the run, Charlie (Eaton) got acquainted with Bing Crosby, who was one of the three Rhythm Boys with the Whiteman orchestra, and they would visit each other in Hollywood in the years to come. It was Charlie who introduced Dixie Lee to Bing on a movie set in Hollywood in 1929, when Charlie was filming Harmony at Home.
(Doris Eaton Travis, The Days We Danced, page111)
April 13, Wednesday. The new floor show at the Paul Whiteman Club opening today is said to include “the following entertainers from Whiteman’s Orchestra: Henry Busse, Jack Sperzel, Wilbur Hall and Big Crosby [sic].”
April (undated). The duo becomes a trio when Harry Barris joins them on Matty Malneck’s suggestion and the new group becomes Paul Whiteman’s Rhythm Boys one month later.
We fooled around with some ideas and we tried out some three-part harmony. . . . One of Harry’s tricks in his solo act was to slam the top of the piano for an effect and make the sound of a cymbal with his mouth. This sounded great and all three of us were getting our kicks at the way we sounded. We all came up with ideas. Bing took most of the solo parts and Barris and I would fill in with answers or a rhythmic scat background. Although we weren’t conscious of it, we were creating an entirely new style of singing pop songs. We were far more jazz oriented than any other singing group of that time. . . . We were greatly influenced by the great jazz musicians we had heard and were working with. We were very free and uninhibited. We had a solid beat in our rhythm numbers, but we could also give a pretty ballad an individual and personal feeling. In two more days we had put together two complete songs, “Mississippi Mud” and “Ain’t She Sweet.” We sang the songs for Matty Malneck and he was bowled over.
(Al Rinker, as quoted in Bing Crosby, A Pocketful of Dreams, pages 161–162)
April 29, Friday. (1:30–4:00 p.m.) Bing and Al again record “I’m Coming Virginia” with Paul Whiteman and his Orchestra. This time it is a success. Harry Barris joins Bing and Al to record “Side by Side” with Whiteman.
Bing was more himself on Malneck’s adaptation of “I’m Coming, Virginia,” the song he and Rinker had flubbed at a previous session, with Barris adding only a hot-cha-cha coda. Here Bing captures the originality of “Muddy Water,” combining his deft time with a full, relaxed articulation of the words. Contrary to Al’s suggestion of a diligent jazz influence, two surviving takes show that their scat routines were worked out to the last detail. Yet Bing’s imperturbable vocal, Matty’s writing, Nichols’s solo, and the band’s skill combined to make “I’m Coming, Virginia” the best and most authentic jazz record Whiteman had ever made.
(Gary Giddins, Bing Crosby, A Pocketful of Dreams, The Early Years, 1903-1940, pages 162-163)
May 6/9, Friday/Monday. Further recording sessions with Whiteman at Liederkranz Hall in New York as part of a vocal group.
May 22, Sunday. Whiteman gives a one hour concert at the Century Theater as a benefit for Saranac Lake Day Nursery.
May 24, Tuesday. (1:00–4:40 p.m.) Bing, Al Rinker and Harry Barris record “Magnolia” with Whiteman. They are not yet billed as “The Rhythm Boys.” That night, the Paul Whiteman Club closes for the summer and in fact it is sold during August and the name is changed. Variety on May 18 had discussed the impending closure stating “Only caterer made money.”
May 25, Wednesday. Variety states that Charles B. Dillingham has suffered a net loss of $270,000 on his production of Lucky which closed on May 21.
June 4–10, Saturday–Friday. The Whiteman troupe returns to the Paramount in New York at $9,500 for the first two weeks and $10,500 per week thereafter. The show starting on June 4 is called Rhapsodyland and it alternates with the film. A favorable review is seen in Variety on June 8.
…so a word instead for that new vocal trio, “Bing” Crosby, Al Rinker, and Harry Barris who made their spot a stellar opportunity in itself.
June 11–17, Saturday–Friday. Whiteman continues at the New York Paramount and this time the show is called Rushia!
It’s tremendous in volume and magnificent in effect. It’s the ‘1812 overture,’ with Whiteman’s band on the stage, the pit orchestra, and Jesse Crawford at the organ, all under Whiteman’s leadership.
(Variety, June 15, 1927)
June 18, Saturday. Bing’s sister, Catherine, who has married Edward Mullin, gives birth to a daughter, Marilyn.
June 18–24, Saturday–Friday. Whiteman still at the Paramount and the show is now called S. S. Syncopation.
…the highmark of which was Ruth Etting and a “hot” singing threesome from the band personnel.
(Variety, June 22, 1927)
June 20, Monday. The Rhythm Boys make their first “official” records, including “Mississippi Mud,” in New York.
Paul Whiteman’s Rhythm Boys make their debut with a nonsense medley of ditties that include four different copyrights: “Sweet Li’l” and “Ain’t She Sweet?” on one side; “Mississippi Mud” and “I Left My Sugar Standing in the Rain” on the other.
(Variety, August 3, 1927)
The variety of jazz put into these pieces is distinctive and unique and includes rapid fire patter, bits of solo work, minor chords and close harmonies with deft business on the piano and with the cymbals.
(Spokane Daily Chronicle, August 23, 1927)
Paul Whiteman’s Rhythm Boys, three members of his famous band, give us a really entertaining record and one that I advise everyone to buy with “Sweet Li’l—Ain’t She Sweet” and “Mississippi Mud—I Left My Sugar Standing in the Rain” (HMV B2562). (The Gramophone, December, 1927)
Midway through the Paramount run, the Rhythm Boys formally debuted on records, singing the first two numbers they had rehearsed, now tricked up as medleys and accompanied only by Harry’s piano and Bing’s cymbal whacks. “Mississippi Mud” is oddly structured: a twenty-two-bar chorus with a sixteen-bar middle section. The lyric is catchy (though marred by the term darkies, which was eventually changed to people), and the melody is propelled by accents on the first beat of almost every measure. Bing recorded it three times over the next seven months. Though the Rhythm Boys’ version is not as effective as those that followed, it confirmed the trio’s style as part music and part wisecracking comedy. A scat passage introduces them one at a time: Bing, then Al, then Harry, who finishes with a hahh. After a unison chorus in which Bing takes the lead in the middle section, the patter leads to an interpolation of “I Left My Sugar Standing in the Rain,” where Bing displays for the first time on record his sustained balladic tones as well as his humor and wordplay - in the spin he puts on the spoken phrase “I don’t know” and the spoonerism “irregardless and respective.” The second number employs “Ain’t She Sweet” as a rapid windup to Barris’s “Sweet Li’l.” Bing instructs the others at the outset, “If it’s gonna be good it must be fast,” and when they close with an exchange of scat breaks, he mimics a tuba (bub-bub-bub bub-a-bub-bub-bub), the modest beginning of a trait for future mimics.
Those recordings are not especially good, and darkies aside, have not aged well. Barris is too jumpy, though Rinker proves fairly adept at scat, and the humor is intrusive. Still, “Mississippi Mud” became hugely popular, and they performed it nightly at the Paramount and at the Whiteman club, establishing it as their signature song. Everyone who saw them remembered the number as a Jazz Age anthem. It secured Barris’s role as the new brains of the outfit, supplanting Al, who was both grateful and annoyed.
(Gary Giddins, Bing Crosby, A Pocketful of Dreams, The Early Years, 1903-1940, pages 164-165)
June 25–July 1, Saturday–Friday. Whiteman continues at the Paramount in a show entitled Jazz A La Carte.
July 2–8, Saturday–Friday. Whiteman remains at the Paramount with a show called Fireworks. Tommy Dorsey joins the band.
It’s in patriotic tempo with electric pinwheels and effects for the final curtain…Three boys, two of them Crosby and Rinker, the blues yodelling plebes from Spokane, had a cute number in front of the band, using pop guns. The presentation was zippy colorful entertainment all the way.
(Variety, July 6, 1927)
July 6, Wednesday. (10:00 a.m.–12:15 p.m.) Bing and Al are again part of a humming vocal group which records ‘My Blue Heaven’ with Whiteman in New York. ‘My Blue Heaven’ goes on to top the various charts of the day.
Victor No. 20828 — “My Blue Heaven” and “All By My Ownsome,” by Roger Wolfe Kahn and orchestra (the number composed by the conductor) are a pair of fine fox-trot contributions by two “name” maestros. “Blue Heaven” introduces that unique Whiteman quintet (Fulton, Gaylord, Young, Rinker and Crosby) in a novelty vocal chorus arrangement. It is one of the best records made by Whiteman.
(Variety, September 7, 1927)
July 9–15, Saturday–Friday. Whiteman’s “grand farewell party” at the New York Paramount in a show dubbed Ali Baba.
Curtain arose with the fakir and his crew doing their garbed chant in front of scrim and Whiteman making his entrance in tropical garb. Scrim goes up and reveals the Whiteman crowd all in oriental dress, doing their stuff under the direction of Henry Busse.
(Variety, July 13, 1927)
July (undated). Whiteman takes his troupe on a highly successful tour around east coast ballrooms playing one night at each.
July 28-29, Thursday-Friday. The Whiteman ensemble appears in Buffalo, New York.
August 1–7, Monday–Sunday. The Whiteman band appears at the Eastman Theatre in Rochester, receiving $11,000 for the week’s engagement. The first night’s performance is dislocated by a power failure but Whiteman and his musicians, using flashlights and cigarette lighters, continue to entertain the crowd.
Rochester, Aug. 2.
Paul Whiteman on the stage of the Eastman theatre last night prevented a panic with his cigarette lighter as every light in Rochester went out through man holes blowing up. Whiteman and his orchestra with flashlights and lighters kept the audience entertained with music, songs and stories for over an hour, after the theatre had gone dark. The audience did not dare risk going into the street on account of the flying man hole covers. The darkness also extended to towns near Rochester. This morning dailies credit Whiteman with averting a stampede.
(Variety, August 3, 1927)
August 8–21, Monday–Sunday. Paul Whiteman and his troupe appear at the Stanley Theatre in Philadelphia.
August 14, Sunday. The Rhythm Boys plus Paul Whiteman, Jimmy Dorsey, Matty Malneck and others go to Young’s Million Dollar Pier in Atlantic City where Jean Goldkette’s Graystone Band is playing. Whiteman offers jobs to Bix Beiderbecke, Frankie Trumbauer and Bill Challis. Bix and Frankie decline the offer although Challis accepts.
August 16, Tuesday. The Rhythm Boys are used in a morning recording session with Whiteman starting at 9:00 a.m. in Camden, New Jersey and record “The Five Step”.
August 19. Friday. Bing is one of several vocalists on a recording of “The Calinda” with the Whiteman orchestra. Another morning session starting at 9:00 a.m. in Camden, New Jersey.
August 20, Saturday. Commencing at 9 a.m., The Rhythm Boys record “It Won’t Be Long Now” with Whiteman in Camden, New Jersey.
Victor No. 20883 — Paul Whiteman with some more “Manhattan Mary” music, “It Won’t Be Long Now” and “Five-Step”. They are in an unusual Whiteman vein, futuristic, fast and funny in their instrumentation. Barris, Rinker and Crosby of the Whiteman item contribute vocally.
(Variety, October 5, 1927)
August 22, Monday. The Whiteman ensemble travel to York, Pennsylvania for a 2-week dance tour through Pennsylvania and New England.
August 28, Sunday. The band plays at Willow Grove Park near Philadelphia. Rain keeps the crowds away.
September 1, Thursday. En route from Springfield, Massachusetts to a concert at Rhodes Dance Hall on Providence, Rhode Island, the bus carrying most of the orchestra breaks down twice. A crowd of 5500 people are entertained by Whiteman and seven of his musicians for over an hour until the rest of the band arrives at 10:20 p.m. Whiteman arranges for the orchestra to continue playing until 2:00 a.m., an hour past the scheduled closing time.
Paul Whiteman’s record for punctuality on road engagements was broken Thursday night, when a bus load of his music makers kept a crowd of 5500 waiting an hour and a half at Rhodes dance hall. According to Paul he and the troupe had played ??? (illegible) towns in the past two years, and had never been late.
For the entertainment of one of the largest crowds to ever attend the Pawtuzet Hall, Paul and seven of his men joined with the Rhodes orchestra to furnish music for the dancers until the lost musicians arrived. At 10:20 the remainder of the troupe arrived in a private bus which had broken down twice on its trip from Springfield, Mass.
In contrast with the ultra stylishly dressed units which have appeared at Rhodes throughout the summer, Paul’s outfit tumbled out of the bus in sweaters, turndown collars, knickers, etc. To atone for lateness Whiteman held his orchestra until two o’clock, an hour over the scheduled closing time.
The highly successful one-night dance tour by Paul Whiteman and orchestra has swamped the William Morris office with offers for other “name” bands impressed with the $12.000 weekly average that Whiteman grossed in the ballrooms.
(Variety, September 7, 1927)
September 10–23, Saturday–Friday. Whiteman and his troupe appear at the New York Paramount as the first part of a tour on the Publix circuit.
…Whiteman’s band is not trading on its reputation. As presented this week the band numbers top everything, including a male show-stopping acrobatic dancer. Proving that if Whiteman and the boys had to play in front of a plain drop they would still be worth the full price of admission on sheer entertainment value, if applause following “When Day Is Done,” may be considered any indication.
(Variety, September 14, 1927)
September 18, Sunday. CBS Radio goes on the air.
September 21, Wednesday. (2:00–4:10 p.m.) Bing records ‘Missouri Waltz’ with Whiteman at Liederkranz Hall in New York as part of a vocal group.
September 25–October 1, Sunday–Saturday. Whiteman at the Metropolitan, Boston.
Boston. Oct. 4.
Even though it was a week when indoor entertainment would naturally suffer through the abnormal weather conditions, three days of the week being exceptionally hot, three of the picture houses hung up grosses which read more like those that are entered in the books during the height of the season.
Whiteman and his orchestra at the Metropolitan took Boston by storm at the opening and kept filling the house and the lobbies with standees until when he had finished the gross had run to $49,800. Even though Whiteman was not actually in need of it, those in charge of the publicity for the house did not overlook any chances to get him into the dailies.
This gross of Whiteman’s, for it can all be laid to Whiteman with the picture furnishing but little in the way of an attraction, ranks well with the record breaking grosses of this house in this and other seasons.
(Variety, October 5, 1927)
October 2–October 8, Sunday–Saturday. Whiteman and his orchestra at the Buffalo Theatre in Buffalo, New York.
October 6, Thursday. The film The Jazz Singer starring Al Jolson premieres at the Warner Theater, New York. This is often regarded as the first “talkie.”
October 9–15, Sunday–Saturday. The Whiteman troupe appears at the Michigan Theater in Detroit. The Rhythm Boys make a considerable impact.
Friday. Staying at the Book-Cadillac Hotel in Detroit, Bing sends a
typewritten letter on hotel notepaper to the Misses Rice and Shaefer.
The Misses Rice and Shaefer:
My dear Ladies –
I must confess that I was considerably nonplussed disconcerted or something by your rather novel request of recent date. Always wary of a hoax emanating from the more playful spirits of the band, I was at first blush, a little suspicious. But a more careful examination of your epistle convinced me, for the once, of its sincerity and I am accordingly hastening to comply with the desire contained therein.
Unhappily the present instant finds me utterly bereft of any suitable likenesses other than newspaper cuts, which I am enclosing.
However, we are planning on sitting for portraits in Cincinnati next week while playing at the spacious Castle Farms, and, if your avidity for a daguerreotype remains unassuaged, I shall dispatch one by the earliest post.
With kindest regards, I beg to remain the wolf of the 49th Street Flying field.
October 16–21, Sunday–Friday. Whiteman at Castle Farm, Cincinnati.
October 23–28, Sunday–Friday. Whiteman is at the Indiana Theater, Indianapolis. Bix Beiderbecke and Frankie Trumbauer join him there on October 27 as the Jean Goldkette band has dissolved.
As rotund and pleasantly ebullient as ever, this leader directs an amazing dexterous band through the rhythmical intricacies of popular melodies, melodies that are so interlarded with counter-themes, so embellished with capricious cadenzas and so besprinkled with the newest harmonies, that the simplest tune becomes a fantasia.
(Indianapolis News, October 24, 1927)
October 29–November 4, Saturday–Friday. Whiteman is in St. Louis at the Ambassador Theater sharing the cine-variety bill with the film Lonesome Ladies. He is paid $12,000 for his week’s work. Bing is introduced to Estelle Shaffner and they go with Bix Beiderbecke and Ruth Shaffner on a tour of the night spots ending up at “The Wedge” where Bing sings with the band.
Whiteman and his ensemble in red coats on the stage feature ‘Under the Moon,’ Shanghai Dream Man,’ and ‘When Day Is Done.’ The biggest single hit is Whiteman’s comic violinist, and the next hit is his singing trio with their two miniature pianos. Whiteman’s personality, this visit, is submerged in the music and clowning.
(St. Louis Daily Globe-Democrat, October 31, 1927)
November 5, Saturday, The band travels to Chicago and stay at the Commonwealth Hotel.
November 7–13, Monday–Sunday. Whiteman performing in Chicago at the Chicago Theater. During the week, Bing, Bix Beiderbecke, and the Dorseys go to the Three Deuces Cafe at 222 North State Street for a jam session which goes on until the early hours of the morning.
Nightclubs were the center of Capone’s business and, also, his source of relaxation. Kutner recalled that he went along with Capone time after time to hear Isham Jones at the College Inn, “a big hangout for the boys.” And he remembered when Bing Crosby, then an unknown from Spokane, Washington, was in town with Paul Whiteman’s Rhythm Boys, and showed up at the Three Deuces (a Capone cabaret). “He came into the Three Deuces with Bix Beiderbecke, who said that some dude had invited them to play in Cicero. They had been told that they would be picked up at the Deuces. . . . Crosby sat there biting his nails and drinking Coke. Chicago made him nervous, he said. . . . Finally one of Al’s limousines called for them. I went out with them and introduced myself to the driver: ‘You know me, I play piano for Mr. Brown (Capone’s pseudonym).’ Capone had set up the Greyhound Club for them to play in, with his boys patrolling the streets armed to the teeth like a small army. Bing stepped out of the door of the limousine, looked around at all the mugs toting submachine guns in the open, and asked me, ‘Is this a jazz joint or World War II?’ He had never before seen men carrying arms like this in the heart of an American city.”
(When Hollywood Had a King, page 22)
November 8, Wednesday. Bing sees comedian Joe E. Lewis work at The New Rendezvous in Chicago. Lewis had refused the request of Jack “Machine Gun” McGurn (an Al Capone lieutenant) to renew a contract that would have bound him to sing and perform at the Green Mill Cocktail Lounge, which was partly owned by McGurn.
November 9, Thursday. In the early hours, Joe E. Lewis answers a knock at his door on the tenth floor of the upscale Commonwealth Hotel and finds himself eye-to-eye with three gangsters employed by McGurn. They viciously pistol-whip him, slash his throat from ear to ear, slice off a piece of his tongue, and leave him for dead. Miraculously, however, he survives.
November 11, Friday. The Rhythm Boys record “That’s Grandma” in Chicago.
November 12, Saturday. (9:15 p.m.) The Rhythm Boys and other Whiteman troupe members appear on radio station WMAQ in a radio stage revue.
November 14–20, Monday–Sunday. Whiteman moves to the Uptown Theater, Chicago.
November 17,Thursday. Another session in Chicago for the Rhythm Boys when “Miss Annabelle Lee” is recorded for Victor. Staying at the Hotel Rienzi in Chicago, Bing sends a hand-written letter on hotel notepaper to Mary Rice.
Dear Mary –
Am hastening to enclose the daguerreotype as promised. Not very fetching but serviceable and at least a likeness, however imperfect.
Expect to be in your county soon, Dayton, Toledo, Columbus etc and certainly hope I am accorded the privilege of seeing you again. See if you can arrange it.
Working plenty hard here in Chicago. Five shows a day until unconscious and it looks as tho the dance tour with the days free is going to prove most welcome.
We play the Tivoli next week and probably see you in the middle of the week following.
November 18, Friday. (9:00 a.m.–12:15 p.m.) Bing is again in the Victor recording studios as Hoagy Carmichael records “Washboard Blues” with the Whiteman orchestra. Bing is the stand-in vocalist just in case problems emerge.
Challis would have preferred another vocalist for the recording of “Washboard Blues.” “I wanted Bing to sing it—but I was wrong about that. Bing told me, ‘It’s Hoagy’s tune—he should do it.’ I had heard Bing, and I thought, you can’t come up to him. I remember, in front of the Whiteman band—the guys anyway—I suggested that Bing ought to do this. To tell you the truth, I was just learning about those kinds of things. But Hoagy did a good job on it. He had the right kind of twang in his voice.”
Carmichael recalled an interesting sidelight to this incident. Before the day of the recording session, the composer found a piano backstage at the Uptown Theatre and practiced the song over and over. “Bing came around while I was rehearsing once and stood there, hands in pockets, smoking a pipe,” Hoagy remembered.
“Mind if I glom on to the words, Hoagy?” he asked.
“No—but why?” Carmichael replied, puzzled.
“I’d just like to learn it,” said Bing, with a deadpan expression.
“It’s such a swell number, chum, I’d like to learn it,” Bing answered.
“Well, sure,” Hoagy said, pleased at the compliment.
“I didn’t realize until later that Whiteman wanted some voice insurance in case I bombed. He wanted somebody there who could do it if I didn’t. Bing was being kind to me. He didn’t hint to me I might flop. They wanted to make a good record whether I was on it or not.”
(Paul Whiteman, Pioneer in American Music, page 176)
November 19, Saturday. The Whiteman orchestra plays at the Drake Hotel for one night only for a fee of $6000.
November 21–27, Monday–Sunday. Whiteman at the Tivoli Theater, Chicago. Tommy Dorsey gives two week’s notice to leave the band at the conclusion of the engagement.
November 23, Wednesday. (9:30–11:45 a.m.) Bing records with Bix Beiderbecke for the first time as they both contribute to “Changes” with the Whiteman orchestra at the Victor studios in Chicago.
I think “Changes” was a tune made famous by the Williams Sisters, and Challis did an arrangement for us. . . . Bix’s style just blew us away. He could find notes that no one else could find. I think Challis left a lot of solo parts open for him, that is, just put down the number of bars, gave Bix the tempo, and let him improvise.
Bix was a jazz musician with this fabulous ear, and he surprised us when he had us listening to recordings by Stravinsky, Debussy, and those serious composers. His style was a blend of jazz and the music of these serious musicians and it showed in solos that he did such as “Sweet Sue” and “Oh, Miss Hannah” and several others.
(Bing Crosby, speaking on November 26, 1969, as reproduced in Bix—The Leon Bix Beiderbecke Story, page 306)
A song-plugger representing Donaldson’s publisher gave “Changes” to Whiteman, who handed it to Challis, who reversed the usual roles of the two vocal trios. The sweet trio sings the first theme in strong midrange unison; the Rhythm Boys follow with a high-voiced harmony, singing four bars and scatting four more. The third theme is all Bing, followed instantly by a glorious cornet improvisation from the astonishing Bix. Though Donaldson’s lyric concerns the changing of musical keys (with a gratuitous reference to “many babies that he can squeeze”), the melody employs few notes; Bing’s episode consists almost entirely of repeated Gs, which he caps with a trombonelike melisma. “What I liked about Bing,” Challis marveled, “was there were fast words in there and they came out beautifully - excellent enunciation.” Challis underscores the energy of the soloists with exchanges between the winds and strings and a deep bottom bolstered by three baritone saxophones. “Paul said use whatever I wanted and I did.”
(Gary Giddins, Bing Crosby, A Pocketful of Dreams, The Early Years, 1903-1940, pages 1674-168)
November 25, Friday. (9:30 a.m.–12 noon) Bing records “Mary” with Paul Whiteman and his Orchestra in the Victor studios in Chicago.
Two days after “Changes,” another Donaldson tune defined the band’s stylistic divisions. In Malneck’s mischievous arrangement, “Mary” entangles Busse and Bix much as “Changes” connected the sweet and hot singers. After an ensemble introduction, Busse’s muted trumpet states the theme in damp staccato over a starchy bum-cha bum-cha rhythm. Then Bix takes over the brasses for the verse, delivering them and the entire ensemble into the sunshine of swing. Toward the end of the performance, Bix begins his flaming eight-bar improvisation with an impatient rip and, leading the brasses in contrapuntal figures, all but drowns out Busse’s reprise of the theme.
Yet Bix isn’t the key soloist. Bing is. Voice restored, he sings his chorus with exemplary finesse, articulating details at a cantering tempo and balancing rhythmic heat with vocal cool. He reshapes the melody, improving Donaldson’s cadences, displaying a jazz license all his own. The kind of liberties he took, however subtle, were not often appreciated by songwriters and publishers, who were known to threaten legal action over an altered note or word. Bing shows no trace of the Jolson influence, but he avails himself of an influence that had lain dormant: the upper mordent, also known as a pralltriller, that wavering catch in the voice preserved in the folk singing of Ireland, Scotland, and northern Africa. In his final phrases (“You wouldn’t let my castles come turn-turn-tumbling down .... What are you waiting for, Mary?”), Bing employs mordents on dawn and Mary.
Unlike “Changes,” “Mary” was not a hit with the public but was a triumph with the new guard in Whiteman’s band. Challis and other members lobbied for more Crosby features. To insiders, Bing was becoming something of a Bixian hero. Just as Bix proved that a white musician could be an expressively nonconformist jazz player, Bing showed that a white male vocalist did not have to sound like a Floradora girl. Bing thought like a musician; he had his own sound; he improvised; he had time.
(Gary Giddins, Bing Crosby, A Pocketful of Dreams, The Early Years, 1903-1940, pages 168-169)
November 29, Tuesday. (8:30 p.m.–1:00 a.m.) The Whiteman troupe gives a performance at the Memorial Hall, Columbus, Ohio.
November 30, Wednesday. (8:30 p.m.–1:00 a.m.) Performance by the Whiteman orchestra at Land O’ Dance, Canton, Ohio to the largest crown ever assembled in that hall.
December 1, Thursday. The band arrives at Toledo, Ohio at about noon. That night Whiteman presents a four hour program at Madison Gardens, Toledo from 8:30 p.m. until 12:30 a.m..
December 2, Friday. (starting at 8:15 p.m.) Similar program at the Prudden Auditorium, Lansing, Michigan. Rhythm Boys featured. Later the orchestra play at a dance at the 119th F. A. Armory.
Rhythm Boys are new to Lansing. Two baby pianos whose lids go wham, assist in the act. . . .
(State Journal of Lansing, December 3, 1927)
December 4–10, Sunday–Saturday. Whiteman at Allen Theater, Cleveland. Some 15,000 attend the four shows on opening day. The Rhythm Boys sing ‘Mississippi Mud’ and ‘I Left My Sugar Standing in the Rain’.
December 12–16, Monday–Friday. Whiteman at Loew’s Penn Theater, Pittsburgh. The Rhythm Boys sing ‘Broken-Hearted’.
December 19–24, Monday–Saturday. The Century Theater, Baltimore, is the next venue for the Whiteman entourage.
Whiteman’s band is so far ahead of the rest that there’s no comparison. You’ll hear no better playing of that sort. His men are artists, and that’s just why we were annoyed to bits at the program he elected to present. After playing a few numbers, he let a clever member of his band [Wilbur Hall] do tricks with a fiddle and a tire pump, and later, let his group of artists sit idle while three other funny fellows in the organization [The Rhythm Boys] consumed at least twenty or twenty-five minutes with nonsense. Such specialties as these are all right, stuck in on any program, but when it means taking time out from Whiteman’s band, we think it is a darn shame.
(Baltimore Evening Sun)
During the course of the evening in came the Paul Whiteman’s Rhythm Boys. It was evident that Whiteman was in town playing one of the Loew’s Theaters, and evidently they had been engaged to play at the coming out party. The Rhythm Boys were Harry Barris, Al Rinker, and Bing Crosby. Barris played the piano, which was a small upright, positioned smack against the wall underneath the running track. As the Rhythm Boys performed, Crosby and Rinker faced the crowd of diners, also under the running track.
In those days there was no sound amplification. Above the chatter of the diners, the Rhythm Boys might just as well have stayed in bed; no one was paying the slightest attention to them. But suddenly a hush fell upon this crowd of Baltimore elite. One of the Rhythm Boys was singing a song called “Montmartre Rose” and even though he lacked any amplification or means of channeling the sound waves to us, his voice commanded instant silence. Whether he sang one, or two choruses I don’t recall, but when he finished the crowd applauded wildly and cried for more. As though he was oblivious to their shouts and applause, almost as though he were hard of hearing, he threaded his way through the tables and passed by our sax section, not more than a foot and a half from me. I was struck by the lack of expression on his face, which was a mask of complete indifference. Bing Crosby was a hit and he didn’t even know it.
(Rudy Vallee, Let the Chips Fall)
December 26, Monday. (8:30 p.m. to 12:30 a.m.) Whiteman entertains at the Coliseum Ballroom, York, Pennsylvania, in front of 2,500 people. Immediately after the dance the band leaves for New York City.
December 27, Tuesday. The musical “Show Boat” opens at the Ziegfeld Theater in New York. The Whiteman band plays at a party given by General Charles H. Sherrill at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in New York.
December 28, Wednesday. (8:30 p.m.–1:00 a.m.). Whiteman plays dance music and gives an hour-long concert at the Town Hall, Scranton, Pennsylvania.
December 29, Thursday. Another concert at the Armory, Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania. 2000 attend.
December 30, Friday. (8:30 p.m.–1:00 a.m.) The orchestra performs at the Kalurah Temple, Binghamton, New York.
After a short concert program which included several vaudeville acts, Whiteman turned to the audience and said, ‘Now, let’s dance.’ The dance program included a large number of the more popular song hits of the past four or five years, and it was here that Whiteman demonstrated his superiority as a leader.
(Binghamton Sun, December 31, 1927)
December 31, Saturday. The Whiteman ensemble provides the stage show for a New Year’s Eve party given by Dr. John Dorrance, president of Campbell’s Soups, for his daughter, at the Bellevue-Stratford Hotel in Philadelphia. The fee is $8000. Sam Lanin’s orchestra supplies the dance music.
Taking the stage name of Ginger Meehan, Elizabeth roomed with Dolores Reade, who would later marry Bob Hope and remain a lifelong friend. While they were performing in Philadelphia, Paul Whiteman’s band came to town. It featured Bing Crosby and the Rhythm Boys, a trio of white men who sang songs like “Mississippi Mud” in a laid-back but rhythmic black style that enthralled Jazz Age audiences. Crosby roomed with Bix Beiderbecke and imitated his mellifluous cornet style as well as his habit of drinking himself into a stupor. “Bing could be cantankerous and was becoming unreliable. Some nights he was so green from drink that he had to be held up at the mike; on other nights he didn’t show at all.. . . The women they dated were chorus girls, of which there was a limitless supply.” In Philadelphia, Crosby started dating Ginger, and it quickly became serious.
(Skylark: The Life And Times Of Johnny Mercer, p48)
During the year, Bing has participated in four Paul Whiteman records that became hits: “Muddy Water,” “I’m Coming Virginia,” “My Blue Heaven,” and “The Calinda.”
January 1, Sunday. The Whiteman band travels from Philadelphia to New York via the Pennsylvania Railroad.
January 4, Wednesday. (12:49 a.m.) Bing sends a telegram to Ginger Meehan at the Emerson Hotel in Philadelphia.
According to US statistics there are 7 million people here but withal Im a stranger and miserably alone because youre not along love undying best regards to Delores and stuff
(10:30–11:30 p.m.) Whiteman and his troupe star in a new nationwide NBC radio broadcast sponsored by Dodge Brothers Automobile Co. and known as the “Victory” hour. (The program introduces the new Dodge “Victory Six” automobile.) It was the most widespread hookup ever attempted at that time. Bing takes part but is not mentioned, much to the chagrin of his family listening in Spokane. Will Rogers acts as MC and joins the program from the West Coast with Al Jolson coming in from New Orleans.
As with practically all of the important and high-priced commercial broadcasting programs under N. B. C. auspices in the past, the Dodge Brothers’ Victory Hour at a reputed cost of $67,000 was disappointing and not commensurate in impression with the financial outlay. The lack of satisfying radio showmanship is the least of the commercial radio advertiser’s worries, however, as the prime purpose of such staggering monetary investment for 60 minutes of such entertainment is not at all for purposes of showmanship as ballyhooing.
…The reaction to Paul Whiteman’s grand radio plug for “Among My Souvenirs,” the DeSylva, Brown & Henderson song hit, was a flock of orders by wire from dealers the day following the Dodge Brothers Victory Hour broadcast.
(Variety, January 11, 1928)
January 10, Tuesday. Bing rehearses “Ol’ Man River” with Bill Challis and Matty Malneck in the basement of the Clarion Hotel, New York.
January 11, Wednesday. (9:30 a.m.–1:45 p.m.) Whiteman records “Ol’ Man River” for Victor at Liederkranz Hall in New York. Bing sings the vocal chorus, still without label credit. The record is very successful indeed and tops the various charts of the day.
“I liked Bing’s voice in its natural register,” Challis later commented. “He had something in his throat that put him in the low register, to me, the best. To set the key for him, I set it by his lowest note. “Ol’ Man River” has a range of an octave and six notes. The average range is an octave plus two notes. If you look at the piano copies, most tunes are written in that range. But with a Jerome Kern song, they leave their feet! The melody is the thing. If he wanted to go six notes over the octave, he’s going to do it. Well anyway, with Bing, he could sing a nice low note of A-flat. So he started down there.” Near the end of the vocal, Bing tops a high F. “I asked Bing to put that in,” explained Challis. “He wanted to come down to a lower note, which is the way most of the singers used to sing it. I said, ‘Oh come on, sing it like it is.’ He said, ‘Do you think I should take that? Oh boy, that’s high. I can’t make that!’ So he tried it a couple of times. I said, ‘You can make it—just squeeze it out somehow or other. It’s good to get it up there.’ And he did.” It was a real tour de force—no other male vocalist recording in that era matched it.
“I just barely made it,” Bing later remembered. “I think I busted my shoelaces or something trying to hit those notes.” “Where could you get a singer like that?” Challis said, glowingly. “Especially with him—he was limited, range-wise. And yet, he’d try anything, go along with you on anything. Why? He liked it—he liked what he was doing. So Ferde, me, everybody liked to give Bing something to do. And then he would put in his own twists, most of which I think he got from Al Jolson, but he had a better way of putting them in—they didn’t sound as corny.”
(Paul Whiteman, Pioneer in American Music, page 184)
January 12, Thursday. The Rhythm Boys record “From Monday On” in New York.
January 14–20, Saturday–Friday. Whiteman at the Mosque Theater, Newark, New Jersey giving 5 shows a day. The Rhythm Boys take part. Bing is still earning $150 per week.
January 20, Friday. Bing records a solo of “From Monday On” in New York with Frank Trumbauer and his Orchestra for Okeh Records but it is not issued. At the same session, Bing records another version of “Mississippi Mud.”
Bix and the guys hung around a bistro on 48th or 49th Street. Its main attraction was a piano on the balcony and the guys were always working out arrangements. How they could hear anything over all the noise always baffled me. Tram may have worked out “Mississippi Mud” there. How he ever talked me into singing with him, I’ll never know. I had a lot of guts in those days. But I should have been arrested for singing with Tram.
(Bing Crosby, speaking on November 26, 1969, as reproduced in Bix—The Leon Bix Beiderbecke Story, page 306)
January 22–28, Sunday–Saturday. The Whiteman band performs at the Stanley Theater, Philadelphia.
Philadelphia, January 31.
Paul Whiteman again wowed the town last week when he brought his Orchestra back to the Stanley after their two highly successful weeks last fall. With weather decidedly against them and the accompanying picture one of only moderate drawing power, the Whiteman bunch pulled the Stanley’s gross last week up to $36,000, and perhaps a little over. It might have hit the $40,000 mark without the heavy rain and the Saturday afternoon and evening blizzard.
(Variety, February 1, 1928)
January 27, Friday. (9:30–11:40 a.m.) Bing records “Make Believe” with Whiteman in Victor’s Church Studio in Camden, New Jersey.
January 29, Sunday. Party at Frank Victor’s home. The band travels to Allentown.
January 30, Monday. (8:30 p.m.–12:30 a.m.) Whiteman troupe does a one-nighter at Mealey’s Auditorium, Allentown, Pennsylvania, after an afternoon rehearsal. 2000 attend.
Mr. Whiteman’s four pianists, including two men who play on the smallest upright Chickering piano, are also on the program. Program includes musical adaptation of Kipling’s “On the Road to Mandalay”. The Whiteman orchestra has perfected this number for both concert and dance work and include it in their repertory whenever possible.
(Allentown Chronicle and News and Evening Item, January 30, 1928)
February 1, Wednesday. Whiteman at Coliseum Ballroom, Harrisburg, for one performance before an audience of 1500.
February 2, Thursday. The Whiteman group plays at the Cathaum Theater, Penn State College, for a “one-nighter.”
February 3, Friday. Whiteman gives a performance at the Auditorium Dance Hall, Johnstown, Pennsylvania.
February 4, Saturday. The Whiteman ensemble returns to New York.
February 7, Tuesday. (9:30 a.m.–3:50 p.m.) Recording date at Liederkranz Hall in New York with Whiteman. Bing is part of a vocal group singing “Poor Butterfly.”
February 8, Wednesday. (10:00 a.m.–12:05 p.m.) Bing takes part in the recording of “There Ain’t No Sweet Man” with Whiteman at Liederkranz Hall.
February 13, Monday. (1:15–4:00 p.m.) Bing is again part of a vocal group which records “Sunshine” and “From Monday On” with Whiteman. “Sunshine” sells 88,866 copies.
February 18, Saturday. (11:30 a.m.–12:40 p.m.) Another recording date with Whiteman for Victor at Liederkranz Hall. “Mississippi Mud” is recorded with Irene Taylor.
February 20, Monday. Whiteman gives a performance at Altoona, Pennsylvania.
February 21, Tuesday. The orchestra performs at Youngstown, Ohio.
February 23, Thursday. The Whiteman troupe moves on to Fairmont, West Virginia, where they give a concert.
February 24, Friday. The band has a day off.
February 25, Saturday. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, is the next stop for the band.
February 26, Sunday. Another day off for the band.
February 28, Tuesday. (11:00 a.m.–3:45 p.m.) Bing records “From Monday On” and “High Water” with Whiteman in New York. The latter recording is a twelve inch 78 disc and sells only 4,904 copies.
The 1927 and 1928 Whiteman band was no ordinary “symphonic jazz” aggregation. It was able to play a little of every kind of popular music, and some that was not so popular. It was also able to break up into small jazz groups of real distinction. For a couple of years it featured soloists and arrangements which began to justify the tag under which Whiteman had ridden to fame, The King of Jazz.
The trumpet section was sparked by the legendary Leon “Bix” Beiderbecke. Frankie Trumbauer played C-melody sax, and in 1928 Jimmy Dorsey joined, to give the reeds two impressive soloists. Bill Rank was a ranking trombonist, and Tommy Dorsey came in on trombone, with brother Jimmy, to complement his blowing. Izzy Friedman on clarinet, Min Leibrook on bass saxophone, Matty Malneck on fiddle, and Lennie Hayton at the piano were all more than ordinarily able musicians. When these men combined, as soloists or as section leaders, with the Rhythm Boys, the effect was startling by 1927 or later standards. On the records of From Monday On, Because My Baby Don’t Mean Maybe Now, Louisiana, Tain’t So, Honey, Tain’t So, and Coquette, you can hear the Rhythm Boys, alone or with other singers from the Whiteman organization, backed by Bix or by Trumbauer or by Rank or some section work that presents these musicians at their early best. The trumpet trio, with Bix leading, on Coquette was a beautiful buffer for Bing’s voice.
Bing was beginning to take solos. By 1928, one could hear a good deal of him with the Whiteman band. Oh Miss Hannah, High Water, Muddy Water, My Heart Stood Still, with vocal quartet backing, were some of his assignments. With singers of the commercial appeal of Jack Fulton and Charlie Gaylord and Skin Young to compete with, it was more than unexpected, to Bing himself at least, to find that he was getting lots of attention. When he hit an E on the nose in Ol’ Man River, he was in with Whiteman audiences; and then when the F’s came along and he clipped those with similar ease, there was no question of his solo talents. Using Bing as a soloist, the Rhythm Boys (alone, or with Gaylord and Young and Fulton) set up humming backgrounds that antedated by almost ten years the vocal-group sounds that found such success with Tommy Dorsey and Glenn Miller, the Pied Pipers and the Modernaires, The organ-point harmonies used by the Whiteman vocal groups introduced a kind of musicianship hitherto unknown in dance bands. It was typical of Bing’s luck that he should have been singled out to sing against this fetching sound.
(The Incredible Crosby, pages 59-61)
March 1, Thursday. Recording date with the Rhythm Boys in New York. They sing “What Price Lyrics.”
I am sorry to have to say that Paul Whiteman’s Rhythm Boys are exceedingly disappointing in “From Monday On” and “What Price Lyrics” (B2779, 3s).
(The Gramophone, October, 1928)
March 3, Saturday. Paul Whiteman gives the band a week’s vacation.
March 12, Monday. (9:30 a.m.–12 noon. 2:00–3:00 p.m.) Recording session with Paul Whiteman and his Orchestra at Liederkranz Hall in New York.
March 14, Wednesday. (9:30 a.m.–12:00 noon) Further recording session with Whiteman.
March 15, Thursday. (9:30 a.m.–12:00 noon) Another recording date with Whiteman. Bing sings “Lovable.”
March 16, Friday. (1:15–4:00 p.m.) Again Bing is in the recording studio with the Whiteman ensemble and takes part in “March of the Musketeers.”
March 19, Monday. The Whiteman band starts rehearsals for an engagement at the Paramount Theater beginning on March 31.
March 27, Tuesday. (1:00 p.m.) The orchestra performs a lunch time “jazz symphony” for the Woman Pays Club at the Hotel Ansonia in New York.
March 29, Thursday. (9:00 –10:00 p.m.) From the studios of WJZ, Whiteman takes part in the second Dodge Brothers radio show over the NBC network which is entitled Film Star Radio Hour. Charles Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks, John Barrymore, and several other Hollywood stars are featured. United Artists Pictures arrange for additional loudspeakers to be installed in their theaters so that audiences can hear the stars they had only seen in silent pictures previously. An unnamed vocalist is mentioned as singing with the orchestra and this could have been Bing.
…Whiteman opened in New York with “Together,” a great, plug for the DeSylva, Brown & Henderson waltz and brilliantly scored. Followed Wilmer’s address from Detroit. Then Whiteman again with Walter Donaldson’s “Changes.”
(Variety, April 4, 1928)
Of Mr. Paul Whiteman’s share in the pretentious program, only the best can be said. Mr. Whiteman’s orchestra is seldom heard on the radio, and its frequent broadcasts are the subject of major jubilations, despite the presence of tenors and vocal harmonists in most of the Whiteman renditions.
(New York Herald Tribune, March 30, 1928)
March 30, Friday. Afternoon rehearsal for the band.
March 31–April 6, Saturday–Friday. Whiteman at the Paramount, New York, in a cine-variety bill and his show is entitled Rainbow Rhapsody. Lennie Hayton joins the band as second pianist.
As the czar of jazz, Whiteman and his super-syncopators evidence anew their claim to distinction. Their unique and truly extraordinary motivations of. modern themes are a brilliant tribute to the Whiteman technique and that it is popularly recognized and appreciated is best answered by the holiday-ish audience on Monday night of a week that is holy to both of the faiths that predominate in the metropolis.
Proceedings (? word not clear) opened with a distinctive vocal trio and sextet interlude. The announcement of “Ramona” precipitated an expectant audience gasp that is a tribute either to Whiteman’s extraordinary Victor recording or to his performance Thursday night on the Dodge hour.
Looking summery in white Florida outfits, with a patio background the waltz theme was perfectly set.“Shades of Blues” announced by Whiteman as a musical reminiscence was a pot pourri of indigo titled themes including the “Danube Waltz,” “Birth of the Blues,” a snatch of the “Rhapsody in Blue,” the “Waltz Bluette” (with violin quintet interlude), “Wabash Blues,” “Alice Blue Gown” (saxophone septet arrangement) and finishing with “St. Louis Blues” climaxed by Mike Pingitore at the banjo. In itself, a unique indigo themed revue, it is worthy of becoming a Whiteman trademark.
(Variety, April 4, 1928)
March 31, Saturday. Whiteman’s “Ol’ Man River” (with Bing’s vocal) is the most popular record of the week and it eventually reaches the top of the various charts of the day.
April 7–13, Saturday–Friday. Whiteman continues at the Paramount in New York and this week his show is called Say It With Music.
April 8, Sunday. Paul Whiteman rehearses the band and changes are made to their program.
April 14–20, Saturday–Friday. In their final week at the Paramount, the Whiteman troupe is featured in a show called Broadway Blues.
Whiteman’s instrumental talent was evenly banked in four or five rows to do about five numbers, inclusive of his three Rhythm Boys specializing for a number or two. These particular youngsters remain unique in dispensing tunes which are vocally broiled to a crisp. There seems to be a lot of people in a picture house audience who don’t know what they’re trying to do or what it’s all about, but it’s funny, hot and good.
(Variety, April 18, 1928)
April 21, Saturday. (10:00 a.m.–1:25 p.m. & 2:25–4:00 p.m.) Starting today, Bing is involved in a series of recording dates with Whiteman for Victor at Liederkranz Hall in New York.
April 22, Sunday. (10:00 a.m.–12:05 p.m. & 1:05–3:00 p.m.) A similar recording session. The recording of “It Was the Dawn of Love” sells 31,119 copies whilst “Dancing Shadows” achieves sales of 36,491.
April 23, Monday. (10:00 a.m.–12:05 p.m. rehearsal. 1:05–4:00 p.m. recording) Another recording date and the recording of “Louisiana” sells 33,462 copies.
April 24, Tuesday. (10:00–11:45 a.m. & 1:00–2:30 p.m.) A further session with Whiteman. The record of “You Took Advantage of Me” and “Do I Hear You Saying” sells 46,282 copies. “Grieving” achieves sales of 35,370 discs.
The “Present Arms” hits by Whiteman are interestingly done, as befits the interesting Rodgers and Hart songs, “You Took Advantage of Me” and “Do I Hear You Say?” Of distinctive caliber, these smart dance tunes are smartly interpreted by the Whitemanites.
(Variety, June 27, 1928)
April 25, Wednesday. (10:00–11:30 a.m.) The final session in the current series with Whiteman at Liederkranz Hall. Later, the orchestra presents a one hour broadcast over forty stations of the NBC network and the Rhythm Boys are featured.
April 26, Thursday. The band travels to Boston and rehearses during the morning at the Metropolitan Theater.
April 27–May 3, Friday–Thursday. Whiteman show at Loew’s Metropolitan Theater, Boston. The show is entitled “Say It with Music”.
The first view of the orchestra is through a peculiar foggy curtain, but gradually the sounds creep up and out, and when the curtain lifts one sees the leader, a bit slimmer than he was formerly, and his excellent jazz musicians with the background of a non-slumbering Broadway. All is as it should be.
(Boston Herald, April 28, 1928)
May 1, Tuesday. (8:00–9:20 p.m.) The Whiteman performance at the Metropolitan is broadcast over station WBET. The Rhythm Boys sing three songs.
May 4–10, Friday–Thursday. Whiteman is again at Loew’s Metropolitan Theater, Boston and the show is entitled “Broadway Blues”.
May 8, Tuesday (starting at 8:15 p.m.). Again the Whiteman performance is broadcast over WBET and The Rhythm Boys have two songs.
May 12, Saturday. Whiteman begins recording on the Columbia Records label at Union Square in New York. Fox Movietone News films the recording session on May 15.
May 13, Sunday. Another session for Columbia when Bing is part of the chorus as “Evening Star” is recorded but the take is not issued.
May 14–19, Monday–Saturday. The Whiteman band is at Loew’s Metropolitan Theater in Brooklyn. Paul Whiteman himself is ill during the run.
May 17, Thursday. Bing takes part of the recording of C-O-N-S-T-A-N-T-I-N-O-P-L-E with Whiteman for Columbia in New York.
We must have made 13 tries on “Constantinople” before we got a good one. This was due to the fast tempo and our having to spell out the word. We started laughing and it became contagious on each take. Finally we got it down right!
(Jack Fulton, speaking on March 27, 1966 as quoted in Bix—The Leon Bix Beiderbecke Story, page 370)
May 21, Monday. Further recording date with Whiteman for Columbia in New York. Many of the takes are rejected.
May 22, Tuesday. Another recording session for Columbia in New York ends with mixed results as all three takes attempted of “I’d Rather Cry Over You” are rejected. However the song “Get Out and Get under the Moon” is successfully recorded with Bing forming part of a vocal group. The record has sales of 30,000 copies.
The Whiteman addicts, and they are legion, will go strong for the jazz king’s first catalog on the Columbia schedule. Whiteman recently shifted from Victor to Columbia as the ace recording artist and has produced three 12” concert numbers, popularly priced at $1 as against the usual $1.25 tariff for the 12-inchers. The dance numbers on the 10-inch sizes are still 75 cents. “La Paloma” and “La Golondrina” is one standard concert couplet; “The Merry Widow” and “My Hero” (“Chocolate Soldier”) waltzes another; and a salon couplet comprises Gershwin’s “The Man I Love” and “My Melancholy Baby.” The latter three numbers all have vocal refrains and are in the brilliant Whiteman manner. In the dance series, “Last Night I Dreamed You Kissed Me”, and “Evening Star” are one couplet, and “Constantinople” and “Get Out and Get under the Moon” another. All are tremendous sellers. Issued by Columbia with a special Whiteman-head label and jacket.
(Variety, July 18, 1928)
May 23, Wednesday. An attempt to record “Tain’t So, Honey, ’Tain’t So” with Whiteman is unsuccessful.
May 25, Friday. The Rhythm Boys record “Wa-Da-Da” and “That’s Grandma” for Columbia in New York but the takes are rejected.
May 26–June 1, Saturday–Friday. The Whiteman company, including The Rhythm Boys, is at the Capitol Theater, Detroit.
When the curtain went up at the Capitol Saturday afternoon revealing Paul and his orchestra, the audience attested his popularity in Detroit, and his first number brought a thrill to every lover of the music. Many have condemned jazz but few who have had the good fortune to hear Whiteman’s interpretation of it could honestly look askance. He lends a symphonic touch which thrills and ignores the blantancy which sours. Just to hear his orchestra play “Ramona” is enough to bring ecstasies. Paul’s Rhythm Boys, those funny chaps who bang the piano tops and turn noise into music, repeat their “Mississippi Mud” number which brought down the house on his first appearance at the “Michigan.”
(Detroit Free Press, May 28, 1928 - as reproduced in Bix—The Leon Bix Beiderbecke Story, page 375)
Paul’s band is not merely and solely an orchestral entity. Among its players are several whose aptness at comedy, singing, and dancing would earn for them a place on any big time vaudeville circuit. The principal comedy effect is carried out by the Whiteman Rhythm Boys, a trio of youths whose musical antics were received by the audience with loudly manifest appreciation.
(Detroit News, May 28, 1928)
June 2–8, Saturday–Friday. The show moves on to Shea’s Buffalo Theater, Buffalo, New York.
June 9, Saturday. The band has a day off in New York.
June 10, Sunday. Recording date in New York with Whiteman. Bing sings “Tain’t So, Honey, ’Tain’t So” and takes part in “I’d Rather Cry Over You” with a vocal group. At last after several unsuccessful sessions, two takes are selected for issue. The former song has sales of 29,650 whilst the latter achieves a figure of 21,125 records sold.
June 11–16, Monday–Saturday. Whiteman at the Lincoln Theater, Trenton, New Jersey, giving four shows a day at 3, 6, 8, and 10 p.m.
June 17–19, Sunday–Tuesday. More recording dates with Whiteman in New York, including “That’s My Weakness Now” and “Wa-Da-Da”.
With the jazz king transplanting himself to Columbia, his Rhythm Boys are dittoing on the same label. They do their distinct vocal syncopation on No. 1455 with a couple of original ditties titled “Wa-Da-Da (Ev’rybody’s Doin’ It Now) and “That’s Grandma”.
(Variety, September 12, 1928)
...Incidentally this latter record has the song of the moment ‘That’s My Weakness Now’ on the reverse side. This number is also given us by Paul Whiteman, his orchestra and Rhythm Boys. The latter also sing ‘Wa-da-da’ (5006). Needless to say, both sides are first class.
(The Gramophone, October 1928)
June 19, Tuesday. (10:00–11:00 p.m.) The Rhythm Boys take part with Whiteman in a coast-to-coast radio broadcast over NBC titled “Sixty Magic Minutes with Paul Whiteman.” They sing “That’s Grandma.” After the program, which originates from station WEAF in New York, the orchestra travels to Hastings-on-Hudson to play for Mayor Jimmy Walker’s birthday party at Longuevue Restaurant which starts at 12:01 a.m. on June 20.
The Columbia Phonograph Hour, featuring Paul Whiteman and his orchestra, to be broadcast through a coast-to-coast chain of stations associated with the National Broadcasting Company on Tuesday evening, from 10:00 to 11:00 o’clock, will be heard around the world according to plans now being formulated by officials of the Columbia Phonograph Company.
Arrangements are now in progress, according to information supplied NBC officials by H. C. Cox, president of the Columbia Phonograph Company, whereby powerful foreign broadcasters will endeavor to “pick-up” and re-broadcast the shortwave signals of 2XAF on 31.4 meters, 2XAF will be connected with WGY, the General Electric Company’s transmitter, which will be associated with the NBC system for the ‘Sixty Magic Minutes with Paul Whiteman’ as the broadcast has been termed.
The Paul Whiteman Rhythm Boys, said to be the ‘hottest’ combination of vocalists on radio or records will participate in vocal refrains, and Vaughn de Leath, contralto crooner, will be heard during the orchestra’s playing of a salon arrangement of George Gershwin’s ‘The Man I Love’. ‘Chiquita,’ the latest composition by the authors of ‘Ramona,’ and ‘Tschaikowskiana,’ two symphonic jazz selections never before heard in public, will be featured by Paul Whiteman and his orchestra during this period. The broadcast will mark the jazz king’s debut with the Columbia Phonograph Company with whom he recently signed an exclusive recording contract at a figure regarded to be without precedent in the orchestral world.
It is believed by those familiar with radio atmospheres that there is every possibility of the short-wave transmitters being ‘picked up’ and re-broadcast in England, France, Germany, South Africa, Australia and South America and it is with this point in mind, according to Columbia Phonograph officials, that foreign broadcasters have designated their willingness to co-operate in making the Whiteman program a world-wide affair.
(Syracuse Herald, June 17, 1928)
June 21, Thursday. Whiteman and his troupe take the train to Minneapolis, Minnesota arriving on June 22.
June 23–29, Saturday–Friday. Whiteman (including The Rhythm Boys) is at the Minnesota Theater, Minneapolis, giving four performances daily. The show entitled “Say It with Music” does the greatest business in the history of the city. Whiteman is paid $12,500 and out of this he pays $7400 to his men and his manager.
Excepting the dance marathon which has been drawing from $9,000 to $12,000 daily for the past eight days at the Armory, Paul Whiteman and his orchestra at the Minnesota last week ran away from the field. No one in these parts ever imagined it was possible for a local showhouse to draw so many people. Overflow crowds not only jammed the lobby every evening, but extended four deep for an entire block, waiting as long as an hour to gain entrance. Gross easily set a record for the town and marks the third week in succession this theatre has been over $30,000. Whiteman’s band is credited with $40,000 on the week.
(Variety, July 4, 1928)
June 30, Saturday. Whiteman and the band arrive in Chicago.
July 1–8, Sunday–Sunday. The band is at the Chicago Theater, Chicago in the Publix stage show “Rio Romance”.
I recall going to see a show called Calico Days in 1928 in Chicago. It had an all-Negro cast. A tall, handsome Negress walked out in “one.” Her face was wreathed in a warm ingratiating smile. Her eyes sparkled as she sang, “Dinah.” Her name: Ethel Waters.
(Bing Crosby, writing in Call Me Lucky, page 331)
July 4, Wednesday. (5:07 p.m.) Bing wires Ginger Meehan who is appearing in Good News at the Selwyn Theater, Chicago.
Would like to say hello this eve after your performance say at eleven fifteen
July 9–15, Monday–Sunday. Whiteman at the Uptown Theater in Chicago.
July 10, Tuesday. (8:07 p.m.) Bing again sends a telegram to Ginger Meehan.
Would like to call you tonight if busy sue me
July 16–22, Monday–Sunday. The Tivoli Theater is the next venue in Chicago for the Whiteman ensemble.
August 1, Wednesday. It is announced that the Rhythm Boys, without Whiteman, will soon be going on the Keith-Albee, Orpheum and Proctor vaudeville circuit (subsequently known as Radio–Keith–Orpheum from October) throughout Pennsylvania, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Ohio. Whiteman is to be allowed to recall the trio at will. On tour, they are introduced by a cardboard cut-out of Whiteman and a recording of his voice. Bing earns $300 a week.
August 6–8, Monday–Wednesday. Rhythm Boys at Proctor Theater at Yonkers, New York.
August 9–12, Thursday–Sunday. Rhythm Boys at Keith’s 81st Street, New York.
Act consists of Crosby and Rinker, former Pacific coast picture house harmony duo plus Harry Barris, nut pianist who achieved prominence a couple of years ago in Paul Ash presentations in Chicago. The 3 were united by Paul Whiteman upon Crosby and Rinker joining Whiteman’s ensemble over a year ago and now step out with Whiteman’s label and blessing as a vaude combo. The boys have achieved some fame via their Columbia recordings. They are still quite young as to years, Crosby and Rinker are about 21 having stepped out of High School in Spokane, Washington about 3 years ago. Barris is also a fledgling. All make neat appearances in blue blazers and white flannels and are the type to hit with the younger generation particularly the flaps. They are of the vo–de–odo school and sizzling hot. As routined at the 81st. Street there was ample area for improvement in numbers and little too much of sameness about the horseplay. More rhythm and melody and less slamming of the music rack suggested. There is however little question that the boys will and can click even as presently outfitted and with the eliminations and improvements ought to be a consistent zowie.
(Variety, August 15, 1928)
Harry Barris, Bing Crosby and Al Rinker, billed as the Paul Whiteman Rhythm Boys, have personality, good voices and a way of putting their song numbers over effectively. Enough comedy is introduced to keep things moving rapidly while they are on the stage. They have the art of rhythm perfected to a stellar degree and add a brilliant touch to the song numbers constituting their repertoire. An act worthy of big-time booking and a distinctive asset to any bill.
(Billboard, August 18, 1928)
August 20–26, Monday–Sunday. The act is at the Palace in Cleveland.
Three of Paul Whiteman’s do-do-ee-o boys sizzle rhythms up to 212 degrees on the Palace’s current bill. With a couple of pianos and a half cymbal (or is that circular piece of bell-toned brass a couple of other fellows?), they heat up the atmosphere of a refrigerated theater with several kinds of melodies, products of the newest school of bu-loos. Their comedy is rather gorgeous and quite in keeping with their distinctive styles of pah-pah-te-ah anthems to ‘Mississippi Mud’ and ‘That’s My Weakness Now.’
(Plain Dealer, August 21, 1928)
August 27–September 1, Monday–Saturday. The St. Louis Grand at Delmar in St. Louis is the next stop for the Rhythm Boys. The film being shown as part of the cine-variety presentation is Home James.
Jazz, comedy and red hair predominate on the vaudeville bill at the St. Louis this week, where Paul Whiteman’s Rhythm Boys and the Fourteen Brick Tops, an orchestra composed entirely of titian-haired girls are being featured. Harmony singing and comedy are mingled by the three Rhythm Boys who join the Brick Tops for a crashing, syncopated finale.
(St. Louis Daily Globe-Democrat, August 27, 1928)
September (undated). During the month he turns 27-years-old, William S. Paley acquires United Independent Broadcasters Inc., a network of sixteen independent radio stations, and changes the name to Columbia Broadcast System and becomes President of the Company.
September 2–8, Sunday–Saturday. The Rhythm Boys appear at the Palace in Chicago.
Paul Whiteman’s Rhythm Boys utilizing a unique opening have a huge effigy of Whiteman at center stage to do the announcing and introductions. One chap a veritable Barrymore for looks the standout. Story songs to rhythmical music and vocal improvisations are their best bet. They have no weakness.
(Variety, September 12, 1928)
September 13–16, Thursday–Sunday. The Rhythm Boys move on to the Keith-Albee Palace at Youngstown, Ohio, where they top the bill as part of a continuous cine-variety show running from 1:00 p.m. to 11:30 p.m.
September 17–19, Monday–Wednesday. The trio’s next venue is Keith’s at Toledo, Ohio, where it is said that the theater manager rings the curtain down in their faces following an off-color joke.
At the end of the show, for a closing joke, Harry said “do you know how to cure a horse from frothing at the mouth?” I said “no” and he said “teach him to spit!” And the curtain came down with a wham!—right in front of us and that was it.
(Bing Crosby talking in 1972, as reproduced in The Complete Crosby, page 33)
September 20–22, Thursday–Saturday. The Rhythm Boys perform in a cine-variety show at B. F. Keith’s in Grand Rapids.
Another good show at Keith’s. Paul Whiteman’s Rhythm Boys, Harry Barris, Bing Crosby, and Al Rinker, featured as headliners are given pretty stiff competition by Gaby Leslye and company of dancers. The Rhythm Boys are speedy jazz singers, their two piano playing and other instrumental trimmings give style, but they waste too much time in comedy talk which is not particularly hilarious. More music and less chatter would strengthen the act.
(Grand Rapids Press, September 20, 1928)
Paul Whiteman’s Rhythm Boys, protégés of the great wizard of music, Broadway favorites and recording stars, swept everything before them at Keith’s yesterday. How they can burn up the melody! Every move’s a picture and every picture is labeled syncopation. This trio will thrill you clear to your toes.
(Grand Rapids Herald, September 21, 1928)
From Cincinnati he (Bing) wrote his mother, ‘We are still doing quite well knocking around the country and getting a real taste of vaudeville which, after all, is the real thing as far as show business is concerned.”
And from Grand Rapids, “The act is progressing nicely as we inject new ideas into it. We find ourselves more or less on our own, aware of whatever ability we may have and not afraid to try anything by which we may be benefited, Since scoring so well we have had numerous offers for New York productions, but unfortunately we are routed until December 31, when we open at the Palace in New York. Being out of town, however, makes it impossible to do recordings so we’ll get pretty badly in arrears in that connection. We are trying to get routed out over that Coast Orpheum time (Seattle, L.A., etc.) and should hear from our agent any day. I’m very anxious to get home for a short time to see you and Dad and those nephews and nieces.”
(The Story of Bing Crosby, page 141)
September 24–26, Monday–Wednesday. They go on to the Uptown Theater at Detroit, Michigan.
September 27–30, Thursday–Sunday. The Rhythm Boys are at the Hollywood Theater in Detroit.
October 1–3, Monday–Wednesday. Appearing at Keith’s in Dayton, Ohio.
For sheer entertainment, Paul Whiteman’s Rhythm Boys, at the Keith theater this part of the week, are in a class by themselves. Coming to vaudeville direct from a three years’ association with Paul Whiteman’s renowned orchestra in which they were featured, Harry Barris, Bing Crosby, and Al Rinker, who constitute the offering, have met with extraordinary success in the two and three-a-day. They are about the peppiest, jazziest, and most refreshing eccentric songsters and instrumentalists that it has been vaudeville’s good fortune to present in some time.
Though none of the boys are more than 23 years old, each has been before the footlights for several years and their accomplishments are many and varied. Some of their best known compositions are “Brown Sugar,” “Mississippi Mud,” “Hong Kong Dream Girl,” and “Wa-Da-Da.”
(Dayton Journal, October 2, 1928)
October 4–7, Thursday–Sunday. The trio goes on to perform at Keith’s in Louisville.
October 8–13, Monday–Saturday. Rhythm Boys at Albee Theater, Cincinnati.
October 16–17, Tuesday–Wednesday. The act is at the Keith-Albee Palace in Columbus, Ohio. Jack Benny is the master of ceremonies. The boys miss their advertised performance on October 15 as they had gone to Nashville by mistake.
Rhythm Boys arrive and in two senses
Both in body and in artistry, the Paul Whiteman Rhythm Boys arrived at Keith-Albee Palace, Tuesday afternoon, when they were the show stoppers of the already splendid bill. This trio of zippy young men: Harry Barris, piano and song, Bing Crosby, songs, and Al Rinker, guitar and piano, work fast and furiously. They gave their own big record success “Mississippi Mud” and “Wa-Da-Da” and “Sweet Sue.” Their own numbers were followed by such favorites as “That’s My Weakness Now” and “Nothing But Love.” This act shares headline honors with Jack Benny, the monologist . . . .
(The Columbus Citizen, October 17, 1928)
October 18–21, Thursday–Sunday. The Rhythm Boys are at the Palace in Canton, Ohio, and again Jack Benny is on the same bill.
Because the name ‘Paul Whiteman’s Rhythm Boys’ was billed in conspicuous letters, patrons of the Palace where the boys are entertaining for the last half of the week, expected the vocalists to headline the Appreciation week program. First-day audiences were not disappointed, although it was pretty generally agreed that the Six Daunton-Shaws gave the vocal artists a good run for their honors. There is no doubt about it, these Rhythm Boys can sing - when they want to. But for many in the audience last night, there was too much attempted clowning and too little harmonizing. There is no doubt either, but that the boys have a unique and interesting manner of presenting their song hits, if only there were more of them. It’s a good act as it stands, but to this reviewer’s way of thinking, could be made much better. However, be sure and hear the boys sing.
(The Evening Repository, October 19, 1928)
October 22–28, Monday–Sunday. The trio is at the Princess Theater in Nashville, Tennessee.
October 29–31, Monday–Wednesday. Erie, Pennsylvania, is the next location for the trio’s performance when they appear at the Perry Theater.
There are so many interesting items on the current bill at the Perry that it is rather difficult to know where to begin to tell you about them, but, if a popular vote were taken I presume the first place would go to Paul Whiteman’s Rhythm Boys, for they threaten to hold up the show and will probably continue to do so.
These three young lads are the very apotheosis of present-day jazz singing, and with agreeable personalities and plenty of pep they “get” you whether or not you care for their “wah-wha-do-deedle-o-do” style of vocal expressions or not. You’ll have to admit they are a tonic—and a pleasant one at that.
(Erie Daily Times, October 30, 1928)
November 5–10, Monday–Saturday. Back in Chicago, the Rhythm Boys appear at the State-Lake Theater. Bing dates Peggy Bernier whom he first met at the Granada in San Francisco in October 1926.
Paul Whiteman’s Rhythm Boys would have been showstoppers with a more lively audience. Corking performers who know how, when, and where. For the picture houses a cinch.
(Variety, November 7, 1928)
November 6, Tuesday. Herbert Hoover is elected president of the United States.
November 10, Saturday. The Rhythm Boys record “My Suppressed Desire” and “Rhythm King” in Chicago for Columbia Records.
Prominent in the Columbia list is a new disc by Paul Whiteman’s Rhythm Boys containing “Rhythm King” and “My Suppressed Desire” rendered as only these incomparable people can (5240).
(The Gramophone, March 1929)
November 11–17, Sunday–Saturday. The act moves on to the Palace Orpheum, Milwaukee. The cine-variety bill includes the movie Take Me Home starring Bebe Daniels.
Many will remember Paul Whiteman’s Rhythm Boys as featured artists with Whiteman’s world famous orchestra and for their numerous records. Bing Crosby, Harry Barris and Al Rinker, who constitute the trio, have all had a fling at song writing and have a dozen or more hits to their credit. Some of the more popular are “Brown Sugar,” “Hong Kong Dream Girl,” “Play it Red,” “Wa-da-da” and “Mississippi Mud.” The boys have been called the noisiest outfit on the stage and they are proud of the distinction. They make merry with a zip and zest that becomes their youth.
(Milwaukee Sentinel, November 11, 1928)
Paul Whiteman’s Rhythm Boys turn out harmony that is ‘sizzling’ and original. One of the best things on the bill.
(Wisconsin News, November 12, 1928)
November 18–20, Sunday–Tuesday. The Rhythm Boys perform at the Palace Theater in Rockford, Illinois, where Bing is supposed to have spent a day in jail on arrival as he was drunk and he misses the first day’s shows.
One of the Rhythm Boys failed to appear for Sunday’s performance at the Palace theater and in consequence the headline set wasn’t much. The other two worked valiantly enough to make their own stuff suffice, but the act was more or less flooey.
(The Rockford Register-Gazette, November 19, 1928)
Paul Whiteman’s Rhythm Boys, with the line-up intact, after a makeshift performance on the first day, were liked by last night’s audience. The boys combine a little nonsense with some soft melodies and contrive an act commendable for its cheerfulness.
(Rockford Morning Star, November 20, 1928)
November 21–24, Wednesday–Saturday. The trio is on the bill at the New Orpheum in Madison, Wisconsin alongside the film Sal of Singapore. They give shows at 3, 6:45 and 9:10 p.m.
A first show audience at the New Orpheum theater Wednesday night failed to get greatly steamed up over the program being shown there this half of the week, although Paul Whiteman’s Rhythm Boys hold only third position on the vaudeville bill. . . Even with the name of Whiteman behind them, the Rhythm Boys fail to get across, and had we arranged the bill, we should have given them the lowest possible position. Their rhythm, to use a trite phrase, was conspicuous by its absence. Since the Rhythm Boys claim to be the originators of ‘Mississippi Mud,’ we surmise that the mud has boomerang-like qualities, for it’s being slung right back at them wherever they appear.
(The Capital Times, November 22, 1928)
November 26–28, Monday–Wednesday. At the Orpheum Theater, St. Paul, Minnesota.
November 29–December 1, Thursday–Saturday. The boys move on to the New Orpheum, Sioux City, Iowa, where they are part of a cine-variety bill. There are four vaudeville shows each day at 2:30, 4:45, 7:00, and 9:15 p.m.—all seats are fifty cents. On the Friday and Saturday, the trio goes to the fourth floor of Davidson’s Department Store at 4:00 p.m. to sign their own records for purchasers.
December 3–9, Monday–Sunday. The Rhythm Boys at the Orpheum in Omaha, Nebraska.
December 10–15, Monday–Saturday. The act tops the bill for a week at the Mainstreet Theater in Kansas City with shows starting at 3 p.m., 7 p.m. and 9:20 p.m. as part of a cine-variety presentation.
December 17–19, Monday–Wednesday. The Rhythm Boys at the State Theater, Jersey City. Their baggage arrives late and they have to perform without costumes at the first show.
December 20–22, Thursday–Saturday. The act performs at the Fordham Theater in New York City.
December 22, Saturday. Bing records “Makin’ Whoopee” with Whiteman in New York.
December 23–29, Sunday–Saturday. The Rhythm Boys at the Palace, New York.
Whiteman’s Rhythm Boys (Harry Barris, Bing Crosby, and Al Rinker) twiced nicely. They will accelerate with the aging of the week. They will find themselves, and this is evidenced already to a great extent with modulation of the vo-do-de-o stuff, they’re plenty torrid of the ultra modern vogue of ho-cha-cha rhythmic vocalization. They open with “Mississippi Mud” on which they are billed as the originators, this being their own composition. The ballad idea by Bing Crosby is great for a change of pace, his “When Summer Is Gone” going well. The youngsters, they look as though they have barely attained their majority, work smoothly and politely for all their freak modulations and with a nice presence and address, particularly Crosby who is the balance to Barris’s torrid inhibitions.
(Variety, December 26, 1928)
December 28, Friday. Bing records “I’ll Get By” and “Rose of Mandalay” with Sam Lanin’s Ipana Troubadours in New York for Columbia Records. Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey are in the orchestra.
December 31–January 2, Monday–Wednesday. The Rhythm Boys perform at the Ritz, Elizabeth, New Jersey.
During the year, Bing has participated in thirteen Whiteman records that became hits: “Changes,” “Ol’ Man River,” “Sunshine,” “Mississippi Mud,” “From Monday On,” “Constantinople,” “Get Out and Get Under the Moon,” “Evening Star,” “You Took Advantage of Me,” “Louisiana,” “It Was the Dawn of Love,” “I’m on the Crest of a Wave,” and “Out of Town Gal.” In addition he also had a hit with “Mississippi Mud” recorded with Frankie Trumbauer and his Orchestra.
January 3–6, Thursday–Sunday. The trio performs at the Regent Theater in Paterson, New Jersey.
January 7–9, Monday–Wednesday. The Rhythm Boys move on to the Majestic Theater, Easton, Pennsylvania.
January 8, Tuesday. Bill Paley appears on the air for the first time to announce that CBS now has the largest regular chain of broadcasting stations in radio history. In the three-and-one-half months since Paley took the helm, CBS has tripled its broadcasting coverage, and now serves 49 stations in 42 cities throughout the country.
January 10–13, Thursday–Sunday. The act is featured at the Colonial Theater in Allentown, Pennsylvania.
In the first week of the New Year he (Bing) wrote from Allentown, Pa., “Had a nice time in New York and did well at the Palace. Our act and style of work has been so widely imitated and copied that it is really a problem to give them anything different. Our future plans are a little indefinite right now, but as it’s okay with Whiteman, we’ll continue touring. We are also dickering for a series of picture shorts. It really is essential to keep a number of irons in the fire, so that one disappointment won’t leave us unplaced.”
(The Story of Bing Crosby, page 141)
January 25, Friday. In New York, the Rhythm Boys record “So the Bluebirds and the Blackbirds” but this version is never issued. Then Bing makes three tracks with Sam Lanin and his Orchestra, “I’m Crazy Over You,” “Susianna,” and “If I Had You” for Okeh Records.
January 26, Saturday. Still in New York, Bing records for Okeh Records and sings “The Spell of the Blues,” “Let’s Do It,” and “My Kinda Love” with the Dorsey Brothers Orchestra who use Glenn Miller’s arrangements. Whiteman finds out about Bing’s unauthorized recording activities and fires him. Bill Challis persuades Whiteman to rehire Bing.
Tuesday. (9:00–10:00 p.m.) Paul Whiteman makes his first radio broadcast for Old
Gold Cigarettes over CBS from station
When Paul Whiteman put his pen to a contract for at least nine, and possibly fifteen weeks of broadcasting, on the nation-wide network of the Columbia Broadcasting system, a few days ago, he made a bit of history that is of interest both in radio and in musical circles. Whiteman has rarely been heard on the air, and hitherto has declined any proposition to become a radio entertainer in any continuous sense.
He has a last yielded to the urgings of radio fans all over the country, and has accepted the opportunity that came when Old Gold cigarettes decided to go on the air and determined that the entertainment it offered should be the very best of its kind to be had.
The hour on the Columbia system Tuesday nights from 9 to 10 o’clock starting Feb. 5, is to be known as The Old Gold-Paul Whiteman Hour, and the jazz king and his peerless orchestra are to be heard throughout the United States on the 43 stations of the Columbia Broadcasting system. Whiteman is devoting a great deal of time to building up grams which should be a delight to all who hear them. He is opening an Old Gold hour that is expected to run for two years.
My admiration of Paul Whiteman and his orchestra was based mostly on information I gleaned from newspaper and magazine articles. He was head and shoulders above other orchestras in popularity in the 1920s. I had heard some of his records over a local radio station, but have absolutely no memory of reading of or hearing Bing Crosby and The Rhythm Boys. Imagine my delight when I read that Paul Whiteman and his orchestra would be featured in an hour-long coast-to-coast radio broadcast for Old Gold cigarettes in February 1929. I can recall how excited I was on the day of the broadcast that was scheduled for 6:00 p.m. Pacific Coast time, and wanted to be home from school and finish with dinner and be ready for the program.
I wish I could say that I remember the songs that Bing sang on that first Old Gold program, but I do clearly recall how taken I was with the quality and timbre of his voice, having never heard anyone sing like that before. I can truly say that I became an instant Crosby fan. Vocalists with the dance bands of the 1920s usually played an instrument and generally were not very good singers, but Bing was different.
The Old Gold programs continued weekly for many months from various cities and venues. The best I can remember is that Bing would sing two or three solos and the Rhythm Boys would sing about the same number of songs on each broadcast. The song titles I can recall that Bing sang most often were “I’ll Get By”, “Oh, Miss Hannah” and “Louise”. They became favorites of mine and remain so today.
(Virgil Edwards, writing in BING magazine, summer 1999)
February 6–April 25, Wednesday–Tuesday. Whiteman reopens atop the New Amsterdam Theater in the Ziegfeld Midnight Frolic with Helen Morgan as the main guest star. Many celebrities attend the opening night. The show starts at 11:30 p.m. each night after the theater shows have finished. The Whiteman band also doubles in the stage show of Whoopee in the New Amsterdam Theater. It is probable that the Rhythm Boys sometimes formed part of one or both of the shows when they returned full time to Whiteman’s employ in March. Maurice Chevalier makes his New York debut in the Frolic on February 18. Ruth Etting is the guest star at the Frolic in the week beginning April 7.
On the evening of February 6, the orchestra returned to the New Amsterdam Theater, where they accompanied the young talents who Florenz Ziegfeld was trying out in his Midnight Frolics. The singer who joined the band on February 18 was no longer a young hopeful: at forty-one, Maurice Chevalier made his true debut on a Broadway stage, after a failed attempt during his first visit to the U.S. in 1922. “Three young men were featured in an act as the Rhythm Boys,” wrote Maurice Chevalier in his memoirs. “The third one, quietly leaning on the piano, looking melancholic. A pleasant voice, but slightly veiled, and yet strongly captivating. I asked for his name: Bing Crosby. The truth is that the audience at the Ziegfeld Roof paid little attention to the Rhythm Boys. Their act was short—six minutes only—and it went on to marked indifference.”
Whiteman has brought his Rhythm Boys (Crosby, Rinker, Barris) into the nite club.
(Variety, March 6, 1929)
February 12, Tuesday. (9:00–10:00 p.m.) Another Whiteman Old Gold radio show is broadcast but Bing does not appear on the show.
The second of the Old Gold-Paul Whiteman dance programs on the Columbia network last Tuesday night was replete with musical nuance. While subject to a little re-routining, as to number sequence, the instrumental skill of the Whitemanites is as superb as ever before. Good contrast was the switch from the sympathetic saxophone solo, ‘Valse Inspiration’ to ‘The B-Natural Blues’ - an extremely torrid rendition. The revival of ‘Limehouse Blues’ was a peach of an orchestration and the distinctive ‘New Moon’ numbers, ‘Marianne’ and ‘Lover, Come Back to Me’, etherised by special permission of the copyright owners, were among the most unusual musical entries. Regardless of Old Gold winning all these contests, this time it was at both Yale and Princeton, Whiteman is giving them radio ballyhoo of extraordinary character.
(Variety, February 20, 1929)
February 14, Thursday. The Valentine’s Day massacre occurs in Chicago when members of an Al Capone led mob shoot seven men from a rival gang in a Chicago beerhouse.
February 14–17, Thursday–Sunday. The Rhythm Boys are featured at the Palace, Rochester.
February 19, Tuesday. (9:00–10:00 p.m.) Whiteman’s Old Gold radio show. The Rhythm Boys perform “Where the Shy Little Violets Grow” and Bing sings “When Summer Is Gone.” The orchestra performs “Rhapsody in Blue”.
Gershwin’s famous ‘Rhapsody in Blue’, strains of which have been identified with the Old Gold-Paul Whiteman hour since its inception over the Columbia Broadcasting system two weeks ago, will be played in its complete form by Whiteman in the nationwide broadcast over a 42 station hook-up, at 9 o’clock. Thousands of requests have been received by the P. Lorillard Company, makers of Old Gold Cigarettes. Written for the Carnegie Hall concert of the Whiteman Orchestra and dedicated to the Whiteman group, the Rhapsody is closely identified with the King of American jazz.
(Columbus, Ohio, newspaper)
February 26, Tuesday. (9:00–10:00 p.m.) Another Old Gold show is broadcast with Bing having three solos this time in addition to two songs by the Rhythm Boys.
The mighty Wagner was not the kind of fellow to turn over in his grave. Nothing less than a back-somersault and a couple of handsprings would give him any emotional relief. Therefore, if earthquakes are recorded tonight, 6 o’clock, when Paul Whiteman’s orchestra presents “Wagneriana” to a coast-to-coast radio audience, you will understand that Richard, wherever he is buried, is putting in a conscientious protest. “Wagneriana” is what happens when Mr. Whiteman toys with the great German’s more familiar tunes–sort of worrying them a bit in the modern manner. Mr. Whiteman’s symphonic syncopated arrangements of the classics might be called antiseptic jazz. Tune in KPLA-KMTR, 6pm.
(Dick Creedon, Los Angeles Examiner, February 26, 1929)
February 28, Thursday. Bing records “My Angeline” and “Coquette” with Whiteman. The first song is not released.
March 2–8, Saturday–Friday. The Rhythm Boys top the bill in a cine-variety show at the Fox, Brooklyn.
March 5, Tuesday. (9:00–10:00 p.m.) Whiteman’s Old Gold radio show. Bing and the Rhythm Boys are prominent.
March 7, Thursday. Bing records “My Angeline” again with Whiteman, this time successfully.
March 9, Saturday. The Rhythm Boys complete their vaudeville tour and rejoin the Whiteman band.
March 12, Tuesday. (9:00–10:00 p.m.) Old Gold broadcast. Bing sings “Louise” amongst other songs.
March 14, Thursday. For Columbia Records, Bing sings “My Kinda Love” and “Till We Meet” for his first record where his name appears on the label as a solo artist with “orchestral accompaniment.” In fact, Bing is accompanied by a trio consisting of Matty Malneck, Roy Bargy, and Edward “Snoozer” Quinn.
Some pip releases on Columbia. Bing Crosby, one of the Paul Whiteman Rhythm Boys, solos ‘My Kinda Love’ and ‘Till We Meet’ in effective style.
(Variety, May 1, 1929)
On March 14, encouraged by the Vallee phenomenon, Columbia offered Bing his first date under his own name. He was backed by three Whiteman musicians (violinist Matty Malneck, pianist Roy Bargy, guitarist Snoozer Quinn). All his experience during the four years since the Musicaladers should have been consolidated in this hour, yet the records are unaccountably lifeless. Spurred by the vitality he achieved on “My Kinda Love” with the Dorseys, Bing chose to rerecord it, but this time he overloaded the song with self-conscious vocal techniques; for the first time, he was thrown off-kilter by a doubled-up tempo change. On the wholly undistinguished song “Till We Meet,” he sounds not unlike singers he was in the process of demolishing.
(Gary Giddins, Bing Crosby, A Pocketful of Dreams, The Early Years, 1903-1940, page 190)
March 15, Friday. Bing records “Louise” with Paul Whiteman and his Orchestra in New York.
March 19, Tuesday. (9:00–10:00 p.m.) Old Gold broadcast. Bing sings “I Kiss Your Hand, Madame.”
Paul Whiteman and his orchestra will play several medleys for the 6 o’clock Columbia Chain program which may be heard over KMTR. One will consist of three tangos, “Roseroom,” “Irresistible” and “La Seduction,” another of waltzes, “One Two Three Four,” “Honolulu Eyes,” “Aloha Oh,” and “Where the Shy Little Violets Grow” while a third medley will be made up of “In the Shadows,” “California in the Morning,” “Babalina” and “California Here I Come.”
(Zuma Palmer, Hollywood Daily Citizen, March 19, 1929)
March (undated). Bing rejects an offer by an agent, Lou Squires, to go solo.
March 26, Tuesday. (9:00–10:00 p.m.) Old Gold broadcast. Bing prominent.
There are some selections which we do not mind hearing in jazz arrangements, but we are not sure how we feel about doing this with negro spirituals. However, on the 6 o’clock program over the Columbia chain, released by KMTR-KPLA, Paul Whiteman and his orchestra will play a medley of the following spirituals: “Swing Low Sweet Chariot,” “Nobody Knows,” “All God’s Children Got Wings” and “Deep River.” There will be two other medleys, one of waltz tunes, the other of foxtrots.
(Zuma Palmer, Hollywood Daily Citizen, March 26, 1929)
April 2, Tuesday. (9:00–10:00 p.m.) Old Gold broadcast. Bing and the Rhythm Boys again active in the show.
April 5, Friday. Bing takes part in a recording session with Paul Whiteman in New York and sings “I’m in Seventh Heaven” which goes on to sell 12,000 copies. None of the four takes of “Little Pal” are issued.
April 9, Tuesday. (9:00–10:00 p.m.) Old Gold broadcast. Bing again prominent.
April 10, Wednesday. The Rhythm Boys record “Louise” and “So the Bluebirds and the Blackbirds Got Together” in New York for Columbia Records.
Finally there is Maurice Chevalier in “Louise” who puts up a very creditable performance in a vastly different style to Paul Whiteman’s Rhythm Boys, who sing the same number for Columbia. They couple this with “So the Blackbirds and the Bluebirds Got Together.” Both sides of this record are little masterpieces of their own kind.
(The Gramophone, August, 1929)
It is really obvious that the phrasing of the trio is not dated, and they achieve a swing and lilt which should be the envy of present-day small vocal ensembles. One of the most popular recordings by The Rhythm Boys was LOUISE, also on CO-1819, a 1929 song written by Leo Robin and Richard A. Whiting and featured in “Innocents of Paris.” This version is much superior to the “original” Maurice Chevalier version. This recording presents Bing in splendid voice as does it demonstrate the skits in which the trio frequently indulged:
In a pensive mood the boys open with Bing “noodling” against sustained hummed background and supporting noodling by his two cohorts ... The ‘phone rings, a call for Bing from Louise, which makes it all right even tho they are “making a record” ... Bing proceeds to serenade the Louise, dramatically, on the verse ... The boys volunteer to help him out on the chorus, which they do in their best style, part of which is Rinker and Crosby’s harmonizing with Barris doing a hummed obbligato, and part of which is harmonized three ways ... Then the boys begin scatting at a faster tempo and brighter mood, prompting Bing to request Louise to “hold the ‘phone” while he keeps the boys from “singin’ too snappy”- and Bing goes dramatic in a concert-like version of the verse ... This is followed by a superb interlude, a variation on the opening measures of the chorus which is integrated into the second phrase, that prettily harmonized by the trio ... Again Barris and Rinker break off into scatting, Louise hangs up, Bing sings a dramatic phrase, the boys console him, and with tongues-in-check they use a repeated corny ending which includes a Colonna-like statement of There’s nobody like Louise, I hope she buys this record.
So the Bluebirds and the Blackbirds Got Together
Harry Barris wrote the music and Billy Moll the words to the 1929 song SO THE
The Rhythm Boys, Bing Crosby, Harry Barris, and Al Rinker, sang this song in the 1930 movie “King of Jazz,” hence it serves as a very good representative of their singing style, as heard on CO-1819, a disc which dates back to 25 January 1929 (sic):
The record opens with Bing chopping on the little cymbal and pianist Harry Barris playing a simple four-measure piano vamp . . . Barris begins the vocalizing on the verse, with Bing and Rinker scatting soft harmonized accompaniment, this at rapid tempo ... At a slower tempo and in a rubato manner, Bing sings the first chorus as a solo in dramatic style and very similar to his present style of delivery ... For four measures the trio simulates instruments, with Bing’s tinny-sounding cymbal being tapped somewhat indiscriminately ... Then, using the words, the trio sings an eight-measure period of the verse . . . At a faster clip the boys swing in very good style, with effective harmonies and with the clement of swing aurally obvious ... After half a chorus of this, Al Rinker sings the bridge, with the other two scatting in the background ... For four measures the trio harmonizes beautifully ... But then they get raucous again to close the recording with scat singing, cymbal-tapping, solo by Barris, swing harmonizing, an exaggerated crescendo-diminuendo, and, typically, a final “ah!”
(Dr. J. T. H. Mize, Bing Crosby and the Bing Crosby Style, page 132)
April 16, Tuesday. (9:00–10:00 p.m.) Another Old Gold broadcast. Bing has two solos as well as joining in the Rhythm Boys’ numbers.
April 17, Wednesday. The Whiteman band plays at the Globe Theatre premiere of the Universal film Show Boat.
April 20, Saturday. Rudy Vallee and his Orchestra open at the Paramount, New York for a 10 week run at $4000 per week.
April 23, Tuesday. (9:00–10:00 p.m.) Old Gold broadcast. Bing sings “Ol’ Man River.”
Four of the outstanding numbers from Ziegfeld’s musical success, “Show Boat,” will be played by Paul Whiteman and his orchestra as a feature of his broadcast from 6 to 7 tonight over KMTR and the ABC chain. The medley will be opened and closed with “Ole Man River,” and is to include “Let’s Make Believe,” “Can’t Help Lovin’ That Man,” and “Why Do I Love You?” As usual, Gershwin’s famous “Rhapsody in Blue” is to provide the signature for this program, which will have as its first selection, Massenet’s “Elegy,” an example of one of Whiteman’s inimitable arrangements of the classics. This will be followed by “Give Your Little Baby Lots of Lovin’,” as a contrast. Another medley represented at this time will contain excerpts from the most popular waltzes of all times as “My Hero,” “Blue Danube,” “Pink Lady,” and “The Merry Widow.” The musical show, “The Three Musketeers,” will contribute two of its tunes to the program with “Ma Belle” and the stirring “March of the Musketeers.” Among the recent hits of today which will be given original interpretations by the king of jazz are “Precious Little Thing Called Love,” “I Kiss Your Hand, Madam,” and “Sweethearts On Parade.”
(Zuma Palmer, Hollywood Daily Citizen, April 23, 1929)
April 25, Thursday. Recording session with Whiteman in New York when a successful take of “Little Pal” is achieved. The record achieves sales of 12,000.
April 26, Friday. The Whiteman orchestra appears at the Star Casino, New York.
April 27, Saturday. The Whiteman troupe makes its final appearance in the Ziegfeld Midnight Frolic.
Ziegfeld’s Midnite Frolic called it a season Saturday night with Paul Whiteman and his orchestra retiring as the prime attraction. The Roof, during its four months’ existence, has cost Ziggy an estimated loss of $75,000 for talent alone, not mentioning the investment for decorations, etc. Ziggy charged that OH to the Dillingham - Erlanger - Ziegfeld combination, lessee of the New Amsterdam theatre
….Maurice Chevalier, Helen Morgan, Eddie Cantor, and later a Seymour Felix revue were some of the features attempted, with the latter as an economic attempt to reduce the nut. Whiteman was the ace dance attraction.
(Variety, May 1, 1929)
April 30, Tuesday. (8:00–9:00 p.m.) Weekly Old Gold broadcast. Bing continues to be featured.
May 3/4, Friday/Saturday. Bing records with Whiteman in New York and has several solos, including “Oh, Miss Hannah” and “Reaching for Someone.”
“Oh, Miss Hannah” was a plaintive thing. It was written by a lady whom Paul knew (Jessie L. Deppen), and he helped get it exploited by recording it. Sort of a spiritual tune. Paul saw something of Bix in this tune—some spiritual quality. Bix was a very sensitive fellow. Bix had a lot of taste, very discriminating guy.
(Bing Crosby, speaking on November 26, 1969 – as reproduced in Bix—The Leon Bix Beiderbecke story, page 450)
Whiteman has produced another fine record in “Reaching for Someone”. There is a marvellous hot saxophone chorus by Frankie Trumbauer and an equally marvellous vocal by Byng (sic) Crosby. The whole performance has that quality which always characterises Whiteman; the orchestration is excellent, and the balance marvelous. Trumbauer excels himself, but I am going to criticize the second half of the chorus – I don’t like the first phase of it a little bit, and I refuse to be blinded to its unmusicalness by the fact that it is played by the one and only Frankie. Nevertheless, a great chorus and a terrific record.
(The Melody Maker, September, 1929)
May 4–18, Saturday–Saturday. The Whiteman ensemble appears at Pavillon Royal, a well-known restaurant on Merrick Road, Valley Stream, Long Island. Whiteman takes all of the $2 cover charge and the opening night alone gives him more than $2000.
John and Cristo have brought back Paul Whiteman and his Old Gold Orchestra to the scene of his early triumphs in New York at the beauteous Pavillon Royal, on the Merrick road at Valley Stream, Long Island. The inn was originally built for Whiteman some eleven years ago, when Harry Fitzgerald imported this melodic purveyor of beautiful dance strains out of the West into Atlantic City and thence to Broadway.
(Variety, May 8, 1929)
Whiteman is back for a very limited engagement of about two and one-half weeks, prior to the Whitemanites taking off on the Old Gold special to make a talker for Universal. He is guaranteed by John and Christo against an arrangement calling for Whiteman to take all of the 12 couverts. Opening night saw Whiteman over $2,000 to the good, with Sunday’s intake likely to take him off the nut for the rest of the week, giving him the Ave weekdays for “gravy,” granting that the weather breaks are right.
Those 32 men on the stand make a great flash, and the Whitemans lend the roadhouse an ultra stamp which should reimburse John and Christo in more than one way. The Whiteman draw won’t hurt their kitchen and water gross any and the necessity to throw open the doors of that side room lent a New Year ’s Eve touch to the roadhouse on a Saturday opening night which was none too auspicious for motoring, decidedly cool and threatening in the late afternoon.
Primarily, of course, Whiteman figures it’ll be a great break for those Whiteman golfing vultures to kick that pellet around on the fancy Long Island greens.
(Variety, May 8, 1929)
May (undated). Bing and Bix Beiderbecke go to the Music Box Theater to see “The Little Show” starring Fred Allen, Clifton Webb, and Libby Holman.
May 7, Tuesday. (8:00–9:00 p.m.) Old Gold broadcast over CBS network. Bing has three solos.
May 12, Sunday. Bing, Harry, and Al are sailing on Long Island Sound when Bing is thrown overboard when the boat hits a wave. The wind drives the boat some 300 yards before it can come about to rescue Bing.
May 13, Monday. Bing, Harry, and Al oversleep and fail to catch the bus to the Pavillon Royal. They miss the show much to Paul Whiteman’s annoyance.
May 14, Tuesday. (8:00–9:00 p.m.) Old Gold broadcast. Bing and Rhythm Boys again prominent.
May 16, Thursday. Recording session with Paul Whiteman and his Orchestra in New York including an unbilled solo by Bing on “S’posin’”.
May 19, Sunday. The orchestra appears in “Friar’s Frolic” at the Metropolitan Opera House, New York. Joe Venuti and Eddie Lang join the band.
May 21, Tuesday. (8:00–9:00 p.m.) The last Old Gold broadcast from New York for several months. Bing has two solos. The Whiteman troupe holds a farewell party at The Tavern.
May 24, Friday. Bing records two solos in New York “I Kiss Your Hand, Madame” and “Baby, Oh Where Can You Be” accompanied by Eddie Lang and two other musicians, Matty Malneck and Roy Bargy. Old Gold leases a special eight coach train for Whiteman to take him and his entourage to Hollywood to film King of Jazz. The train is to stop at sixteen cities across the nation and leaves New York with the Rhythm Boys on board with the other members of the Whiteman orchestra. Abel Green from Variety magazine is also on the train. The performance that night is at 8:00 p.m. at the Metropolitan Opera House, Philadelphia.
On May 24, a week before the Whiteman caravan headed west, (sic) Bing made his second date as a leader. Backed by three musicians, this time including Lang on guitar, he covered Vallee’s adaptation of a German song, “I Kiss Your Hand, Madame,” humming, whistling, and finishing with jazzy adornments. But then he lost his moorings on “Baby, Oh Where Can You Be?,” missing a note and veering out of tune on a scat break. Even his usually flawless time failed him. Bing needed a break from New York.
(Gary Giddins, Bing Crosby, A Pocketful of Dreams, The Early Years, 1903-1940, page 192)
The Old Gold Special left Pennsylvania Station in New York on May 24 with a grand send-off. The first stop on the tour was Philadelphia, where the band gave an 8:00 p.m. performance at the massive Metropolitan Opera House, where, according to Green, “the house attaches were heartbroken because they had to turn down box-office sales, with nothing available, and the house capable of being filled twice over at least.” On the program were many numbers that would be played at most of the concerts on the journey west: “Honey,” with a Jack Fulton vocal; “Nola” with Wilbur Hall displaying his trombone virtuosity; “Diga Diga Doo,” featuring the Rhythm Boys; “I Kiss Your Hand, Madame,” sung by Bing Crosby; a medley of Showboat tunes, with vocals by Crosby and the Rhythm Boys; and Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue. “Bodies started swaying and feet tapping,” wrote a reviewer from the Philadelphia Record, “as the orchestra played a rhythmical waltz melody of ‘Down by the Old Mill Stream,’ ‘Sweet Adeline,’ ‘In the Shade of the Old Apple Tree,’ and ‘After the Ball Is Over,’” in an ingratiating arrangement written by William Grant Still.
(Paul Whiteman, Pioneer in American Music, page 226)
May 25, Saturday. The orchestra gives an evening concert at the Syria Mosque, Pittsburgh, which is broadcast over station WJAS. Bing prominent.
May 26, Sunday. Whiteman in Cleveland at station WHK (10:00 a.m.) before going on to Toledo for an appearance at the Armory (2:00 p.m.). Goes on to Detroit for a concert at the Olympia in front of seventeen thousand people starting at 9:00 p.m. The proceedings are carried by radio station WGHP.
Toledo, May 28.
More than 1,000 persons attended the Paul Whiteman band concert at the Armory Sunday afternoon. Attendance was against fine afternoon, baseball and other outdoor attractions.
(Variety, May 29, 1929)
May 27, Monday. Arrives at Fort Wayne, Indiana, and plays a short concert at Pennsylvania Station in driving rain where Bing sings “I Kiss Your Hand, Madame.” The train continues to Chicago. Bing writes to his mother:
Well, we are wending our way westward and having a truly marvelous time of it. Our train is an all-compartment special of six Pullmans and baggage cars, with a special diner, attendants and so forth, and officials of Old Gold, Columbia, and Universal on board, together with newspaper representatives and “yes” men. The retinue is, of course, strictly stag, and so informality prevails.
Since leaving New York everything has been fine. In Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and Detroit we broadcast concerts to large and enthusiastic audiences. In each of these towns we were royally feted and nothing conducive to our comfort and enjoyment was left undone. Tonight we are in Chicago for two days . . . .
If nothing else, our return to Whiteman’s employ has been fruitful because of this trip. Not only are we having a great time but my name is being prominently featured in the newspapers and in the broadcasts and I am getting a lot of invaluable publicity. What awaits us on the Coast is as yet problematical and whether we get much of a break in the picture or not I can’t tell now. However, I intend to bear down heavily and really try to accomplish something worthwhile.
(Taken from The Story of Bing Crosby, page 150)
May 28, Tuesday. (8:00–9:00 p.m.) The weekly Old Gold broadcast is put out from radio station WBBM. Later the Whiteman orchestra gives a benefit concert for disabled war veterans at the Auditorium Theater, Chicago, which is attended by a capacity audience.
Chicago, May 28.
Extreme discourtesy was manifested at today’s (Tuesday) broadcast from WBBM by the station’s studio manager, Walter Preston, on the occasion of the regular Tuesday night Old Gold-Paul Whiteman national concert. Despite WBBM being a link in the Columbia Broadcasting System and having had its facilities engaged by the P. Lorillard Co. on a commercial basis, the studio manager, a peculiarly affected individual, denied Whiteman ordinary courtesies. It culminated in the radio attaché expressing himself in street language to the maestro, who had all he could do to keep his boys from reacting strenuously.
WBBM makes a feature of its observation gallery in the basement-broadcast central of the Wrigley Building. It’s a small auditorium accommodating perhaps two score of specially invited onlookers who, through the glass encasement, can see the broadcasting artists and likewise pick up the reception through a loud speaker.
With the Whitemanites’ advent, Chicago was struck by a heat spell which the local press averred had not been exceeded since 1886.
Whiteman and his orchestra, formally attired for an ensuing charity concert at the auditorium, had previously requested that the observation galleries, comprising a mixed attendance, be asked to listen in elsewhere and forego viewing the artists in person, in order to afford them an opportunity to strip to their undershirts and perform for the solid hour in the thoroughly sound-proof and virtually air-tight broadcasting studio.
Preston took this in ill spirit; persisted that the comfort of the Whiteman orchestra and Whiteman’s own physical suffering were secondary to that of not disappointing the specially invited sightseers.
In addition, inexplicable control room difficulties cropped up to mar the calibre of the program, which was relayed by land wire from Chi to New York and rebroadcast nationally. (Whiteman’s current week’s program on Tuesday (last) night was similarly relayed by land wire from Denver and then etherized nationally.)
Directly from the broadcasting studio the Whitemanites dashed over to the Auditorium, Chicago, where, under the auspices of the Advertising Men’s Post No. 38 of the American Legion, to a $3 top, the orchestra was the feature of the concert for the benefit of the ‘Veterans’ Relief.
The house, with its 6,000 capacity, was virtually capacity, an extraordinary turnout considering that only the night before the reported advance sale was ?? (illegible) per cent, and the concert had come into being but four days preceding tonight.
(Abel Green, Variety, June 8, 1929)
May 29, Wednesday. (12 noon–2:00 p.m.) The orchestra performs at the State Arsenal, Springfield, Illinois.
Paul Whiteman with his band came to Springfield yesterday morning, captured an audience of five thousand person at the state arsenal, delighted additional thousands of radio listeners, paid tribute to Abraham Lincoln and in addition was greeted by ‘Miss Illinois,’ all in the space of about three hours.
The King of Jazz, on his third visit to Springfield, presented a novelty radio broadcasting program to the audience of 5000 which gathered for the free concert at the state arsenal, sponsored by Springfield Chamber of Commerce.
At noon, when the rotund Whiteman waved his baton over his talented gang for the opening number, the heat in the arsenal was almost sweltering. It didn’t matter, as far as the audience and the band were concerned, but the heat formed the basis for considerable comedy on the part of Whiteman and some of his musicians.
. . . The concert was described by Ted Husing, chief announcer of the Columbia Broadcasting system, as a typical radio hour recital. The musicians appeared in a variety of costumes, some in knickers, and the genial Whiteman removed his coat before the first number and thereafter sweltered in great discomfort.
As to the program, it was started off with a bang with ‘Stars and Stripes Forever,’ and the interest never died down. Roy Bargy performed wonders on the piano in ‘Nola’ and Wilbur Hall went him one better by a trombone imitation of the well-known ivory tickler. This fellow Hall proved to be the chief entertainer in the bunch, with a ludicrous rendition of ‘Pop Goes the Weasel,’ on a violin and a side splitting performance with a bicycle pump which he manipulated so that it played ‘Stars and Stripes Forever.’
Other features included Chester Hazlett, saxophone, ‘Goldie,’ a trumpet player who did a heartbreaking buck and wing, Bing Crosby, vocalist, assisted by the Rhythm Boys, and others unannounced and apparently worked up on the spur of the moment.
At 2 o’clock the nine-car special train in which the Whiteman band is traveling, pulled out for Indianapolis, by way of the Illinois Central.
(Illinois State Journal, May 30, 1929)
May 30, Thursday. The Whiteman ensemble is at Indianapolis where they give a brief dance program at the Memorial Day races. Some of the band members are towed round the track before the start of the 500-mile race in very hot conditions.
May 31, Friday. Whiteman gives a concert at St. Louis in the Washington University Field House which is broadcast by station KMOX.
The Radio Review, sponsored by KMOX and the Columbia Broadcasting System at the Washington University Field House last night featuring Paul Whiteman and his Old Gold Orchestra, attracted approximately 4500 persons. In addition to Whiteman a large number of KMOX entertainers participated in the review, but it was the portly figure of the famous jazz exponent, with his tiny mustache, and his orchestra that attracted the most attention.
Going on the air at 9 o’clock the Old Gold Orchestra played for about one hour and a half, the first hour of the program being broadcast over KMOX, the St. Louis station of the Columbia Broadcasting System which is sponsoring the first tour of a radio chain by a feature attraction of that chain.
Sixteen popular numbers were played before the program was ended, including such tunes as ‘Rhapsody in Blue,’ Stars and Stripes,’ Diggy, Diggy, Do,’ ‘A Tango Medley,’ ‘Honey,’ ‘Nola,’ ‘Kiss Your Hand Madame,’ ‘No. 3 Old Gold Song,’ sung by the Rhythm Boys: a medley from Show Boat, ‘When Dreams Come True,’ ‘Hallelujah,’ ‘Mean to Me,’ with a piano refrain by Roy Bargy, a group of special numbers and ‘China Boy.’
(St. Louis Daily Globe-Democrat, June 1, 1929)
June 1, Saturday. The band arrives in Kansas City, Missouri and is given a police escort to the Muehlebach Hotel, where a luncheon is held in their honor. Various band members (including Bing) participate in a golf tournament whilst some go on airplane rides given by the Bennett Flying School. (7:00–10:00 p.m.) The Whiteman troupe gives a show at Convention Hall, Kansas City, which is broadcast by radio station KMBC. Despite heavy rain, the attendance is about 18,000 - the largest turnout of the entire tour.
Whiteman will lead his 33-piece band in a free concert tonight at Convention Hall. His musicians will play toward the close of a 3-hour program, which will begin at 7 o’clock. The program is a radio hook-up between Old Gold cigarettes and KMBC, the Midland broadcast central.
(The Kansas City Star, June 1, 1929)
It’s a great vacation for the gang. Their avocations are diversified. The Whiteman Golfing Vultures, and all on about the same par, comprise Bing Crosby, Roy Bargy, Chester Hazlett and Al Rinker. Izzy Friedman, Harry Barris and the others also play after a fashion, as does Jimmie Gillespie…
(Abel Green, Variety, June 8, 1929)
June 2, Sunday. (10:30 a.m.) The Old Gold train arrives at Omaha, Nebraska. (2:00 p.m.) The Whiteman troupe performs a concert at the City Auditorium in front of 4,500, which is carried by radio station KOIL. (4:00 p.m.) The Old Gold train goes on to Lincoln, Nebraska, through flooding which covers the tracks in places. At Lincoln, the orchestra gives a thirty-minute indoor concert at Burlington railway station at 6:30 p.m. where a crowd of 5,000 has gathered. Loudspeakers carry the music to the crowd outside.
Unruly Crowd of 5,000 nearly disrupts Whiteman’s concert
A crowd of more than 5,000 persons battled with police and guards for a glimpse of the jazz king, nearly disrupting the thirty-minute concert of Paul Whiteman’s orchestra at the Burlington Station Sunday evening.
Whiteman lost several buttons of his coat and was cut off inside the station from members of his band who had taken places on the platform outside of the building. After several attempts to force through the crowd had failed, the musicians were called back into the station. The crowd surged after the musicians. Several women fainted in the jam. Attempts of every member of the police department except the desk sergeant and driver failed to control the crowd in its frantic effort to see Whiteman. A line of milling, pushing spectators thronged past doors of the building throughout the concert in an effort to see Whiteman. Inside the building every inch of standing space was taken. Some had climbed to the sill in front of the ticket windows, onto benches, and other places of vantage. Very few could see Whiteman because of the jam. The Jazz King directed the first piece and only a portion of the second selection, “Stars and Stripes,” then turned over the direction of the orchestra to an assistant. A chance to hear some of the “softer” Whiteman pieces was prevented by the shouts and noise of the crowd.
(Lincoln Star, June 3, 1929—as reproduced in Bix—Man and Legend)
June 3, Monday. (8:30 a.m.) The Old Gold train arrives in Denver, the home of the Whiteman family and there are major festivities including a trip to the mountains in a specially furnished fleet of cars and lunch at Placer Inn in Idaho Springs. In the evening, the Whiteman family entertains the band members at its farm.
June 4, Tuesday. (11:00 a.m.–2:00 p.m.) Rehearsal at the Shirley-Savoy Hotel, Denver. Free concert at the Municipal Auditorium (3:00–4:30 p.m.) and then the weekly Old Gold broadcast from Denver station KLZ. (6:00–7:00 p.m.) Departure for Salt Lake City at 8:30 p.m.
The home folks will have an opportunity to see one of their favorite sons, now famous, when Paul Whiteman and his Orchestra arrive at Denver on the Old Gold-Paul Whiteman Special for the Old Gold Hour weekly broadcast. The jazz king and his men will be heard from 8 to 9 p.m. as guest artists of station KLZ. The arrival of the Special on Monday gave Whiteman time to inspect his extensive ranch not far from the city, where his prize-winning cattle and dogs are bred. A re-union of old friends suggests such songs as ‘Down by the Old Mill Stream’, ‘In the Shade of the Old Apple Tree’ and ‘Sweet Adeline’. All three of these are on the program along with an up to date selection of dance music.
(Unidentified Columbus, Ohio, newspaper)
Paul Whiteman’s free concert drew 4,600, as many as both paid concerts got. Despite driving rain, Muny auditorium was packed.
(Variety, June 15, 1929)
June 5, Wednesday. Whiteman performs at the Granada Theater in Salt Lake City.
June 6, Thursday. The train arrives at the Santa Fe Station, Los Angeles, at 3:00 p.m. and the Whiteman party is greeted by Carl Laemmle of Universal Studios. After a short stop, the train departs for San Francisco.
Los Angeles, June 9.
Voted the most interesting itinerary ever essayed by them, the Paul Whiteman orchestra, all veteran troupers. The trip, lasting 13 days of actual travel, was deemed by all to be less tedious, for all of its fortnight’s length, than if they had made the hop straight through in four days.
The stop-offs and stop-overs, with an opportunity to take in each of the key cities’ highlights, were ever-diverting. Starting May 26 (sic) from New York, covered Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Toledo, Detroit, Chicago, Springfield, Ill., Indianapolis, Omaha, Kansas City, St Louis, Denver, Salt Lake City and Los Angeles.
It was in Denver, Whiteman’s home town, that possibly the highlight of an extraordinarily eventful trip occurred. Whiteman took the entire party of 41 on a 126-mile motor trip through the Rocky Mountains to Whiteman’s 180-acre farm. This is the residence of his parents, Wilberforce J. Whiteman, former superintendent of music of the 3 Denver public schools, and Mrs. Whiteman. Paul has a 1,700-acre preserve for big game hunting further up in the mountains.
The Denver concert at the Auditorium was a turnaway. Scheduled for 3 p. m., the lower floor was filled fully an hour before that.
(Abel Green, Variety, June 15, 1929)
June 7–13, Friday–Thursday. Whiteman performs at the Pantages Theater, San Francisco.
June 11, Tuesday. (5:00–6:00 p.m.) The weekly Old Gold broadcast from station KYA in San Francisco. Bing sings “There’s a Rainbow ‘Round My Shoulder” amongst other songs.
June 12, Wednesday. The orchestra plays for the Optimist Club Luncheon at the Bellevue Hotel, San Francisco.
June 14, Friday. The orchestra members have a day off.
June 15, Saturday. (9:30 a.m.) Whiteman and his party arrive at Central Station, Los Angeles, where they are greeted by a crowd of 500. They parade in cars to the Pantages Theater where Mayor Cryer presents Whiteman with the keys to the city.
June 15–22, Saturday–Saturday. Whiteman appearing at Pantages Theater, Los Angeles.
With Paul Whiteman on the bill nothing else mattered. Three other acts and not bad. But the mob took them as they came, waiting for the main event. First time the Pan crowd has had a chance to hear Whiteman’s mob in person and have just one week to sit in. Opening day the boys did 50 minutes and could have lingered.
Whiteman opened with a medley followed by a succession of ensemble and solo numbers, all of which wowed. Goldie directed a burlesque of “Poet and Peasant,” Venuti and Lang did a couple of numbers on violin and guitar, the Rhythm Boys clicked, and the personality sock was Wilbur Hall. “Rhapsody in Blue” closed.
(Variety, June 19, 1929)
Paul Whiteman is a big man in more ways than one. He is an orchestra leader who is big enough to give way to the individual cleverness in his band. He is off the stage as much as he is on. And yet you are always conscious of Paul Whiteman.
He is at Pantages this week and no one should miss seeing him. His direction is a casual subtlety that has nothing to do with gymnastic obviousness. He is a musical wizard, jovially sincere.
There is comedy in music, as proved by the boys in Whiteman’s band. There is the one who shows Whiteman how to direct to everyone’s amusement; there are the three very clever boys who sing, play two minute pianos, and throw in a vaudeville act for good measure.
And then there is the violinist who plays “Pop Goes the Weasel” in about a hundred different ways, each time more intricate and funny than the last; who manipulates two horns at the same time, and finally gets music out of a tire pump. He has to pump very hard to reach the high notes–I should say, from experience, about 55 pounds pressure.
They are musical demons, these boys, and all roads lead to Pantages this week.
(Los Angeles Record, June 17, 1929)
Paul Whiteman, in the length, breadth and thickness of a substantial personal appearance, leads his band at the Pantages Theater this week. He has been greeted by crowded and fervent houses, with no seat unoccupied and no palm unblistered.
Whiteman is, as he has always been, blessed with a good arranger. Other bands have come forward to surpass his organization in tonal quality and versatility. But the Whiteman arrangements have kept a color and quality of their own. A favorite offering this week is “Lover, Come Back to Me.” Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue,” naturally, finds a place on the program. A trio of young gentlemen in blue flannel coats and tan flannel trousers sing warm and gibberish songs to the flapping of the lids of miniature pianos. A trombonist, who likewise plays the violin, provides some comedy moments. Whiteman himself seems a bit weary, and not free from boredom.
(Patterson Greene, Los Angeles Examiner, June 17, 1929)
…No jazz orchestra can come within hearing distance of them. Paul Whiteman, his 30 musicians and 3 Rhythm Boys hold the stage to the oblivion of the rest of the bill….The Three Rhythm Boys offer uniquely “I Left My Sugar Standing in the Rain”, “Mississippi Mud” and other ballads.
(Los Angeles Evening Herald, June 17, 1929)
June 17, Monday. The orchestra plays for the Chamber of Commerce benefit dinner at the Majestic Theater.
June 18, Tuesday. (5:00–6:00 p.m.) The weekly Old Gold broadcast from station KMTR, Los Angeles, continues each Tuesday until August 27. Bing and Rhythm Boys always involved.
Los Angeles will become the source of a regular nationwide weekly feature broadcast for the first time tonight when the Paul Whiteman hour is presented over KMTR. Special arrangements were being made to rush Whiteman from Pantages theater to the studio of KMTR in time to come before the mike at 5 o’clock. It is planned to have Whiteman give his Tuesday broadcast hour from a special remote control at the Universal lot, wired up to KMTR and hence eastward on the chain. This plan is being devised so Whiteman will have very little interruption during the filming of his first talking picture, King of Jazz.
(Los Angeles Record, June 18, 1929)
. . . This first Whiteman program to leak from Los Angeles goes out over the Columbia system. Features will be a tango group, including “El Chocio,” an old-timer that tantalized before the war when America, young and fearless, decided for the first time that it, too, could tango; and two selections from the “Student Prince.” Jack Fulton, tenor, Bing Crosby, baritone, and the Rhythm Boys also will be put in motion. KMTR, 5 to 6pm.
(Dick Creedon, Los Angeles Examiner, June 18, 1929)
June 20, Thursday. (12:15 p.m.) Paul Whiteman and the Rhythm Boys appear at the Platt Music Co. shop, 832 South Broadway, Los Angeles to promote their records.
June 24, Monday. Whiteman reports to Universal to film King of Jazz but incredibly the script is not ready. The troupe are under salary to Universal but have nothing to do except enjoy themselves and take part in the weekly Old Gold broadcast. Each man is provided with a new Ford car with the cost being taken from his pay check. Bing writes to his mother:
We are finally getting pretty well settled down here and from all appearances should be here for about four months. Unfortunately, they are not quite ready for us at Universal yet, so in the interim we are occupying ourselves with the weekly broadcast and much golf. Present indications are that we will start making the picture in about three weeks.
California and Los Angeles seem quite good to me after my absence and we have, of course, been greeted and entertained profusely by our friends of other days.
We are trying to line up some extra work while here but the rehearsals and radio just about make it impossible. However, we plan an opening at the Montmartre cafe in Hollywood for a short time to see how it works out. This will help to tide us over during our enforced idleness. Picture work is, of course, possible for the trio, but we are prevented from doing any of this until the Universal picture is completed, and even in that it is quite probable that we’ll be left on the cutting room floor.
In the meantime, I am going to make some screen tests for
Have seen a good deal of Ev since arrival. I will write more when something newsy happens.
Love to all, Harry
(Taken from The Story of Bing Crosby, page 156)
Los Angeles, June 22.
Ford is doing a great biz out here. Paul Whiteman’s gang went for 24 of the new Fords and Jimmie Gillespie invested in one for Marie and Pat after the latter had driven the family Stutz 3,000 miles across the continent. Eddie Buzzel is another Forder, tearing up Sunset Boulevard.
Whiteman doesn’t start production on “The King of Jazz” at Universal for another three weeks. Paul was out of the Pantages through heat-suffering for the last two matinees.
Everybody here’s squawking about the weather and wondering how much tougher New York’s heat spell must be. The hooey about being “unusual,” of course, from the
natives. The Broadwayites, hungry for something to do and places to go of nights, are giving the Apex nite club on Central avenue in southeast Los Angeles a break. One of the hottest bands extant holds forth as the prime attraction, labeled Moseby’s Blue Blowers, with Moseby also the Boniface of the joint. The torrid trumpet player is a bear. He has the (??? illegible) boys nuts with his sizzling tooting. The show isn’t much but the tariff is low and what can one expect for a 99c. couvert payable in advance at the gate as a sort of admission fee. There is one good strut stepper in the troupe, a youngster, who’s a Juvenile Bill Robinson.
(Abel Green, Variety, June 26, 1929)
June 25, Tuesday. (5:00–6:00 p.m.) The weekly Old Gold broadcast. The announcer is Harry Von Zell and Bing has a solo as well as two songs with the Rhythm Boys.
Clubhouse for Whiteman and Auto Deal
Los Angeles, June 26.
Universal has erected a club house on the back lot for the exclusive use of Whiteman’s boys. Abode contains individual dressing rooms, showers, billiard parlor, gym and lounge. Lakeside golf course is just across the way and gang has made a deal with the Ford agency whereby each gets a car with a turn-in price guarantee when they leave for home. No guarantee on how they’ll tell the cars apart.
(Variety, June 26, 1929)
June 28, Friday. (7:30 p.m.) The Rhythm Boys appear on a minstrel type show on KHJ.
July 2, Tuesday. (5:00–6:00 p.m.) Another Old Gold broadcast with Bing having three solos.
July 3, Wednesday. The Rhythm Boys open at Eddie Brandstatter’s Montmartre Club, on the second floor of 6757 Hollywood Boulevard, as a separate act. The Master of Ceremonies is Danny O’Shea. Bing first meets a film starlet named Dixie Lee at the Montmartre Club when she is dating Frankie Albertson.
PAUL WHITEMAN MUSICIANS WILL COME TO MONTMARTRE
The Montmartre Café will celebrate one of the most colorful events in its history Wednesday night when Paul Whiteman's Rhythm Boys will open the summer season of special events planned by Eddie Brandstatter, owner of the well known dining and dancing emporium.
Secured by Brandstatter at great expense, the group of entertainers will make its first appearance in Hollywood, the film capital being the only place they have played outside of New York.
Jetta Goudal, regarded as one of the most talented and beautiful screen stars, will be honored by Paul Whiteman. As guests of honor, the two stars will judge and award the prize for the dancing contest.
Danny O’Shea, popular Irish actor, has been secured by Brandstatter to officiate as master of ceremonies for the event.
(Hollywood Daily Citizen, June 29, 1929)
Having scored one of the most impressive triumphs in cafe annals, Paul Whiteman’s Rhythm Boys will continue their summer engagement at the Montmartre.
(Los Angeles Times, July 5, 1929)
A trio of young gentlemen, in blue flannel coats and tan flannel trousers, sing warm and gibberish songs to the flapping of the lids of miniature pianos.
(Los Angeles Examiner)
July (undated). Bing, Kurt Dieterle, and Mischa Russell rent a house on Fairfax Avenue in Los Angeles. They also join Lakeside Country Club and golf daily with other members of the band.
Paul Whiteman had quite a few golfers in his band while he was making King of Jazz at Universal Studios in 1929. A number of them played golf at Lakeside: Roy Bargy, piano; Chuck Hazlett, saxophone; Kurt Dieterle, violin; and the Rhythm Boys, Al Rinker, Harry Barris, and Bing. Bing and Al Rinker were the best, about 8 handicaps. They wanted to improve so they played a great deal and I often played with them. Bing brought his handicap down to four before I left Lakeside.
(Willie Low, top teaching professional at Lakeside Golf Club 1926 to 1931, as quoted in Lakeside Golf Club of Hollywood)
July 9, Tuesday. (5:00–6:00 p.m.) The weekly Old Gold broadcast.
One of those haunting melodies that have been written about the barren wastes of Russia - ‘Song of Siberia’ - will be featured by Paul Whiteman and his Old Gold Orchestra during the Old Gold Hour to be broadcast from station KMTR, Universal City, from 8 to 9 p.m. It will be vocalised by Bing Crosby, baritone. Forty stations of the Columbia System will re-broadcast the entire Old Gold Program, nationally. “Drigo’s Serenade", an unusual waltz number, is another selection in this group
(Unidentified Columbus, Ohio, newspaper - July 9, 1929)
July 16, Tuesday. (5:00–6:00 p.m.) Old Gold
broadcast. Bing sings "I'm Just a Vagabond Lover".
July 23, Tuesday. (5:00–6:00 p.m.) Old Gold broadcast. Bing prominent. This broadcast marks the debut of the Old Gold Trio—a “sweet” trio comprising Bing, Al Rinker, and Jack Fulton.
The Old Gold Paul Whiteman Hour on a nationwide hook-up will continue the light popular music characteristic of summer dance programs. Broadway songwriters, at the present time, in Hollywood, will contribute a group of new selections, heretofore not broadcast on the air. The male quartet, the Old Gold Cheerleaders, will be heard in several arrangements. Paul Whiteman leads his Old Gold Orchestra in another characteristic Waltz medley and in addition, Bing Crosby, baritone will offer several vocal interpolations in the program.
(Unidentified Columbus, Ohio, newspaper - July 23, 1929)
July 24, Wednesday. The Hollywood Daily Citizen carries the following article:
MONTMARTRE WILL HAVE DORIS HILL AS GUEST
Doris Hill, 1929 Wampus Baby Star and Paramount featured player, will be the guest of honor tonight at the Montmartre Café when screen players and stage stars will gather to celebrate a gay mid-summer Fiesta. Proff Moore and his orchestra whose return a week ago to the Montmartre was the signal for a tremendous welcome, has arranged one of his unique and ‘peppy’ programs of dance music, while also featured on the evening’s entertainment will be Paul Whiteman’s Rhythm Boys. These three performers with their tiny piano, are repeating in Hollywood the great success they enjoyed in New York.
July 27–August 2, Saturday–Friday. The Rhythm Boys appear at the Orpheum Theater for one week in addition to their Montmartre Club engagement.
LITA CHAPLIN IS HEADLINE
ARTIST ON ORPHEUM
If you like a lot of foolishness and fun then you’ll like the Orpheum this week. Saturday night an enthusiastic audience shrieked with laughter and yelled back at Joe Keno and Rosie Green, when they stood up on the stage and did nothing but let shouts of exuberance out over the crowded theater. They whispered excitedly upon the spectacular entrance of Lita Grey Chaplin, who with exotic, tight fitting gowns spread her personality, which is entirely pleasing, over the audience with crooning “blues” and a cycle of ballads. They applauded uproariously when Little Mitzi, eight years old, held them spellbound with her clever and vivacious impersonations, and her recital of Moran and Mack’s famous dialogue which was one of the high lights of the entire program. Paul Whiteman’s Rhythm Boys, Harry Barris, Bing Crosby and Al Rinker brought down the house with their jazzy, personality harmonies accompanying a lot of delightful nonsense. Here are three of the most vivid personalities of Whiteman’s entire band and they entertain with a capital “E” at the Orpheum this week.
(Doris Denbo, Hollywood Daily Citizen, July 29, 1929)
Rhythm Boys Play Two Engagements
Although Paul Whiteman’s Rhythm Boys are headline attractions at the Orpheum this week, they are still continuing their engagement at the Montmartre Cafe, where they made an exceptionally successful debut several weeks ago. The boys, who are otherwise known as Harry Barris, Bing Crosby and Al Rinker, make a flying trip from the Orpheum after each performance to the Montmartre, where they are presenting a new bill of musical novelties. Proff Moore and his orchestra are providing an exceptionally fine program of dance music this week at the Hollywood café.
(Hollywood Daily Citizen, August 2, 1929)
July 30, Tuesday. The weekly Old Gold broadcast.
Paul Whiteman and his Old Gold Orchestra will broadcast their Tuesday program from Universal City. The program will be made up of summer dance hits. Bing Crosby and the Old Gold Trio will round out the program with interpolations.
(Unidentified Columbus, Ohio, newspaper - July 30, 1929)
PAULINE STARKE WILL BE GUEST OF MONTMARTRE
Honoring Pauline Starke, popular screen player, a film festival will be given at the Montmartre tomorrow night, with many of the prominent players in Hollywood attending. Paul Whiteman’s Rhythm Boys will offer a unique program of songs, parodying moving picture favorites, while Proff Moore and his orchestra will stage the dancing contest to be judged by Miss Starke. The contest offers a prize of a round trip passage to Agua Caliente. Danny O’Shea continues popular in the role of master of ceremonies.
(Hollywood Daily Citizen, July 30, 1929)
James Ryan, the casting director at Fox, tells Bing to forget movies because of
his protruding ears. Bing also makes unsuccessful screen tests for
July 31, Wednesday. The Whiteman band travels to Santa Barbara for a private concert in a caravan of automobiles. A car accident involving two of the Whiteman troupe occurs. Mario Perry is seriously injured while Joe Venuti, who was driving, sustains a broken arm.
August 2, Friday. Mario Perry dies from his injuries.
August 3, Saturday. Al Rinker’s sister, Mildred Bailey, throws a “home–brew” party for the Whiteman band to cheer them up after the tragedy of Mario Perry’s death. She sings and Whiteman decides to sign her as the first regular female vocalist with a nationally known orchestra.
Stalemate—until Rinker hit on a foolproof strategy to lure Pops into a situation where it would be impossible not to hear Mildred sing. A party was the answer. Mildred and Stafford invited almost the entire Whiteman band—except its leader. “Don’t worry,” Bing Crosby confided to her on the telephone Saturday afternoon. “He’ll be here. He can’t stand being left out. His curiosity’ll get the better of him, wait and see.”
He was right. Whiteman showed up midway through the evening. Mildred greeting him with a motherly hug—Whiteman, at nearly 300 pounds, was more than a match for her—and ushered him into the kitchen for a taste of her own home-distilled brew.
As he stood there, chatting idly with Stafford, Bix and Izzy Friedman, Lennie Hayton sat down calmly at the living room piano. “Sing, Millie,” said brother Al. “Now’s your chance.” Hayton chorded in “What Can I Say, Dear, After I Say I’m Sorry?” with Eddie Lang joining in on guitar. Mildred sang—and out in the kitchen the King of Jazz stopped drinking to listen . . . .
(Bix—Man and Legend, page 285)
August 6, Tuesday. (5:00–6:00 p.m.) The regular Old Gold broadcast over KMTR. Mary Nolan is the guest star and Mildred Bailey makes her debut.
Another in the series of Old Gold-Paul Whiteman Tuesday evening programs will be broadcast tonight from station KMTR in Universal City from 7 to 8 o’clock, Central Standard time, over Columbia Broadcasting System and the national hookup of forty stations. A group of song—’Girls Named Mary’ including such hits as Mary Make-Believe, Mary Lou, and Building a Nest for Mary is dedicated to Mary Nolan, the film star, who will be Paul Whiteman’s guest in the Old Gold studio on this occasion. The program will be made up of a number of light summer dance tunes, and Bing Crosby, baritone, and the Old Gold Trio will offer a number of vocal interpolations throughout the hour.
August 7, Wednesday. Rhythm Boys headline in “Show of Shows Night” at Club Montmartre which honors the new Warner Bros. film The Show of Shows. Featured guests are Alberta and Ada Mae Vaughn who appear in the film. Proff Moore continues to lead the orchestra. Later, Bing appears at Curtis Mosby’s Apex Nite Club together with many other stars. He sings two songs accompanied by a pianist from the Whiteman band, probably Lennie Hayton.
Ving Crosby (sic) of Paul Whiteman’s Rhythm Boys and L. Stanton (sic), famous composer and arranger of Paul Whiteman’s music sang and played “I Kiss Your Hand Madame” and “Louise” in a way that couldn’t be beat. Everyone knows what Whiteman’s Rhythm Boys are and Crosby gave us just a taste of what they can do.
(California Eagle, August 9, 1929)
August 13, Tuesday. (5:00–6:00 p.m.) The regular Old Gold broadcast over KMTR. Bing sings “You Were Meant for Me” amongst other songs.
August 16, Friday. Whiteman and the orchestra play at the Santa Barbara Fiesta Day from 10:00 p.m. until the early hours of the morning.
August 20, Tuesday. (5:00–6:00 p.m.) The regular Old Gold broadcast over KMTR. Bing and the Rhythm Boys participate fully in the show. A party takes place at the Whiteman Lodge afterwards and the Rhythm Boys entertain.
Bing Crosby, baritone, appearing with the Cheerleaders Quartet on the Old Gold-Paul Whiteman Hour, will sing three numbers for which he has become well-known over the air, ‘Satisfied’, ‘Vagabond Lover’ and ‘Good Little, Bad Little You’. The quartet will furnish a vocal refrain to many of the orchestral numbers, which include, ‘Waiting at the End of the Road’, ‘Baby Have a Heart’ and ‘I’ll Tell the World about You’.
(Unidentified Columbus, Ohio, newspaper - August 20, 1929)
August 24, Friday. The Rhythm Boys complete their engagement at the Montmartre cafe around now.
August 27, Tuesday. (5:00–6:00 p.m.) Last Old Gold broadcast from station KMTR.
August 28, Wednesday. Whiteman’s film King of Jazz is still not ready to go before the cameras and Whiteman sets off with his group back East on the Santa Fe Chief. Hoagy Carmichael hitches a ride, bunking with Bing on the train.
August 31, Saturday. Whiteman opens at Pavillon Royal, Long Island.
Tuesday. (8:00–9:00 p.m.) Whiteman begins broadcasting his Old Gold show from New York station
Paul Whiteman is always called to the mike after each Old Gold broadcast to say a few words, and a few it is, although last week Paul added a few to make sure his hearers knew that he was glad to get back to New York. His last program seemed a little more colorful than some of the preceding ones. Last week’s program was animated and zippy.
(Variety, September 11, 1929)
September 6, Friday. Bing records “At Twilight” with Whiteman in New York and this goes on to achieve sales of 12,025 discs. All four takes of “Waiting at the End of the Road” are rejected as Bix Beiderbecke is unwell and has problems with his eight bars solo.
Tuesday. (8:00–9:00 p.m.) Old Gold
broadcast from station
September 13, Friday. Another recording session with Paul Whiteman and his Orchestra. This time there is a successful take of “Waiting at the End of the Road” (sales 15,025) but this marks Bix Beiderbecke’s last issued recording for Whiteman. Bix was unable to continue with the session and Andy Secrest takes his place on “When You’re Counting the Stars Alone” which features Bing as part of a vocal group.
In 1929, Bix left the Whiteman organization, and his book was taken over by Andy Secrest, a cornetist of pleasing sweet tone, but not of Bix’s stature. However, the loss of this fine soloist was in part made up by the addition of Joe Venuti on violin and Eddie Lang on guitar. The one, an irrepressible Italian from Philadelphia, brought jazz ingenuity on an instrument that had hardly ever before been noted for it. The other, a quiet little man, also from Philadelphia, was an old friend of Bing’s who had moved from the violin to the banjo to the guitar and had literally made that last instrument in jazz. He brought it to such prominence through his playing in the Dorsey Brothers’ Scranton Sirens, in the Mound City Blue Blowers, and in almost every band that had ever played in and around New York that it became a fixture in the dance band, as the banjo had been before.
(The Incredible Crosby, page 61)
Tuesday. (8:00–9:00 p.m.) Old Gold
broadcast from station
September (undated). Bing meets a man called O’Connell in Loretti’s one Monday night and after a tour of several bars, Bing wakes up on Wednesday morning in an apartment amongst gangsters. While he is in the bathroom, there is shooting and Bing hides until there is silence and then leaves quietly.
Tuesday. (8:00–9:00 p.m.) Old Gold
broadcast from station
September 27, Friday. Bing and a number of musicians take part in a recording session for Columbia in the Union Square studio in New York supervised by Ben Selvin. Bing is the featured soloist on “Can’t We Be Friends” and “Gay Love.”
Bing Crosby, of Crosby and Rinker, later with Harry Barris, known as the Paul Whiteman Rhythm Boys, makes his solo entrance for Columbia with “Can’t We Be Friends” and “Gay Love.” Crosby has a peach tenor that may go baritone with age. He sings with a rich softness that falls pleasurably upon the auditory nerve. Looks like a possible favorite, properly piloted.
(Variety, November 20, 1929)
Bing’s third session under his own name, in late September, was little better than the first two and suffered from pompous, non-jazz accompaniment. Columbia probably wanted to disabuse him of his inclination to scat or embellish. On the movie tango “Gay Love” (written by Oscar Levant and Sidney Clare for The Delightful Rogue), he emotes with a purple bravado that prefigures his hit recording of “Temptation,” the movie tango composed for him a few years later, sobbing the high notes and employing a robust attack no one could misconstrue as crooning.
(Gary Giddins, A Pocketful of Dreams, page 204)
Tuesday. (9:00–10:00 p.m.) The weekly Old
Gold broadcast over CBS from station
Tuesday. (9:00–10:00 p.m.) Another Old
Gold broadcast from station
October 9, Wednesday. Bing records “Great Day” and “Without a Song” with Whiteman in New York.
And not the least interesting feature of the records is that the singing in four of them—“Great Day,” “Without a Song,” “You Brought a New Kind of Love to Me,” and “Livin’ in the Sunlight”—is by Bing Crosby, possibly the world’s greatest rhythm singer.
(The Gramophone, October, 1930)
No less operatic is his work with Whiteman on two Vincent Youmans songs, “Great Day” and “Without a Song.” On the former he staunchly sings the verse before disappearing into a trebly choir. “Without a Song,” however, taken at a peppy tempo that displeased its composer, is a Crosby coup of the sort that encourages one to speculate on how inspiring it must have been to, say, Frank Sinatra, who was fourteen when the Youmans numbers were released on a hugely popular platter. Bing’s phrasing, breathing, vibrato, and projection are superbly coordinated, and he pins the high note free and clear, demonstrating hardly a trace of his or anyone else’s mannerisms. His vocal is the more remarkable for crowning an otherwise dreary arrangement.
(Gary Giddins, A Pocketful of Dreams, page 204)
Tuesday. (9:00–10:00 p.m.) Old Gold
broadcast from station
October 16, Wednesday. Bing again records with Whiteman in New York and the songs include “If I Had a Talking Picture of You.”
Bing is more in his element and again in marvelous voice with Whiteman on Lennie Hayton’s pert arrangement of “If I Had a Talking Picture of You,” backed by Lang and Venuti. The chemistry between Bing and Eddie is fully realized on “After You’ve Gone,” a delightfully cool William Grant Still arrangement with voicings that blend rather than separate the strings and the winds, as well as a climax that includes an Andy Secrest solo in the style of Bix and a Joe Venuti solo in a style all his own, complete with sparkling break.
(Gary Giddins, A Pocketful of Dreams, page 204)
October 18, Friday. Bing has solos on three songs in a recording session with Paul Whiteman in New York. Whiteman leaves for Hollywood and is followed a few days later by the rest of the troupe.
Tuesday. (9:00–10:00 p.m.) The last Old
Gold broadcast from station
October 24, Thursday. Wall Street crashes.
October 25, Friday. The orchestra and Bing arrive back in Hollywood to film King of Jazz.
October 29, Tuesday. (6:00–7:00 p.m.) The Old Gold broadcast on CBS comes from station KMTR, Los Angeles. Bing sings “Great Day” and other songs.
November 2, Saturday. Bing drives a girl home from a studio party after the USC Trojans versus California Golden Bears college football game at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum and has a car accident in which the girl is slightly injured. He has been drinking and is arrested and held overnight before being released on bail. A week later he is sentenced to sixty days in jail for drinking during Prohibition, but he is released under escort for filming. Bing loses a featured solo “Song of the Dawn” in King of Jazz to John Boles. Bing’s sentence is eventually commuted to forty days but in due course he is transferred to a police station in North Hollywood where he is released from the jail each day accompanied by a guard to continue his filming work.
Seems Paul Whiteman’s band is having one heck of a trouble with automobiles. One of the Whiteman tooters smacked into a car recently and as a result was sentenced to 20 days in the Hollywood Police Station. A couple of the other boys had automotive trouble on their last visit here.
Which reminds me. When there’s a bad smash-up now, the police escort the offending driver(s) to a hospital. A medico pumps his (or her or their) stomach. Reason: to tell whether liquor participated in the smash.
(Dorothy Herzog, Los Angeles Evening Herald, November 18, 1929)
Crosby and the Brox Sisters were at the studio on Saturday, November 2, for a rehearsal of “A Bench in the Park”. Crosby had a drink or two before arriving and triggered a fight with Bobbe Brox, then walked to the Lodge to join a party celebrating the completion of the first week of production. “They had decorated the club building completely a la Halloween, with corn, and pumpkins and straw and scarecrows with lights inside”. Herman Rosse wrote. “Whiteman’s orchestra played the music with solos by visitors, the ‘Rhapsody in Blue’ and so on. As far as parties go it was not a bad party but you know how much I care about parties.”
Driving a woman home to her hotel after the party, Crosby crashed into another car, and was arrested. The next morning, James Dietrich found Paul Whiteman rushing through the hotel lobby ---”Where can I get $500.00? One of our boys is in the can and needs bail.” After the trial the following week, Crosby arrived at the court in fashionable golfing attire, gave a snide response to the Judge's questions about his familiarity with the 18th amendment, and was sentenced to sixty days for drinking. The studio managed to get Crosby transferred to a Hollywood jail, and after two weeks of negotiating, he was given a police escort from jail to the studio each day.
James Layton and David Pierce
November 5, Tuesday. (6:00–7:00 p.m.) Weekly Old Gold broadcasts commence from the Universal City studios of station KHJ.
November 6, Wednesday. Rehearsals continue for King of Jazz. Whiteman pays Crosby $400 a week.
That was then I got to know Bing Crosby well. He had come with Paul to work in the movie. Bing was born hep. He was still young and not yet Der Bingel, but he already had the high forehead, the easy, lazy way, a capacity for drink, and an interest in female company. Bing for me was always fun. He was happy to be in California. He loved it. Paul used him only as a singer, which was just as well since he didn’t play any instrument. Sometimes he held a horn and faked it if they wanted the band to look extra large. He just smiled in introspective skepticism.
“I hold it right, don’t I?”
The director sweated. “Just don’t blow the spit out during the dialogue.”
After the picture was done, Bing wanted to stay in California.
“It suits me.”
(Hoagy Carmichael, as quoted in Sometimes I Wonder, page 196)
November 12, Tuesday. (6:00–7:00 p.m.) The weekly Old Gold broadcast.
November 14, Thursday. This is "Paul Whiteman Night" at the Blossom Room at the Roosevelt Hotel. The orchestra perform their hits.
November 15, Friday. King
of Jazz officially begins filming and follows a six-day working week schedule.
November 18, Monday. ‘Universal Night’ is celebrated at the Roosevelt Hotel as a private event and the Whiteman troupe are present with many others stars from Universal studios.
November 19, Tuesday. (6:00–7:00 p.m.) Another Old Gold broadcast.
Special Music from Los Angeles
Tonight will be given over to a special football program by the Paul Whiteman orchestra coming over the nation-wide network of the Columbia Broadcasting system from 9 to 10 o’clock originating from Station KHJ, Los Angeles. Included in the program will be a Foxtrot Medley of eight college songs, a special arrangement called “Collegian,” “Varsity Drag” and the well-known waltz song “Sweetheart of Sigma Chi.” As usual the king of jazz presents the Paul Whiteman Rhythm Boys, the trio, Mildred Bailey, contralto, and Bing Crosby, baritone, during the hour.
(Unidentied newspaper clipping)
November 26, Tuesday. (6:00–7:00 p.m.) The Old Gold broadcast takes place. Bing may have missed this show although he was advertised to take part.
The Paul Whiteman hour over the nation-wide network of the Columbia Broadcasting System from 9 to 10 o’clock tonight will originate from station KHJ, Los Angeles. Two famous screen stars, William Haines and Hedda Hopper, will be in the Old Gold studios and will contribute to the program. Vocal interpolations by the popular Whiteman artists, Mildred Bailey, Bing Crosby, the Old Gold trio, and the Paul Whiteman Rhythm Boys, will be heard throughout the hour.
(Unidentified newspaper clipping)
December 3, Tuesday. During the evening, the Rhythm Boys entertain at a party given in honor of Mrs. Stanley Bergerman’s (nee Rosebelle Laemmle) birthday at the home of her father, Carl Laemmle, president of Universal Pictures Corporation. After a buffet supper served in the great Indian room of the lovely Beverly Hills home, the guests were entertained by dancing and an entertainment which also included such well known celebrities as Nell O’Day, Grace Hayes, the famous European dancers “Sisters G,” and others.
December 3/10/17/24, Tuesdays (6:00–7:00 p.m.) Old Gold broadcasts. It is not known whether Bing engaged in the broadcasts of December 3 and 10, but he is back on the show of December 17.
December 12, Thursday. The Whiteman band plays at the 16th annual Los Angeles Examiner Christmas benefit at the Shrine Auditorium.
December 14, Saturday. The Whiteman band entertains at the Embassy Club. Mr. & Mrs. Hal Wallis give a lavish party there in honor of Mr. & Mrs. Jack Warner.
December 28, Saturday. “Great Day” is at number one in the various charts of the day.
December 30, Monday. Bing records a song called “Poor Little G
String” for a forthcoming
December 31, Tuesday. (6:00–7:00 p.m.) The weekly Old Gold broadcast. Later, Whiteman hosts a party for the band at his rented house in the Hollywood Hills.
During the year, Bing has participated in seven Paul Whiteman records that became hits: “Makin’ Whoopee,” “Little Pal,” “Your Mother and Mine,” “Waiting at the End of the Road,” “I’m a Dreamer, Aren’t We All,” “If I Had a Talking Picture of You,” and “Great Day.” In addition he also had a hit with “Let’s Do It” with the Dorsey Brothers Orchestra.
January 7, Tuesday. (6:00–7:00 p.m.) Paul Whiteman broadcasts his Old Gold show from station KHJ in Los Angeles. Bing is a featured soloist.
January (undated). Bing meets Dixie Lee again at a house party thrown by her friend, Marjorie White, and drives her home. They begin dating nearly every night.
And my mother, who always did have a big heart, had taken a girl-friend under her wing—Dixie Lee. Dixie lived with us. I liked her. More important, my mother liked her. My mother needed friends. Dixie was a few years younger than my mother, but that didn’t matter.
Dixie’s man, then, was Bing Crosby. He was around our house a lot, of course, because he and Dixie were in love. So Bing had dinner with us a few nights a week for about a year. . . . But my mother, who became Dixie’s unofficial big sister, laid down the rules, that Bing had to have her home at a certain hour, that their behavior in our house had to be circumspect, all that. In those days people behaved. Mostly.
So Bing was around the house frequently. I particularly remember the Sunday morning ritual. I’d get up early, and as soon as some grown-up told me it was okay, I’d be out of the house and down to the beach. When I went outside those Sunday mornings, there would be Bing Crosby, asleep on the front porch swing, in his tuxedo and shoes with a flower in his buttonhole. I would get him a pillow and a blanket.
(Jackie Cooper, writing in his book Please Don’t Shoot My Dog, page 33)
January 14, Tuesday. (6:00–7:00 p.m.) A further Old Gold radio broadcast from station KMTR. Mary Nolan is the guest star.
January 21, Tuesday. (6:00–7:00 p.m.) Old Gold radio broadcast from station KMTR. The guests are Charlie King and Stanley Smith.
When Joe [Venuti] and I were in Hollywood with the Whiteman orchestra in 1929, working on the Old Gold radio program, Charlie King was our guest star on one program. Charlie was an attraction because he’d been featured in one of the first musical talkies. The Old Gold show ran for a whole hour. We rehearsed for it afternoons at the old KHJ studio in downtown Los Angeles. In those days radio was regarded as a frighteningly technical medium and we approached it much more seriously than we did later in its development. We rehearsed and rehearsed to make sure everything would be perfect. The soloists had to learn their positions at the microphone; the section mikes had to balance; the opening had to come off with split-second precision. As part of this intensive preparation, we were rehearsing with Charlie King. Charlie was a singer of the old school. He was a great guy, but in the opinion of such irreverent individuals as myself, he was far better as a comedian and dancer than as a singer. He was what we call a ricky-tick singer today - meaning that his style was a little on the razzmataz side.
During rehearsal, when he began to give out with that “Just bring a sma-aile to Old Broadway” stuff, Venuti was fascinated and he kept his eyes on Charlie throughout the rehearsal. Before the show we had an hour break, and when we went out to find something to eat, Joe disappeared. He came back just before we went on the air.
As I’ve said, a radio program was more or less sacrosanct then, so we were nervous and Whiteman was in a swivet. He was getting money by the sackful from Old Gold and it would continue to jingle in - if things went smoothly. His music was the best in the land, and it had to sound that way. It wasn’t transcribed. He had only one crack at it - when we were on the air. So there was much tension before the show. Then voom! the red light was on and the awful moment had arrived. The show started well, and presently it was time for Charlie King’s solo. He stood up to face the mike. As he took his place, Joe opened his violin case and pulled out an old blunderbuss of the vintage of 1870, and drew a bead on Charlie. We began to laugh. We didn’t really think that Joe would shoot King, but you never could be sure with Venuti. He was wholly unpredictable, and I remember thinking that King was in some slight jeopardy, even if the weapon was loaded only with rock salt.
Joe kept the gun on him, as if daring him to send one more corny note soaring from his larynx, and I thought Whiteman would have a stroke. He’d lost control of the band; we were laughing so hard we were hors de combat and Charlie King was singing a cappella. But toward the end some of the more sedate instrumentalists rallied and mustered enough breath to give Charlie a finishing chord. Undoubtedly Venuti helped age Whiteman.
(Bing Crosby, writing in Call Me Lucky, pages 256-7.)
January 28, Tuesday. (6:00–7:00 p.m.) Old Gold radio broadcast. Blanche Sweet and J. Harold Murray are the guests.
February 1, Saturday. Press comment suggests that Bing attends a party at James Gleason’s home.
James Gleason will be host at a party for a group of friends Saturday night, at his Alpine Drive home in Beverly Hills. No wives will be bidden to the function. Guests will include: Messrs. Irving Berlin, Robert Armstrong, Frank McHugh, Lew Cody, Raymond Griffith, Frank Fay, Leonard Fields, A. Van Buren, Myron Selznick, Paul Whiteman, James Gillespie, Bobby Dolan, Walter O’Keefe, John Considine, Dr. Harry Martin, Tay Garnett, Ralph Block, Greg LaCava, Max Hart, Dave Selznick, Tom Buckingham, Sid Grauman, Rollo Lloyd, Anthony Bushell, Charles Sollars, Robert Ames, Bing Crosby, Leon Errol, Charlie Bailey, John Gilbert, Al Christie, George Volk and Dr. H.B.K. Willis.
There will be tables for cards and a buffet lunch will be served at midnight.
(Hollywood Daily Citizen, Society In Filmland, January 29, 1930)
February 4, Tuesday. (6:00–7:00 p.m.) The Old Gold show celebrates its first anniversary in a broadcast from station KHJ. Various guest stars appear on the program including Jack Oakie, Richard Arlen, Sam Coslow, and Lillian Roth. Some of these broadcast from New York.
February 5, Wednesday. Paul Whiteman and his entire ensemble are the guests of honor at Curtis Mosby’s Apex Club.
February 7, Friday. The main filming ends for King of Jazz.
February 10, Monday. Bing records “Happy Feet” with the Rhythm Boys, accompanied by the Paul Whiteman Orchestra.
…after the vocal by the Rhythm Boys, there is some splendid work by Frankie Trumbauer on sax and Venuti on violin, while trumpet and guitar shine again.(The Melody Maker, July 1930)
February 11, Tuesday. (6:00–7:00 p.m.) Further Old Gold broadcast over the CBS network. Bing sings “Looking at You” as well as other songs with the Rhythm Boys.
February 13–19, Thursday–Wednesday. The Whiteman troupe (including the Rhythm Boys) at Loew’s State, Los Angeles. They give five 45-minute shows daily as part of a cine-variety presentation supporting the film The Mysterious Island.
Neither Paul Whiteman’s girth, nor his musicianship have suffered by his temporary residence in Hollywood. The personal appearance of the rotund band leader and his band at Loew’s State indicate that even for the sake of becoming a film hero, Whiteman has not taken up the eighteen-day diet. Furthermore, there’s no posing among them despite their recent experiences of facing the camera.
In ensemble and solo work, the band maintains its standard. New arrangements delighted throngs at the theater and the thunderous applause at the curtain fall left no doubt as to the extent of the aggregation’s popularity. Particularly pleasing was the finale, in which the various instrumentalists had opportunity to engage in solo work, with the entire stage dark excepting the spotlight focused on the player.
(Gregory Goss, writing in the Los Angeles Examiner, February 13, 1930).
Los Angeles, Feb. 13.
Paul Whiteman still holds the crown of stage, concert, dance and screen premiership so far as bands are concerned. Best proof is his value current week to this house, where he and his gang are taking the place of the regular Fanchon and Marco stage unit. Started off Thursday doing five shows of 35 minutes average, with capacity on the first and second. Capacity for second performance has not been attained in this house in many a month.
With trade starting off as it did, indications are that the maestro and his mob will have to do sixes and sevens to handle the crowds.
No doubt he won’t mind, as he is in on a guarantee and cut with possibilities that the cut might exceed any heretofore to other big name attractions the house has played.
Whiteman was astute enough to arrange his program so that the specialists in the organization could do their stuff in addition to the collective playing. Though girls might have been shy on the stage through the regular presentation being eliminated, the amount of entertainment the Whitemans gave the cash buyers here was in excess of that afforded by the regular units, and a variation of the regular week to week stage show. Big novelties of the Whiteman sort can always find a niche here coming in at intervals to carry along a picture which the house might not figure to be a b.o. whirlwind.
With chimes clanging in mellow fashion, the curtain arose on Whiteman and his crew playing “Monterey,” song number of the “King of Jazz,” talker that Whiteman is now completing for Universal. It is one of those dreamy, languid ballads giving the tenor in the outfit a chance to chant the lyrics. Number sounds like another Whiteman natural.
From this the Rhythm Boys get their chance to liven matters up with patter and clowning, stopping the proceedings. Then Goldie, who has taken the Henry Busse spot in the outfit, does a “Sgt. Quirt-Captain Flagg” burlesque. A wow and he finishes it with a bit of trumpeting and hoofing. “Great Day,” another Whiteman natural, is thrust forth with a chanting quartet getting its chance. Wilbur Hall, with his grotesque trick fiddling and pump, next and slamming home a four-bagger.
“Rhapsody in Blue,” which has never missed, offered as semi-climax. “Meet the Boys” number finaled and gave the individuals in the band a chance to solo.
Altogether 35 minutes of entertainment that can never be exceeded in a picture auditorium.
(Variety, February 19, 1930)
February 18, Tuesday. (6:00–7:00 p.m.) Old Gold broadcast over the CBS network from station KMTR.
February (undated). Paramount wants a singer for a film called Honey. The song writer is Sam Coslow and through him Bing is under consideration for the engagement. Paramount chooses a young actor called Stanley Smith instead.
Next on my agenda was a thing called Honey, another Nancy Carroll musical. W. Franke Harling collaborated with me on some of the songs. Just a few days before the start of shooting, the studio had still not found a leading man for Nancy. The part called for a good-looking young fellow in his early twenties who could really sing. A dozen unknowns were tested and discarded. Finally we were up against the wire. The casting director was tearing out his hair. When we played the score for Ben Schulberg, Paramount production head, he said, “Say, you guys ought to know a fellow who can sing and play this part. Any suggestions?”
Sure, I had a suggestion. But I didn’t say what it was. I asked Ben if I could do a little checking first, and report back to him in a day or two. “Work fast,” said Ben. “We’re desperate.”
That night I drove to Loew’s State Theater in downtown L.A., where Paul Whiteman and his band were headlining the stage show. The Three Rhythm Boys were still Paul’s band vocalists. This was just before they joined the Gus Arnheim band at the Cocoanut Grove.
The hunch I had, the one I was not ready to divulge to Schulberg, was that one of the trio, Bing Crosby, was right for the part. I knew Bing well from his New York night club days with Paul. What I wanted to check on was a rumor I’d heard that Bing was ready to leave the band.
I found Bing backstage, and at first I felt him out cautiously. I was not really sure the rumor was accurate. What I had heard was that Bing was somewhat burned up at Whiteman for breaking his promise to give him a solo number in Whiteman’s starring film, The King of Jazz. All that Bing had in the picture was a brief appearance as one of the Rhythm Boys.
I was right. Bing was ready to leave the band for a real part in a movie. He was confident he could get by with it. Acting didn’t seem like such a tough chore.
“All right,” I said, “I’ll try to get them to come down here and catch your show. How much should I say you want?”
Bing hesitated for a moment. Then he mumbled something about “Two hundred a week. That’s what Paul pays me. I wouldn’t want to take a cut. And it would have to be a term deal. After all, I have a steady job with this outfit.” Bing spurted it all out rather apologetically. I could see he was afraid he was asking for too much.
I said I didn’t think two hundred would be any problem, if I could only sell the studio on him.
“What about Harry and Al?” Harry and Al were the other two Rhythm Boys.
“They could fit right in, too,” I replied. “The script has a few band sequences and we’ll need some band vocals.”
Next evening, on my suggestion, Schulberg sent down a couple of Paramount talent scouts to Loew’s State to catch Bing. For about 24 hours, he was under consideration. But the following day they auditioned a young actor named Stanley Smith. He couldn’t sing very well but somehow he got the part – don’t ask me why. It was a big letdown for me, since I had a couple of real Crosby songs in the score. Stanley turned out to be a pretty fair actor, and he photographed well. But he certainly couldn’t handle those songs.
(Sam Coslow, Cocktails for Two, Page 105)
February 20–23, Thursday–Sunday. Whiteman at the Fox Theater, San Diego.
The Fox Theatre offers two major attractions on its program for the week. Paul Whiteman and his band offer a musical program that for pure entertainment is held in a class by itself. Famous all over the world for the brand of music they put out, the players in his orchestra are considered the finest exponents of popular music in the world today. It seems that the rotund jazz king has a firm hold on the pinnacle of popular music, for although other bands rise to prominence for a time, They do not often last the season out, but Whiteman’s Gang seems to carry on at all times.
They are presented by Fanchon and Marco in lieu of the regular Fanchon and Marco stage act, filling the entire 40-minute period usually given over to the stage with the finest of melody and the essence of clever entertainment. Each man in the group which travels with Whiteman is a high class entertainer who may turn in a good performance if called on.
(San Diego Union, February 23, 1930)
I remember when we were with the Whiteman band and playing concerts that we played an evening concert in San Diego to a black-tie audience. We were arrayed on a big stage banked with flowers. The program was almost entirely Gershwin, featuring the “Concerto” and the “Rhapsody.” But for a change of pace we were to give out with a melody of Victor Herbert songs. I was sitting in the fiddle section cradling my prop violin, the one with the rubber strings. I also had a little humming called harmony-humming to do through a megaphone as a back-ground for an instrumental solo.
Joe [Venuti] was seated next to me. They started the Victor Herbert section and were going along swimmingly, playing things like “Gypsy Sweetheart” and “Dance, Gypsies” and “Italian Street Song.” They were getting ready to play “When You’re Away, Dear,” when Joe turned to me and whispered, “I think I’ll sing this chorus.”
I told him, “You must be out of your mind.”
“Anyhow,” he said, “I think I’ll sing. Hey Paul!”
Whiteman was busy conducting and following the score, but he took time out to whisper to Joe, “What do you want?”
“I’m going to sing the next chorus,” Joe said.
“Joe,” Paul said, “you know I’ve got a weak heart. Don’t be silly. Play your violin.”
But Joe was firm. “I’ve got to sing it, Paul!” he said. “I’ve got to do it. I feel it coming on.”
Paul was conducting the modulation and was getting closer and closer to the melody. When it arrived Joe stood up, put his fiddle on his chair, reared back and sang the whole chorus from start to finish with a real stale concert baritone type of delivery. He sings like Jerry Colonna, with long notes and hollering effects. When he got to the end, instead of hitting the last note vocally, he gave out the loudest razzberry I’ve ever heard. It shook the rafters.
While he was singing, the audience didn’t know whether to take it seriously or whether he was clowning. Coming as it did in the middle of a medley it was hard for them to believe that he was being comical. But when he gave out that razzberry, it removed any question from their minds. The applause almost atomized the theater. Then Joe sat down. He seemed very happy. I thought Whiteman would have apoplexy, but he pulled himself together enough to conduct the rest of the Herbert medley.
(Bing Crosby, writing in Call Me Lucky, pages 259-260)
February 25, Tuesday. (6:00–7:00 p.m.) Old Gold broadcast over the CBS network. Bing and the Old Gold Trio are featured in four selections.
Lupe Velez, “Whoopie Lupe” of the films, will appear on the program with Paul Whiteman and his orchestra at 6 over KHJ. Featured with Miss Velez will be the Mexican Marimba Band of Agua Caliente. Her part of the program comes from Los Angeles, Mr. Whiteman’s from San Diego, so ‘tis said.
(Zuma Palmer, Hollywood Daily Citizen, February 25, 1930)
March 4, Tuesday. (6:00–7:00 p.m.) Weekly Old Gold broadcast from station KMTR, Los Angeles.
March 6–20, Thursday–Thursday. Whiteman returns to the film studios for retakes for King of Jazz.
March 11, Tuesday. (6:00–7:00 p.m.) Weekly Old Gold broadcast from station KMTR, Los Angeles.
March 18, Tuesday. (6:00–7:00 p.m.) Another Old Gold broadcast from station KMTR, Los Angeles.
March 21, Friday. Bing records “Song of the Dawn” with Whiteman in Los Angeles.
Don’t fail to hear Bing Crosby’s wonderful singing in “Song of the Dawn” or, for that matter, any of the four titles [from King of Jazz].
(The Gramophone, July 1930)
“Song of the Dawn” is a rousing chorus number and is treated as such with concerted male voices. Following this vocal there is some magnificent team saxophone work picked up by Frankie Trumbauer, solo, for a few brilliant bars, but this, with the exception of a short appearance of Venuti, finishes the interest in this title.
(The Melody Maker, July 1930)
March 22-23, Saturday-Sunday. Recording sessions in Los Angeles. Bing’s final songs with Whiteman for Columbia Records include “You Brought a New Kind of Love to Me.”
March 25, Tuesday. (6:00–7:00 p.m.) The final Old Gold broadcast from station KMTR in Los Angeles. Bing writes to his mother:
…Have been rather unsettled concerning the wisest course to pursue professionally. We have been told, and I am practically convinced myself, that there is a good future for us out here.
Whiteman has been reluctant to let us go, but we have at last reached an understanding which is at least moderately satisfactory to all parties. We leave Sunday for a couple of weeks up the Coast as far as Seattle. Following this the band goes to New York for the summer and we three will return here under an agency Whiteman has chosen, to try our hand freelancing around the studios. The band comes back for a second picture in August, and he has promised me a very favorable break. This, I think, is a very good arrangement, and I am sure that once we are on our own we can go places as a trio and as individuals. So, if this works out I’ll soon be in Seattle, and I hope I can arrange to come to Spokane to see you.
. . . I will doubtless see you in a few weeks. Incidentally, I met a girl the other night whom I think you’d like. Her name is Dixie Lee and she works for Fox. Been taking her out quite a bit lately, and she’s kind of got me winging. Don’t get alarmed though, nothing serious yet. Or maybe there is.
(Taken from The Story of Bing Crosby, page 174)
...I just have time to thank you and to send you a snap of me and Bing. How do you like? Maybe you have some of his phonograph records. He is the baritone in Paul Whiteman’s Rhythm Boys.
(Dixie Lee, writing to a girl friend named Ellen around this time).
March 30, Sunday. The Whiteman ensemble leaves Los Angeles for San Francisco.
April 1, Tuesday.
(6:00–7:00 p.m.) The Old Gold
broadcast comes from station
April (undated). The Fifteenth Census of the USA population taken this month indicates that Bing is living in rented accommodation at 1746 N. Cherokee Avenue, Hollywood. He gives his age as 25 and his occupation as ‘actor in moving pictures’.
April 4, Friday. Whiteman and his entourage have been billed to appear in Vancouver in British Columbia at 8:15 p.m. at the Vancouver Theater followed by a supper dance at the Hotel Vancouver. The band is also booked to perform at the Grand Public Dance at the Auditorium the following day. As he arrives in Vancouver, Whiteman is amazed to find that the Canadian immigration authorities refuse to allow his orchestra to perform at the two dance dates although they can perform at an “entertainment,” (the theater). Whiteman says “all or nothing” and pulls out of all his Vancouver engagements. The orchestra personnel spend most of the weekend in Vancouver.
April 6, Sunday. The Whiteman band leaves Vancouver for Seattle.
April 7, Monday. Whiteman and his team rehearse in Seattle.
April 8, Tuesday. (6:00–7:00 p.m.) Whiteman’s Old Gold broadcast comes from the Civic Auditorium, Seattle, over station KOL and Bing is prominently featured with two solos, “It Happened in Monterey” and “Alice in Wonderland.” There is an audience of only 1500 in an auditorium which can seat 6000 and Whiteman curtails his concert somewhat.
Songs from the latest talking screen successes will be played and sung during the coming Old Gold Hour tonight when Paul Whiteman directs his famous jazz orchestra from the civic auditorium at Seattle.
The program will be relayed from that northwest city direct to New York, whence the Columbia System will transmit it over its nationwide network.
Outstanding among the features of this hour will be Bing Crosby’s rendering of hits from two musical comedies now on Broadway. One is the waltz song, ‘It Happened in Monterey’ from Whiteman’s picture, ‘King of Jazz.’ The other is the novelty number, ‘Alice in Wonderland,’ from Harry Richman’s picture, ‘Puttin’ on the Ritz.’ With Crosby on the program will be the popular crooner, Mildred Bailey, who will sing ‘Blue Turning Gray over You’ and ‘I Still Remember.’ Jack Fulton, tenor, will sing the new ballad, ‘Romance,’ and Whiteman’s 32-piece band will include in its own repertoire such hits as ‘Why?’ from ‘Sons o’ Guns’ and ‘Hay Straw’ from ‘Song of the West.’ This program goes on the air this evening at 9 Eastern Standard Time.
April 9–13, Wednesday–Sunday. Whiteman performs at the Spanish Ballroom of the Olympic Hotel in Seattle. There is a matinee show and dance on April 12 and a grand concert at the Civic Auditorium on April 13.
April 14, Monday. Whiteman and his entourage arrive in Portland, Oregon, during the late afternoon by car and check into the Benson Hotel. They had been expected by train and a civic reception committee had been waiting at the railway station. (8:30–10:00 p.m.) Whiteman performs at the Auditorium, Portland, and the concert includes a “comic sketch by the Rhythm Boys.” The whole Whiteman ensemble then goes to Cole McElroy’s Spanish Ballroom where they play until 1:00 a.m.
April 15, Tuesday. (6:00–7:00 p.m.) The Old Gold broadcast comes from the KOIN studios at the New Heathman Hotel, Portland. The Rhythm Boys sing “So the Bluebirds and the Blackbirds Got Together.”
April (undated). Whiteman and his troupe (excluding the Rhythm Boys) travel to New York. Bing, Harry Barris, and Al Rinker return to Los Angeles.
April 30, Wednesday. The Rhythm Boys appear at the $100-a-plate Sportsman’s Banquet at the Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles. The program is broadcast by KHJ between 8:30 and 9:30 p.m.
May 2–8, Friday–Thursday. The New York premiere of King of Jazz at the Roxy and it grosses $102,000 first week. Takings rapidly fall to $62,000 second week. Paul Whiteman and his Orchestra appear on stage with George Gershwin playing the piano for “Rhapsody in Blue.” The Rhythm Boys are not mentioned at all in most of the reviews.
A 98-minute picture that can stand the loss of 10 or 15 minutes without worry. There are neat camera and other tricks in it, but again, they don’t count at the gate. All in Technicolor, with coloring smartly done.
(Variety, May 7, 1930)
The King of Jazz–Starring Paul Whiteman and his orchestra. Directed by John Murray Anderson. A Universal Super Musical Extravaganza. Musical score by Ferde Grofe. Composers, George Gershwin, Mabel Wayne, Milton Ager and Jack Yellen. James Dietrich, arranger. Sets and costumes by Herman Rosse. Russell Markert, dance director. Photographed by Hal Mohr and Jerome Ashe. Wynn Holcomb, artist. Entirely in Technicolor.
At last Universal has caused me to drag out all the superlatives!
The King of Jazz revue, starring Paul Whiteman and his orchestra, with many featured artists, is without a doubt the finest thing of its kind to reach the screen. It is, by far, the best film revue to be produced. As stated in last Saturday’s issue, I promised to preview the super-production this week. There are so many novelty sketches and acts I will change the style of reviewing pictures in order to give everyone due credit.
First, Carl Laemmle, Jr., general manager of the studio, is to be congratulated for this ability in producing such a musical and colorful epic.
Second, director John Murray Anderson has achieved something Hollywood megaphone wielders and producers have been trying to since the advent of audible film.
Here is the list of the
talent and the rating I think they should receive:
Paul Whiteman and his band orchestra–excellent. Best recording I have ever heard. Great showmanship displayed in making an orchestra consistently interesting to the eye as well as the ear.
John Boles–also excellent. He’ll worry the popular Lawrence Tibbett for a place in the vocal movies when audiences hear him sing “Out of the Dawn” and “In Old Monterey.”
Jeanie Lang–clever little singer with oodles of personality plus. Ought to gain stardom with her pep and style of presentation.
Billy Kent–very good. Has all the vaudeville tricks,
but adapts them to the movies with ease. Fairly funny if given good material.
Laura LaPlante–splendid. When Laura does things her way, they usually come out right. She has the best short sketch in the entire revue.
Jeanette Loff–very fine. She possesses a lovely voice and has a great deal of charm. Sings several beautiful numbers.
Rhythm Boys–Wow! When it comes to putting over novelty vocal numbers, these lads can’t be beat. Great stuff.
Charles Irwin–Always a good master of ceremonies if he doesn’t talk too much. He does quite nicely in this.
Jacques Cartier–exceptional dancer. He does a Voodoo dance which is decidedly original.
Brox Sisters–crooners of sweet melodies. Pretty stuff, but apt to tire quickly.
Al Norman–rare eccentric dancer. Will stop any number if given half a chance. Great work here.
Sisters G–very much over-rated Berlin dancers. They are featured in “Rhapsody in Blue” number, but fail to click.
Grace Hayes–clever signer. Does some splendid work.
Marian Statler and Don Rose–creators of the rag doll dance. Always good for a bright spot.
Slim Summerville–clever comedian. Does some hilarious work in this.
Glenn Tryon–always a hard worker. Good for a laugh. Hasn’t much chance in this large revue, but does nicely.
Stanley Smith–handsome lad and good singer. Hasn’t much to do, but he does that unusually well.
Wilbur Hall–comedy instrumentalist. Gets over big with a new version of his vaudeville act.
The Russell Markert Dancers–best I’ve seen on stage or screen. Their teamwork is nothing short of marvelous. They are an outstanding hit in the show.
There are others in this giant revue, but limited space presents me from raving on. I can certainly yell to the housetops over this production. It is impossible to reveal all the amazing effects secured, nor would it be fair to tell them all here. They must be seen to be appreciated. The King of Jazz is truly a musical epic. It stands alone. Nothing so far produced comes anywhere near it in class or cleverness. It is a beautiful, amusing giant of entertainment!
(Jimmy Starr, Los Angeles Record, March 29, 1930)
…Halfway through the film we have a scene by the famous Rhythm Boys, which is all too short. One gag of theirs appealed to me enormously. They are singing perfectly straight, in the style of a certain very famous quartette. Suddenly one of them interrupts with the remark “Who are these revelers?” To which another replies, “Oh, just some quartette on the air – it doesn’t matter!” and off they go into their inimitable hot rhythm. They sing better than they look.
(The Melody Maker, July, 1930)
May 11, Sunday. A daughter, Mary Sue, is born to Everett and Naomi Crosby.
May 23, Friday. The Rhythm Boys have a final recording date for Columbia Records in Los Angeles and sing “A Bench in the Park.”
May 27, Tuesday. The Rhythm Boys report to Pathe studios for rehearsals for a short film called Two Plus Fours which stars Nat Carr.
May 29–June 2, Thursday–Monday. Two Plus Fours is filmed. In all it costs $19,689 to produce and it is directed by Raymond McCarey, the brother of Leo McCarey.
June 2, Monday. (7:30-8:00 p.m.) The Rhythm Boys broadcast from station KNX along with Bill Hatch’s String Quintette.
June 4, Wednesday. (7:30-8:00 p.m.) The Rhythm Boys take part in the California Melodies program over CBS with Joe Trent, Fred Scott, Jeannie Lang and the Biltmore Trio.
June 11, Wednesday. (7:30-8:00 p.m.) The Rhythm Boys take part in the California Melodies program over CBS with Lupe Valez, Stanley Smith and the Los Angeles Grand Chorus. Bing sings “Midnight” with the Rhythm Boys.
June 19, Thursday. Two Plus Fours is previewed at the Belmont Theater.
Collegiate style short, including the three Rhythm Boys, who do a couple of very brief numbers, but do not get a chance to do their stuff and show us what they really can do. Introduces our old friend the “Stein Song” in a new guise as a hymn of praise and thanksgiving to the college tailor Well worth seeing if only for a good laugh.
(Melody Maker, November 1, 1930)
Like most 1930s comedy shorts, it was of its time. It was directed and partially written by Raymond McCarey. Fourteen years later, his brother Leo directed Bing in Going My Way—a far more polished and amusing proposition. Top billing (in capital letters) in Two Plus Fours went to Nat Carr, an ethnic-style comedian who worked in movies from 1925 to 1941. He was known for his 1929 “Ginsburg series” of Pathe shorts. He again undertook the role of Max Ginsburg, as a tailor in Two Plus Fours. The Rhythm Boys were billed—both as a group and individually—at the bottom of the cast list of seven.
Basically, Ginsburg, a tailor in a college town, is threatened with eviction by a bullying landlord. The collegians, led by the Rhythm Boys, eventually rescue him. There seem to be about a dozen collegians in all. Their college, incidentally, is Tait (shades of Good News!).
Barris and Crosby, in Plus Fours, lead the college boys. Barris, a brash and balding collegian, is entrusted with most of the boys’ dialogue. Crosby, with a college-type sailor hat planted firmly on his head, has two or three lines and sings a couple of brief phrases. And he gets to knock down the villain with a quick punch near the end of the film. Most strikingly, at this early point in his career he tosses in the little ballet leap—an attempted entrechat—that he used for humorous purposes in much later films. But most of the time, Bing is simply standing around in medium and distance shots, or looking over the shoulders of the leading figures—basically, Carr, Barris, Thelma Hill, and Ed Decring. Al Rinker is there but not really there.
Except for a short collegian chant of “Oh, Rippy,” the only music in the film is drawn from the Stein Song. That’s the University of Maine song that Rudy Vallee made into a hit after he transferred to Yale. The familiar Maine lyrics are not heard. The collegians, led by the Rhythm Boys, hum and scat the song wordlessly in the opening scene. Later they sing a parody that is a tribute to Ripstitch. By the last scene, an appreciative Ginsburg the tailor joins enthusiastically in singing the Ripstitch parody.
The film is not uninteresting. It moves along quickly. But the physical comedy bits—sitting on a hat, breaking the glass in a door, a horse wearing high boots—are few and far between. So are the laughs. Those looking for a Bing breakthrough won’t find it here. He is less star-sprinkled in Two Plus Fours than he was in the King of Jazz.
(Robert Achorn, in a letter to the author dated January 9, 2001)
June 26, Thursday. Bing hires agent Edward Small.
June 27, Friday.
(8:30 p.m.) The Rhythm Boys begin a new NBC radio series from station
July 5, Saturday. (8:00–10:00 p.m.) The Rhythm Boys appear in a two-hour revue over station KFWB sponsored by Sanders Chain Stores and featuring Leo Forbstein and his fifty-piece Vitaphone orchestra. The program comes from a Sanders store.
July 12, Saturday. (10:00 p.m. – midnight) The Rhythm Boys are featured in the Gus Arnheim broadcast from the Hotel Ambassador’s Cocoanut Grove over station KNX.
July 14, Monday. (10:00 p.m. – midnight) The Rhythm Boys are again featured in the Gus Arnheim broadcast over station KNX.
July 15, Tuesday. Gala opening night at the Hotel Ambassador’s Cocoanut Grove as Gus Arnheim returns to the venue. Bing becomes a singing sensation when the Rhythm Boys are featured with the Arnheim Orchestra at $100 each a week. Bing develops his mastery over the microphone, and his solos steal the show. Nightly two-hour radio broadcasts from the Grove on station KNX between 10:00 p.m. and midnight increase Bing’s fame in California during his ten-month stint at the Grove. Performances at the Cocoanut Grove are nightly and at Saturday teas. Star Night is Tuesdays and College Night is Fridays.
Finally from 10 to midnight you may hear the gala program arranged by Gus Arnheim for his official welcome back to the Cocoanut Grove. With a list of entertainment too long to set out here you’ll find Gus’ splendid orchestra of eighteen musicians and entertainers, including Eddie Bush with Russ Columbo and Art Fleming; the Three Rhythm Boys, formerly with Paul Whiteman’s orchestra; a vocal quartet and many instrumental groups in two hours of super entertainment.
(Los Angeles Evening Express, July 15, 1930)
The third and most moving happening of the night was the final one. I thought this was an odd choice until I remembered this was Sunday. One of the Rhythm Boys, the blond and lackadaisical one named Bing Crosby, stepped up to the microphone and in a surprisingly fine baritone started Gounod’s “Ave Maria.” Immediately there was a hush; not even a plate removed. It is not a long piece and is usually reprised. When he came to the reprise I heard a soprano softly drift in from a table near the stage. Towards the end both voices came in full, and when they finished the hush remained. . . . Then the roar started, chairs were pushed back and people stood and the applause was deafening. It was so emotional, and to me, strangely reassuring. . . . I found later it [the soprano] was Lily Pons.
(Ray Milland describing a night out at the Cocoanut Grove in his book Wide-eyed in Babylon)
Completing their second week at the Ambassador Hotel’s Cocoanut Grove, Gus Arnheim and his orchestra and entertainers are experiencing the most successful season of their career, reports reaching the Paramount Pictures-Evening Express station, KNX, Hollywood, indicate. Even Monday nights - the night usually described as “dead” in entertainment fields-finds the Grove crowded with guests, and, station officials report, the KNX-Arnheim audience nightly from 10 to midnight, except Sundays, is one of the greatest in numbers of the week.
Arnheim’s Band includes eighteen men who perform on some fifty instruments. Three singing groups and instrumental soloists take part in the choruses and give intermission entertainment. The Rhythm Boys, formerly with Paul Whiteman; the singing trio headed by Eddie Bush and the chorus of voices from the orchestra make up the cast of superentertainers. In addition, there are many special instrumental groups organized by Arnheim, including one of four violins, oboe, clarinet and bassoon; another of six guitars, the two-piano team, of which Arnheim himself is half, and others.
(Los Angeles Evening Express, July 26, 1930)
August (undated). Bing films songs for an
August 26, Tuesday. The trio records “Three Little Words” with Duke Ellington and his Orchestra for Victor (possibly at the RKO Studios in Hollywood) which is used in RKO’s film Check and Double Check with members of the band lip-synching to it.
September 3/4/5/8/10/11/15. The Rhythm Boys star in radio shows over station
September 4, Thursday. (2:00 p.m.) The Rhythm Boys entertain at the Eighth Annual Radio Show at the Ambassador Auditorium.
September 5, Friday. (8:45-9:15 p.m.) The Rhythm Boys are featured in a radio program called ‘Tone Pictures’ broadcast over the NBC network.
September (undated). Bing sings the Irving Berlin song “When the Folks High up Do the Mean Low Down” in Reaching for the Moon, the first film with Bing speaking a line and singing a featured solo. Filming takes place in the early hours of the morning after Bing’s Cocoanut Grove appearance. The film stars Douglas Fairbanks and Bebe Daniels. Edmund Goulding is the director with Alfred Newman acting as musical director.
The studio put Douglas Fairbanks into the role of the financier and Bebe Daniels into that the aviatrix who beguiles him. A much smaller role was carved out for a slim young singer making a name for himself with Paul Whiteman’s Rhythm Boys: Bing Crosby.
Crosby’s role served no important plot function, but he represented the vanguard of a new type of popular singer who’d gone right from the clubs to the studio, skipping the years of playing to raucous, vaudeville houses. He was more of an electronic performer than a live one. Entertainers of the previous generation, such as Jolson, Cantor, and Harry Richman, tended to be larger than life on stage. Audiences could practically smell the greasepaint on them; men like that performed not for the camera but for the folks in the back of the highest balcony at the Palace. But Bing Crosby, born Harry Lillis Crosby, was as cool as those frantic crowd pleasers of the previous generation were hot. So many of them had been Jews from the Lower East Side, and he was from Spokane, Washington. He’d even been to college—Gonzaga University. No immigrant desperation here, no tales of tenement starvation and back alley bluster, only an ingratiating manner—plus impeccable timing and a voice like liquid gold. When Crosby and the next generation of singers (crooners, they would be called—no more belting out the songs) stood before a microphone, their careful under-playing sufficed to put the tune across. Farewell to the wriggling hips and waggling eyebrows of their elders. Of course, Irving, the constant student of performing styles, would have to teach himself to write a new kind of song—subtle and nuanced—for this new type of performer. He would have to write songs that could survive the depredations of microphones and directors and editors—the whole maddening crew responsible for movies being the beastly business they were. And course, Berlin would acquire the knack; once he did, he would, years later, write for Crosby again.
Problems developed soon enough with Reaching for the Moon. The studio assigned Edmund Goulding to direct the movie and write the dialogue. From the start, Berlin found Goulding impossible to work with, rigid and dogmatic. Sensing that the movie was in trouble, Berlin turned to his old friend Elsie Janis, who had gradually made the transition since the Great War from vaudeville entertainer to film scenarist. Though Janis was able to make a minor contribution to the script, the movie’s prospects suffered a further blow when, in the middle of 1930, studios discovered that the public’s demand for musicals had suddenly disappeared. (More likely, the studios had rushed so many musicals into release that audiences were surfeited.) Frightened by this development, Goulding jettisoned many of Berlin’s songs from the score.
Although just five Berlin songs were recorded for Reaching for the Moon, the movie, even in its scaled-down form, proved to be hideously expensive to make. By the time the filming was complete, the costs had come to about a million dollars, a mammoth budget for the times, and one that virtually ruled out the possibility of the movie’s returning a profit to the studio. By now Berlin had become so infuriated with Goulding and so frustrated with the entire process of making movies that he walked off the movie and returned to New York, where it was becoming apparent that the Crash heralded major social changes and the Depression was beginning to make itself felt in earnest. This behavior was unique in his career. Even when failure was inevitable, he’d never before abandoned a show before opening night—much less one based on his own idea. That he did so now was a particularly ominous sign for the movie and, by extension, for Berlin’s reputation in Hollywood.
(As Thousands Cheer: The Life of Irving Berlin, pages 291-293)
September 18/19/22, Thursday/Friday/Monday. The Rhythm Boys again appear in morning radio shows
September 29, Monday. Bing marries Dixie Lee (born Wilma Winifred Wyatt) at Blessed Sacrament Roman Catholic Church, Sunset Boulevard. Brother Everett acts as best man. The Associated Press issues an incorrect news release that is used by many papers including the New York Times but the Los Angeles Times gets most of the facts right.
Hollywood. Sept 29 (AP)
Dixie Lee, film actress, was married today to Murray Crosey, 26 years old, orchestra leader, at a simple church ceremony. Miss Lee, 20, was born in Hillman, Tenn. Her name was Wilma Wyatt. She began her career as an amateur while attending school in Chicago. The maid of honor was Miss Elizabeth Zimmermann of Chicago.
Dixie Lee weds Bing Crosby
Another romance in Hollywood culminated in marriage yesterday when Dixie Lee, under contract to Fox, was wed to Bing Crosby, a member of Gus Arnheim’s Orchestra and one of the original Rhythm Boys. Although the two have been going together ever since last January, they were able to keep their plans to wed secret and even Mrs. M. M. Wyatt, Dixie’s mother, did not know of the projected marriage until yesterday morning. The wedding took place in the Church of the Blessed Sacrament in Hollywood with Father Stack performing the ceremony. Betty Zimmerman, an old school friend of Miss Lee’s was bridesmaid, while Edward [sic] Crosby, the bridegroom’s brother was stood up as best man. It was through her chum Marjorie White that Miss Lee met Crosby. They were introduced at a party given by Miss White last January. Miss Lee’s real name it was revealed was Wilma Wyatt and thus it was possible for she and her fiancé to apply for a wedding licence without being discovered. There isn’t to be any honeymoon trip as both young people are too busy in their professions at this time to be able to spare time to go away.
(Los Angeles Times, September 30, 1930)
The reception is held at Everett Crosby’s new house in Nichols Canyon. Bing and Dixie soon move into a house at 4961 Cromwell Avenue in the exclusive Los Feliz section which is loaned to them by their friend Sue Carol.
October 7, Tuesday. The Rhythm Boys guest on the RKO Radio Pictures Hour on NBC and sing “Three Little Words.” They receive a fee of $250 for their services.
October 10, Friday. Fox loans Dixie Lee to Paramount to appear in a Clara Bow picture No Limit to be made at Astoria Studios, New York. Dixie leaves for the East that day.
October 15, Wednesday. (8:30 - 9:00 p.m.) Bing and Harry Barris appear on the California Melodies program from station KHJ.
October (undated). Bing and the Rhythm Boys film songs for the Universal production Many A Slip but the songs are cut from the final print.
Perhaps bolstered by the fact that Ginger had dated Crosby, Mercer went backstage at the Cocoanut Grove and introduced himself. “He was very nice, and I was impressed, as everybody is, by those opaque, China blue eyes, and by his manner and talk, at once warm and hip but with a touch of aloofness that was always there.” Mercer, the suitor, also took in another detail of his former rival; “his lack of hair. He was only a few years older than I, who wasn’t bald yet, but he was practically bald.”
(Skylark: The Life and Times of Johnny Mercer, p54)
October 29, Wednesday. Bing makes his first recordings with Gus Arnheim and his Cocoanut Grove Orchestra including “It Must Be True” for Victor.
Out of the west comes Gus Arnheim, happily brocaded with the delicious “It Must Be True” and the pretty “Fool Me Some More”. Bing Crosby, who may one day be as well known to show business generally as to his own group, baritones the vocal part. A nice combo this.
(Variety, March 25, 1931)
October 30, Thursday. Bing and Dixie attend a surprise dinner at the Ambassador Hotel which is given by Nick Stuart for his wife, Sue Carol, who is celebrating her birthday. Other guests include John O’Melveny and Carl Laemmle Jr.
November 12, Wednesday. (8:30 - 9:00 p.m.) Bing again appears on the California Melodies radio program and introduces another Harry Barris number, with the latter at the piano. Bert Wheeler and Earl Burtnett’s Trio are also featured on the show. Musical support is by the Raymond Paige Orchestra.
November (undated). Bing continues to golf frequently at Lakeside Golf Club.
Bing’s success would have happened anyway, but this is how it started: In the fall of 1930, early one morning, I was giving Mack Sennett a playing lesson. Bing was playing alone and caught up with us on the second hole. I had seen him coming and asked Mack Sennett if he minded if Bing joined us. He wanted to know who he was and I told him that he was the rage of the Cocoanut Grove, and that all the women were wild about him. Bing joined us and after we finished and were having a beverage, Mr. Sennett said, “Bing, Willie tells me you sing.” Bing replied, “Yes, they call me a crooner,” and Sennett asked him over to the studio. That’s how it happened because I was there.
(Willie Low, top teaching professional at Lakeside Golf Club 1926 to 1931, as quoted in Lakeside Golf Club of Hollywood)
November 20, Thursday. Recording session with Gus Arnheim and his Cocoanut Grove Orchestra in Hollywood. The Rhythm Boys sing “Them There Eyes,” their last recording together.
November 22, Saturday. (starting at 11:30 p.m.) The Rhythm Boys appear at a Midnight Revel at Loew’s State Theater alongside the film Remote Control starring William Haines.
November 25, Tuesday. Another recording date for Bing with Gus Arnheim and his Cocoanut Grove Orchestra at which Bing sings “The Little Things in Life.”
November 29, Saturday. “Three Little Words” reaches number one in the various pop charts.
November 30, Sunday. RKO’s Check and Double Check released.
December 11, Thursday. The Rhythm Boys begin a three-week run at the Paramount, Los Angeles, playing matinees and Sundays in addition to their Cocoanut Grove commitments. They receive very good reviews.
PARAMOUNT OFFERS COMEDY
ROMANCE WITH STAGE
The variety of entertainment starting today at the Paramount theater is headed by the famous Rhythm Boys, a singing trio from the Ambassador’s Cocoanut Grove orchestra. Their recordings have gained nationwide prominence. The screen fare features Paramount’s comedy romance, Along Came Youth, with Charles Rogers, Frances Dee, Stuart Erwin and William Austin.
(Los Angeles Evening Herald, December 11, 1930)
... On stage one of the longest, and incidentally one of the best, stage shows to visit the Paramount Theater is glorified through the appearance of the famous Rhythm Boys, who sing and entertain in their own special way.
(Los Angeles Illustrated Daily News, December 12, 1930)
.....The Rhythm Boys could have stopped the show yesterday if they wanted. After their short number the audience applauded for five minutes right through the next act, an Earl Able organ concert.
(Los Angeles Evening Herald, December 12, 1930)
. . . Beside all these, the Rhythm Boys, formerly with Paul Whiteman and now with the Gus Arnheim aggregation at the Ambassador Hotel, are making matinee appearances at the Paramount. Collectively they intone “Mississippi Mud” and “The Bluebirds and The Blackbirds Got Together,” their single concession to jazz written since 1920 or thereabouts being “It Must Be True,” which Bing Crosby solos into a microphone just as he does every night in his own little Cocoanut Grove.
(Philip K. Scheur, Los Angeles Times, December 12, 1930)
Rhythm Boys, booked for matinees and all day Sunday, as an extra attraction, in line with plan to slip in acts like this now and then for box office draw, stopped the show Thursday afternoon.
(Variety, December 31, 1930)
December 20, Saturday. Bing’s recording of “It Must Be True” is at number one in the Los Angeles charts.
December 29, Monday. World premiere of Reaching for the Moon at the Criterion, New York. The nationwide release takes place on February 21, 1931.
None of the Berlin songs is left other than a chorus of hot numbers apparently named “Lower Than Lowdown” [sic]. Tune suddenly breaks into the running in the ship’s bar when Bing Crosby, of the Whiteman Rhythm Boys, gives it a strong start for just a chorus which, in turn, is ably picked up by Miss Daniels, also for merely a chorus, and then in an exterior shot to the deck where June MacCloy sends the lyric and melody for a gallop of half a chorus.
(Variety, January 7, 1931)
December 31, Wednesday. (11:30 p.m.) Gus Arnheim and his Cocoanut Grove Orchestra take part in a nationwide radio program over the NBC network to celebrate the New Year. The Rhythm Boys would probably have been featured.
During the year, Bing participated in four Paul Whiteman records that became hits: “A Bundle of Old Love Letters,” “After You’ve Gone,” “I Like to Do Things for You,” “You Brought a New Kind of Love to Me,” and “Livin’ in the Sunlight, Lovin’ in the Moonlight.” In addition, two records made with Gus Arnheim and his Orchestra “It Must Be True” and “Them There Eyes” and one with Duke Ellington and his Orchestra “Three Little Words” were chart hits.
“Overnight Success,” 1931–1935
In the early months of 1931, a solo recording contract came Bing’s way, Mack Sennett signed him to make film shorts and a break with the Rhythm Boys became almost inevitable.
Bing had married Dixie Lee in September 1930 and after a threatened divorce in March 1931, he started to apply himself seriously to his career. His gramophone records in 1931 broke new ground as his powerful and emotional singing started to change the face of popular music forever.
Their low salaries at the Cocoanut Grove of the Ambassador Hotel led the Rhythm Boys to walk out, causing union problems for Bing. Everett Crosby interested Bill Paley of CBS in his brother and Paley beckoned Bing to come to New York. A settlement was reached with the Ambassador Hotel and Bing made his first solo national radio broadcast in September 1931 and then went on to star at the New York Paramount Theater. His first commercial sponsor on radio was Cremo Cigars and increasingly his fame spread nationwide. After a long run in New York, Bing went back to Hollywood to film The Big Broadcast and his personal appearances, his records, and his radio work substantially increased his impact.
The success of his first full-length film brought him a contract with Paramount and he began a regular pattern of making three films a year. On radio, he fronted his own show for Woodbury Soap for two seasons and gradually his live appearances dwindled. His records produced hit after hit at a time when record sales generally were in decline because of the Depression. His social life was hectic, his first son Gary was born in 1933 with twin boys following in 1934. As 1935 ended, Bing prepared to take over as host of the prestigious NBC radio program, The Kraft Music Hall. He had thought his fame had peaked—it hadn’t!
A dollar in 1935 was equivalent to $12.53 in the year 2000.
January 1, Thursday. Bing arrives at the home of journalist James Fidler at midnight and plays blackjack until dawn.
January 5, Monday. (10:00 p.m.–12 midnight) Gus Arnheim and his Cocoanut Grove Orchestra continue their nightly broadcasts over station KNX. Bing and the Rhythm Boys feature regularly.
The Rhythm Boys were an immediate hit at the Grove. Harry
Barris’s self-confident approach to his little piano, his cocky gestures and
paradoxically appealing smirks delighted the hundreds of dancers who poured in
nightly. The trio’s specialties were still sure-fire. And then there was Bing.
Harry had written
It Must Be True for him, and the Gus Arnheim orchestra’s straightforward performance of it behind him sold his soft accents perfectly. It Must Be True was the first of an impressive list of Barris songs for Bing. Out of Bing’s variations on the chords of Lover Come Back to Me, which he interpolated into It Must Be True, Barris wrested the melody of I Surrender, Dear, perhaps the most successful of his tunes and certainly the most distinguished.
…Several times a week, the whole Cocoanut Grove show was on the air for two hours. All of the room’s talent was paraded in this broadcast—the two bands, Gus Arnheim’s and Carlos Molina’s Latin group, a number of singers, and the Rhythm Boys singing during intermissions between the band spots. These broadcasts were looked forward to by high-school and college kids with all the eagerness that any of the more famous commercial shows elicited in them, and a lot more. After the f