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 at the Church of the Holy Rosary, Tacoma. At the time Harry was a clerk in the Northern Pacific Land office. 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.
January 12, Tuesday. Bing's father is appointed as a trustee of Tacoma Knights of Columbus No. 809 at a meeting at Elks' Hall.
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.
November 12, Saturday. Bing’s father is confirmed as continuing in his role as cashier to the new Pierce County Treasurer.
March 24, Friday.
Mr. H. L. Crosby (Bing's father) is elected in the Republican primaries
to represent the First Ward (Third precinct) in the forthcoming
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.
March 9, Friday. Bing's father is elected in the Republican primaries
to represent the First Ward (Third precinct) at a
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)
May 16, Saturday. The Crosby family can now be found at E211 Sinto Avenue, Spokane.
Fall (undated). Young Harry enrolls at Webster Grade School in East Sharp Avenue, Spokane.
November 4, Thursday. 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. She uses a birth date of November 4, 1911 when she enters show business.
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.
August 6, Sunday. The Crosby family now lives in East Garland Avenue, Spokane,
September 11, Monday. Bing enters the fourth grade at Webster and his teacher is Miss Gertrude Kroetch.
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 5, Thursday. 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.”
January 4, Saturday. Young Harry Crosby attends the 11th birthday party of Bessie McGowan at E511 Boone Avenue, Spokane.
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 4, Thursday. The start of the school year and Bing moves into the sixth grade.
September 7, Sunday. George Robert Crosby is christened at St. Aloysius Church.
March 7, Saturday. Attends Rachel Davis's party at E714 Baldwin Avenue, Spokane.
March 20–21, Friday–Saturday. Al Jolson appears in the show “The Honeymoon Express” at the Auditorium, Spokane.
May 22, Friday. Bing appears in black face in a benefit to raise money for the Webster School.
August 4, Tuesday. Britain declares war against Germany and the First World War begins.
September 7, Monday. 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.
July 23, Friday. The Elks hold their annual picnic at Liberty Lake and Bing wins the pie eating contest for boys.
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)
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 15, Monday.
Bing’s father returns to work as
Inland Brewery changes its name to Inland Products. At first they
manufacture apple cider, near beer and vinegar and soon they add
pickles and other products as well.
Father becomes secretary of the company.
April 3, Tuesday. Sings at the weekly luncheon of the Spokane Chamber of Commerce.
Harry Crosby, boy soprano, stood on a chair and sang “Columbia, the Gem of the Ocean,” while the crowd stood and everybody joined in the chorus.
(The Semi-Weekly Spokesman-Review, April 4, 1917)
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.
April 27, Friday. Takes part in the Grand Finale of the "Dance Extravaganza" at the Auditorium. This is a benefit for the Women's Auxiliary of the National Guards of Spokane.
Harry Crosby sang “Columbia, the Gem of the Ocean” as the children, their arms full of posies and waving American flags, massed in front of the stage for the last scene.
(The Semi-Weekly Spokesman-Review, April 28, 1917)
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.
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). Bing has achieved distinctions in History, English, and Christian Doctrine in First Year High, Division One.
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)
July 4, Wednesday. Takes part in the City Playgrounds Championship
swimming meet at the Sinto plunge and in the Junior (class 3) section,
he wins the 25-yard breast, 25-yard back, the diving, and comes second
in the 25-yard dash, the 50-yard dash and the high point. He is promoted to be a lifeguard at the municipal
in Mission Park as well as having other jobs such as selling eggs,
lawns, and delivering newspapers in order to get pocket money.
August 20, Monday. Bing, by taking three first places and two second places, wins the open amateur swimming meet at the Sinto pool. He scores 21 points.
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.
October (undated). Appointed captain of the “Dreadnaughts” football team 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.
December 23, Sunday. Sings a solo at both masses at St. Aloysius Church.
March 5, Tuesday. Takes part in the Annual Elocution Contest at St. Aloysius Hall and recites “Romancin’” in front of a packed house. “Romancin’” was written by James Whitcomb Riley who had died in 1916 and it had no less than thirteen verses. Bing recites it in the dialect of the old farmer who goes back to his old days of courtship.
April 29, Monday. Delivers a humorous recitation at St. Aloysius Hall in the annual public debate of the Junior Debating Society of Gonzaga University.
May (undated). Bing makes the Junior Yard Association baseball team.
June 12, Wednesday. Commencement day. Achieves “First Honors” in English in Second Year High School, Division Two and “Next in Merit” behind the gold medal winner in Elocution.
Undated. Obtains a part-time job as a caddy at the Downriver 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.
June 19, Thursday. Commencement day. Bing is awarded second place for elocution in the high school contest, junior section, and a merit in the Senior Academics Debating Society.
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)
March 20, Saturday. The Spokane Chronicle records that Gonzaga’s Senior
Academic Debating Society has held its weekly meeting. The question was:
“Resolved, that President Wilson was justified in asking Secretary Lansing’s
resignation from the Cabinet?” Arguing the affirmative side were “Messrs. Harry
Crosby and M. Cannon.”
Friday. A photograph of the Gonzaga J.Y.A Basketball team (which
includes Bing) appears in the Spokane Chronicle. The team has won 12 of
its 14 games.
April 14, Wednesday. Awarded Premium Place for Elocution in the High School Contest, Senior Section. (This is the second place).
April 28, Wednesday. Bing gives a reading at St. Aloysius Hall in the annual public debate of the Senior Academic Debating Society of Gonzaga University.
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.”
Wednesday. Graduation Day ceremonies at Gonzaga High School
begin at 2:30 p.m. in the gymnasium and Bing is the first speaker with
graduation exercise called “The Purpose of Education.” Other speakers
are Joseph Lynch, Theodore Schott and Francis Corkery. Bing graduates in the
Classical Course. As part of the Fourth Year High School, Section A, Bing achieves
distinctions in Christian Doctrine, English, Latin, History, and Civics. A photo of those graduating is included in the Gonzaga magazine for June 1920 as is a poem by Bing titled "A King".
July 5, Monday.
Bing is entered in the Coeur d'Alene regatta to compete in the 50 and
100 yards freestyle swimming and in the diving from the low board and
the high platform. It is not know whether he actually took part.
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 8, Friday.
The first football parade of the season through the town takes place
and Bing helps in the parade management in his role as Assistant Yell
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 23, Tuesday.
A major "pep rally" takes place on the Gonzaga campus and Bing is one
of those leading a serpentine of students around a large bonfire giving
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.”
January 26, Wednesday. Bing is one of the swimmers selected to be part of a proposed Gonzaga team.
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)
March 30, Wednesday. Selected to try out as an infielder for the Gonzaga University baseball squad.
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.
June/July. Bing plays for the Ideal Laundry baseball team in the Business House 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. Bing acts as librarian for the House of Philhistorians in the first semester.
October 4, Tuesday. Bing is selected be in the cast for the Gonzaga Dramatic Club fall presentation "The Tragedy of a Professor".
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
December 16/17, Friday / Saturday. Has a speaking role as "Skeets Warren" in the musical comedy "Cheer Up" presented by Spokane Lodge No. 683, Knights of Columbus for charity at the Auditorium. His sister Catherine also takes part as part of the mixed chorus. Extracts from the review in The Spokesman-Review on December 17 include:
Harry Crosby climbed into female apparel in the wings with a lot of extended and not entirely relevant horseplay...Crosby was supported and almost entirely surrounded by feminine bare knees and short skirts in his “Eyes That Talk” number.
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 13, Monday. Bing is one of 35 candidates trying out for a place in the 1922 Gonzaga baseball team.
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 (play)|The Bells]] for
the [[Henry Irving]] Dramatic Society of Gonzaga University at the Woodward
Theater. Bing plays the part of a villager called Hans. 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”.
May 6, Saturday. Sings several songs at the East Side Improvement Club meeting at the Stevens school. He is accompanied on the piano by his sister Catherine.
June 9, Friday. The commencement exercises take place at night in the Gonzaga gymnasium. Bing has come second in the annual Sophomore debate and receives a “Distinguished” in English.
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.
July 27, Thursday. Thought to have attended a 4-week military training camp at Camp Lewis.
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.
November 24, Friday.
Together with Doug Dykeman and Jim McDonald, Bing makes up the trio
"The Variety Troubadours" who entertain at the Gonzaga alumni
home-coming celebrations held at the Gonzaga gym.
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.
Monday. The Gonzaga football team play West Virginia in San Diego and a
commentary is relayed to the American theater. There is community
singing and then Bing leads the crowd in Gonzaga yells. West Virginia
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. The play, originally written by George M. Cohan, was a mystical farce, centering on the attempt by a novelist to write a novel in 24 hours for a bet.
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. Doug Dykeman and Ben Harkins make up the trio.
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 7, Wednesday. 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.”
Michael Pecarovich and Harry Crosby took the leading roles in the play and both were tremendously successful. Pecarovich as the blustering would-be soap king and Crosby as the suave, comedy-type travelling salesman. They added extemporaneous comedy bits to their lines and their situations, which they kept from burlesquing, were carried forward with a nicety and discrimination, resulting in one uproar of laughter after another.
(Spokane Chronicle, November 8, 1923)
Fall (undated). Buys a set of drums. The Charleston becomes the biggest dance craze of the decade.
December 12, Wednesday. Bing takes part in a musical sketch in the Holy Names Academy auditorium.
Mr. Crosby was a gallant person in his numbers and his voice was well handled, also.
(The Semi-Weekly Spokesman-Review, December 13, 1923)
January (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)
“MUSICALADERS” GAIN POPULARITY
The “Musicaladers,” one of Spokane’s new orchestras, is fast gaining popularity among the dance enthusiasts of the city and are playing for many dances given by the younger set. Composed entirely of high school and college men, the orchestra has gained a great following, particularly among the high school set. The orchestra is composed of Alton Rinker, pianist and leader: Miles Rinker, saxophone and clarinet: James Heaton, trumpet: Harry Crosby, traps: Claire Pritchard, banjo, and Robert Pritchard, saxophone and clarinet.
(Spokane Chronicle, January 30, 1924)
March 21/22, Friday/Saturday. The Musicaladers entertain at the Delta Hi-Jinx at North Central High School.
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 Burke.
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.
August 12, Tuesday. 150 employees of the Great Northern Railway attend a picnic at Coeur d'Alene and take part in an athletic program in the hot sun.
Harry Crosby of the legal department, was high point winner for men. He took first place in the hat race and 50-yard swim.
(Spokane Chronicle, August 13, 1924)
November 4, Tuesday. President Calvin Coolidge is reelected.
February 25, Wednesday. The Columbia Company becomes the first to make electrically recorded discs, the condenser microphone having replaced the acoustic horn
April 21, Tuesday. The Musicaladers commence another run at Lareida’s Dance Pavilion
entertaining each Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday
night. Jimmy Heaton and Miles Rinker appear to have left the group which is advertised as the Lareida Orchestra.
…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.4444
(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
May 30, Saturday. The Musicaladers entertain at North Central High School at the annual High Jinx show.
June 5/6, Friday/ Saturday. "Al Rinker's Lareida Orchestra" entertains at Lareida’s Dance Pavilion.
June 11, Thursday. Al Rinker graduates from North Central High School.
Summer. The Musicaladers disband. Bing and Al Rinker learn to play golf at Downriver Park.
August 9, Sunday. Bing (handicap 15) plays in the Ware Brothers annual golf tournament at the Downriver course and has a net 147 for the 36 holes.
August 14, Friday. Bing returns to the Clemmer as part of The Clemmer Trio (Frank McBride, Lloyd Grinnell and Harry Crosby) and they are shown as being presented with special stage effects. The film is The Unholy Three starring Lon Chaney.
As an added attraction on the current bill, two local vocalists, Harry Crosby and Lloyd Grinnell, and Frank McBride are offering a group of selected song numbers. A special stage setting and lighting effects make it one of the most novel arrangements to be used here this season.
(Spokane Chronicle, August 25, 1925)
August 21, Friday. Qualifies with a score of 89 on the Downriver course to play in the City Golf Championship.
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 23, Sunday. Plays in the first round of the City Golf Championship at Downriver and beats H. Danielson 2 and 1.
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)
August 30, Sunday. Loses 5 and 4 to A. Gleason in the second round of the City Golf Championship at Downriver.
September 5, Saturday.
Starting at 7:30 a.m. Bing plays in the qualifying round of the Inland
Empire golf competition at Spokane Country Club. The Clemmer Theater
advertises the film "Romola" plus The Clemmer Entertainers (Crosby,
McBride, Grinnell, Rinker with Gwendolyn Hayden and George Crittenden)
in "In Little Italy - a melange of harmony".
September 12, Saturday. The film at the Clemmer this week is A Slave of Fashion starring Norma Shearer. The Clemmer Entertainers offer a presentation called "On the Links".
September 16, Wednesday.
Sings as part of The Country Club Four (Bing, Johnnie Bulmer, Lloyd
Grinnell and Jim McKevitt) at a banquet at the Davenport hotel for the Hoo Hoo delegates.
September 19, Saturday. Lorraine of the Lions is the film this week at the Clemmer with the Clemmer Entertainers providing the prologue titled "Jingling Jungling Jambories".
September 22, Tuesday. The Clemmer Entertainers are part of the show at the Davenport Hotel for the visiting Carl Laemmle party.
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” this week. 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’”. The film is The Goose Woman,
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 17, Saturday.
The Clemmer Theater Universal Five, comprising Bing, Al Rinker, L.C.
Grinnell, Frank McBride and George Crittenden, entertain at the annual
Rathbone initiation of the Knights of Pythias at the Knights of Pythias castle.
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”. Bing and Al are thought to have gone on to a dance at the North Hill Masonic Temple.
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 with a try out 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 26-January 1, Saturday-Friday . The Syncopation Idea opens at Loew’s State Theatre in Los Angeles.
Singing and Dancing
20mins: Full and One (Special)
Loew’s State, Los Angeles
Take a chorus of 16 “easy to look at” types, and Crosby and Rinker, a piano and singing duo of males, Bobbie Thompson and Doreen Wilde, a neat singing and dancing sister team, the Chinese Trio, handling pop numbers and ballads, throw in “Little Jimmy Clark,” a colored Charleston dancer, turn the aggregation over the Fanchon and Marco and if the combination isn’t a natural as a positive house presentation “there ain’t no such animal.”
Under the title of “Syncopation,” Fanchon and Marco dish up a corking conception of just what the title signifies. The vaudeville acts blended into the well trained Fanchon and Marcus chorus number and gave Loew’s State a presentation which is the answer to why the Fanchon and Marco name means the same for West Coast Picture Presentations as Sterling signifies the purity of silver.
(Variety, January 6, 1926)
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 New Year's Eve entertainment at Loew’s State Theatre in Los Angeles.
Fanchon and Marco will present early in the evening their jazziest act of 1925, "Syncopation Idea"…
(Los Angeles Times, December 31, 1925)
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. (8:00-9:00 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 4-8, Monday-Friday. The Syncopation Idea is at the Raymond Theater, Pasadena.
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 24–26, Sunday–Tuesday.
The Syncopation Idea
show is at the West Coast-Walker Theatre, Santa Ana. The show is billed
as "Syncopation" with Crosby & Rinker prominently featured. The
film is The Merry Widow and shows are at 2.00, 6.30 and 9pm.
...On the stage is “Syncopation” the latest West Coast presentation, produced by Fanchon and Marco. Settings, costumes, drapes, singing and dancing numbers have all been created and selected with the view of presenting every phase of syncopation of the present day. Among the headliners which appear in this sensational presentation are the famous sixteen California Flashes, Crosby and Rinker, “Pep” Payne and the Chinese Trio.
(Santa Ana Daily Register, January 25, 1926)
January 27-30, Wednesday-Saturday. The Syncopation Idea is at the West Coast Theatre, San Bernardino.
Crosby and Ricker (sic), two boys and a piano, know syncopation and blues singing. Their numbers went over big.
(The San Bernardino County Sun, January 28, 1926)
Other stars of the “Syncopated Idea” are Crosby and Ricker (sic), two boys and a piano, who delight their hearers with their singing of “Blues” and other syncopated numbers.
(Colton Daily Courier, January 28, 1926)
January 31-February 2. Sunday-Tuesday. The Syncopation Idea is at the California Theater, Pomona.
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)
February 28-March 6, Sunday-Saturday. The Syncopation Idea is at the Senator Theater in Sacramento.
March 11-13, Thursday-Saturday. The Syncopation Idea closes at the California Theater, Santa Rosa having also been seen at 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.
Ralph Spence, playwright, is financing Will Morrissey Music Hall Revue to the extent of $10,000 for a one-third interest in it. Arthur Freed and Morrissey have the other two-thirds between them.
(Variety, May 5, 1926)
Bing and Al worked on an elevated stand in the pit for four months until the revue hit San Diego. The show's chief attractions were Midge Miller, Morrissey's wife; Eddie Borden, a sketch comedian who parodied Aimee Semple McPherson and others; singer Lee Kent; comedian Eddie Lambert; an adagio team; and a chorus line. Those were the acts expected to entice customers. Bing and Al were gravy. Yet night after night, the audiences - rich with important Hollywood movers and shakers - responded mostly to Two Boys and a Piano, demanding encores that stopped the show.
(Gary Giddins, A Pocketful of Dreams, page 133)
May 4, Tuesday. Larry Crosby, then an editor at the Wallace-Press Times, Idaho, weds Elaine Couper of Spokane.
Morrissey, by this time feeling no pain, rose and asked if everyone would like to hear a few songs by the young men in his show. “We were full of champagne and ready,” Al (Rinker) recalled. He went to the piano as Bing pulled out his pocket cymbal, and they dashed through “When the Red, Red, Robin Comes Bob, Bob, Bobbin' Along.” Asked for a second number, Al suggested the Tommy Lyman number Mildred always played, “Montmartre Rose.” Bing agreed and ladled his best syrup on the plight of that sorrowful fille de joie, his high notes receiving full attention and much applause, notably from the three English stars, who rushed to him with compliments. It was a heady moment: the beginning of his ascendancy as Hollywood's own crooner. Lillie and Buchanan later worked with him, but Bing never recorded “Montmartre Rose.”
(Gary Giddins, A Pocketful of Dreams,
June 20–August 7, Sunday–Saturday. Will Morrissey’s Music Hall Revue moves to 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 for eight weeks, 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 electrically. Bing and Al had to sing into a megaphone-like mike 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.
Crosby and Rinker, clever harmony hounds, scored quite a success with their own melodies.
(Los Angeles Evening Post-Record, October 23, 1926)
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 3, Wednesday. Variety carries
an article about an agent named Mort Harris (who worked with
Paramount-Publix) attempting to sign Crosby and Rinker for a 3-year
period taking 10% on all the duo's earnings by implying that the
contract was with Paramount-Publix. The advent of the engagement with Paul
Whiteman fortunately stopped the Harris contract proceeding
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 thi rd 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)
…Crosby and Rinker, the two who were discovered by Paul in Seattle, are next heard from, one playing the piano while they both sing. Their stuff clicks and they were forced to take three encores when reviewed. (December 28). (Billboard, January 8, 1927)
... 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)
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 5, Sunday–Saturday. 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 48-minute show opens on February 12 and Bing and Al receive favorable comment in Variety magazine of February 16.
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 about 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, page 111)
In order to appear in a Broadway show, Paul won a release from his Publix contract two weeks before the new production opened on March 22. Producer Charles Dillingham had offered the Whiteman orchestra $9,500 a week, a record high in 1927. Lucky proved to be misnamed. Though it had songs by Jerome Kern, Bert Kalmer [sic], Harry Ruby, and Otto Harbach, and a cast led by Mary Eaton, Ruby Keeler, and Walter Catlett, the production generated little enthusiasm when it came into the New Amsterdam Theatre. There was not much Paul and his men could do with the lackluster score. In every direction, theater marquees beckoned with competing offerings: The Desert Song, Oh, Kay!, Honeymoon Lane, Rio Rita, and Peggy Ann. Lucky remained among them for only nine weeks.
…One of the few bright moments in Lucky came about because Paul insisted on giving Crosby and Rinker a feature spot. Because no number in the score seemed suitable for the duo, he picked up a Tin Pan Alley tune, “Sam, the Old Accordion Man,” and added his band’s Mario Perry on the accordion. The number went over big at a time when Paul was wondering what to do with the two musicians from Spokane.
(Thomas A. De
Long, Pops – Paul Whiteman, King of Jazz)
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].”
During the spring of 1927 Whiteman endeavoured to break into the night-club business with his ill-fated “Whiteman Club”, but though the venture as a whole was doomed to failure, it was responsible for the recognition one afternoon of the talents of a young rhythmic vocalist-composer, Harry Barris, then appearing with the orchestra of George Olsen. Whiteman gave him an immediate contract and thus, with Rinker and Crosby, completed the unique vocal trio who were to achieve world fame as “Paul Whiteman's Rhythm Boys”.
Then came the most significant move of all. In April, 1927, Whiteman approached Red Nichols and his Five Pennies to join his orchestra en masse. Red Nichols and Jimmy Dorsey signed on with the maestro at once and were in time for an important session on the 29th April, at which “Side by Side” and “I’m Coming, Virginia” were recorded. Of the remaining Pennies, Joe Venuti, Eddie Lang and Vic Berton all joined Whiteman within the next few weeks, though in each instance their stay was of short duration. Venuti, who preferred playing one-nighters, and his partner Eddie Lang, soon returned to Atlantic City; and Vic Berton, who did not find the Whiteman style greatly to his liking, left at the end of May, having, nevertheless,” contributed his distinctive cymbal-beating to the various recordings made during that month.
(Charles H. Wareing and George Garlick, Bugles for Beiderbecke, page 136)
By an odd quirk of fate, it was Paul’s father who rescued Bing and Al. The Professor had urged one of his popular vocal students to go to New York for an audition with his son. The young man had demonstrated his talent in many musical productions in Denver. Wilberforce wrote Paul, “He can write songs. He is a quick and a very bright boy.” Harry Barris arrived at Paul’s office in March 1927, brim-full of ideas and suggestions.
“Tell me what you think I can do with Crosby and Rinker” asked Paul. “They’ve bombed nearly every place since we came back to Manhattan.”
“I know one thing, I’d like to be on stage with you.”
“I’m loaded with singers. I’ve a half-dozen in the band now. I’ve got more singers than a sewingmachine factory.”
“I can do more than just sing. I write songs.”
“Let’s hear a few. Maybe you could bring some new life into those Walla Walla Indians. How would you warm up their hambone stew?”
“First,” Harry replied, “I’d add myself and another piano to the act. Then I’d put in some slapdash humor. That would wake up the folks. I’m sure I can fix up the act.”
Paul agreed to hire the confident newcomer from Denver. “You’ll start at 75 bucks. If this trio flies, you get 150—the same as Al and Bing.”
A new team was born. Harry wrote a jazzy tune called “Mississippi Mud” to launch the act. He rehearsed it thoroughly. As they worked together, his enthusiasm spread to Al and Bing, and they pushed harder than ever. Their verve and polish attracted everyone’s attention. Bing and Al were back in the spotlight with a new partner. Calling themselves the Rhythm Boys, they used three-part harmony on the numbers that Bing and Al had been doing, added new songs, and brought in two pianos.
(Thomas A. De Long, Pops – Paul Whiteman, King of Jazz)
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 19, Tuesday.
Everett Crosby marries Naomi Marcellus in Los Angeles. Everett is
described as being with the Federal Motor Trucks compay in Los Angeles.
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, Friday. Further recording session with Whiteman at Liederkranz Hall in New York as part of a vocal group.
May 9, Monday. Another recording session at Liederkranz Hall. Bing is part of a vocal group singing "I'm in Love Again".
May (undated). Writes to Bobbe Brox who is on tour with the Brox Sisters in Philadelphia.
I'm sick of this town, the inhabitants thereof, and the appurtenances thereto. Work day and nite, with no opportunity for any healthy recreation and only able to find amusement in the solace of rum with its subsequent discomforts. I got a strong yen on to get from here, preferably coast work and unless things take an unlooked turn for the better shall gratify said yen.
Business at the club is a bit sad and the same is true of the show. It appears as tho the 1st of June will find both jobs terminated, praise God! And then I believe we go into the Paramount for 10 weeks. Imagine the unalloyed pleasure of 5aday in Midsummer in New York. No golf, no ball games. Odzooks! Tis most disconcerting.
I might run down there next week if I can make it. If you come to town don't neglect to call me. Hope the surroundings in staid Phillie have quieted down your urge for companionship and revelry.
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.
...The trio scored when Paul and the band returned to the Paramount in June 1927 for six weeks—an unprecedentedly long run, to the tune of $10,500 a week. The movie being shown was a first-class comedy, Running Wild with W. C. Fields, but the stage attraction outlasted several Hollywood features. Ruth Etting, rejoining Paul, pleased New Yorkers with her modulated, almost crooning voice. Monologist Charles Irwin provided comic relief, and organist Jesse Crawford opened all the stops on his mighty instrument. Paul and the gang entertained a capacity house intent on enjoying the biggest and most highly acclaimed band in the country. Whiteman gave his audiences the best musical variety show in town, with such production numbers and musical finales as “Rushia,” which put the Whiteman group in Russian dress, and “U.S.S. Syncopation,” which had everyone wearing sailor suits. The costly presentations also included an “Ali Baba” segment featuring Vanda Hoff Whiteman in her dancing comeback. Working with Paul and the band on stage gave Vanda a chance to see more of her frequently absent husband. His never-ending public appearances meant that she could enjoy little or no home life. The marriage suffered as his million-dollar organization demanded more and more of Paul’s time. And no doubt about it, Paul preferred the excitement of Broadway and the road to an easy chair in front of the fire.
(Thomas A. De Long, Pops – Paul Whiteman, King of Jazz)
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 31–August 7, Sunday–Sunday. The Whiteman band appears at the Eastman Theatre in Rochester, New York, giving four 30-minute performances daily and receiving $11,000 for the week’s engagement. The performance on August 1st is dislocated by a power failure but Whiteman and his musicians, using flashlights and cigarette lighters, continue to entertain the crowd.
Paul Whiteman adverts panic in theatre
Rochester and scores of western New York cities and bridges were plunged into darkness for nearly an hour last night when all electric power was cut off following a severe electrical storm.
Three thousand persons in the Eastman theatre were thrown into a panic by the failure of the powerlines and started a mad rush for the exits. Paul Whiteman, orchestra leader, struck up music and saved most of the audience from possible injury. Those who did get to the streets arrived in time to see five manholes in the main street blown into the air by some disturbance beneath the surface. Fire was burning in the cables under the street…
Whiteman, the “King” of American jazz artists, crooned the audience into calmness with his forty-piece orchestra. Plunged suddenly into darkness in the midst of a lively number, nearly two score frightened men and women climbed up in their seats and begin to rush for the door. Whiteman, hearing the commotion took instant command of the situation. Seizing two flashlights used in a feature number, he flashed them off his face.
“I'm still here,” he shouted to the audience.
Passing from one side of the stage he flashed the lights on the faces of the players.
“We’re all here,” he cried. “We’ll stick if you will.”
The frightened patrons sat down.
(The Evening Sun, August 2, 1927)
August 2, Tuesday. The Rhythm Boys present a short program at 7pm. on station WHEC in Rochester.
Paul Whiteman’s trio will broadcast here.
The three “hot singers,” prominent members of Paul Whiteman’s band, that heads the Eastman Theater bill for this week will feature the broadcast over Station WHEC at 7 o’clock tonight. The trio, composed of Bing Crosby, Harry Barris and Al Rinker will present some of the two-piano numbers and jazz songs which they give as part of the regular Whiteman program. Their selections on the current Eastman Theater program have proved very popular, according to the management. In order to allow the musicians time to get back to the theatre for their 7:30 o’clock performance, the program over station WHEC will commence promptly at 7 o’clock. (Democrat and Chronicle, August 2, 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. They entertain at the Crystal Ballroom, White Rose Park, York that night,
5,000 Hear Whiteman Orchestra at Park
An estimate made by Manager G. A. Ehlicker places the attendance last night in the Crystal ball room, at White Rose park, at 5,000. The attraction was Paul Whiteman and his 32-piece orchestra.
The floor was filled to capacity. Aside from the large numbers that were dancing, hundreds were congregated in front of the orchestra stage.
Hundreds of people were lined up outside the ball room, some trying to peer over the sides of the wall enclosing the ball room, and some standing on the fence along the boardwalk leading to and from the park. During the concert-dance, Mr. Whiteman and his orchestra presented many features not ordinarily seen at dances in this section. Comedy skits and jokes were well presented. One of the many features of the evening was the presentation of several singing numbers by the Paul Whiteman Harmony Three. The concert-dance was opened at 9 p.m. and continued until 12:30 a.m.
(The York Dispatch, August 23, 1927)
August 23, Tuesday.
(8:30 pm. 12:30 a.m.) Next they are at the Lakewood Ballroom, Pennsylvania. It is estimated
that 7000 people are inside the pavilion with a similar number outside.
August 24, Wednesday. (8:30 pm. 12:30 a.m.) Maple Grove Park, Lancaster, Pennsylvania is the next stop for the Whiteman group.
August 25, Thursday. (Starting at 10:15 pm) Whiteman and his band entertain at the Crystal Palace, Rocky Glen, Pennsylvania.
August 26, Friday. (9pm-1.30am.) Whiteman leads his band as they perform at the Cambria County Fair Pavilion, Ebensburg, Pennsylvania.
August 27, Saturday. (7:30 p.m. - 12 midnight) The Whiteman aggregate entertain at Island Park, Sunbury, Pennsylvania.
August 28, Sunday. The band plays at Willow Grove Park near Philadelphia. Rain keeps the crowds away.
August 31, Wednesday. Whiteman concert at Cook's Crystal Ballroom, Willow Park, Connecticut.
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 600 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 2, Friday. The Whiteman band entertain at the New Casino Ballroom, Hampton Beach, New Hampshire. Whiteman himself is absent.
September 3, Saturday. The orchestra plays at the Lyonhurst ballroom, Marlborough, Massachusetts.
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 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 Shea's Buffalo Theatre in Buffalo, New York.
…The man that plays the bicycle pump is again appearing with the orchestra and three who are called the Whiteman Rhythm Boys do some comedy songs among which is one “I Left My Sugar Standing in the Rain.”
(The Buffalo News, October 3, 1927)
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)
When Paul Whiteman brought his band to the Indiana Theatre in Indianapolis, Harry Hostetter and I hurried down to hear them. Bix was in the band along with Trumbauer, the Dorsey boys, Bill Rank, Eddie Lang, and Joe Venuti. Whiteman now had an orchestra that nearly made true the title “King of Jazz” (as he billed himself). That he never really understood it—and deviated from it a lot—well, that was show business. Loafing at the stage entrance, Bix introduced us to the Rhythm Boys—-Bing Crosby, Al Rinker, and Harry Barris. Bing was lean, blond, balding——and full of personality. He held out a warm hand. “Howdy.”
Bix was fatter than when I had last seen him, but looked well. He jumped with jovial success and even a neat prosperity, from his crisp bow tie to his shiny shoes. He had grown into a handsome man. We kidded and I felt out of it. But the feeling of remoteness vanished, almost immediately. Bix took us over to Jimmy Dorsey, who introduced us to Whiteman himself. “Pops, this is Hoagy Carmichael and this is Harry.”
“Riverboat Shuffle—sure.” ’
“So somebody heard it.”
Whiteman was huge in those days, a mountain of suet, but cheerful, and wise to showmanship. “What are you working on now?”
“Things,” Harry said, for I went speechless when it came to talking of my creative side.
Carmichael with Stephen Longstreet, Sometimes I Wonder)
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 stays at the Commonwealth Hotel. In the evening, Jimmy Dorsey marries Jane Porter at the Hotel Sherman,
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. (Starting at 10 p.m.) The Whiteman orchestra plays the supper dance session 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 weeks' 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 crowd 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—"and can you hear me out there" politely inquires one of the boys—assist in the act, and there is jazz dancing, singing, talking—much fun.
(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’.
…And three of the orchestra members harmonizing on two baby pianos won great applause.
(The Pittsburgh Press, December 13, 1927)
…Then there are three boys from the orchestra who pull out two baby pianos and harmonize in unique style. “Broken Hearted” was their best.
(Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, December 13, 1927)
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, December 23, 1927)
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)
…The radio hookup was one of the most unusual ever effected, with Rogers broadcasting in Hollywood, Fred Stone in Chicago, Jolson in New Orleans and Whiteman here. Rogers, acting as master of ceremonies, opened the program with characteristic humor and an imitation of President Coolidge delivering a speech. Whiteman was introduced and played the Rhapsody in Blue. Then Rogers spoke some more and besides introducing Fred Stone and daughter, Dorothy, in Chicago, held a brief conversation with the former. Jolson was introduced last and offered several new songs. Whiteman played an additional number, a pop tune, in winding up the show. The program ran about an hour, as scheduled, and proved intensely interesting.
(Billboard, January 14, 1928)
A Wonderful Advance in Radio
Last night the people had the opportunity to listen to the voice of Will Rogers in California, Al Jolson at New Orleans, Fred Stone in Chicago and Paul Whiteman and his orchestra in New York. Instantly and without interruption came each voice as though they were in one’s living room, Thus was displayed the tremendous growth and advance in radio. This entertainment was made possible by Dodge Brothers in their announcement of the new Victory Six. It was a wonderful exhibition.
(The Portsmouth Herald, N. H., January 5, 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. 5000 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)
The last week in January 1928 was the coldest anyone in the Lehigh Valley could remember. Sub-zero temperatures had the region in an icy grip. But for some lovers of jazz, Monday, January 30, 1928 was red hot. For that one night only Paul Whiteman, hailed in the press as the King of Jazz, and his orchestra would be appearing at Mealey’s Auditorium on Hamilton Street in Allentown, located roughly where Allentown City Hall is today.
…Whiteman and his band returned to Allentown in 1928 during a tour of midsized Pennsylvania cities. And with musicians in his band like Bix Beiderbecke and Jimmy and Tommy Dorsey, they were sure to keep the music going. Whiteman was known to pay top dollar for talent.
“Large Crowd Dances to Whiteman’s Music,” was the headline in the next day’s Morning Call. “A crowd upwards of 5,000…swayed to the music of the internationally famed orchestra leader and his thirty-two piece band…Four hours of harmony was given by the musicians, every minute of which was a treat to the large crowd.”
The reporter noted that five vocalists sang with the band that night. Among them was a group of three newcomers called the Rhythm Boys: Al Rinker, Harry Barris and a young fellow named Bing Crosby who was just making a name for himself. In 1954, in response to a letter from Morning Call critic John Y. Kohl, Crosby recalled singing in Allentown with the Rhythm Boys. There were also “quite a number of instrumental soloists who responded to the call from the leader and played solos.” Perhaps the crowd heard the Dorsey brothers and Beiderbecke who had just joined Whiteman’s orchestra that year.
Summing up the scene before him the reporter had this to say:
“From the first notes of the band until the final number was played, as the dancers moved about the floor under the vari-colored lights, reflected from a crystal suspended above the dancers, it was a night that set a precedent to Allentown dancers and one that will be long remembered.”
As far as is known Whiteman and his band never returned to Allentown or the Lehigh Valley. The arrival of the 1930s brought a change in musical taste, interestingly one that Whiteman with his large band pioneered. As the country got “in the mood” with Glenn Miller, Whiteman, now quite wealthy, retired to his estate, Walking Horse Farm in rural New Jersey near Lambertville.
(Frank Whelan, http://www.wfmz.com, January 27, 2018)
February 1, Wednesday. Starting at 8:30 pm., Whiteman is 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.
…Paul had already come to a decision: he would leave Victor that spring. His eight-year association produced scores of best-sellers. Four or five discs had sold in the millions, in an era when 100,000 copies meant a tremendous hit. Everyone connected with the band had made real money from studio work. Paul had recorded numbers in a wide variety of styles, ranging from snappy foxtrots and popular ballads to semiclassical suites and jazz-flavored nonsense songs. Many stayed in Victor’s catalog for years.
Nat Shilkret’s invasion of Whiteman’s bailiwick bruised Paul’s ego. And when Victor studio manager Eddie King left Victor for Columbia, Paul looked in that direction.
The Columbia Phonograph Company developed during the earliest days of record-making, before the turn of the century. Older than Victor, it had pioneered in lateral, or flat, discs—in contrast to cylinders— and in electrically made recordings. In 1927-1928 its line-up of dance-band maestros included Paul Ash, Cass Hagen, Fred Rich, Harry Reser, Don Voorhees, Jan Garber, and Ted Lewis. Columbia struggled to compete with high-powered Victor, which had built Irving Aaronson, Coon-Sanders, George Olsen, Jelly Roll Morton, Ben Pollack, and Whiteman into top-flight recording personalities.
Columbia eagerly accepted Paul. The firm guaranteed a yearly minimum of $50,000 against a two-year exclusive contract, to take effect immediately at the conclusion of Paul’s Victor agreement in April. Paul signed and waited.
Victor faced the loss of its star ensemble by reacting in the only possible way: it practically barricaded Paul and his men in its studios for the remaining three or four months of his contract. The band worked long and hard. In January the musicians spent eight days there; in February, an unprecedented twelve days. From February 7 through 18, they broke away only three days. The output eventually totaled nearly sixty sides.
The results were impressive. Bing Crosby, Al Rinker, and Harry Barris - as Paul Whiteman’s Rhythm Boys - had skyrocketed into the hottest trio in show business. Paul gave them solos on “From Monday On” and “Mississippi Mud.” Bing soloed on “Make Believe” and “High Water.” The jazz contingent blazed through “San,” “Sugar,” and “There Ain’t No Sweet Man That’s Worth the Salt of My Tears.” The Rhythm Boys and the “sweet trio” – Fulton, Young and Gaylord – harmonized on “Sunshine” and “When.” The full orchestra immortalized Victor Herbert’s Suite of Serenades and Grofe’s Metropolis. The old-timers and newcomers together rewaxed the original chestnuts “Whispering,” “Japanese Sandman,” and “Avalon.”
(Thomas A. De Long, Pops – Paul Whiteman, King of Jazz)
February 20, Monday. (8:30 pm. - 1:00 a.m.) Whiteman gives a performance at Steiffer's Roxie Ballroom, Altoona, Pennsylvania.
February 21, Tuesday. Starting at 8 p.m. the orchestra performs at Stambaugh Auditorium, Youngstown, Ohio giving a concert, then playing for dancing.
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 and they play for dancing at Sanders ballroom on the Freeport highway at Aspinwall
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.
Spokane friends who listened for the voice of Harry (Bing) Crosby, bass, son of Mrs. H. L. Crosby of this city, member of Paul Whiteman’s orchestra, which played in New York, had their wish gratified. His voice was recognised in “Changes.”
(The Semi-Weekly Spokesman-Review, March 30, 1928)
Nothing sensational about the hour on entertainment, but little doubt that the picture stars made many go to their sets and stay there. And that’s the main idea with the Dodge firm. Neither may the dignified broadcast have done the industry any harm, inasmuch as a lot of picture publicity has a habit of breaking into the tabloids...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 infrequent 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.
"Changes" 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.(1:00-2:00 a.m.) The orchestra presents a one hour broadcast over forty stations of the NBC network and the Rhythm Boys are featured. (10:00–11:30 a.m.) The final session in the current series with Whiteman at Liederkranz Hall.
Paul Whiteman and his orchestra will be heard from WEAF, WJZ and WTIC in a special program feature from 1 to 2 o’clock in the morning. Listeners who wish to remain up tonight will hear Whiteman’s Orchestra play “Blue Fantasy,” a new symphonic jazz composition by Ferde Grofe, which will have its world premiere at that time.
(The Boston Globe, April 24, 1928)
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.
Upon the conclusion of his Victor responsibilities, Whiteman transferred his allegiance to the Columbia label, signing a five-year contract and thereby committing himself to an association which ultimately cost him some $60,000 to break.
The first records under the Columbia contract were made on the 12th May, 1928, the event being heralded with much publicity: a Fox Movietone news-reel device showed a clock turning one minute past midnight, thus officially closing the previous contract with the Victor Company, while to advertise the public release of the new records, Whiteman and the orchestra were featured in a special radio broadcast—Whiteman's second appearance on the air.
The contract secured to Whiteman an almost fabulous fee for his services, but while the Columbia Company may well have been regarded as paying' the piper, and, withal, paying him handsomely, they certainly exercised the privilege of calling the tune, for, in addition to fulfilling sessions under his own name, Whiteman was called upon to make his musicians available for the provision of accompaniments to such Columbia artists as Ruth Etting and Annette Hanshaw, as well as the Deep River Orchestra in support of Willard Robison.
To compete with the number of unissued records the Victor Company still had in hand, and to cover the period of his forthcoming tour when he would be away from the studios for some months, the Columbia Company set Whiteman to make an impressive series of recordings.
(Charles H. Wareing and George Garlick, Bugles for Beiderbecke, page 147)
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.While staying at the Hotel Gotham, Bing writes to his friend Edgie Hogle in Spokane.
1 know that I am away behind in my correspondence with you and must owe you plenty of letters. We have been pretty busy during the last few months and have been jumping in and out of New York with little chance of getting set anywhere so my duties in this respect have fallen into a sad state. However I have received all of your cheery epistles and was indeed glad to hear from you.
This Detroit is probably the boss town of them all with every facility for having a good riotous time at first hand. Right across the river from Canada, but no need to go over there as the spots on this side give plenty of good satisfaction.
I have been setting comfortably on the wagon for some two weeks, but I fear the congenial surroundings here are going to necessitate a temporary descent. I hope it is only temporary. My drinking hitherto has been spasmodic, but when occasion demands, it is usually for a protracted spell. Don't crack around home tho ....
The Band and ourselves have switched to Columbia Records exclusively, leaving Victor because of a better proposition. The talk in the East and the trend of the stock market seems to indicate that Columbia in a couple years will pass Victor in popularity and sales.
Their new machine has the Victor orthophonic stopped and they are turning out some great recording. As a result of the sudden switch, our last two weeks in New York was plenty feverish grinding out enough records for Columbia to fill up the catalogue ....
From here we play Buffalo, then into New York for some more records and jumping to Minneapolis then Chicago, Kansas City etc. There is a possibility I may get home around August if we get a vacation after Chicago. I hope so even if it's only for a week.
Best wishes to Maudine and your Mother and Sisters. And hello to the gang.
Your friend, Bing.
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. Their presentation is titled "Swanee Moon".
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)
…Real “hot” numbers were sung by the Rhythm Boys. They took high honors last night.
(The Buffalo News, June 20, 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 2–8, Monday–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. The show is again titled "Rio Romance" and the film presentation is Happiness Ahead.
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 and then the musicians have a 3-week break.
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.
Three of Paul Whiteman’s musical funsters head the current vaudeville bill at Proctor’s Theatre. Known as the Rhythm Boys, they do their stuff at a double piano, with the third man out front carrying the melodies, while the other two “do, do, do, do, o, do.” In snappy Whiteman rhythm, banging piano covers, tapping feet, and otherwise gesticulating in syncopated time. The little chap who slams the piano top loudest is an efficient laugh-getter, the other pianist is handsome, and the third man talks his songs fairly well. The bluecoat, brass buttons and white trousers of the Whiteman guild is effective for a summer show, and the introduction of the boys through a huge card-board figure of Paul Whiteman, pleasing and plump, is a good stunt.
(Yonkers Statesman, August 7, 1928)
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 9-12, Sunday-Wednesday. The Keith-Albee Palace at Akron, Ohio is the next stop for the Rhythm Boys.
Jazz to the nth degree is what Paul Whiteman’s Rhythm Boys are giving vaudeville fans at Keith-Albee Palace the first four days of this week. And they like it. These boys undeniably top the bill of five unusually good acts. They present jazz in its most digestible form, that is, with a lot of pep.
Bing Crosby’s sweet, mellow voice makes the most blatant jazz melody sound harmonious and the erratic accompaniments of his pals, Harry Barris and Al Binker (sic), are what the jazz boys would call “keen.” They know their keys. The trio’s presentation of their own number, “Mississippi Mud,” is jazz de luxe.
Harry adds to their act with a bit of clowning at his piano and a tune on his banjo. The boys are worthy of their reputation as a feature of Whiteman’s band. If Whiteman’s boys are all as good as Harry and Al and Bing, let’s hear them.
(The Akron Beacon Journal, September 10, 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 and top the bill as part of a cine-variety show alongside the film Gang War.
September 27–29, Thursday–Saturday. The Rhythm Boys are at the Hollywood Theater in Detroit in a cine-variety show. They are second billed behind Rae Samuels, "The Blue Streak of Vaudeville". The film is Man Made Women with Leatrice Joy, H. B. Warner and John Boles.
September 30–October 3, Sunday–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)
…These Paul Whiteman proteges at Keith’s are full of pep and vigor, especially the likeable Harry Barris, who doesn’t like ballads but who is hot on the jazz music any old day. His piano playing and his piano capers are the life of the party. When it comes to the sentimental compositions he obligingly leaves, because “Harry doesn't like ballads.” Harry, together with Bing Crosby and Al Rinker, presents a cycle of songs with piano accompaniment that pretty thoroughly covers the field of modern musical tastes.
This happy trio composed the popular “Mississippi Mud” number and they have not forgotten to include it on their program, along with other lively numbers, including “That’s My Weakness Now” and others that are equally spirited or raucous, according to your own way of thinking. The trio works well together and they all have pleasant- enough voices, either in solo work or group chorus singing. The comedy ingredients include a new “boloney” joke that goes over well and other riddle nonsense. Altogether, the act is most enjoyable and their pleasant personalities quite infectious.
(The Dayton Herald, October 1, 1928)
October 4–6, Thursday–Saturday. The trio goes on to perform at Keith’s Rialto in Louisville, Kentucky. At 5pm on October 6, they entertain at the Kingman-Kelsall "Beautiful Music" Store.
October 7–13, Sunday–Saturday. Rhythm Boys at Albee Theater, Cincinnati.
Three of Paul Whiteman’s playmates, billed as the Rhythm Boys perform some merry vocal and instrumental nonsense. Their renditions of current song successes may not be especially melodious or harmonious, but they certainly are amusing and “different.”
(Carl B. Adams, The Cincinnati Enquirer, October 8, 1928)
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.
…In the headline position are Paul Whiteman’s Rhythm Boys, a trio formerly with the jazz king’s orchestra, but now in vaudeville on their own. All three sing and two are rather clever novelty pianists in their offering of rhythmical jazz hits.
(Nashville Banner, October 23, 1928)
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 4–10, Sunday–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
(Milwaukee Sentinel, November 11, 1928)
(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 2–8, Sunday–Saturday. The Rhythm Boys at the Orpheum in Omaha, Nebraska.
December 9–15, Sunday–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.
The headline act is Paul Whiteman’s Rhythm Boys a trio that can sing, and does plenty of it to a 2-piano accompaniment. The boys are the originators of “Mississippi Mud,” which song was their opening number yesterday.
(The Kansas City Times, December 10, 1928)
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.
An exceedingly entertaining program of variety entertainment opens today at the Regent theater. Heading the big proceedings are the popular Paul Whiteman Rhythm Boys, a trio directed and sponsored by the famous bandsman. These three lads, Harry Barris, Bing Crosby and Al Rinker were at one time a feature of the Paul Whiteman orchestra. Their work deserves recognition and so Mr. Whiteman always eager to reward merit, promptly put them in their own offering. They were an instantaneous success. Their method of singing songs won immediate approval. This trio who originated and composed the famous song “Mississippi Mud”. This is only one of a group of songs they sing differently.
(The Paterson Morning Call, January 3, 1929)
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 tops the bill at the Colonial Theater in Allentown, Pennsylvania alongside the film The Power of Silence.
Paul Whiteman’s rhythm boys who are Harry Barris, Bing Crosby and Al Rinker are at the Colonial only by special arrangement. They are the very popular and very busy radio and record artists. Comedy, song and music makes up the very interesting offering they bring.
(The Morning Call, January 11, 1929)
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 14-16, Monday-Wednesday. The Rhythm Boys entertain at the State, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.
…The Rhythm Boys we confess were disappointing. They were not bad, but slightly over-played in advance notices. They took full advantage of the name “Whiteman” to put over an otherwise fair act. The Rhythm Boys as originators of “Mississippi Mud,” displayed a rather unusual type of jazz, and Harry Barris did his part well. Harry was pretty much the whole act.
(Harrisburg Telegraph, January 15, 1929)
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.
January 27-February 2, Sunday-Saturday.
The Rhythm Boys are on the bill at the Fox Theatre in Philadelphia.
They are billed second behind Johnny Marvin.
Paul Whiteman’s Three Rhythm Boys offered so entertaining a number that they almost stopped the show, for the audience applauded and applauded and got no results whatever.
(The Philadelphia Inquirer, January 29, 1929)
February 5, 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.
The outstanding radio event last night was the debut of the Old Gold cigarette hour. This brought the world famous Paul Whiteman to the air listeners as a steady feature. His music was as delightful as ever, but lacked the sight of Whiteman to really make it a big hit. Not that the melody, the overtones and all of the Whiteman music mannerisms were not employed, but it needed a sight of Whiteman to really help it.
There are so many orchestras that are good on the air today that while the name of Whiteman is an outstanding one, it was needed to put the Lorrilard program across. It was offered over WABC and the Columbia net. At the dinner preceding the program. Whiteman made a very nice little speech for such a big man and hoped that he would please. Major Andrew White and other CBS officials were all on hand to help launch the million dollar program.
Oh yes, Eddie Cantor had a few moments from his dressing room at the Ziegfeld review he is starring in. He did the advertising for the period. To our mind this part of the program could just as well have been omitted. Still and all, Paul Whiteman and his Old Gold program will undoubtedly prove a great success.
(David Bratton, Brooklyn Times Union, February 6, 1929)
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 10-13, Sunday-Wednesday. The Rhythm Boys appear at B. F. Keith's in Syracuse, New York. The headline act is "the famous screen star" Cullen Landis.
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, New York.
February 15, Friday. While staying at the Seneca Hotel in Rochester, Bing writes to his mother.
I received your letter today, it having been forwarded here from Syracuse, and am enclosing money order for a C, which you can split with Dad.
... The [Rhythm Boys] are verily the "stormy petrels" of show business, particularly myself. At present we are in a frightful imbroglio with the Columbia Company. Victor Company, Keith Albee and Whiteman claiming us contractually obligated to each of them.... Pending a satisfactory arrangement we have been working but sporadically and jumping all over the East Coast. Shortly after our return we landed a show which augured very well for us with good parts and a nice salary. But while up in Pennsylvania the agent neglected to close the deal and we returned to find the chance lost. This is but one instance of a dozen similar incidents ... the Savoy Hotel in London made overtures for our services and finally made us a highly attractive offer. I found a loophole in our Whiteman contract and being dissatisfied with the way things were breaking over here, partially accepted. We were getting quite fed up with this part of the country, and our material and manner of working had been so extensively pirated that the novelty had begun to pall. I figured a change of locale, new surroundings, new audiences, etc. coupled with the reputed avidity of the English for anything jazz and American would afford just the break to put us into something worthwhile.... We were convinced that over the proposed six months period, we could net ourselves about $350 a week with excellent prospects of an even greater return if the angles were worked properly. Now Whiteman has proved the fly in the ointment. He has become convinced of the impracticability of touring anymore and has arranged to stay definitely in New York with the Ziegfeld Roof, "Whoopie Show" [sic], radio and recording supplying the necessary angles. This, of course, is precisely the type of work for which he needs us the most, and he is fuming plenty about injunctions, suits of law and any other means of preventing our early departure. Further, I personally have been offered a nice contract for exclusive recording and radio work. This, of course, would necessitate disbanding the trio which I am reluctant to do. I guess the thrill of the footlights and the glamor of the greasepaint has got into my blood, for unquestionably an arrangement such as has been tendered to me, would provide a definite and lucrative future far in excess of present prospects, but without the attendant glory, and association peculiar to show business. Then too, Rinker would be left without anything, and having started with him, breaking away now, hardly seems the right thing to do.
So you can understand things are in a turmoil. Truthfully, I don’t know which way to turn. We are going into New York Sunday and, as we are expected to sail Friday next, some conclusion will have to be reached quickly although not too sure of myself I am reasonably convinced that my talents, if any, are above average, and there is a niche somewhere for me in this field. The difficulty lies in finding out where and connecting at once. I want you and Dad to believe that my chief desire is making out in a big way quick and doing something for you that will really matter. I realize fully that what measure of success I have attained is directly attributable to your guidance and upbringing and I know too, that your prayers and those of the sisters must have played no small part.
I have thought a great deal about Bob and now believe if you can wait until the present difficulties are definitely settled, (say until early spring) I can do something definite.... I know I owe you and Dad a great deal more than I can ever repay, and I hate to see him growing up doing himself irreparable harm just through his own willfulness. (As I did)....
I will be at the Belvedere hotel next week in the event you should write.
Love to all
P.S. Regarding your query concerning our vitaphone. Whiteman doesn’t wish his name used in a talking picture, short or otherwise, until he has made his first. Hence we are holding off. There is plenty of time and we’ll probably get more dough when we do.
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 jazz.
(The Brooklyn Citizen, February 17, 1929)
Whiteman, Old Gold, WABC, hard to beat this combination. The orchestra was exceptionally good last night. Ted Husing was in good voice also. The “St. Louis Blues” could readily drive anyone’s blues away. The undercurrent of the “Rhapsody in Blue” and many others and even as Old Gold is called first among the cigarettes, so must Paul Whiteman and his Old Gold orchestra come very close to first place if the feature does not actually occupy that position.
(David Bratton, Brooklyn Times Union, February 20, 1929)
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 1–7, Friday–Thursday. The Rhythm Boys top the bill in a cine-variety show at the Fox, Brooklyn.
Paul Whiteman’s Rhythm Boys who made the song “Mississippi Mud” famous, are at the Fox, where an intriguing stage show and the picture “True Heaven” are swelling the box office receipts.
(The Standard Union, (Brooklyn), March 4, 1929)
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 8, Friday. 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.
Paul Whiteman playing over WABC for the Old Gold program, rendered a fine group of old and new waltzes. Some of them were rather old, and others were hardly published as yet, but all of them had a Whiteman swing to them that was delightful to listen to.
(David Bratton, Brooklyn Times Union, April 3, 1929)
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 for the New York premiere of the Universal film Show Boat.
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. Rudy Vallee and his Orchestra open at the Paramount, New York for a 10-week run at $4000 per week. 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.
…Of course, regardless of how well the gobs played, our favorite was Paul Whiteman. We found ourselves still intrigued with his opening “Rhapsody in Blue.” Other pieces that sounded well were “Showboat,” with a good vocal chorus; “Steamboat,” with some rather weak boat whistles; “Alsace Lorraine," with a very pleasing vocal bit, and “Little Thing Called Love.” My goodness how that Whiteman man and his boys can play. Even though we don’t smoke cigarettes, we are almost tempted to do so each time we hear Whiteman in order to add our penny toward keeping him on the air with his Whiteman-Old Gold Hour.
(David Bratton, Brooklyn Times Union, May 1, 1929)
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 7, Tuesday. (8:00–9:00 p.m.) Old Gold broadcast over CBS network. Bing has three solos.
Paul Whiteman led the Old Gold orchestra to some new laurels last night over WABC. The opening of the feature was peppy with “Jericho,” a new one and “Canadian Capers,” old but snappy, sharing the honors. In the latter selection, the xylophonist had a chance to display his wares. In fact, he almost stole the whole piece with his fine playing. “Ramona” and “Chiquita,” acted as the basis for a series of waltzes. There was a good vocal chorus in the latter. The feature revived such old timers as “Alexander’s Ragtime Band” and others of that vintage.
(David Bratton, Brooklyn Times Union, May 8, 1929)
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.
How well we liked numbers that Paul Whiteman played over WABC last night. He opened with “Futuristic Rhythm” and put more real pep and melody into it than we have heard any other band leader get out of his musicians. “Running Wild,” a trifle old, was very pleasing also. We like the manner in which Whiteman groups his numbers. Sort of a series of interlocking melodies. We are glad to know that even though Paul and the boys are going to California to make talkies that they will keep up their Old Gold programs on the way out there and also after they arrive. We also feel certain that the Whiteman music on the talkie screen will be as much of a success as his radio performances.
A series of negro spirituals were delightfully played and sung. “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” was outstanding. The banjo work was outstanding in these numbers. The Hawaiian group were also very pleasing in their rendition. Sung by Whiteman‘s soloist, who, we think, is a personal triumph to Whiteman's selection, the pieces were truly fine to listen to.
The tangos were remarkably good, giving the swing to the music that only Whiteman can produce. “Violetters” had good cadence, but we regret that we did not catch that old favorite of ours, “My Pavo Real Girl.” Quite an old timer that pleased out in the West some years ago.
(David Bratton, Brooklyn Times Union, May 15, 1929)
May 16, Thursday. Recording session with Paul Whiteman and his Orchestra in New York including an unbilled solo by Bing on “S’posin’”.
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 Billy La Hiff's Tavern in West 48th Street.
Paul Whiteman and his orchestra will broadcast their Old Gold Hour program at 9:00 o’clock tonight, before leaving for the Pacific coast on the Old Gold-Paul Whiteman Special. As usual, the concert will come from WABC. The program would not be complete without, “California. Here I Come,” and every native son will join in on “I Love You California.” A highlight of this last broadcast will be Jessie L. Deppen’s new song, “Red Hair and Freckles.” The Old Gold Hours will be broadcast from Chicago and Denver on the westward trip and will continue at the usual time each Tuesday from the Pacific coast after the arrival of the Old Gold-Paul Whiteman Special.
(David Bratton, Brooklyn Times Union, May 21, 1929)
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. (8:30-9:30 p.m.) 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 fourteen thousand people starting at 9:00 p.m. The proceedings are carried by radio station WGHP and Bing is prominently featured in a Showboat medley and with a solo of "Mean to Me".
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)
Paul Whiteman, inimitable king of jazz, with his famous Old Gold band entertained an estimated 14,000 persons in Olympia, Sunday evening with a program which aroused unstinted applause. The concert was a complimentary affair, arranged by The Detroit Free Press in co-operation with the radio station WGHP, and the appearance of the nationally famous band leader with his noble organization drew city-wide attention.
The event was the fourth concert in the transcontinental tour of this outstanding organization, which specializes in symphonic syncopation. Whiteman, incidentally, being headed for the west coast where he is to begin his first motion picture, “King of Jazz,” first shots of which are scheduled to be made June 15.
This rotund and popular band leader has brought a new status to popular music, not only in this country but abroad. He has glorified and exalted the insidious syncopation of the music of the day and the lilt, the rhythmic variety, the color and vivacity, which a band under master leadership can display, he amply demonstrated in the concert program given last evening. It was music which set the nerves a tingle, which made the huge audience beat time and sway with the rhythmic beat and glorious color of the music, music in which Whiteman quivered and shook with every syncopation as he led his organization of adept musicians.
Long before the hour set for the opening of the concert, the enormous crowd began pouring into Olympia and the keen attention of the throng and the spontaneous applause demonstrated the immense pleasure derived from the program. Whiteman gave a varied list of numbers ranging from the classical transcriptions in which he has shown himself so adept, to popular selections of the day.
Of special interest to the audience were his renditions of the well-known selection “Nola” and the numbers chosen from “Show Boat”, “Old Man River” and “Why Must I Love You.” But a selection which set hands clapping was the interpretation given “When Dreams Come True,” while the lilt and the punch of the reading accorded “Hallelujah,” featuring the Rhythm Boys brought acclaim to the organization. Whiteman has specialized in a performance which emphasis melodious, rhythmic, softened sound, in place of the blaring blatancy of former jazz players and these numbers showed his audience the appeal and lilt of popular music as he presents it…
Saxophones sing with appealing charm as Whiteman emphasizes his music: oboe, piano and voice are called upon for special features, as his picked artists interpret his arrangements. The applause which greeted his waltz medley, featuring “Sweet Adeline” and “In the Shade of the Old Apple Tree” indicated the pleasure his particular transcription afforded.
The program was brought to a close with a brilliant performance of Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue.” Roy Bargy being presented as soloist.
(The Detroit Free Press, May 27, 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 33 and one third per cent, and the concert had come into being but four days preceding tonight.
(Abel Green, Variety, June 5, 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 short concert 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. A longer dance program was scheduled but had to be canceled when a truck containing the musicians' instruments went astray.
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 5, 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.
Nearly 6,000 persons left the comfort of the fireside Sunday afternoon, and braving the rain, assembled at the City auditorium for the concert of Paul Whiteman with his 29-piece orchestra, and soloists, under the auspices of MonaMotor Oil Co. of Council Bluffs. In appreciation of the great crowd that turned out in the rain Mr. Whiteman and his featured artists presented an extra 45 minutes of speciality numbers. The concert was broadcast by stations KOL and W9XC.
(The Omaha Evening Bee-News, June 3, 1929)
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.
(Detroit Free Press, June 2, 1929)
Paul Whiteman’s free concert drew 4,600, as many as both paid concerts got. Despite driving rain, Muny auditorium was packed.
(Variety, June 12, 1929)
June 5, Wednesday. (1:30 p.m.) Whiteman arrives at Salt Lake City. (2:30 p.m.) The Whiteman troupe performs at the Granada Theater in Salt Lake City before leaving on the Old Gold train at 5:30 p.m.
Paul Whiteman and his band stopped off in Salt Lake City Wednesday long enough to give an hour’s concert at the Granada theatre to an audience which filled the theatre, as guests of KDYL and the L. Marcus enterprises.
The jazz entrepreneur and his musicians left immediately following the concert for California, where they will be featured in a special picture, “The King of Jazz.”
The band played such numbers as “Stars and Stripes Forever,” a tango medley, “Old Man River,” “China Boy” and a number of other selections, using “Hallelujah,” from “Hit the Deck” as a finale.
Aside from the regular program, which was broadcast, there were a number of specialties and novelties with the “rhythm boy” singing “No. 3” and others.
(The Salt Lake Tribune, June 6, 1929)
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 12, 1929)
June 7–13, Friday–Thursday. Whiteman performs at the Pantages Theater, San Francisco.
Paul Whiteman, humpty-dumpty of the jazz world, came to the Pantages yesterday with his thirty-piece band. And suggested these thoughts:
That he still stands pre-eminent among the symphonic-jazz band directors because he has surrounded himself – and it takes a lot of surrounding to surround Paul Whiteman – with an aggregation of real musicians, and because of his inventive flair for arrangements and rhythms.
That so long as his organization contains entertainers, like Wilbur Hall of Sebastopol (an old favorite here); the Three Rhythm Boys, the string-twanging Joe Venuti and Eddie Lang, and the young man who yesterday crooned “Lover, Come Back to Me,” so long as all that, Whiteman will know what it is to get a dozen or so curtain calls.
(The San Francisco Examiner, June 8, 1929)
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.
Paul Whiteman’s Old Gold Hour signed on at 9 o’clock over WABC and a few minutes later 10 o’clock hit in and weren’t we sore? That’s one of the fleetest hours Old Man Chronometer ever ground out.
(David Bratton, Brooklyn Times Union, June 12, 1929)
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.