The Final Years, 1975–1977
Bing had been tempted back into the recording studios by producer Ken Barnes and quickly made three albums with him in London. He also made two LPs which he financed himself and during an extended stay in the U.K. in the summer of 1975, he made many appearances on radio and television shows. His appetite for show business seemed to have returned and then he decided to give a series of concerts to celebrate his fifty years as an entertainer. Starting in California, and then coming across to the London Palladium for a two-week stint, his performances were a revelation to many, including the author, and Bing was clearly enjoying himself.
The opening of the show in London was clever, featuring as it did a 1944 newsreel of Bing singing at the opening of the Stage Door Canteen. The screen then lifted away, the orchestra played the opening bars of “Where the Blue of the Night,” and Bing Crosby himself walked onto the stage to tumultuous applause. In unusually high temperatures, he was on stage at the Palladium for most of the two and a half hour show and he wound up with a thirty-five minute medley of his old hits, with the audience joining in enthusiastically, before closing with the song “That’s What Life Is All About.”
Bing returned to New York for another two weeks of appearances. Then in March 1977, near tragedy struck when he fell off the stage at the end of a concert in Pasadena. Bing ruptured a disc at the base of his spine and his recovery was slow. However, to everyone’s surprise, at the last moment he agreed to continue with another tour of the U.K. in August, and despite being in pain with his back, the somewhat frail Bing again gave some memorable performances, although, to the author’s ear, his voice did not seem as strong.
He then flew to Spain for a few days golf. . . .
January 3, Friday. Bing writes to Mrs. Jean Pochna in East Dennis, Massachusetts.
Thanks for your letter and Christmas card.
I have written the Bennington College authorities asking for some literature or catalogs or brochures about the college.
My daughter, Mary Frances, is keenly interested in pursuing the dramatic part of the theatre. Although she has been 9 or 10 years with the ballet, she doesn’t aspire to ever becoming a ballerina, and is only taking classes now to keep in shape and to be sure that she doesn’t lose touch with the art.
Delighted to hear that your two children are doing so well, and I’m going to have to look up the W. C. Fields book if there are some things in it from Morrow.
Poor Bill. How we miss him! He was a marvelous man.
I hope this finds you in abundant good health –
Warmest best wishes, Bing
January 5, Sunday. The Crosby family flies from Las Cruces to San Francisco.
January 16, Thursday. Begins recording the A Southern Memoir album at T.T.G. Studios in Hollywood with Paul Smith and his Orchestra. Bing eventually leases the tracks to English Decca following negotiations with producer Geoff Milne.
Crosby can be sampled on his own to pleasant effect in “A Southern Memoir” which in conformity with its title is a relaxed, easy-going selection of numbers from below the Mason-Dixon Line…
(The Gramophone, February, 1976)
In 1975, Bing was encouraged by John Scott Trotter (who had been a long-time friend of Geoff’s) to talk to him about Decca in the UK issuing the ‘Southern Memoir’ tracks which Bing had recorded at his own expense in January 1975 and which no record company seemed interested in picking up. Naturally, Geoff was delighted to become involved and he recalled that the negotiations were with Bing direct and were very relaxed as Bing didn’t drive a particularly hard bargain. He always found Bing warm and friendly.
(Malcolm Macfarlane, Milne Magic, BING magazine, summer, 2005 [#140])
This collection of “Southern-cum-mammy” type songs was a pet project of Bing’s and his affection for the material reveals itself time and again throughout each of the twelve songs. The small-band backings arranged by pianist-conductor Paul Smith are beautifully written and very well played. Bing sings with greater spirit and drive than on his album with Basie and some of the tracks, notably “Carolina in the Morning,” “Swanee,” and “Sailing Down the Chesapeake Bay” stand comparison with some of his best-ever up-tempo performances. There is also a finely sung “On the Alamo” with seldom-heard verse and a beautiful “Sleepy-Time Down South.” The tongue-in-cheek “Where the Morning Glories Grow” has a highly humorous Lombardo-style arrangement but the song itself is hardly worth the time that Crosby and Smith spent on it. At the other end of the spectrum there is a wild rock arrangement of “Georgia on My Mind” which, though well played and sung, is an equal waste of time in an album of this sort. But these two last tracks apart, the combination of Crosby and Smith (and one should not overlook the latter’s brilliant piano-playing) is sheer magic.
(Ken Barnes, The Crosby Years, page 98)
January 19, Sunday. The American Sportsman program on ABC-TV features Bing, Phil Harris and Curt Gowdy as they pursue Canadian geese on the Delmarva Peninsula in Maryland.
January 21, Tuesday. Completes the recording of the A Southern Memoir album at T.T.G. Studios in Hollywood with Paul Smith and his Orchestra.
January 22, Wednesday. The Pro-Am Clambake takes place at the Monterey County Fair Grounds. No-Host cocktails at 6 p.m., Dinner at 7 p.m. and the show at 8 p.m.
January 23-26, Thursday–Sunday. Bing attends the thirty-fourth Bing Crosby National Pro-Am and returns to his role as a commentator in the television coverage. Gene Littler is the winner. The tournament sets an all-time gate receipt record of nearly $600,000. Celebrities present include Andy Williams, Pat Boone, Ernie Ford, Efrem Zimbalist Jr., Phil Harris, George C. Scott, Oleg Cassini, Jack Lemmon, Robert Stack, Glen Campbell and Vic Damone. Bing and Kathryn drop in at the house occupied by Francis Brown and Winona Love for drinks on the Friday night. On the Saturday night, Bing and Ray Herzog (CEO of 3M) host the annual cocktail party in the Del Monte Lodge library.
At the start Bing gave
15% to the
(Unidentified Canadian newspaper clipping)
First stop was San Francisco, where I shook off the dirt from my spikes and played a few holes with Uncle Bing at his nearby club, the Burlingame Country Club. I don’t recall much about the round, except how warm it was in the Bay Area after the winter blizzards in Spokane. Then I trekked on down to Carmel, and settled into Mary Rose’s spare bedroom for the duration. It was an idyllic time for a 22year old fresh college graduate. Every day was golf from dawn to dusk, hit practice balls, practice putting, then play Pebble Beach or Cypress Point, then come home to a fabulous home cooked meal from a darling Aunt, who took great delight in the copious quantities of food I could ingest.
A couple of days before the pros and celebrities arrived, Uncle Bing showed up in town, and called to see if I wanted to meet him at Cypress for a bit of golf the next day. Of course I was up for that, so we planned to meet at the Pro Shop at 7:30 the next morning. When I got there, Uncle Bing was already sitting on the trunk of his car, changing into his golf shoes. Then he asked the assistant pro if there were any caddies who could play a bit….and he said there were a couple of single digit handicappers back there. So Bing hired the two kids to fill out a foursome, plus two more to carry bags, and away we went. I remember thinking at the time that there were undoubtedly hundreds of the wealthiest, most prominent citizens of Carmel/Pebble Beach who would have loved to be in that foursome with Bing Crosby, and here he goes and hires a couple of caddies. How typical of Bing.
(Howard Crosby, Bing’s nephew, writing in BING magazine, winter, 2003)
January 28, Tuesday. In Las Vegas to rehearse with Paul Smith, Bing has a walk-on appearance on the Merv Griffin show and receives a standing ovation.
January 29, Wednesday. Bing flies to La Paz, Las Cruces, Los Planes and Guadalajara and has to endure dreadful weather all the way.
February 8, Saturday. Bing writes to Ken Barnes in detail about the forthcoming recording sessions in London.
I got two cassettes with a lot of material on them relating to the songs we’re to do there in London, and they were very helpful to me. I have a few suggestions which I’d like you to relay to Pete Moore.
He mentioned in the cassettes that he was thinking of doing ‘Heat Wave’ and ‘I Got Rhythm’ in the style of the record which you played on the cassette of Johnny Mercer singing ‘Something’s Got To Give’.
This might be all right for ‘I Got Rhythm’, but I have a different conception of ‘Heat Wave’. I think ‘Heat Wave’ should open very softly and sneaky. Vamp. And I’d like to do the verse, of course, on this.
The other song, ‘I Got Rhythm’, I think should open with just a rim shot or maybe a 16th note chord with the brass, and then start very soft accompaniment underneath—fast, very fast rhythm, and the band can build toward the end, something in the style of the arrangement he used for ‘Something’s Got To Give’.
I don’t believe I’d want to use the verse on ‘I Got Rhythm’.
‘Hello Dolly’ should be a gently sweeping type of tempo. Typical stage delivery. Not too much going on underneath—just hold solid chords.
The repeat endings on some of the songs—or what we call ‘the tag’ over here, are somewhat repetitive. I could change the lyrics in the repeat endings. For instance, like in ‘Just Breezin’ Along’, the second time I’d say, ‘Just Wheezin’ Along’ —although that’s not the word either—but something like that, and then go back ‘Just Breezin’ Along’ and do this with all of them.
I can change the lyrics, of course, but maybe melodically there should be some changes made so that they’re varied and different and not all the same. I think it would be a necessary contrast.
With regard to ‘Have a Nice Day’, I like very much the band accompaniment of John Davidson’s record, and I hope you can develop something in that general style.
From what I’ve heard on the cassettes, it seems to me the whole chore should go along very smoothly, without any problems. The songs are good. I think Pete does wonderful work with the arrangements and you’ve allotted certainly enough time to do them all.
Maybe after the first session, you might want to do a little more on each session. I just did an album here, and I did six songs quite easily on a three hour session. Of course, it was a small group and wasn’t quite as intricate as it would be with a large band.
I note in the schedule you sent me you’ve omitted Friday, February 21st. I’m wondering if there’s some reason for this. If the studio is not available, or if it’s impossible to get the musicians you’ll require. I certainly don’t need a rest or a day off or anything like that, because the more I sing, the easier it is for me.
I say this now, of course, without any knowledge of the engineering set-up you have there in London or what technical problems might be involved. I only know about the schedules that we’re able to maintain in the United States when recording.
Perhaps we can just see how it goes and if on the first session we find we have time, throw in another one if it’s ready, and for this purpose, maybe Pete can see that he always has a stand-by number to be knocked off if time allows.
It’s quite possible a redubbing session may be necessary on Thursday, February 26th, but I would like to leave London on the 27th, if possible, because I have some things of importance to take care of before the end of the month.
One further note. I do hope that you’ll avoid any sort of news release about my being there and that when we’re recording, the studio will be absolutely clear of everybody except those directly connected with the recording itself—and I include the Control Room. Just you and Pete, the engineer, the band and myself. I find we get a lot more done that way, in a lot less time.
When the sessions are concluded—maybe the last day or so—we can have some of the Fan Club people in and play some of the records for them, or I’ll sing a couple for them if the band is still there. Maybe at the conclusion of the last session. It’s just not possible for me to concentrate and get the work done when there are people watching from all sorts of vantage points.
I’ve stayed at Claridges quite often, but they always become a bit disturbed when newspaper people bother them with phone calls and come to the lobby and make inquiries about me, so if it’s possible, I would like to keep it quiet where I’m staying. I suppose this will inevitably leak out.
I know I sound like I’m a matinee idol or something, but for some reason or other, when I’m working there in London, I’d just like to be undisturbed.
All best wishes to you and Pete and your staff,
As ever, Bing Crosby
(As reproduced in The Crosby Years, pages 42-43)
February 12, Wednesday. Bing’s brother Larry, age eighty, dies from cancer at Century City Hospital in Los Angeles, and Bing attends his funeral at St. Victor’s Church, West Hollywood, on February 15.
On 6 February, I received the following telegram in which Bing confirmed his arrival and flight details.
ARRIVE 7.40 AM FEB SEVENTEENTH
On 14 February I received a phone call from Bing. ‘I’m afraid I won’t be coming on the 17th, Ken,’ he said. I felt a sudden chill on hearing these words. Here was another of Alan Fisher’s predicted ‘surprises’.
At this point I should explain that, according to the Musicians Union, once a player has been booked for a recording session—even though the engagement is purely verbal—that player must be paid whether the session takes place or not. In total the fees for the Crosby sessions would come to something like £5,000 (around 10,000 dollars). Of course, all would not be completely lost because the accompaniments could be recorded and Bing would be able to put his voice on at a later date. But his utter dislike for this manner of recording was well known. He preferred always to record live. I was on the verge of getting rather angry with this man whom I had admired all my life. But I thought: ‘Well, at least he had the decency to phone me. I might as well hear him out.’ Almost immediately I regretted my anger as Bing explained that his elder brother, Larry, had just died.
‘The funeral’s on Sunday,’ Bing explained. ‘So I won’t be able to fly to London until Monday. But I’ll still be able to make the sessions as planned. It just means I’ll be arriving a day later than scheduled. If you could meet me at Heathrow Tuesday instead of Monday, I’d appreciate it.’
(Ken Barnes, The Crosby Years)
February 18, Tuesday. Bing arrives at Heathrow airport in London in the early morning to record two albums for United Artists, That’s What Life Is All About and At My Time of Life, which are to be produced by Ken Barnes. He checks in at Claridges at 8:30 a.m. Ken Barnes and Pete Moore pick him up at Claridges at 4:30 p.m. and take him to Chappells where he rehearses songs for the forthcoming albums until 6:30 p.m.
On February 16th, Bing was sufficiently recovered from his Mexican flights to head on to London for a recording session. From there, he wrote to inform me that he was presently working with a forty-two-man band in an excellent recording facility.
“They’ve furnished security, a Rolls, and chauffeurs,” he continued. “You’d think that I’d arrived here to star in a major film.
I’m taking long walks daily, and feel fine, except for the lingering cough. A full course of tetracycline afforded no appreciable results, but an inhalant offers temporary relief. I’m sure I’d sing better without the malady, but the folks at the studio have persisted in being complimentary.
I’ll be home around the end of the month, after a stop off in New York to see a couple of shows.”
(Kathryn Crosby, writing in My Last Years with Bing, page 349)
February 19/20, Wednesday/Thursday. Recording sessions at Chappells, London, with Pete Moore and his Orchestra. Ken Barnes directs the proceedings.
February 22, Saturday. Records five more tracks with Pete Moore
and his Orchestra at Chappells. Later, at around 2:20 p.m., appears on Grandstand,
February 23, Sunday. Bing presents rosettes at the indoor horse show held at the Priory School of Equitation in Frensham, Surrey.
February 24–26, Monday–Wednesday. More recording sessions at Chappells, London with Pete Moore and his Orchestra. After the recording session on February 26, Bing meets members of the International Crosby Circle in the listening room at Chappells Studio.
. . . Here was a smallish listening-room, equipped with enormous speakers and with plate-glass down one side instead of a wall: as Ken Barnes opened the door there was a flood of high-powered music – with the majestic, so familiar, voice of Bing, so dominant, sounding every bit as great as Ken had assured that it was, with Bing so completely recovered from his severe illness.
And as we heard the voice – we saw the man! There was Bing, seen through the plate-glass! Bing singing, in person, at last! At a music-stand, but holding the music in his hands, spread out with that inevitable peaked cap, a cardigan, and a loose-at-the-neck shirt….Bing himself!
Bing was two yards to the right of the musical director – Pete Moore, of course – casting a seemingly casual yet knowing and penetrating glance at him every so often… musicians in incredible “disarray”, all fitted with headphones, were at work with the seeming complete ease of the top professionals. By “disarray” I mean the musicians seemed to be in no coherent pattern as far as brass, reed, strings, piano, harp etc were concerned! The floor was a mass of cables, microphones were everywhere – and yet everyone, especially Bing and Pete, gave the impression everything was fine, everything was going well, everything was going to plan.
We entered when they were running through the number “Yours Sincerely”…in other words, it wasn’t a recording “take” for Pete Moore was still modifying his arrangement of the song – all arrangements, incidentally, were hand-written specifically for each instrument.
And we had some glorious examples, before our very eyes, of the famous ad libbing of which Bing is such a master….
“What happened to the orchestra?” he asked as they came to a thin passage and it seemed the band was deserting Bing!
“That’s a *** note!” complained Bing on another occasion.
Then Bing stood patiently, quizzically, looking from Pete to the musicians while a little discussion went on between them as to how to iron out this *** note.
“But Derek will be playing D sharp while I’m playing D natural.”
“No, no,” says Pete, “You come in when Derek has finished – more an overtone….” Everybody nodded as if to say: That’s it.
“Ready now are we?” gently says Bing.
“Okay Bing, says Pete, “will you take it again from the first eight?”
“Sure,” says Bing, “Ready when you are… we double up on tempo then…right…good! All clear.”
Artists of the highest calibre making difficult work look easy: I’m sure Ken was delighted in the control-room as we all were in the listening room.
Because everyone wore headphones they were all in ready, conversational contact with each other, and while Pete discussed points with the strings, say, the rest of the musicians went on playing their own phrases as if making use of the time to perfect things.
I personally could have watched this “rehearsing” all day, but in a surprisingly short time – not more than half-an-hour – all was ready for a pukka “take”. This was signalled by an extremely loud bang from the loud-speakers – loud enough indeed, to make one jump from one’s chair!
Pete Moore held up his hand and got dead silence for about 10 seconds, then gently brought the music to life…a short intro from the orchestra, Bing stretched his neck upwards…glanced at Pete, an almost indiscernible nod from Pete to Bing…and in came Bing, majestic, resonant, full, rich-voiced…and straight through to the end. No interruptions, no breaks for discussion…a complete and perfect “take”.
So absorbing had been the spectacle, that I’d barely noticed the other occupants of the listening-room, but with the “take” safely made, we had time to greet Bob Roberts, our “Guinness Book of Records” collector, Frank Murphy our former Secretary, inevitably the incredible Leslie Gaylor (I think he must have spent the entire time of Bing’s visit in London!), Eric Crowder, down from Nottingham post-haste, John Ewens from Essex, and Phil Clarke, up from Southampton. And a tight-fit we were in that listening room. As I explained, recording studios are purely functional!
After this full “take”, the musicians seemed to be taking a break…and we saw Bing arrange his scores on his stand…and then he began to wend his way through the cables, microphones, instruments and other paraphernalia in our direction…
Then he was standing in the doorway:
“Hullo you folks. Nice of you to come and see me…good to see you…”
I must confess it was rather an overwhelming moment for me. Bing standing there, after all these years, so pleasant looking, so at-ease, so casual (sartorially and otherwise!)… In those few fleeting seconds before I stepped forward to shake his hand and bring him the greetings of all ICC members, I found myself thinking, in truly a flash, of all those songs, all those films, Bob Hope, the Andrews Sisters, and goodness knows what else! An incredible experience. What did I say? I cannot be sure but I think I said something to the effect that it was impossible to be original, I knew he had heard it a million times, but…it was a tremendous thrill and pleasure to meet him, shake his hand.
“You’re very kind,” said Bing. Just like that. We shook hands, firmly, warmly.
Then the spell broke: “May we have some pictures Bing?”
“Sure,” said Bing and soon he was turning this way and that in response to “Bing – this way please!” Soon he was signing albums, photographs, plaques, drawings…chatting easily to Bob, Frank, Les, and the rest of us. Someone presented him with a very artistic plaque – “Perhaps, you’ll send it to me?” said Bing, no doubt wondering how he could look after it and preserve it.
This must have gone on for thirty or forty minutes, then Bing looked up after signing the last autograph: “Any more?” Everyone appeared satisfied at last. I found this significant because of an incident that happened later.
Ken Barnes came in much later, when Bing had gone, and asked for Bob Roberts, Leslie Gaylor, John Bassett and myself to join him in the control-room where he wanted some shots of us with Bing in that sanctum. Making our way through the aforementioned paraphernalia of the studio, we found Bing had been collared by a professional photographer for some publicity shots.
Bing stood there, patiently, while I swear this photographer took a hundred shots. The flash was popping incessantly…this went on for a good ten minutes, while the four of us stood waiting in the background. At last the photographer signified he’d finished. “Thank you Mr. Crosby.”
Bing turned and walked out…he had gone to the control room as we discovered when we entered with Ken.
“I thought we’d have a few shots in here, Bing, with some of your greatest fans,” said Ken.
Bing stood up, shook his head: “Been enough
shots for one day, Ken” and walked out. And I didn’t blame him! Bing had
patiently stood and submitted to pictures from us, to signing autographs, until
everyone was satisfied. “Any more?” Bing had asked. And that was his
portion of time. Perhaps because he has found it necessary; perhaps on medical
orders, I don’t know but it seems to me Bing sensibly apportions what he has to
do and does it in rotation, patiently, calmly, cheerfully. And when he has done
For instance, when Bing finally left us – he went straight to a working lunch in the restaurant upstairs. A private restaurant, that is, belonging to the studios, where Bing was to be interviewed – and photographed – for a Sunday Times Colour Supplement. And then he was roped in for the Pete Murray radio show. This gives an idea of just what a hectic time Bing would always have, especially in London and why, in my estimation, he sensibly schedules his day.
Needless for me to say, in view of the foregoing, that it was a truly momentous day. To meet Bing and to have the added privilege of seeing and hearing him “at work” was the fulfillment of 40 years unswerving admiration. I am extremely grateful to Ken Barnes for the opportunity afforded.
(Reg Bristo, writing in the March 1975 issue of BING magazine )
Bing goes on to give an in-depth interview to George Perry of the Sunday Times. The album of That’s What Life Is All About enters the UK album charts in September 1975 and peaks at No. 28 during its 6 weeks in the charts.
BING CROSBY: “THAT’S WHAT LIFE IS ALL ABOUT” (United Artists). All right, Bing Crosby's voice isn’t as great as it was 20, 30 or whatever years ago. So what? He’s a brilliant stylist and there’s plenty of voice left as he demonstrates here on 13 tracks…
(Variety, March 24, 1976)
What Life Is All About—United Artists
Pleasantly packaged, this album is perfection from start to finish. Backed by press and TV coverage, including Michael Parkinson, it is bound to sell in large quantities. It is also supported by the title track released as a single, already climbing the charts. “Best Things in Life Are Free” is a well-loved standard, and it’s good to see the Hoyt Axton composition “Have a Nice Day” also included. Johnny Mercer joins forces with Crosby for two of the tracks, being the first time they have recorded together for thirty years. A superb album which is bound to be one of the year’s best-sellers.
(Music Week, September 6, 1975)
...Crosby’s voice has lost very little power and presence despite his septuagenarian status and the major lung operation he underwent last year, and, estimably aided by the outstanding arrangements of Pete Moore and the first-class orchestra directed by Moore, this album is another landmark in a uniquely long and distinguished career.
(The Gramophone, November, 1975)
The arrival for review of “At My Time of Life” by Bing Crosby coincided with his outstanding triumph at the London Palladium heading a bill shared by members of his family and Rosemary Clooney. The album sets the seal on a memorable visit to these shores by a living legend personifying all that is good, professional and genuinely heartwarming about the world of entertainment, and, in fact, is the third to emanate from Crosby’s recording sessions last year with the exception of the title song, which he recorded in Los Angeles.
That unique and seemingly indestructible Crosby vocal mellowness enhances the entire proceedings once again. All the songs are drawn from the musical theatre over the five decades of Crosby’s prominence as a singer and entertainer, ranging from the Rodgers and Hart numbers “My heart stood still” and “Thou swell” from the 1927 stage production of Mark Twain’s “A Connecticut Yankee” through “I got rhythm” by the Gershwin brothers from the 1930 “Girl Crazy” show and the Harburg/Lane opus “How are things in Glocca Morra?” from the 1947 “Finian’s Rainbow” to the Bacharach/David gem of wistful self-pity “I’ll never fall in love again” from the 1968 “Promises, Promises” and “At my time of life” by Hal Shaper and Cyril Ornadel from this year’s musical adaptation of Dickens’s “Great Expectations” .
Crosby brings his special brand of affable authority to all fourteen numbers, aided and embellished by Pete Moore’s arrangements and orchestrations which incorporate some deft modern touches without jeopardizing the essential nostalgia of much of this material. The sympathetic and totally aware production work of Ken Barnes also asserts itself in a practical but unobtrusive fashion, and this album is a genuine piece of popular music history of inestimable value.
(The Gramophone, August, 1976)
February 27, Thursday. (Starting at 9:25 a.m.) Interviewed on Pete
Murray’s Open House
February 28, Friday. Bing goes to Decca House on the Albert Embankment in London for a private luncheon with Sir Edward Lewis, Director Bill Townsley, and executive Geoff Milne. While there, he also films a segment for a forthcoming Thames Television program.
I do remember that it was quite a feat to get Bing to come in for luncheon. He originally excused himself by saying that he didn’t eat much during the daytime, but when I explained to him the relationship between himself and the English Decca company, a fact that he had not appreciated, and that our chairman, Sir Edward Lewis, had never met him, he agreed. Need I say, he ate a hearty lunch! When Bing and I stepped out of the lift at Decca House on his departure, he was almost mobbed by staff from the building, and hastily ran to his car parked nearby. He explained to me that he was always afraid of being jostled and knocked over—I can vouch for this, since he usually walked rather slowly in his later years, as if intent on maintaining his balance.
(Geoff Milne, in a letter published in BING magazine, December 1996)
March 1, Saturday. Bing flies home from Heathrow airport, London.
March 6, Thursday. Bing is back in Hillsborough and writes a short letter of
thanks to Ken Barnes.
Got back home after the long hop. Just now pulling myself together—overcoming the jet lag!
Just wanted to get a note off to you to tell you I thought everything went very well on the recordings. I was certainly pleased with the orchestra and the engineering and all the conveniences and amenities that United Artists provided for me while there.
I was playing ‘Glocca Morra’ and I noticed there’s a mistake in the lyric. I don’t know if there’s anything you can do about it—but in the second eight bars of the chorus where the line occurs, ‘Sad and dreamy there’, I sang ‘Sad and dreary there’.
This is probably too short a phrase to permit any deletion and interpolation, but maybe you can. I don’t know if it makes any great difference.
Give my very best to Pete Moore. Will be in touch with you later—
All the best,
P.S. I’d appreciate it if you’d send me three or four of the recordings on cassette—like ‘The Clowns’, ’Bon Vivant’, ‘Heart Stood Still’, ‘Song In My Heart’, ‘Yours Sincerely’.
I have a tape machine here—or rather Harry has—but I can’t play it, so even if Martin brings over tapes, it wouldn’t help me much.
If you have time, knock off a cassette for me and send it to me at the house.
(As reproduced in The Crosby Years, page 47)
March 16, Sunday. Bing flies to Guadalajara with his son Harry.
March 21-23, Friday–Sunday. At the Bing Crosby International Classic at Guadalajara. Sue Roberts is the winner. Kathryn and Mary join Bing on March 23. Bing writes to Canadian broadcaster Gord Atkinson.
I have received your letter of March 5th. I appreciate very much your sentiments of sympathy in connection with Larry’s passing. He led a rich, full life and he’s going to be sorely missed.
I received the cassette of the Special Christmas program that you aired during the holiday season and I’m delighted to hear of the happy response.
I thought it was very well put together.
Of course I’ll be interested in hearing the other tapes when you have them edited and put together.
We’re going to be gone over the Easter vacation, and probably a great deal this summer as I’m taking the boys over for a little golf tour - Scotland, Ireland, England and the continent - so you had better write well in advance of your visit when you come out to make sure that we’re going to be in the States at that time.
Warmest best wishes to you and the family –
Always yours, Bing
March 28-30, Friday–Sunday. Easter. At Las Cruces, Mexico. Kathryn and Mary fly home on March 31.
April 4, Friday. Bing and Harry arrive back in Hillsborough.
April 11, Friday. Bing writes to British fan Leslie Gaylor.
Thanks for your letter of the 16th of March. I’ve been down in Mexico and only came back the other day to find it waiting for me.
I must say, Leslie, that you’ve done a tremendous job in connection with the London albums and all the plugs and the other contacts and promotions you’ve arranged and taken care of.
I’m deeply grateful to you for this activity, and I’m hopeful that if you’ve gone to any expense, you’ll let me know about it so we can take care of that too.
I enjoyed having you all at the studio. I didn’t think it was much fun for you - just listening to these things over and over, but if it gave you an idea of how records are made and how the engineering department works, I’m sure it was a useful visit.
I imagine Ken Barnes and the people have got some promotions lined up for when I come over in June. I think they had something in mind about doing something on the Parkinson Show. Maybe some songs from the album, or something in that direction. We’ll see what develops.
We are all fine here at home. The kids are very busy with school and various activities.
If I come over in June, I plan to bring the two boys with me for a tour of the Scottish golf courses. They’re both very keen players now and play well enough to take care of themselves. In fact, they beat me.
I’ve got a copy of the cassette that Ken Barnes sent over, with the first album on it. Sounds pretty good. It’s just a question, I think, of whether or not there’s a market for this kind of material.
The arrangements are all right, and I think I sing them pretty well, but then, as I say, who can say what they’re going to pick up and buy in the current market.
Take care of yourself, Leslie. All best wishes to you and your family –
As ever, Bing
April 29, Tuesday. American troops withdraw from Vietnam. Bing’s recording of “White Christmas” was planned to be played over the American forces radio as a signal that the evacuation should begin but at the last moment his recording cannot be found and a recording by Tennessee Ernie Ford is used. Bing has been back to Las Cruces and returns to Hillsborough on this day.
May 3, Saturday. Bing and Kathryn attend the Kentucky Derby in Louisville and are guests of John W. Galbreath. They fly back to Columbus, Ohio and thence to John W. Galbreath’s Darby Dan Farm in Galloway, Ohio before going to New York for a few days.
May 6, Tuesday. Bing is in New York and sees the Pittsburgh Pirates beat the New York Mets 2-1. During the game, Bob Prince, the regular play-by-play commentator for the Pirates, is rushed to hospital with severe abdominal pains and Bing helps out with the broadcast.
May 22, Thursday. Bing writes to Ken Barnes again.
I’ve been going over the project which you submitted concerning a television program commemorating my 50th Anniversary in show business.
There’s only one thing that I object to very strongly—and that is the fact that this might lead into a tribute or something of that nature. I would like very much to avoid this. It should be more or less the kind of thing I’ve done in 50 years.
I don’t want any allusion to my being the biggest record seller or the biggest, most important of any period, or the voice that has been heard more places than anywhere in the world. That stuff has been beat to death, and I’m afraid somebody might look into it and find out how untrue it is! This, of course, would be embarrassing!
Then, there’s the question of payment. A thing like this has considerable value to me and I’ve been approached by several organizations here in the United States for just such a program.
In fact, two or three of them are now in the development stage, and there is also an outfit in England that’s doing a grand over-all picture of the last 50 years of popular music, with me just doing a segment.
So if you’re going to do it over there and world rights are involved, I’d have to get something very substantial.
I’d like you to explore this with your people and find out just what they’re prepared to pay.
There’s another thing I want to take up. I think anybody that you interview on film or on tape over here should be paid. If they don’t want to take the money, a check should be given to their favorite charity. Just how much is something that would have to be discussed.
I’ve reached a point where I just don’t want people going around interviewing friends and associates of mine and not paying them something for the privilege.
After all, the program is going to make money.
I’m supposed to make some money out of it, and the people who participate should also be paid.
I further think that they should be contacted before they’re going to be interviewed, to be prepared, and if possible their comments should be confined to something humorous or amusing or interesting and if possible, I hope that they can be restrained from saying anything extravagant about the kind of work I did or the kind of ability I had—or was alleged to have had.
After you’ve had an opportunity to study these things discussed in this letter, I’d appreciate it if you’d get in touch with me either by phone or by letter.
I should be back in Hillsborough about the 1st of June or thereabouts—
All best wishes,
(As reproduced in The Crosby Years, page 63)
May (undated). Bing is interviewed at his home by Clive Hirschhorn of the London based Sunday Express and as part of this, Bing is asked whether he would make many changes if he had to live his life over again.
“Not many,” he said. “I think I’d be more generous to people who came to me for help and whom I was often too busy or too self-absorbed to think about. I regret that now.
Selfishness. It’s so easy to be selfish when you’re young and riding high. In my private life I was fortunate though. I made many mistakes in my first marriage and didn’t spend nearly enough time with my four boys. Too busy. But late in life I married a second time, and this time I learned from my mistakes, and I think I improved as a husband and as a father. . . .
“As for the present, well, I’m a family man who works only when he wants to, and not because he has to. If the right movie script came along, I’d do it—but basically today’s movies don’t appeal to me at all. They’re just too dirty—most of them. I’m no prude but some of the things you see are just plain disgusting. Saw a movie a few weeks ago called Shampoo. I couldn’t believe my eyes and ears. Every few minutes I thought of leaving, but was intrigued to see what they’d do next. And they did it. Well, that’s not for me. With movies like that around, I’ll take the golf course every time.”
(Clive Hirschhorn, Sunday Express, June 1, 1975)
June 19, Thursday. Mary Frances Crosby having graduated from Burlingame High School has gone on to attend the University of Texas. Bing, Harry and Nathaniel fly down to see her in Austin.
June 23, Monday. Records the first part of the Bingo Viejo album at United Recorders, Hollywood, with Paul Smith and his Orchestra.
June 26, Thursday. Having flown to Las Vegas ostensibly to see his dentist, Bing tapes an appearance on The Merv Griffin Show at Caesar’s Palace. Bing comes out to thunderous applause as the introduction to “Where the Morning Glories Grow” begins. It was intended that Bing should lip synch to his recording of the song, but the applause goes on for so long and is so loud that he misses his cue and the recording starts while he is still saying thanks for the ovation. Merv Griffin comes out, the song stops and they chat briefly before Bing starts singing again. Rich Little also guests. The show is televised on July 25.
June 30, Monday. Bing and his two sons leave San Francisco for the UK but stop off at Winged Foot Golf Club, Mamaroneck, Westchester County, New York to play golf.
July 2, Wednesday. They arrive at Turnberry in Scotland.
July 3, Thursday. During the morning, Bing tapes a television commercial for Tennents Lager at the Black Bull Inn at Straiton, Ayrshire in Scotland. During the afternoon, he golfs at Turnberry.
July 4, Friday. Starting at 11:30 a.m., golfs with sons Nathaniel and Harry at Turnberry.
July 5, Saturday. Teeing off at 1:30 p.m., Bing takes part in the Pineapple Pro Cel-Am for Cancer Relief on the Ailsa Course at Turnberry. He partners with Ryder Cup golfer Bernard Gallacher, Dr. David Marsh and a Mr. Boyd. Son Harry shares first place in the competition with his professional partner Tommy Horton. Other celebrities taking part include Hank Ketcham, Johnny Speight, Don Revie, Bobby Charlton, Cliff Michelmore and Stanley Baker. Nathaniel Crosby plays with Max Faulkner. Bing and his sons, Harry and Nathaniel, have their evening meal in Girvan and walk down to the harbor.
July 6, Sunday. Golfs with Ryder Cup player Christy O’Connor and jockey Geoff Lewis at Dalmahoay, Edinburgh, in a pro-am organized by Jimmy Tarbuck. A crowd of 12,000 watches the golf and at the end of his round Bing sings “A Lovely Day at Dalmahoay” to the large audience assembled outside the clubhouse.
July (undated). Golfs with his two youngest sons at various British courses, including Gleneagles.
July 10-13, Thursday–Sunday. Bing and his sons attend the British Open Golf Championship at Carnoustie in Scotland. The winner is Tom Watson.
July 13, Sunday. Bing checks into Claridges in London during the late evening and refuses a request by Ken Barnes to rehearse with Fred Astaire on July 14 because he has “nineteen appointments” (thought to mean a round of golf). Pete Moore and Ken Barnes rehearse with Fred instead.
July 15, Tuesday. (10:00 a.m.–1:00 p.m.) Commences recording the A Couple of Song and Dance Men album with Fred Astaire, Pete Moore and his Orchestra, and the Johnny Evans Singers at the Music Centre, Wembley.
They arrived at the studio about half an hour before the session and there was a brief fifteen minutes of rehearsal after which Bing decided to have a cup of coffee before recording.
It took us about twenty-five minutes to get a balance on the orchestra and the first two songs were ‘in the can’ within forty minutes after that. Bing was very relaxed and charming to everyone and while the orchestra took a fifteen-minute break he went to the reception area to make a couple of phone calls.
When he returned we resumed the session and as Pete took the orchestra through the third number, Bing wandered into the control room to hear a playback. I remember asking him: ‘Are you happy with everything, Bing?’
‘Everything’s dandy,’ he replied. ‘I’ve only got one more number to do, and then I quit for the day. How sweet it is!’
He went back into the studio and joined Fred in the vocal area. Three takes and his final number for that day was over. During the session a Daily Mirror news photographer was taking shots for a feature story on the album that was being written by Charles Thompson. Charles thought it would be a good idea - before Fred started to rehearse his solo number - to get some shots of the two artists at the microphone in the studio. Fred was more interested in rehearsing his song with the orchestra, but Bing responded to Charles’ suggestion with almost juvenile enthusiasm. He clowned around the studio floor in a variety of hammy poses, doing his best to get Fred into an equally animated attitude - but without much success. The most that Fred would give was a polite smile. It was obvious to Pete Moore and I that Fred wanted to concentrate on his next song and by goofing around and posing for photos with everyone, Bing was cutting into precious studio and working time. Eventually Bing’s antics subsided and Fred got a chance to run through his solo version of ‘Easy to Remember’ (a Crosby hit from the thirties. It was planned that Bing would do one of Fred’s hits as a solo elsewhere in the sessions). As Fred prepared to do a first take on the song, Bing ambled over to the microphone and said: ‘Nice going, Fred. By the way, I’m taking the limousine. See you tomorrow.’ Without waiting for a reaction, Bing simply strolled out of the studio.
At the end of the session I had to drive Fred back to his hotel.
Another thing that bothered Fred throughout each session was the amount of ad-libbing that Crosby would invariably indulge in. ‘Bing is the master when it comes to cross-talk and witty asides,’ said Fred. ‘I can’t begin to compete with him. What am I going to do?’
Since I had written all the special lyrics and adaptations for the album, I approached Bing to suggest a few lines to him that might be thrown in at odd points during the routines. He said: ‘Fine, I’ll make a note of them.’
I then went back to Fred with some suggestions that might counteract Bing’s lines and where he might possibly top the great Crosby in one or two instances. Fred was delighted to have the inside information and the useful retorts. But more often than not, Crosby would be one jump ahead of us and at the crucial point in a routine he would hit Fred with a completely different line. And yet, for some reason, Fred - who claimed to be a poor ad-libber - would rise to the occasion by coming back with an equally funny remark. The result was that most of the ad-libs in that album are absolutely genuine.
The only time in the album where Bing managed to completely top Fred was in their version of ‘Pick Yourself Up’ in which I had written a special lyric portraying Fred as a dancing teacher and Bing as a less-than-capable pupil. It was agreed that at the very end of the routine, Bing would simply say to Fred: ‘And now for your singing lesson.’ But Bing went much further than that with a whole string of funny lines about not being able to fit Fred in for at least a fortnight. We just left the tape running to get all of Crosby’s lines and we picked up the laughter of the orchestra too. It was a moment of rare magic. And Fred loved it as much as anyone.
(Ken Barnes, writing in The Crosby Years, pages 51-52)
One lovely story, regarding another American star, was the day we arrived at the studios to discover we were to provide the vocal backing for two legendary performers who were combining their talents to produce an album - Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire. As thrilled as I was to meet and work with these showbiz greats, Joan Baxter, one of the other session singers booked for the recording, was ecstatic. “I must ring my Mum during the break for lunch,” she said “and tell her who we are working with. She is a Bing Crosby fanatic and she’ll just die.” As soon as the midday break was called, Joan phoned and was just about to tell her Mum the news, when who should walk by, at just that moment, but the man himself. Without as much as a ‘by your leave’ - Joan thrust the phone into his hand and said “Bing - say hallo to my Mum - her name is Harriet.” Bing, without turning a hair, and in that very recognisable voice of his, spoke into the mouthpiece. “Hi, Harriet - this is Bing Crosby. Howya doin’.” For all the effect it had on Joan’s mum, it could have been the local butcher. In her broad Yorkshire accent she replied, “Ee - is that you Bing? Me arthritis is killing me!”
“Well honey,” replied the crooner “don’t you worry. You just sit yourself down with a large brandy - no, make that two large brandies - and you’ll feel much better.” Joan’s mum, the Bing fanatic who we felt would just die at the thought of speaking to her hero, refused even now to show her excitement or, worse still, to admit her personal worship of the man.
“Our Joan’s Dad,” she said “thought you were wonderful!” Bing was unable to say another word for Harriet’s phlegmatic reply struck a funny bone and he left us to enjoy his lunch, still roaring with laughter at the conversation.
(Maggie Stredder, writing in her book The Girl with the Glasses, pages 68-69)
During the evening, Thames Television transmits The Day War Broke Out in which Bing and others give recollections of entertainment during WWII.
July 16, Wednesday. (10:00 a.m.–1:00 p.m.) Bing and Fred Astaire record more tracks for the A Couple of Song and Dance Men album
July 17, Thursday. Completes A Couple of Song and Dance Men album.
Interviewed at his hotel by Jack De Manio for the
A Couple of Song and Dance Men—United Artists UA-LA 588G
Enjoyable set from two of the finer singers of our time, cut in London, produced by Ken Barnes and featuring the Pete Moore Orchestra. Lots of cuts from movies the two have appeared in with material from Berlin, Mercer, Carmichael and Scott Joplin. All standards well done, with the pair singing together or taking solos. Best cuts: “Top Billing,” “A Couple of Song and Dance Men,” “Change Partners,” “Pick Yourself Up.”
(Billboard International, March 6, 1976)
Two indestructibles of show business, united on one record is an invincible formula, particularly when the two involved are “A Couple of Song And Dance Men” like Fred Astaire and Bing Crosby. The rapport and mutual esteem between these two splendid troupers are obvious and delightful, although the verbal adlibbing and asides are occasionally overdone and not always intelligible to the listener...This LP recorded in London last year was the first occasion on which the two main participants had worked together since making the film “Blue Skies” in 1946, and one hopes it will be followed by further collaborations.
(The Gramophone, February, 1976)
July 18, Friday. (10:30 - 11:15 a.m.) Interviewed by Michael Aspel on Capital
Radio. In the afternoon, tapes another Parkinson television show for
One day we received a letter from a man called Leslie Gaylor. He was a fitter for Hovercraft in the Isle of Wight. He said he had the biggest collection in the land of Bing Crosby memorabilia, that Bing was a personal friend of his and if we wanted him on the show he could fix it. We thought he was a nutter. But then why would he say these things if there was not an element of truth in them? So we asked him to come to London and not only did Mr. Gaylor get us Bing Crosby, he was also indirectly responsible for Fred Astaire appearing on the show.
It is a mark of Crosby’s unaffected good nature that he made his first appearance on Parkinson not because Orson Welles had been on the show or he had anything to promote, but out of friendship for Leslie Gaylor. He was the most relaxed and laid back of them all…
…When he arrived at the reception desk at the TV Centre he was carrying a hat box under his arm. He said to the receptionist, ‘Hi, I’m Bing Crosby. Can you direct me towards the gal who’s going to fix my toop?’
His hairpiece was in the box.
He told me his favourite song was ‘White Christmas’ and he never tired of singing it. When he performed it on the show I was astonished to see him reading the words from autocue. He had an effortless style and possessed the greatest gift of all, that of making everyone in the studio believe they wanted to work for him.
That said he wasn’t a pushover. He had very exacting standards and expected everyone else to match them. It is true that, like Sinatra, he didn’t care much for rehearsal, which is not the same saying he didn’t care about getting it right. Again like Sinatra, when he came into the studio to rehearse he was word perfect and faultless in his delivery. He expected everyone else to be the same.
He ran through his number twice, the band was happy, it sounded good. Then the director asked if he would mind doing it one more time. Crosby agreed. When he had finished, the director pleaded with Bing for another take.
Crosby asked why.
The director said, ‘I think I can do it better.’
Bing smiled and said, ‘I can’t.’
I did a duet with Crosby, which is a bit like saying I danced with Ginger Rogers or opened the innings with W. G. Grace.
Bing said if I was any good he was going to retire and play golf. At the end of our performance, he looked at me and said, ‘Guess I’m back on the road again.’
(Michael Parkinson, writing in his book Parky, pages 214-216)
…However, we got to the TV Theatre around 2pm - and on making enquiries at a side-entrance were brusquely informed that only “Mr. John Fisher” could give permission to enter for the rehearsal. Crestfallen we certainly were, especially as the rain was falling quite heavily…when who should appear but Pete Moore, whom I’d had the pleasure of meeting previously with Ken Barnes and Leslie Gaylor. This turned things a lot brighter - and especially so when Ken himself arrived and after a short while, we had the necessary permission to enter for the rehearsal - for which our thanks are assuredly due to Ken, Pete Moore and John Fisher. Inside the theatre we met Leslie Gaylor and George O’Reilly, who you will recall produced the Irish TV show that Bing did around 1968, and several prominent members of the ICC, including Bob Roberts and his wife Vera, and Fred Reynolds, down from Birmingham.
At 2.30 immense activity broke out on the stage. Pete Moore had assembled the orchestra and they were running thro’ various tuning up processes. Then Bing walked on stage! He looked really terrific, very tanned, smiling broadly and obviously very happy The producer, his assistants, the technicians were all in earnest, workmanlike, conversations and conferences…Parkinson going from one to the other…we could hear the technical requirements and details being ironed out, speedily, efficient1y, cameras, mikes, control room, a truly fascinating experience.
Bing was asked to run thro ‘Play a Simple Melody’ - and he was in superb voice and form…he went on singing…chatting to Parkinson, and it was clear they enjoyed each other’s company…young Harry arrived and was soon strumming his guitar and chatting away to Parkinson, too. What with the songs and the re-takes we had a truly marvellous time. Many times, in the rehearsal, there was spontaneous applause from the visitors, the studio technicians and those of us lucky enough to be present - and I noticed that the musicians often led the applause. It was truly amazing - and naturally, a wonderful tribute to Bing’s superb talents and style.
The rehearsal ended after about two and a quarter hours – and Bing was still going strong with the show proper still to come!
(Eric Crowder, writing in BING magazine, September 1975 [#39])
…Then the show itself; no less than six songs from Bing and a fund of reminiscences and anecdotes. It was noticeable that Parkinson had several pages of script in front of him - necessary no doubt - but that Bing had no notes whatever and spoke spontaneously and completely off-the-cuff, as it ‘were, all the way through. And except for one small slip when he switched from “unctuous” to “urbane” when talking about Fred Astaire, he was word-perfect. Quite an astonishing display of’ virtuosity as regards elan, on-the-spot narration, humour and breadth of knowledge and character.
A highlight was, of course, when Bing launched into his first song, ‘Breezing Along with the Breeze’ from the forthcoming album. This gave the show an upbeat-tempo from its earliest moments. Among the other songs were ‘Play a Simple Melody’, with son Harry, ‘The Pleasure of Your Company’ with Parkinson. ‘I Like to Dance Like They Used to Dance’, ‘Send in the Clowns’ (this could well be a “smash-hit”) and we had a fabulous bonus when Bing had to do ‘That’s What Life Is All About’ twice, after one false start!
The false-start itself demonstrated Bing’s completely equable temperament. Pete Moore’s excellent orchestra was playing a four-bar introduction but Bing misread it and came in late. Signs were made to him to stop and he quizzically enquired; “Something wrong?”
“It’s a very short intro Bing,” apologised Pete, “I don’t think it gives you time enough to get from your chair across stage to the microphone”…Bing was completely alive to the problem and humourously made a series of mock sprints from his seat to the centre of the stage amid much mirth and applause from the audience. These items will not, of course, be screened but they are a lasting memory for us who were lucky enough to be there.
Finally it was decided to make the intro eight-bars and the “take” went through to the end. But it appeared there were further problems - the orchestra had come in loud and strong for the last chorus and it was felt that Bing’s voice had been partially drowned, though I must add at this stage he sounded very powerful indeed.
Now came some real Crosbyana: firstly, Bing explained to us what had happened – and typically he blamed himself for asking the orchestra to “pump it up”. Whether that was so or not, how like him to put everyone at ease by shouldering the blame. Some lightning re-arrangements were by then going on (to the score that is) and while this was being fixed, Bing sat casually astride his stool in the centre of the stage, dexterously juggling the hand-mike - and launched into a little verse in rhyme to the opening bars of the song explaining what had occurred! He was in masterly form and yet it was all done with all the casual aplomb and absolute spontaneity which is Bing’s hallmark. I hope someone either taped or remembered the words to this little impromptu song - it completely captivated everyone - the audience, orchestra, stagehands, technicians, and received a very big hand. Again, this won’t be shown on TV - and what a pity! Bing regarded us with mock concern, shrugged, and said apologetically: “Fraid we’re gonna have to do it again” - and this “apology” brought more well-nigh frantic applause…
All too soon the show was over; it had started at six and now it was seven-thirty. We could have stayed for hours and still have been not satisfied. What a privilege and genuine thrill to have been entertained in person by the greatest showbusiness superstar of them all, of this or any other era.
(John Bignell, writing in BING magazine, September 1975 [#39])
…So glad you liked the Michael Parkinson show. It was fun to do. He is such a generous host. I thought the music sounded pretty good. The band was first class and everybody I talked to who happened to be there said they enjoyed it a great deal…
(Letter from Bing to Leslie Gaylor, July 25, 1975)
July (undated). The Crosbys golf with Roger Wethered, a top British golfer of the 1920s, at the Royal Wimbledon course.
July 22, Tuesday. (8:00–9:00 a.m.) Appears on Terry Wogan’s morning
When younger, Bing Crosby with his deceptively easy singing style and his similar gift on the big screen had been a great favourite of mine. I could never have dreamt of meeting him, as I queued for the one-and-nines, but I did. In the early seventies, he dropped in one morning on my radio show, and we chatted. He, too, was everything I knew he would be: full of bonhomie and good humour, relaxed and generous with his time.
As I recall [and, as you have noticed, my recollections can be a bit on the misty side], Bing was in London to record an album with Fred Astaire. The word had it that the recording was not going as swimmingly as it might: Astaire was a workaholic, meticulous in everything, as in his dancing: rehearse, refine, rehearse, let’s do it one more time. Crosby’s style was the antithesis of Astaire’s: rely on your talent, do it on your toes, wing it, let’s go, I’ve got a golf date …
(Terry Wogan, writing in his book, Is It Me? pages 78/79)
July 23, Wednesday. Tapes a television appearance on the
One final story of the Top
of the Pops concerns a Party Political Broadcast from the Prime Minister at
that time - Edward Heath. Mr. Heath had arrived at the
“Are you in charge here?” shouted the great man.
“Yessir” trembled the Director “Yes - I am!” The Prime Minister leant towards him and asked
“Any chance of Bing Crosby’s autograph?”
That story, I promise, you is true.
(Maggie Stredder, writing in her book The Girl with the Glasses, page 77)
July 24, Thursday. At Bushey, Hertfordshire, to narrate a film documentary about golf called Golf Through the Ages at the Cygnet Films studio. Plays golf at Moor Park afterwards.
July 25, Friday. The Merv Griffin Show with Bing and Rich Little as guests is shown by CBS. Meanwhile in London, Bing is interviewed by Llew Gardiner on the Today program for Thames Television and this is transmitted at 6:00 p.m.. Lives in a rented house at 3 Aubrey Rd., London W8 (near Holland Park Avenue) during his stay in London.
July 26, Saturday. Makes a brief contribution to the
July 27, Sunday. Tapes a guest appearance on the Vera Lynn
…However, it was well into the latter part of the show before the actual introduction and appearance of Bing occurred with these words: “Over the years there have been many singing highlights in my career, but however great the memory of those times nothing can equal the thrill that I now feel in introducing to you someone that we all love and admire so much. Ladies and gentlemen: Bing Crosby!”
And Bing strolled on to cheers and. applause which certainly equalled, if not excelled, that of the Parkinson reception. He wore a lounge suit and joined the beaming Vera—the Alyn Ainsworth orchestra was playing “Where the Blue of the Night” in almost two-step time which, after Vera’s reminder, Bing noted that he remembered “very well”. Vera thanked Bing for coming and he responded by saying how much he had been looking forward to it. It was at this juncture that Vera expressed the fulfillment of her life’s ambition by singing with Bing—it invited the almost inevitable Crosby rejoinder: “Oooh, Vera! You must elevate your goals a little!” But Vera would have none of it and as the music struck up they went into that presumed first-ever duet, “Sing a Song”. The opening lines were backed by piano only and the orchestra and chorus (Young Generation) gradually came in to good effect. Both sang out “good and strong” and gave the likeable Joe Raposo composition the straight and tuneful treatment it deserves. Bing faded a little on a word or two—maybe he leaned back out of mike range—but he carried the melody while Vera harmonised, reversing their roles towards the conclusion. It was delightfully executed and with both renowned for their rich, clear tones and perfect diction that much was to be expected. The disappointment came in that they sang only the one duet. A lost opportunity! With all respect to the other guests one felt that after such a musical amalgam the producer might have at least treated us to more than this. It was not to be. Still, we did have another “live” version of “That’s What Life Is All About” —a pleasant variation from the issued version both in words and music that included a little whistle from Bing. We have quite a collection of these “live” versions now—nearly enough for a complete LP! Bing took a full 40 seconds applause after his solo, and was seeming to just settle in comfortably when it was all over (he had appeared just a bit “wooden” and less buoyant than usual on his entrance).
What a pity they couldn’t have really made a night of it; but at least posterity has one Bing/Vera duet to relish - something of which I had long given up hope.
(Bert Bishop, writing in BING magazine, December 1975 [#40])
…As far as my memories of Bing are concerned, I could not possibly go into all the days we spent together rehearsing, but the one thing that did stick in my mind was when we had tea, he had a huge piece of fruit cake and a large lump of ice-cream with it! Probably a good combination, but not one we were familiar with…
(Vera Lynn, in a letter dated March 27, 2007 to Crosby fan Trevor Wagstaff.)
July 28, Monday. Is interviewed by Derek Jones for a
Bing was the first singer of whom, when a very small boy in the 1930s, I became aware and I was soon a great admirer of his. My parents had several 78rpm gramophone records of songs he had recorded in those years. Two of them, ‘Home on the Range’ and ‘The Last Roundup’, have been favourites of mine ever since.
So, having heard in the 1970s that he was very interested in wildlife, it was not surprising that I invited him at that period to participate as a guest in a series of radio programmes called Sounds Natural that I had devised and produced for Radio 4 and which featured celebrities with a keen interest in wildlife.
An enthusiastic golfer, Bing had
become friends with the
It was with some trepidation at phoning anyone as early as 7am that I picked up the telephone in my office at BH Bristol. I need not have worried, Bing was up and about and very amiable. He said he would be glad to take part in the programme and could fit it in one day when he came down to London. As he couldn’t be sure of a possible date at that stage, he told me he would telephone me as soon as he knew. I mentioned that in a few days’ time I would be lunching with Henry Longhurst in his idyllically situated home on top of the South Downs near Brighton. Nevertheless, it was rather to my surprise that on that day, 16 July 1975, during lunch, the telephone rang and Henry’s wife answered it and returned to say, ‘It’s Bing Crosby for you, John.’ And so it was: to tell me that he had hired a house in London’s Holland Park and could meet me there one morning in a week or so’s time to record the interview.
This was duly arranged and the regular
Sounds Natural interviewer, the late Derek Jones, a popular West Country
broadcaster, and I arrived together with a
I had previously discovered that he was a very good mimic of those American wild birds with which he was familiar. In discussing these with him, I mentioned that one would be an extract from ‘My Blue Heaven’, which refers to the call of the whip-poor-will, a bird related to our nightjar, which also calls at night. Bing said he had sung so many different songs in his lifetime and he couldn’t remember them all including that one. So rather self-consciously in the presence of such a famous crooner, I crooned the first couple of lines to him, which sparked his memory and he joined in, quipping at the end, ‘We should have got together sooner, John!’ Other songs of Bing’s that I included were ‘Mr Meadowlark’, where Bing gives very good imitations of the song of this American bird of fields and meadows, and bobwhite. The bobwhite is a common small American gamebird related to our quail whose name is onomatopoeic: its typical call sounding like a whistled ‘bob-bob-white’, also mimicked perfectly by Bing.
To demonstrate just how good his imitations were, in the final programme as transmitted, I subsequently added actual sound recordings of these birds for comparison.
Provided by me with a series of questions in addition to his own that I knew would launch Bing on a string of his wildlife memories, Derek, a masterly interviewer, evoked a delightfully chatty conversation that pleased me immensely. Bing had been a keen wildfowler, hunting within United States laws, but his concern for the conservation of water birds and other wildlife was sincere.
After the interview had finished, Bing, Derek, the recording engineer and I continued to chat for another hour about birds, fishing, colour blindness (from which Bing suffered) and other topics. Derek and I both felt that Bing genuinely enjoyed chatting about his interests in wildlife and its conservation as a change from being asked about his show business career…
Altogether, as Derek Jones wrote in his account of the occasion (Microphones and Muddy Boots, David & Charles, Newton Abbot, Devon, 1987), it was ‘two hours of absolute joy’.
Like Derek, I am happy that we were able to meet and talk with Bing, a charming man whose distinctive singing voice we had both greatly admired. A couple of years after our meeting, Bing passed away, appropriately enough, on a golf course. To both of us life wasn’t the same without him.
A couple of months after the repeat broadcast of the programme in January 1976, I received a very nice personal letter from Bing, saying, among other topics, that he had listened to the tape of the programme I had sent him and was ‘much impressed’ by it. I still have and treasure the letter.
(John F. Burton,
writing in Prospero, the newspaper for
July 31, Thursday. With his son Nathaniel at the German Open at Bremen. They golf in a Pro-Am and Nathaniel’s team come second. Bing presents the prizes.
August 2, Saturday. Bing and Kathryn attend the races at Goodwood near Chichester, West Sussex and Bing accepts a trophy on behalf the horse “Hail the Pirates” owned by his friend, Daniel Galbreath, which has won the featured race, the PTS Laurels Handicap. That night, they attend a barbecue and meet the Prince of Wales.
August 3, Sunday. Bing and Kathryn visit Petworth House whilst Harry and Nathaniel go swimming with the Prince of Wales.
August 4, Monday. (1:00 - 2:00 p.m.) At 3 Aubrey Rd., London W8,
Bing records an interview for the
But have you been a quick learner of songs? Hear it once...
No. I’d say it depends. These songs they are writing now are so intricate that it takes me quite a while to learn them - not so much the melody as the intervals. Songwriters used to write eight bars, eight bars, a middle strain and then eight bars at the finish; that was it. Now there are six-bar phrases, four-bar, no beats in between, or three beats in between, or three-and-a-half. I have to hear it several times before I can get it in my head.
August 5, Tuesday. (10:30 a.m.) Golfs at Sunningdale in a charity pro-am event preceding the Colgate European Women’s Championship. Bing is interviewed on television. Bob Hope also attends the event. Bing’s handicap is now nine.
August 6, Wednesday. Bing and his sons fly from London Airport to Holland.
August 7, Thursday. Golfs in Hilversum, Holland, in a pro-am and is interviewed by Dutch television and radio.
…And then Bing arrived with his two sons. I was
allowed to be present when Bing and the boys sat down and had a meal – Bing had
an egg-salad, a glass of milk and some ice-cream while all the time people were
taking a thousand pictures and asking even more questions. He sat very relaxed,
answering in kindly fashion the same old questions about his family, his
golfing, other artists, etc. Then Bing was away to change, but I asked him
again for his autograph and told him once more how I enjoyed his
“Gosh! You’re asking a lot…you know you can exchange four of my signatures for one of Sinatra’s, don’t you?”
He should know better – but everyone roared with laughter.…Well then, after Bing had changed everybody followed him up to the green. Before he tee’d off he spoke a few words and sang “Where’s My Caddy” (I believe) and then I spent a wonderful four and a half hours next to him as he happily went along from hole to hole. He was merrily swinging his clubs and chatting to everyone who wanted to have a chat, including myself.
And this time I wasn’t so nervous. He really brightened up the whole course in his own special, easy-going manner. And, as far as I can judge, he is such a good golfer.
It was a tremendously hot day and the golfers stopped every now and then for a drink - water, mainly, which gave me the chance to offer Bing a glass which he heartily accepted.
Halfway round, he did a small interview for the radio and the man who interviewed him was almost as nervous as I’d been the first time. When it was broadcast later you could hear him say “…can you imagine that! Me standing next to B-b-bing C-c-crosby!”
At the end of the game he did another interview for Dutch TV and one of the TV men asked him if he would sing something - which he did! Bing walked to the mike and everyone was closing in around him in a circle and joining him. Happily, I was right beside him, joining in as he sang “It’s Tulip Time in Holland”, “Zing a Little Zong”, “True Love”, “Pennies from Heaven”…every time it rains it rains…” then he looked at his watch: “Don’t you know my plane is leaving for Heaven” all to the melody! Wonderful. And then he was about to go, after he’d sung “White Christmas” on a day when everyone was wiping their forehead it was so hot.
I felt I just couldn’t let him walk
off like that…and I went after him to say “Goodbye”. We shook hands and he
asked me to spell out my name so that he wouldn’t forget it - and he told me to
take good care of my feet and perhaps to buy myself a new pair of shoes! Since
it was such a hot day I hadn’t put on any stockings that morning. Rather
quickly I had five blisters on each foot for the rest of the day onto which I’d
put some plasters…and as I’d walked barefoot for the rest of the day on sand
and grass you could hardly see my skin and my feet were as black as coal! So my
feet were rather conspicuous and with all the plasters, they must have looked
much worse than they really were. Certainly Bing was quick to spot them – and
very kindly told me to take good care of them.
(Noor Van Heel, writing in BING magazine, June 1977 [#46])
August 11, Monday. (9:00 - 11:00 a.m.) At 3 Aubrey Rd., Bing
records a program for
August 13, Wednesday. It is announced that Bing, Bob Hope, and
Dorothy Lamour will make a film called The Road to Tomorrow. Starting at
9 a.m. at the Aubrey Rd. property, Bing records an appearance on the
1. South Rampart Street Parade (Bob Crosby and his Bob Cats)
2. Clair De Lune (London Symphony Orchestra)
3. And the Angels Sing (Benny Goodman with vocal by Martha Tilton)
4. Moonlight Serenade (Glenn Miller)
5. Liebestraum (Philadelphia Orchestra)
6. Begin the Beguine (Artie Shaw)
7. Song of India (Tommy Dorsey)
8. Cavalleria Rusticana (La Scala Orchestra)
He chooses as a luxury a guitar and as a book (other than The Bible) he chooses Roget’s Thesaurus. The program is broadcast on December 27, 1975. Bing receives a fee of £60.
August 14, Thursday. Bing, Kathryn and the boys leave for Paris for a few days. There is a minor bomb scare en route as an Arab passenger was carrying two imitation guns. In Paris, they see a show at the Moulin Rouge.
August (undated). Records an International Pro-Celebrity Golf
The whole series of Pro-Celebrity Golf is usually played over a couple of weeks, the promoters endeavouring to put two nine-hole matches “in the can” per day. The pilot drew my attention to a tiny grass airstrip up ahead, or should I say down ahead, a long tidy row of similar aircraft to our own lining either side of it, rather like a guard of honour.
Some black limousines stood by the modest reception building indicating, in
fact, that I wasn’t the only one arriving at that particular time. In
fact as I said hello to one of the representatives from
“That’ll be Mr. Crosby now,” I heard somebody behind me say, causing my ears to prick up. One of my great personal ambitions had long been to meet the man I always considered to be the finest pop singer of all time. I felt sure the opportunity was at hand, knowing we were both heading for the same destination.
A minute or two later, I was ushered into one of the waiting cars, and just as I climbed aboard, a voice said, “Oh, Val, have you met Bing?” I turned, and there entering the car parked alongside was The Man Himself.
“Hi there, Val, how’ya doin’?” He reached out of the car and took my hand. “I believe we’re playin’ a bit of golf together today.” Till that moment of course I had no idea who my playing opponent was to be.
Just as our respective cars were pulling away, he opened his window and called out, “Let’s have some lunch together before the game.” We did just that within the hour and then made our way to the golf course. Bing, as most golfers will know, had been an extremely good amateur golfer, and even while in his early seventies he still played well. It was indeed a day I shall never forget, made even more memorable by the young Scottish lad, who had no idea who the great Mr. Crosby was when he asked for my autograph during the round.
(Val Doonican, writing in People’s Friend, May 23, 1987)
August 21, Thursday. At Claridges in London. Bing sends a hand-written note to Crosby fan Leslie Gaylor.
I fully appreciate the many things you have done on behalf of my English image and career. I am sure none of it would have happened without your impetus. I can tell you also it has been great fun working with Barnes, Moore, Drewett, Astaire and so many others. Reawakens my interest in the business. Let’s hope something serious develops.
August 24-25, Sunday-Monday. Bing, Kathryn and the boys are in Yorkshire (near Ripon) for the grouse shooting. They stay with Lord and Lady Swinton at nearby Swinton Park, Masham, North Yorkshire for several days. He also calls in at the Drovers Arms, Dallowgill for a drink and sings ‘Happy Holiday’ for the patrons.
continued to play a significant role in David’s life and was the cause of some
entertaining episodes which he loved to relate. One of these took place at
Swinton Park, North Yorkshire, in 1975, when David and Susie attended a party
where an elderly Bing Crosby was a fellow guest. After dinner, Bing was
persuaded to start singing but his son Harry found it difficult to accompany
him as he responded to requests, not having the sheet music to hand. Someone
suggested that David should play, knowing of his gift of playing by ear. Bing
looked askance at the idea of an amateur pianist but soon realised that David
was easily capable, and could even ask him what key he required before
embarking on the next tune. Bing would reply with a smile ‘Keep it down, Dave,
keep it down’. Bing found it hard to recall the lyrics, but Susie and a friend
were able to whisper them into his ears, and an unforgettable evening followed.
(Obituary of country landowner David Yorke in the Craven Herald & Gazette, August 10, 2017)
August (undated). Tapes several items for the long running Yorkshire Television program Stars on Sunday in Leeds. Receives a nominal fee of £250 which he passes on to the playing fields committee at Kirkby Malzeard, near Ripon, North Yorkshire. He has already given £1000 to this cause.
I have mentioned, earlier in this book, how long it can sometimes take between the first approaches being made to an artist and their appearance on the program. The first programme of the winter series on September 14 saw the debut of Bing Crosby in Stars on Sunday. In early August I had heard that Bing Crosby was over here to make a record. I contacted his record producer and it was left that if Mr. Crosby was willing and able to appear on the program he would give me a ring at the Leeds office.
A few days later I was sitting in the canteen at Leeds when one of the secretaries from the office came in looking slightly flushed and walked across to where I was sitting. “I’m sorry to disturb you,” she said, “but I’ve got a fellow on the telephone who won’t leave a message and insists on talking to you personally.” “Who is it?” I asked. She gave a little disbelieving laugh. “Well he says he’s Bing Crosby,” she replied. With that I leaped to my feet and broke the world record for the 100 yard sprint back to my office. I regained my breath, picked up the phone and said in as calm a voice as I could manage, “Good afternoon Mr. Crosby, can I do anything for you?” The reply was brief but very pleasant to hear “Yes, when can we get together and sort out something for this program of yours?” And that was it.
The recording session was being done in studio 2 and from the moment he came on to the set it was packed with studio personnel who had all found a legitimate excuse for being there. We went through the songs and readings without any problems and finished the session close on 12. We went for a pre-lunch drink in the club bar. While we there I mentioned that he had many fans amongst the members of the canteen staff and that they would love to see him for a few moments. “Well let’s go and see them,” he said. So off we went into the canteen where he shook hands with everyone who came up to him. He went along the serving counter meeting all staff from the manager and head chef down to the most junior washer-up and signed many autographs.
(Peter Max-Wilson, writing in the book Stars on Sunday.)
August 25, Monday. (12:02 - 1:00 p.m.) Bing introduces
recordings in a one-hour
August 30, Saturday. (11:00 p.m.–12:05 a.m.) Bing’s taped appearance on the BBC-TV show Parkinson is shown.
This opening edition, directed by Stanley Appel, produced by Richard Drewett and pegged to Bing Crosby’s half-century in show business, was obviously preplanned, tailored and manicured, even by chat show standards.
Questions had a habit of emerging as cues for songs. Despite all the Hollywood musical brainwashing, with those “Let’s Do the Show Right Here” bits attempting to prove that near-perfection can be attained off the cuff, there was no doubt that Parkinson, Crosby and the team had arranged a pleasant mixture of concert and interview.
Bing sang uncannily well for a man of his years, and was as engaging a talker as ever. (Somebody’s extreme poverty was indicated by “He hadn’t change for a match.”) And for all the Transatlantic colour, he cares about language. Complimenting Fred Astaire on unctuousness; he quickly changed it—after a verbal nudge from Parkinson—to urbanity, realizing that it is kinder to accuse a friend of being suave than oily.
(Shaun Usher, Daily Mail, September 1, 1975)
September 3, Wednesday. In London for a photo session at Decca House at 10:30 a.m. before going to the Argo Studios at 115 Fulham Road with Decca record producer Geoff Milne, where Bing records the first part of the Tom Sawyer album. Bing returns to his rented house at 4:30 p.m.
“…He also made a three-album box-set for Argo in which he recited the story of Tom Sawyer. Argo wanted to do something to commemorate the American Bicentennial celebrations, and it seemed a good idea to do Tom Sawyer - we all agreed that the only person who could relate the story was Bing Crosby. I approached him with the idea, and he thought just for a moment before saying he would love to do it. The recordings were done in two sessions, one lasting four hours and the other two and one-half hours. It was the first time that he had ever been involved with anything of that nature.
It was interesting to watch him in the studios. He was on his feet throughout the sessions. And he didn’t just read Tom Sawyer, he was actually acting the parts. His voice took on different tones and characters. He put a lot into it and I believe that it comes across in the records. The pity is that he wouldn’t allow any cameras into the studios, because it was one of those occasions which was really worth preserving.
Bing was a marvellous man to work
for, and there aren’t too many people around who are like that. There were
several very young sound engineers working on the Argo sessions and they were
completely knocked out by him. They couldn’t believe that he had so much
control and command of the situation. Another good thing about him was that
whenever anything went wrong, he blamed himself. It was never anyone else’s
fault, and that is what made him such a professional.”
(Geoff Milne, as quoted in Woman’s Realm magazine after Bing’s death)
September 4, Thursday. The Mike Douglas afternoon television show in the U.S. has Bing and Kathryn plus Mike Preminger and Sandra Harman as the guests, with David Brenner as cohost. The show had been taped before Bing’s departure for the U.K.
September 5, Friday. Completes the Tom Sawyer album at Argo Studios between 10:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m.
…He (Geoff Milne) persuaded Bing to record the Tom Sawyer book and Geoff laughed as he remembered the actual recording sessions spread over three days and Bing’s occasional fluffs which he supplemented with colourful language. Most of the sound effects on the album were done by Geoff himself – the sound in the cave for instance was achieved by recording a dripping tap in the Decca washroom and then doctoring the effect appropriately.
(Malcolm Macfarlane, Milne Magic, BING magazine, summer, 2005 [#140])
This abridged version of a well-loved story is one of the most enjoyable sets to have come my way in recent years. It was a master stroke to get Bing Crosby to read it, for the ‘Old Groaner’ has a devastatingly charming manner, compounded of a relaxed and sympathetic delivery and a lovely speaking voice. The vocal cords that kept him at the very top in music and musical films for so many years are just as velvety now...Crosby’s masterly reading needs little help. Delicate, dry, humourous but never whimsical or condescending, he is one of the most delightful readers Argo has offered us. The quality of the sound is exceptionally fine. Highly recommended.
(Mary Postgate, The Gramophone, May, 1976)
The exploits of Tom, living with his Aunt Polly in a small town on the Missouri, and his companion Huckleberry Finn are refreshingly recaptured in Crosby’s reading. . . . Bing’s expressive narrative and his dialect voicing of the characters enhance an impressive and entertaining story.
(The Crosby Collection, part five, page 188)
He then tapes a Disneytime program for
September 7, Sunday (6:15 - 7:00 p.m.)
September 8, Monday. Bing arrives back in Hillsborough.
September (undated). Nathaniel Crosby commences his studies at Burlingame High School. He had been offered a place at Bellarmine but has chosen to go to a more local college instead.
September 14, Sunday. Bing’s taped contribution to the Stars on Sunday program is shown on Yorkshire Television. He sings “That’s What Life Is All About.”
September 15, Monday. Bing records the remainder of the Bingo Viejo album with Paul Smith and his Orchestra at United Recorders, Hollywood. The album is released by Anahuac Records in the U.S.A. and by British Decca in the U.K.
“Bingo Viejo” by old Bing Crosby himself is a typically warm Crosbyian salute to south of the border with ten songs sung in English and Spanish which will undoubtedly please his numerous adherents of either tongue. The numbers are mostly familiar ones like Green Eyes, Besame Mucho, Frenesi and The Breeze and I, and the arrangements are less than impressive, particularly the messy accompaniment for Amapola, which almost undermined the Old Groaner’s customary vocal serenity.
(The Gramophone, April, 1977)
September 21, Sunday. Sings three songs at a benefit at the Getty Museum in Malibu to raise funds for the Hirsch Mental Health Center.
In his deepest, most mellifluous voice, NBC White House correspondent Tom Brokaw introduced him. “Ladies and gentlemen—Bing.” Just as if he were introducing the President of the United States, the Ford whose California visit had brought Brokaw west again. The Bing, as practically everyone, and particularly those attending Community Outreach’s “An Evening at the Getty” knew, was Crosby. And as he stepped out Sunday night from one of the gallery entrances into the spotlight of the Getty Museum’s inner peristyle, the applause broke out.
Bing, trim, insouciant, acting a little subdued as befitted an evening dedicated to raising funds for the support of the Didi Hirsch Community Mental Health Center, was the same old Bing we all remembered.
Rarely seen around Los Angeles these days (he lives with his family in a San Francisco suburb), Bing looked great. He’s trim and relaxed and the voice sounded great as it boomed out around the columned porticos of the peristyle gardens where the tables had been set for dinner and the entertainment. There were just three songs, then a quick exit. The ultimate professional, Bing left them wanting more.
“Great acoustics,” said attorney Paul Ziffren, who once played the violin and has a keen ear. Nearby, Marilyn Bergman smiled broadly while Bing sang the theme song from “Stardust Ballroom.” Joyce Easton, there with Ted Ashley, filled us in. “Marilyn and Alan Bergman wrote the lyrics.”
(Jody Jacobs, Los Angeles Times, September 23, 1975)
Bing goes on to join the Mills Brothers Charity Show at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion celebrating the Mills Brothers fiftieth anniversary in show business. Other guests are Harry Von Zell, Johnny Green and Helen O’Connell with an orchestra led by Louis Bellson providing support. Bing sings “Out of Nowhere” accompanied by Johnny Green and then lipsynch’s “That’s What Life Is All About” as the orchestra does not have an arrangement of the song. The Mills Brothers then join Bing and they sing “Dinah” together. Bing receives a standing ovation as he leaves the stage.
September 22, Monday. Daily Variety carries a news item stating:
The Mark C. Bloome Co. is shying away from a battle with Bing Crosby by pulling radio commercials that employ sound-alike Jack Harris.
September 24, Wednesday. Bing’s taped appearance on the Vera Lynn
. . . he looks a little thinner but his voice has lost none of its charm. He still sings with impeccable timing. He, too, knows more than a bit about sentiment. He sang about ups and downs that he said looking us straight in the eye is what life is all about. I am not keen on entertainers who pretend to be philosophers with a message. But the great ones get away with it - and Bing did. As for their voices, Bing cleverly attempts no more than he knows he can achieve. . .
(Evening News, unknown date)
September 26, Friday. Bing writes to (1) Pat Sullivan, President of Club Crosby, and (2) Priscilla Koernig, vice-president of Club Crosby.
(1) I’m glad that you liked the album when you finally received it and that you have selected a favorite. I, too, like the one about Dancing The Way They Used To Dance. I used it the other night at a benefit in Beverly Hills and it went very well.
I don’t know what the plans are for promoting and releasing the album over here. It’s up to United Artists of England. They have plans, I’m sure.
They’ve got a good start on the thing over there in England - getting the song on the charts - whatever that means!
I did a lot of promotion for them over there, and have done some, of course, here, but naturally the promotion is valueless unless it is followed up with something on the shelves for the listeners to buy.
So I imagine they’re going to get after it and get something started because the song has been done quite a few times now.
The other night I did it at the Tribute to the Mills Brothers and just the announcement of the title got a smattering of applause, so somebody in the audience was familiar with the number.
I’ve written Leo asking him to keep you posted on activities, record releases, information that might be useful for you and for members of the Journal, and asking him to arrange a visit to rehearsals if we have any in the near future.
So you’ll probably hear from Leo if anything like this develops.
Thanks so much for your note - Very best wishes, Bing
(2) I’m glad you liked the album, when you finally got to listen to it. As you say, there are some very nice songs.
My favorite is “Send in the Clowns” - a song which probably never will become popular because I don’t think anybody understands the lyrics. It’s a situation song that fits the play - the storyline of the play - but as a popular item, I don’t think it has much chance, but I like the song and I like the record.
I don’t know when the other stuff will be coming out, but I think you’ll like the thing I did with Fred Astaire over there.
The latest Journal, I thought, was very well done. Some nice things included. A lot of good information and some interesting articles by different people.
I hope when the albums come out, you’ll like them equally as well as you did the first – Best regards, Bing
October 5, Sunday. (6:00–8:00 p.m.) Emcees what is billed as a Command Performance show in Building No. 2 at Treasure Island, San Francisco and receives a standing ovation as he is introduced. Later lip synchs to his recordings of “That’s What Life is All About” and “Send in the Clowns”. In addition Bing takes part in a skit with Mel Blanc. The show also celebrates the Navy’s 200th birthday. The proceedings are broadcast live over radio station KMPX. Others taking part are Meredith Willson, Jim Jordan (Fibber McGee), Ella Mae Morse, Les Tremayne and Lurene Tuttle.
The base sent out a Navy car to pick Bing up at his home. We all waited anxiously backstage for his arrival. He sauntered in nonchalantly about 90 minutes before airtime. We sat around a big table and the rehearsal unfolded calmly and smoothly.
The broadcast itself was a whirl of excitement but came off without a hitch. When Bing was introduced he received a standing ovation from the 5000 that were there. I always thought that it was at that moment he realized how much he was still loved and made a decision to do more live performances beyond what he had been doing with small television audiences for so long. I’d like to believe it paved the way for his 50th Anniversary concert series.
He sang two songs that night, “That’s What Life is All About” and “Send in the Clowns.” Both were a delight to hear. I also still recall listening to Bing and Mel read my lines and the audience roar with laughter. What a thrill that was (later, Bing’s agent called and asked if he could use it in an upcoming show and, of course, I said yes).
When the broadcast ended the Admiral invited us all to a cocktail party at the Officer’s Club. Bing was beaming. I was later told by George Vercessi that the navy driver said Bing hardly said a word on the way there but he couldn’t stop talking about the show on the way home.
(John Jensen, writing in BING magazine, winter, 2013 [#165])
The show started promptly---Bill Baldwin was the Master of Ceremonies. Bing
was there a little ahead of time. He helped with some of the announcing. The
funniest part was when Bing and Mel Blanc did a skit. Plus, it was a joy to see Bing crack up laughing
during the “opening” of Fibber McGee’s closet! But the most memorable part of
all was when Bing was announced---and the audience gave him a standing ovation.
He sang “That’s What Life Is All About” and “Send in the Clowns”. This was the
first time Al Sutton had ever seen Bing in person. It was the second time Matt De
Vera had seen Bing perform in person, although he’s seen him two or three times
at the Crosby Golf Tournament. But, it brought back nice memories
for Matt because the first time he saw Bing was at the original 1939 Bing
Crosby Day at the San Francisco Exposition on Treasure Island.
(Priscilla Koernig, writing in BINGANG magazine, March 1976)
October 6, Monday. Bing plays in the Tom Watson Pro-Am at Stanford University with Scott Hughes, one of Nathaniel's friends.
October 12, Sunday. Another taped contribution from Bing to the Stars on Sunday program is shown on Yorkshire Television in the U.K. He reads from St. Mark, chapter 10, verses 1-16.
October (undated). Tapes appearances in Hollywood on a tribute to Bob Hope (shown October 24) and on the Dinah Shore show (shown November 12). He also writes to Priscilla Koernig, vice-president of Club Crosby.
Thanks for your letter. I didn’t know you were at the show (see October 5), but I’m glad you attended. Don’t know how you found out about it because I almost forgot it myself until the last minute.
I didn’t see any publicity - that is, advance publicity - about the show.
It was fun to do. It was quite interesting to watch the faces of the audience when they recognized the old voices and the old sounds and the old songs. They seemed to be thoroughly entertained.
Yes, you can have the interview next year at the tournament if you want. Just let me know in advance.
If you bring your friend, De Vera to the Laguna Honda, I’ll be glad to shake his hand.
The pictures of the cake were outstanding. Very nice indeed – Best to all, Bing
October 15, Wednesday. Johnny Mercer enters hospital for an operation for a brain tumor. The operation leaves him in a vegetative state. Meanwhile, Bing appears on the Tonight program on NBC with Bob Hope and John Wayne. The host is Don Rickles and the featured guests are Pat Boone, Adrienne Barbeau and Brian Oldfield.
The 10/15/75 appearance was (seemingly) spontaneous; Bing, Hope and the Duke were all taping Hope’s “25 Years on Television” TV special (which aired Oct. 24, 1975, 9 days after this Tonight Show appearance) across the hall at NBC in Burbank from where the Tonight Show was being taped. First Hope walked in, unannounced, to thunderous applause. Then Bing ambled in, to even greater applause. Finally John Wayne came in and brought the house down! They all went over to have a seat next and a little chat. Bing got off a good ad lib to the usually caustic guest host Don Rickles. Bing brought a copy of the book “The Crosby: Greatest Show in Golf” to give to host Johnny Carson, but Carson was not there. Rickles said to Bing “Bing, this is television!” And to the audience, Rickles said “Bing is still waiting for the Kraft Music Hall to come back”. Hope quipped to Rickles, in mock disgust, “Aren’t we all”. Bing took one look at Rickles and said “I thought Mr. Carson would be here, but I’ll have to take what I got”. A memorable little segment.
(Greg Van Beek, in a posting on the Bing Crosby Internet Museum, October 29, 2001)
October 16, Thursday. Mike Douglas and a crew from television station KPIX visit Bing’s house to interview him for a special called Kathryn and Bing at Home. Bing, Mike and Kathryn sing a medley together accompanied by Bob Moonan. The program is screened on October 28. Some taping is also done for use on the Kathryn Crosby Show.
Talk about being comfortable with who you are. We did an entire show at Bing Crosby’s magnificent home at Burlingame in Northern California. My first idol, Bing Crosby. If there was a singer, a performer, and a man I aspired to be like, it was Bing Crosby. . . .
I was as nervous as a tenement kid at a debutante ball. It’s no secret that Bing was almost as accomplished an investor as he was a performer. Estimates of his wealth started in the stratosphere and moved up from there. He sang, told stories, treated us like we were next-door neighbors over for a little visit. I’ll tell you how unassuming Bing Crosby was. Bing was a sweater guy, remember? Between the golf and his casual, comfortable attitude, he had gone through a herd of alpacas in his time. He wore a sweater for the show. A few minutes before we started taping, I looked over and noticed this one had a gaping hole in the elbow. I leaned close and whispered, “Bing, that sweater has a hole in it.” How laid-back was Bing? He looked at me and shrugged. “They’ll get over it.”
(Mike Douglas, I’ll Be Right Back, pages 62-63)
October 17, Friday. Bing leaves for Las Cruces and Guadalajara.
October 21, Tuesday. Bing writes to Canadian broadcaster Gord Atkinson about the radio series he has prepared covering Bing’s career.
I received your letter the other day, along with the material relating to the series which you’ve done. It looks like a very exhaustive study and survey and -I’m sure it will be of great benefit, to all concerned.
Am happy that Ken Barnes was thoughtful enough to send you the new album and that you liked what you found in the album. I think there are some pretty good numbers in there - some things that might evoke a little interest.
What you have to say about the wide coverage you’re getting with the Series - not only in Canada, but the prospect of its being also sent out to Australia, New Zealand and maybe Great Britain.
It certainly seems like you’ve done an awful lot of work and I know everyone will appreciate very much your efforts. I’m sure I do.
When you come out in January, give me a call. I will probably be busy until - well certainly between the 20th and the 27th around in there. I’ll be concerned with the conduct of the tournament and I did have a plan to go out into Houston for a big benefit show out there. I believe it’s the last day of January.
So you had better call early in January and find out just what my schedule is likely to be. I would enjoy very much having dinner with you and Elaine.
All best wishes, Bing
October 24, Friday. (8:00–10:00 p.m.) The previously taped television tribute to Bob Hope’s twenty-five years on television, Thanks for the Memories, is shown on NBC with Bing guesting with Frank Sinatra and John Wayne.
And the other was the amazing rapport between Hope and Crosby, which provided the special with its best moments, especially in the longest single segment in the show, near closing, with the duo doing each other’s songs at the Waldorf-Astoria amid the friendly badinage they always seem capable of sliding off each other so effortlessly. It was choice stuff when they originally did it , remains choice to this day—and strongly suggest that they should do a two-man special in the future that could conceivably pull the top ratings either has ever logged on the tube.
(Variety, October 29, 1975)
October 28, Tuesday. (8:00–8:30 p.m.) Featured on a television special Kathryn and Bing at Home. Mike Douglas is host.
October 29, Wednesday. John Scott Trotter dies of cancer, at age sixty-seven in Mount Sinai Hospital, Hollywood. Bing writes a short tribute for BING magazine.
John Scott Trotter is gone. It would be hard to believe, after so many years together, if I hadn’t seen his’ gradual decline and realised how hopeless it for him to survive. Not because of anything he said or did, but because I knew the history of his illness. He was cheerful up to the very end. I talked to him the night before he was to undergo his final surgery. Jovial - unafraid - always the Southern gentleman.
I never knew another man like John. A great musician, exquisite taste in everything, gentle, sensitive, great good humor always, and rigidly loyal to his friends and to his high standards and ideals. I love him.
November 2, Sunday. Bing returns to Hillsborough.
November 7, Friday. Bing writes to Ken Barnes.
I received your letter the other day, and the contents have been noted.
I’m glad to learn that the sales of the album and the single are doing well, and I hope they keep up in good fashion until after Christmas.
I certainly wouldn’t be averse to doing another album with you and Pete and Alan. I think it’s a good combination and the results produced so far are quite encouraging.
I think the idea about the Sporting Life might be a good idea. A couple of golf songs. A couple of fishing songs. There are lots of fishing songs. We could find some others, too, about other sports, I’m sure.
You mentioned the gambling song—or should I say the horse-picking song from Guys and Dolls, but that’s just one number. I don’t know whether you meant to include that in the Sport Album, but I guess it would fit there. And I could track all three vocal parts, as you say. That wouldn’t be too difficult to do.
The album covering the four seasons is not a bad idea. There are lots of good songs for that purpose.
I have a Mexican album which I just finished. I wonder if you want to listen to it. I don’t think it’s really the kind of thing that United Artists cares about, but I don’t know. They might.
It’s Paul Smith again with some rather clever arrangements of Mexican standards. One chorus in English and one in Spanish. A couple of the English choruses I wrote myself. My idea being I wanted to have the English lyric come in some degree close to the Mexican lyric. At least the title and the content of the song in English to be something like its original Mexican conception.
If you want, I’ll have them send you over a tape and you can put the ear on it.
I hear that Mercer has been quite sick. I don’t know if you knew that or not, but something about a clot on the brain or a tumor of some kind. I hope it’s not as serious as it sounded. I was in Mexico and happened to pick up a paper, and I just got back yesterday and haven’t as yet heard the real scoop.
It does sound rather serious, though, if what was in the paper is the truth.
So you can mull over these ideas, and I’ll do the same, and maybe we’ll have a meeting of the minds and do something this spring when I come over. I hope so.
All best wishes to your family and to Pete and Alan when you see them—
Your friend, Bing
(As reproduced in The Crosby Years, pages 54-55)
November 11, Tuesday. Bing writes to Eugenie Baird (now Mead) at her home in North Salem, N. Y.
Thanks for your letter. Glad you saw the Johnny Carson Show. I didn’t know we were going on until I got down there. I was doing some promos for Bob Hope in connection with the big TV show he was doing celebrating his 25th anniversary with NBC, and all of a sudden they ran us on the Carson Show. I did my best to plug the book, but they kind of overwhelmed me. Good to hear from you, Eugenie. I hope this finds you in good health and spirits.
Always your good friend.
November 12, Wednesday. (3:30–5:00 p.m.) Bing appears on the Dinah Shore television show on CBS with Phil Harris and Pat Boone. This had been recorded in October.
…Eventually, Dinah Shore
devoted one of her hour programs to a tribute to Bing, and invited only two
guests to join her and the guest of honor - Phil
Harris and me. I donned a snap brim hat, carried a 9 iron and a pipe in my
hand, and sang a medley of some of his hits. I seem to remember “In the Cool of
the Evening”, “Dear Hearts and Gentle People”, and ended with “Where the Blue
of the Night ...”. Singing in front of Bing, his
songs, made my throat feel like it had turned to plaster of Paris, but I got
them out anyway, and Bing smiled and nodded his approval. I wish to goodness I
had made sure to get a video tape of that program – it would join my other
Crosby mementos. Thanks to his movies and recordings, Bing will always be one
of America’s great treasures - and one of mine personally.
(Pat Boone, in a letter to Crosby fan Ron Field, dated February 14, 2012)
I’m very grateful to you for the kind letter which I recently received.
You say you don’t like the word “fan”, and I can understand why. It does sound like a juvenile term. I don’t like “admirer” too much, either. I really prefer “Loyal supporter”. That indicates a lively and active interest in everything I’ve done – and you certainly have had that interest, going way, way back.
If you can remember me as the Cremo Cigar Singer, you do indeed go back!
I’m glad that my use of the big words gave you the inspiration to pick up a good vocabulary for yourself. It’s a very helpful thing, I’m sure, in any occupation to have a good choice of words.
Glad you liked the Dinah Shore Show. That was a fun show to do because there was practically no rehearsal at all. She’s got things so well organized you just walk in and everybody does his own thing, and it’s an opportunity to be himself.
I do hope that you and your family had a festive holiday’ season.
With warmest regards, believe me to be –
Sincerely yours, Bing
(Letter dated December 31, 1975 to Henry Satkowski of New Jersey.)
Thank you for your most kind letter. I certainly am happy that you enjoyed the Parkinson Show and the Vera Lynn Show too. I never got to see that, but maybe if they still have a tape I can see it when I come back next spring.
I have the Disney Christmas Show, which I narrated corning up later on, and I also did a record which is sort of a departure.
They’re making albums of some of the old literary classics, and I did a reading of Tom Sawyer - famous story by Mark Twain. It will be a big album, I guess, because the thing runs probably 30-40 minutes, or maybe more, I don’t know.
I’m sorry we didn’t get to see one another, so I could have autographed your albums, but we’ll do it next time, as you say. Delighted to hear about the progress the album and single are making on the charts over there, and I hope that the momentum doesn’t subside!
I really don’t think - although it’s a good song - that, “That’s What Life Is All About” is the kind of a song that will find popular appeal. It’s more or less for a single singer. There’s no love involved or anything else of that character to make for popularity. It’s just sort of a reminiscence. But you never can tell.
You’re right about “As Time Goes By”. I’ve sung it many times on the radio and I’m surprised nobody has an old recording of it. I also always used to sing it in my act.
Thanks for your letter. Glad that you like Dick Francis. I go way back to his first issue. In fact, I think they used some of my comments in some of their publicity. He writes real good thrillers about the racetrack and, of course, that’s a fond area of mine.
Sincere regards, Bing
(Letter to British fan, Dick Pearson)
November 13, Thursday. The Crosby family travel to Los Angeles to record a Minute Maid commercial and also the annual Christmas show.
November 16, Sunday. Another taped contribution from Bing to the Stars on Sunday program is shown on Yorkshire Television in the U.K. He reads from St. Matthew, chapter 7, verses 1-12 (Judge not). This reading is subsequently released on a long-playing record containing highlights from the television series.
November 20, Thursday. 1:30 p.m. Bing reports to KTTV, Studio One in Hollywood to tape his Christmas show with Fred Astaire, Joe Bushkin, the Crosby family, and the Young Americans. Dwight Hemion is the director. Work concludes at 6:00 p.m. The Crosbys stay at the Sheraton West on Wilshire Blvd.
Mr. Hemion worked on three specials with Bing
- the 1975 Christmas show with Fred Astaire as guest, the Bell Telephone
Jubilee and Bing’s final Christmas show in 1977. Mr. Hemion
said, “I liked him. He came with mixed credentials, a reputation for being
harsh and tough with his kids, but I never found that. He was a good man.”
(Author interview with Dwight Hemion, June 27, 2007)
November 21, Friday. During the morning at the KTTV studio, Bing
watches Mary Frances work with Fred Astaire and then at 11:00 a.m. he tapes the
“Top Billing” number with Astaire, finishing at 1:30 p.m. Leo Lynn then drives
Bing to the nearby Sportsmen’s Lodge where he says a few words in tribute to
Ken Carpenter who is being honored with a luncheon. Bing and Leo snatch a bite
of lunch at a Sambo’s chain eatery. On his return to the TV studio, Bing
records the Christmas carols segment with Fred Astaire and the Young Americans.
During the day, Bing and his family also record a radio show for the
But now is now and Crosby shows no inclination to lean back in his mobile dressing room and reminisce. Under the bright lights on the cheery holiday set he’s as coldly professional on the job at hand as he was in his salad days. The day wears on, and the man who has popularized more songs than anyone in history and who has enjoyed more hit records than the Beatles, Elvis Presley, the Rolling Stones and Frank Sinatra combined, appears tense. Bing seems incapable of sitting down, or retiring to his restroom on wheels. Slowly, he walks down the halls, peering into rooms, urging Lynn to call a friend on the phone as he meanders about the vast production area. Is he looking for something, or someone?
It’s difficult for a newsman to pin him down. For now Crosby saunters about aimlessly, perhaps concentrating on the next segment of the show in which he, the warmer and friendlier Fred Astaire and the Young Americans sling Christmas carols. Bing is edgy and perturbed. Like a shuffling old Grizzly in a zoo the message is clear: don’t come too close.
Kathryn Crosby, on the other hand, invites questioning and obviously wants to tape as perfectly as possible. Although he leaves the door to the room open, and his voice and the recorded orchestra can be heard throughout the surrounding area, his attitude indicates he will brook no interruptions.
And now he calls son Harry from the Green Room. Harry is 17, good-looking and proficient as a guitarist, pianist and composer. He is considering attending Juilliard in New York and has big, youthful, innocent eyes on pursuing a show business career. But at the moment he’s sprawled on a couch and jiving with a half-dozen young women from the bubbly, casually-attired Young Americans.
“We’ve got to rehearse our dialog together,” father sternly advises son. Harry jumps up and obeys.
Bing never knocks contemporary pop music. No one has ever heard him, in public at least, denigrate rock and its offshoots.
“Songs these days are a bit trickier than they used to be,” he acknowledges. “Once they were almost all eight bars plus eight bars, then an eight -bar release or bridge and then back to the original eight-bar melody. The contemporary tunes are much more complicated. I really have to woodshed ‘em into shape. It takes a lot more concentration. A lot of them I genuinely like.”
Bing is undemonstrative with the success, so far, of “That’s What Life Is All About.”
“I never expected to have another hit,” he notes. “It’s not a rock song or a rhythm song. It’s not a love song. It isn’t funny.” He does not expect to see it move up to the top of the pop charts, he declares.
A call to Ray Anderson of United Artists to ascertain just what the label is doing to boost the record’s sales brings this answer: “We are as gratified as Crosby that it’s showing action,” Anderson answers. “But there is resistance to it at every Top 40 station and we must try to get it played on MOR outlets, both AM and FM. Everyone who hears the single likes it but airplay poses a problem. We will continue to work on it.”
“That What Life Is All About” isn’t Crosby’s only recording venture of 1975. In Los Angeles a few months back he taped two LPs featuring Paul Smith’s piano, charts and orchestra. One comprises songs sung in Spanish. The other is a collection of tunes of America’s South -"it will probably be titled ‘A Southern Memoir,’" Bing says. He also made an album with Astaire in England last summer and United Artists has projected its American issue for early 1976.
Outside the studio, the sun has disappeared and the lights of Los Angeles sparkle brilliantly on a crisp, smogless autumn evening. Throughout this long morning and afternoon of toil one becomes aware that Bing and Kathryn have been together hardly at all; each has gone his separate way. Nor have their children ganged up together. The Crosbys have had jobs to do, lines to learn, songs to master. With them it’s a dedicated, unswerving individual effort which will, with the brains of competent tape editors, all blend together in a 60- minute production which is expected to attract a 50 percent share of viewers for CBS the night of Dec. 3.
And so the Crosbys assemble, splitting up into two cars for the 15-minute ride back to the hotel. There they will remove their makeup, comment on the scenes they blew and agree as to where they should all enjoy dinner together. Tomorrow is Saturday but it will be no day of rest for the clan. Once more they will spend eight to 10 hours putting a show together. And Sunday, the fourth straight tiring day of production, they’ll do it again.
(Dave Dexter, Jr., Billboard, December 13, 1975)
November 22, Saturday. Bing is at the KTTV studio at 9:00 a.m. for a further day’s work on his Christmas special. During the morning he tapes a “Road” medley with Fred Astaire, Kathryn Crosby and Joe Bushkin at the end of which Bob Hope makes a short appearance. After lunch, Bing tapes “You Got a Friend” with Fred Astaire accompanied by Harry Crosby on his guitar. Taping concludes for the day at 5:30 p.m.
November 23, Sunday. Bing is in make-up at 8:30 a.m. for the final day’s shooting for the Christmas special. All taping is finished by 5:45 p.m. The show is transmitted on CBS-TV on December 3. At some time during the taping of the show, Joe Bushkin is noodling at the piano and plays “Wrap Your Troubles in Dreams” and Bing joins in. They sing a number of songs together and as a result Bing asks Bushkin to come along to the Crosby Pro-Am in January and accompany him while he sings.
‘This whole thing started with that Christmas TV show with Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire. It was one afternoon in the studio when things got a little out of control. There was some problem about lighting and we weren’t getting too many takes in. It was a big set and there was a lot of running about in an attempt to get this show on the road, and the whole thing began to remind me of Groucho Marx,’ Joe remembered.
‘It was a tremendous comedy except that a fortune was being wasted for Bing’s company while a couple of jerks were trying to change a baby spot into a pin spot, or whatever the hell it was. There was a lot of technical dialogue and not much action going on. I was getting tired of standing around. I’d drunk about thirty cups of coffee and was getting a little acidity problem, and I figured the best way for me to waste some more time was to just go up and play some piano. Where I had to play was supposedly in Bing’s music room at his home. There were steps up to the piano and back of it a library of records and tape machines and so forth. That was the scene. So I sat down and started to play Wrap Your Troubles in Dreams.
I don’t know why I went into that, but subconsciously I did it in a key where it lay well for him. He sings it around C, D flat or something. Bing was at the back getting a cup of tea, and he came walking up with this paper cup of tea in his hand and stood by the piano. I was into the middle part of the tune and he starts singing, and all the noise stopped in the studio because he was just singing softly, you know, with the piano. So I went from Wrap Your Troubles to I Surrender, Dear, and a bunch of tunes like Please, that he dug, and he went on singing. And, next thing you know, his wife, Kathryn, and the kids came over and sat on the steps. The studio men got the lights straight, and now they’re ready to shoot the scene, and Bing is going to keep the medley going. Now he’s throwing tunes at me.
And while I’m playing piano during this lighting panic, Bing asks me if I’d like to bring a quartet up to the Pebble Beach Pro-Am, which is the biggest golf tournament in the United States. He said he hadn’t sung a tune at his own Pro-Am Celebrity Tournament in eight years. He’d get up and talk, and so on, but apparently hadn’t sung a song at his own thing in all that time. And this year (1975) he was going to do a medley of thirty-five tunes. And that was the whole show. We opened with a number, and Bing got up and sang about thirty songs, which absolutely clobbered 800 of these great golfers. Fractured ‘em. Then Bing said we had to do a concert with this thing, you know. So we got the family together, because they had the material from the various shows that they did; the orchestrations were already written, practically, and he got Nelson Riddle, Rosemary Clooney, and my quartet with Herb Ellis on guitar. And we had a show.’
(Joe Bushkin, as quoted in Talking Jazz, p214)
November 25, Tuesday. Jack Harris, a radio personality whose voice resembles that of Bing’s, files a $2 million damage suit against Bing and his companies. Harris claims that the Crosby organization is preventing him from gaining work.
November 28, Friday. Bing tapes another appearance on the Mike Douglas television show.
December 1, Monday. Bing writes to Ken Barnes about a proposed album covering the four seasons.
After talking to you the other day on the telephone, I started trying to think of some seasonal songs.
My powers of recall are rather limited but I came up with a few. Starting with Spring: ‘June Is Busting Out All Over’. This would be good because it’s a rhythm song and might pick up the pace.
There’s ‘April Showers’, ‘Might As Well Be Spring’, ‘Springtime in the Rockies’, ‘April in Paris’ and ‘April in Portugal’.
Summer would be ‘Summertime’, ‘Faded Summer Love’, ‘Things We Did Last Summer’, and Sinatra had a record out not long ago called ‘Summer Breeze’, I believe it was. Very good record, Very good song.
Autumn, I’m not so good. I come up with ‘Autumn in New York’, ‘September Song’, ‘September in the Rain’, but there must be many others.
Winter, would be ‘June in January’, ‘Sleighride’ by Leroy Anderson. Very good up tempo tune. ‘Marshmallow World’, ‘Winter Wonderland’. There are any number of songs that would suit this category I’m sure.
Those are just a few that I thought you might like to have before proceeding further.
If I think of any more, and I probably will, I’ll list them for you.
There are so many good songs, the problem will be picking out the twelve best.
I’d like to use verses on some of them. For instance, ‘June in January’ has a lovely verse. So does ‘April Showers’ for that kind of song. ‘Might As Well Be Spring’, too.
I don’t know about ‘April in Paris’, but I’m sure it does.
The thing is that you can’t run in too many ballads, and you’ve got to relieve the preponderance of ballads by at least three good up-tempo tunes. Don’t you agree?
I’ll be expecting to hear from you—
All the best, Bing
(As reproduced in The Crosby Years, page 55)
December 3, Wednesday. (9:00–10:00 p.m.) Bing’s Christmas show Merry Christmas, Fred, From the Crosbys is screened by CBS-TV. The show is sponsored by Kraft Foods.
The class and grace of Fred Astaire was a most welcome addition to this year’s annual Bing Crosby family Christmas special, helping to maintain the warmth and informality of the holiday mood that has become a Crosby trademark. Astaire’s presence permitted a continuity that had Astaire and pianist Joe Bushkin meeting at Crosby’s house, ostensibly to discuss a future record album, which segued easily into underplayed song-and-dance sequences featuring the stars, The Young Americans singing group and the Crosby children.
High spots along the way were Astaire and Crosby running through the Crosby-Hope ‘Road’ movies songs (with Bob Hope turning up for a walk-on punchline) and an Astaire-Crosby reprise of ‘A Couple Of Song & Dance Men’ with interspersed footage from the ‘Blue Skies’ movie they first did it in - a device that allowed for some Astaire dance footage from the part with steps the old master presumably can no longer risk. The handling of the sequence was typical or the slickness of the Smith & Hemion production gloss throughout the special, which included a sly way of sliding into Crosby’s “White Christmas” finale one more time. Pianist Bushkin, incidentally, was an important part of the proceedings, providing musical support to the two stars, some laugh lines and a running gag that maintained the continuity
(Variety, December 10, 1975)
December (undated). Broadcaster John Salisbury visits Bing at his Hillsborough home in order to interview him for a forthcoming radio series.
December 14, Sunday. Another taped contribution from Bing to the Stars on Sunday program is shown on Yorkshire Television in the U.K. He sings “The Bells of St. Mary’s.”
December 22, Monday. Bing and his family appear in the annual show at Laguna Honda Hospital. A crew from television station KPIX is on hand to tape footage for The Kathryn Crosby Show.
Memories of Christmases past were conjured up by Bing Crosby and his family yesterday when they headlined—for the sixth straight year—the Laguna Honda Christmas Show. Crosby, 71, and his family appeared at the end of a two hour show that included singers, dancers, and a dancers-and-dog act. The nearly 1,000 patients at the home requested and heard the famous crooner do some of his old favorites, including “White Christmas”. Crosby had a little trouble with some of the lyrics from his older tunes but the crowd didn’t seem to mind. Crosby said Trader Vic first got him to do a Laguna Honda show.
“This is a wonderful institution, and the crowd is extremely appreciative. We’re always delighted to do this show.” Other acts included the Mason-Kahn dancers, juggler Jim Reinhart, banjo player Scotty Plummer and the Old St. Mary’s Choir.
(San Francisco Examiner, December 23, 1975)
December 25, Thursday. (10:02 a.m.) A specially produced radio
program featuring Bing and his family introducing Bing’s Christmas records is
December 26, Friday. Bing is the host on the BBC1 television program Disneytime and he introduces extracts from various Walt Disney productions, including Ichabod. The program had been taped in July.
December 27, Saturday. (7:02–7:30 p.m.). Bing is the “castaway” on
December 31, Wednesday. Mel Torme has lunch at Bing’s Hillsborough home. Bing, Mel, and Harry Crosby have a music session during the afternoon. That night, Bing and his family attend Mel’s show in the Venetian Room at the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco.
Then, in 1975, he invited me and my family to lunch at his home just outside of San Francisco. Mary Frances and Harry, Bing’s kids, were on hand as well as Kathryn, and it was a funny, jolly, loving luncheon, full of stories and remembrances. After lunch, Bing, sans hairpiece, asked Harry to go get his guitar. We adjourned to the music room, and, just like that, Bing sat down and began to sing. He did about eight tunes, invited me to join him, which I did, and that’s the way the afternoon went. It was New Year’s Eve, and as we got into the car to go back to the Fairmont Hotel where I was appearing, Bing said, casually: “See you tonight.” Flabbergasted, I said: “Bing, you’ve got to be kidding. It’s New Year’s Eve. You’ll get mobbed.”
“Not to worry,” came the reply. “See you tonight.” Sure enough, that night he brought the whole family to the Fairmont, sat at a front table (still sans toupe), and stayed through my whole performance. I never quite got over that. Or the fact that he was enormously human. Or that he sang with unmatched resonance and control. His vibrato became warmer through the passing of years, and his low notes could make your bass woofer beg for mercy.
If there is anyone I have modeled myself after over the years, I would have to say it is Bing Crosby.
(Mel Torme, My Singing Teachers, page 19)
January 2, Friday. A program - V.I.P. Schaukel - shown on the West German TV station ZDF contains an interview with Bing conducted by Margret Dunser at his Hillsborough home. This had been recorded some months before. Other stars seen in the same show include Bette Davis, Sammy Davis Jr. and Mai Britt.
January 4, Sunday. Radio station KXL in Portland, Oregon, begin broadcasting “50 Fabulous Years”, a program produced by John Salisbury about Bing’s life and times. It runs weekly for 26 weeks until June 27.
January 5, Monday. Bing transfers ownership of a chestnut filly called Guggenslocker to Kjell M. Quale of the Green Oaks Stud Farm.
January 12, Monday. Canadian broadcaster Gord Atkinson and his wife Elaine visit Bing’s Hillsborough home and present him with a handcrafted wooden case containing The Crosby Years radio series.
Following a pleasant conversation and the taking of a few commemorative photographs we entered the living room. We were then introduced to their pianist [Bob Moonan], and as we watched, they finished rehearsing for a forthcoming benefit performance, Then we were taken by surprise when Bing said: “There’s a new song called ‘At My Time of Life’ that was written for a musical adaptation of Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations. John Mills is appearing in it in London and it’s heading for Broadway. I’m going to record it next week. It’s quite a song. I’d like to hear what you think of it.”
As we sat on French Provincial chairs in his beautiful living-room he began to sing. The piano player was obviously ad-libbing the accompaniment. His voice was strong and mellow and filled the room. He was seventy-two years old and the song was most appropriate for his time of life. It was a private performance just for us and left us almost speechless.
(Gord Atkinson, writing in his book, Gord Atkinson’s Showbill, page 198)
January 19, Monday. Bing records four songs (including “At My Time of Life”) at United Western Studios, Sunset Boulevard, Hollywood, with the Pete Moore Orchestra. Rich Little and Gord Atkinson join Bing for lunch during the session.
January 21, Wednesday. Bing films a spot with Kathryn for The Kathryn Crosby Show which is subsequently shown on KPIX-TV. That night at the clambake before the golf tournament at the Del Monte Hyatt House, Bing sings for the first time in eight years and does a medley of twenty-four songs accompanied by Joe Bushkin and his Quartet in front of an audience of 800.
The year was 1976, and I was in Pebble Beach, recently graduated from college and staying with my Aunt Mary Rose while I prepared to play as an amateur contestant in the Bing Crosby National Pro-Am. This was my second year, and as part of the festivities at the annual “clambake”, there was always a show for the players and the wives, along with a dinner, cocktails, etc. That night, according to the pre-printed program, we were to be entertained by Mac Davis as the headliner. Apparently, Mac came down with a bad cold, and was replaced at the last minute by Bing Crosby, with a little help from Phil Harris. Bing had been rehearsing for an upcoming tour, which was to start in San Francisco, and so all of the kinks had not been fully worked out with the band, and the Phil Harris stuff was a last minute ad-lib. Nevertheless, from the moment Bing walked onstage, to the surprise of the entire audience who had no idea he was about to perform, he held us spellbound like no entertainer I have ever seen before or since. For over two hours he ran the audience up and down the emotional scale from uproarious laughter to tears and back again, with a range of songs both old and new, as he celebrated his 50th anniversary in show business. Mere adjectives fail to properly convey the magic he projected from that stage.
(Howard Crosby, son of Ted Crosby, as recorded on the Bing Crosby Internet Museum discussion board, August 29, 2002)
There was something old, something new, something borrowed and virtually nothing “blue” for happy guests who attended the traditional Crosby Clambake last night at the Del Monte Hyatt House. The songs. . . new banquet site. . . borrowed recordings. . . no blue jokes. . . proved an unbeatable combination amid the red-white-and-blue patriotic decor of the jam-packed hall. The annual stag banquet honoring those who work so hard to make the National Pro-Amateur Golf Championship such a success turned out to be an historic “Bicentennial” of Bing’s songs.
Host Bing Crosby, looking dapper and healthy in a bright red blazer, breezed through a sensational medley, marathon of 24 (!) songs with consummate ease and grace. Accompanied by the Joe Bushkin quartet, the ageless Crosby astonished the crowd of golfers, workers and writers with both his artistry and vitality. He greeted the audience by singing “The Pleasure of Your Company” with a special lyric refrain about “at the Clambake, up at Pebble, every year.” Then, after an immaculate rendition of “Bring on the Clowns” from the Broadway musical “A Little Night Music,” sung to a full-violin recording, Bing called upon his guitar-playing son, Harry, for a little home-harmonizing on “You Got a Friend” and “Sing a Simple Melody.”
Bing introduced Harry for his Clambake debut as “a new fellow I picked up at the bus station,” then admonished him to “lay it there; you’re not sitting at home; this audience is ready.”
After the two-tune set. Harry “sat in” with the Bushkin quartet as Bing, reeled off the aforementioned whirlwind medley that had the crowd singing along or clapping along… The brief samples of each song were accompanied by frequent quips as asides. He said he “missed the Princess (Grace of Monaco)” while singing “True Love"”. He defied the much-maligned Crosby Tournament weather elements by singing of “summer showers” in Million Dollar Baby and “sunshine and showers — Sunday Night!” in “Pennies from Heaven.” And, when he forgot the lyrics, he made them up, much to the delight of the audience.
Then, after this grueling musical feat and treat, climaxed by Bushkin tossing the long accordion-pleated music sheets into the air, Bing beckoned buddy Phil Harris on stage for still another song, “Oh, Mr. Harris, Yes Mr. Crosby” to the tune of “Gallagher-and-Sheen” with young Harry joining in the lyrics written for their fishing TV special filmed recently in the Bahamas. . .
And so, after an entertaining hour-and-a-half show...the evening drew to a close with Bing’s farewell song—not the traditional “Now Is the Hour” but a philosophical “And That’s What Life Is All About”. And, that’s what entertainment in the grand, gentle manner of Bing Crosby is all about.
(Bob Bullock, Monterey Peninsula Herald, January 22, 1976)
January 22-25, Thursday–Sunday. The Bing Crosby National Pro-Am Golf Championship is won by Ben Crenshaw. Bing acts as one of the commentators for the television coverage as usual. Nathaniel Crosby (age 14) plays in the tournament for the first time. Lindsay Crosby also takes part.
January 26, Monday. Bing flies to Las Vegas and makes a walk-on
guest appearance on the Merv Griffin television show on CBS to surprise Rich
Little who is impersonating him. Meanwhile in the U.K., a
January 27, Monday. President Ford hosts a State Dinner for the Prime Minister of Israel and Mrs. Rabin. Bing and Kathryn loan the White House three striking Moran sculptures which are used as table centerpieces.
January 29, Wednesday. Bing writes to British fan Nick Carter.
Thanks for your very kind letter. If you remember Mississippi you must be a very loyal supporter indeed! Had a great score by Rodgers and Hart. Some marvelous songs.
You must have been a baby when “Just One More Chance” was popular! I’m glad also, that you liked the Christmas morning program, and I hope you got a chance to see the Christmas program which was on Christmas Eve, I believe, in England, with the whole family and Fred Astaire. Turned out rather well.
That’s a very pretty place where you live and where you keep your record collection - and you say you have some with Bix Beiderbecke. Those are pretty unusual records for anyone to have. I used to room with him when I was with the Whiteman Orchestra. He was a very fine man. Great personality - and genuine talent. In fact, I think he was a genius.
May be some day we’ll meet. I hope so - always your friend, Bing
January (undated). Bing and Kathryn plus their children fly into Houston, Texas, on the Brown and Root plane. Bob Moonan and his wife are on the same flight. The Crosbys stay with Mrs. Ernest Cockrell and the William Liedtkes. Mrs. Cockrell was the widow of a prominent oil man and Liedtke was the co-founder of the Pennzoil Company.
January 31, Saturday. After a morning rehearsal, Bing and Kathryn plus their children present Bing Crosby and Friends as a benefit performance for the Houston Symphony Association at the Houston Symphony Society’s Star-Spangled Ball in the Hyatt Regency’s big ballroom in Houston. The event raises $100,000 and keeps the symphony orchestra in business. Pianist Bob Moonan accompanies Bing who is also supported by the Houston Symphony Orchestra under Lawrence Foster. The Crosbys receive four standing ovations.
…My dad was working and mom was in her room so I said, “Let me show you around the hotel.” During our walk we entered the Imperial Ballroom and Mr. Crosby was getting ready to rehearse for the night’s benefit. There were 110 tables set for 10 people each, but at that moment the only people on hand were Mr. Crosby, the orchestra, my mom and I.
I asked Mr. Crosby if it was OK for my mom to watch him rehearse and he most graciously said “Yes.” As I walked out of the ballroom and back to my office, I saw Mr. Crosby come down to her table and ask her name. My mom said “Mary.” Mr. Crosby took her hand and sang, “For it was Mary, Mary, plain as any name could be…” They definitely do not make them like my mom or Bing Crosby anymore.
(Tom Caradonia, former employee of the Hyatt Regency Hotel, as seen in the Cincinnati Post, August 2000)
February (undated). A book simply titled BING, Charles Thompson’s authorized biography of Bing, goes on sale in the United States. Chapter twenty-two starts with the words “Bing Crosby is probably the most-loved character in the world apart from the creations of Walt Disney.” The book itself finishes with a quote by Bing.
“True, also, I’m not very effusive. I’m not very demonstrative. I just never have been. My mother was that way—my father was just the opposite. I don’t know why, it’s just something I’ve inherited. I may think a lot of a person, but I seldom tell them so. I’ll tell them about their ability; whether I think they’re good performers; whether I like the song they sang or the act they have done. Every time I go to a play in New York I write to the leading performer and tell him I like the show.
“I’ve never told a friend that ‘I love you’ or ‘I like you’ and if any friend told me that I’d be very embarrassed and wouldn’t know what to do. It’s taken for granted that you like the person or you wouldn’t have them for a friend.
“What it all boils down to is that I’m very undemonstrative and that problem has given rise to the belief that I’m a loner and I live behind an ‘ice curtain.’”
This then has been the story and an assessment of the life and times of Bing Crosby; the story of a shy, small-town boy, who started with nothing and asked for nothing, yet achieved everything. In his entire career there are only two things he has not done: appeared in a Broadway Show—because “I would have hated to have rehearsed for twelve weeks and then close after a week”—and sung real opera. But give it time.
In the normal sequence of events, a book is written: then follows the play, the film, the tv or radio show. Charles Thompson’s book “Bing” (David McKay -. $8.95) did not follow this orthodox route.
“Why,” I have heard at least one person ask, “should an Englishman write the life of Bing Crosby?” Aside from the fact that there is that volley-question, “Why not?” (didn’t an Englishman write the life of a Prince of Denmark?) is another answer.
Charles Thompson was commissioned by the British Broadcasting Co., to
scour the United States for, and interview people whose lives had touched or
been touched by Bing Crosby in his gentle and steady rise from obscurity to legend.
It was because the legend is as honored in England as in the United States that
With Bing’s help and blessing, Thompson did a very thorough job of
talking to and recording people and organizing the results into a most
exemplary aural history. (Wouldn’t it be smashing if the
Having steeped himself so heavily in Crosbiana, it must have struck Thompson as a flippin’ waste of good work not to carry the job right on onto the library for instant reference when needed.
So he, an Englishman, put it all together in a book, presumably adding nothing but his journalistic skill. All the comments “pro” and “con” are from qualified sources. Most are direct quotes.
being what it is, little wonder that some events
fall slightly out of sequence and some facts jack-knife into wrong situations
or circumstances. Thompson is no more at fault than his sources or any of
Crosby’s other biographers who have run the same course. Less sycophantic than most of the other books about Bing,
Thompson’s should be a welcome addition to the known history of a show biz
giant who never seems to believe how tall he stands.
(Carroll Carroll, writing in Variety, June 16, 1976)
Charles Thompson. McKay, $8.95 ISBN 0-679-50590-3
For what it is meant to be, there’s no faulting this journalistically competent “authorized” biography of Bing Crosby, “probably the most-loved character in the world apart from the creations of Walt Disney.” If it’s a book of marshmallows, of anecdotes and testimonials compact, so it goes; probably hosts of readers will be pleased by its glittering array of Hollywood names and the smooth telling of Crosby’s career beginning with his boyhood in Tacoma, Washington, and his arrival in Hollywood in 1925 in a Model T Ford. If there is pith and substance to Crosby or his half-century as an American entertainment institution, however, it is not in freelance journalist Thompson’s book. Every scene has the same value, from Crosby’s instant hit with Paul Whiteman in 1926 to his marriage to 19-year-old Fox movie star Dixie Lee, his radio and record stardom, his “Road” movies with Hope and Lamour, some escapades, some boozing, much golfing, Dixie’s death in 1952, Bing’s 1955 (sic) marriage to Kathy Grant, his investments and present “worth.” All this and loads of photos.(Publishers Weekly, February 2, 1976)
February 3, Tuesday. Bing writes to Jean Pochna in East Dennis, Massachusetts.
Thanks for your letter. Very enjoyable - reading about Joe Bushkin and his antics at his Riverhouse Maisonette. I was there once or twice myself.
I just finished doing a show with him down at Pebble Beach. It was tremendously successful. He put together a small group and he was never in better form.
The balance of the week he spent in company with Phil Harris, and as you can imagine, this was a memorable parlay. They tore up the whole area - and both have gone back to their respective haunts to lick their wounds!
I'm going to work with him again, I think, shortly and I'll show him your letter. I think he'd get a big kick out of it - especially the part about trying to persuade Eddie Arcaro to have his nose done!
He's very interested now, with his children, in jumping activities - with their horses. I believe they've jumped at the Garden and have some sort of a national reputation.
He also has a couple of race horses with Fran and one of them - a pretty good mare - I’m sending to Graustark and we're going to participate in the produce thereof, if any.
Thanks so much for your kind comment about the show. It was a pleasure, working with Astaire. He's such a classy guy and has so much talent and is such a perfectionist. Everything worked out beautifully. He was so kind to the children and they adored him, of course.
Send me that Joe Frisco story you mentioned in your letter. I have quite a glossary of yarns about the immortal Joe, and can always use another one. If I ever bump into you, I can lay some of my favorites on you.
Take it easy
Always best wishes,
February 6-8, Friday-Sunday. Kathryn Crosby acts as host for the Naples Ladies Professional Golfers Association Classic at the Golden Gate Country Club course in Naples, Florida. The winner is Jan Stephenson.
February (undated). Bing writes to Ginger Mercer.
I’ve been thinking of Johnny a lot, since his hospitalization and surgery, and just wanted you to know that I’m praying for his complete recovery. I know this must be a very difficult time for you. I suppose you see him every day or so, and I would be grateful to you if you would give him a message from me that I’m pulling for him and hope before long that he’ll be up and around and that I’ll be able to talk to him personally.
February 13, Friday.
Bing writes to Connee Boswell who has been taken into Mt. Sinai
Hospital in New York and had a tumor removed from her stomach. Connee's
husband, Harry Leedy, had died on January 1, 1975.
I’m sorry to hear that you’re hospitalized and that you had to have some surgery done. I hope that everything came out in good shape and that you’re recovering nicely and will soon be up and around and at ‘em again!
I’m glad that you got some solace from the letter I wrote you at the time of Harry’s passing. He was a great man, and I know how close you were and what a great loss it must be to you to have him gone.
I’m still doing a little work now and then. A few television shows, a concert here and there – not too much. Nothing that will interfere with golf, fishing, shooting and travel!
The kids give some promise in the direction of show business, particularly Harry who plays very good guitar and piano and also can arrange and compose now and is contemplating going back to Juilliard or one of the big Music Schools in the East to get a solid musical background for later development as a composer, arranger etc.
I’ll say a prayer for you Constance. Stay in there and keep pitchin’-
Always your buddy, Bing
February 20, Friday. Native Americans protest plans by Bing and his business partners to refurbish a resort at Mineral Hot Springs, near San Diego, which was bought three months earlier for $2.4 million. They claim that the changes would desecrate an ancient burial ground.
March 4, Thursday. Bing again writes to Connee Boswell in Mt. Sinai Hospital, New York.
Dear Sister Constance:
You are in my thoughts these days, which must be long ones for you.
I hope and pray that your convalescence is proceeding according to plan, and that your spirits are up. – Love, Bing
Kathryn joins Bing in Los Angeles where he is taping a TV special with Liza Minnelli. Later he writes to the producers Dwight Hemion and Gary Smith.
Again, it was an extremely pleasant chore with you guys – as it always is. I love working under your auspices, because there is no haste, no confusion, very little racket, and you know what you’re doing.
I hope the show turned out very well, and I’m sure it must. The ingredients are there.
I’ll sure be looking forward to seeing it.
Rita said something about sending a cassette, so if you do have one, I’d like to have it. I may not be able to catch it on the air that night, if my plans to go to Mexico remain as they are just now.
My fondest regards to all concerned. Best wishes to both of you in your efforts in the future.
Always your friend,
March 5, Friday. (11:30 p.m.) Bing is interviewed on the Tonight show on NBC-TV by Johnny Carson. Ray Bolger and Marvin Hamlisch also guest.
March 9, Tuesday. Bing writes to his friend George O'Reilly in Dublin.
Yes, it’s true, we’re doing some negotiating for a couple weeks engagement at the London Palladium.
It hasn’t really been finalised yet, but it appears it may go through as originally projected. Probably use the whole family and fill the first half of it with somebody like Michel LeGrande and one or two others.
Really haven’t reached a point yet where we can seriously try to commit anyone for this purpose.
I would like to do a concert in Dublin. Maybe 1 show while we’re over there. Possibly during the summer, and if I do, you would be the fella I would like to have make the necessary arrangements
We would have to have a couple of other artists of course, for the first half. Although I think it’s a good idea for the star of the occasion to participate if only in a song or two, in the first half. Otherwise people get restless or they don’t come to see the first half at all. And it makes for a little confusion.
When my plans have progressed and are a little more definite, George, I’ll get back to you. Certainly by May or so, and that will give you, ample time to set something up in Dublin in the way of a theatre and possibly a TV outlet. I don't know about that.
I’d like a theatre that is somewhat intimate, but certainly large enough to accommodate a sizeable audience because the whole affair would be for charity, less the expenses of the other acts and the musicians and the theatre rental.
I don’t plan to take any money from the London Palladium or from any prospective engagement in Dublin.
I’ll get back to you when I do know something definite, George.
I hope you and your family are in good health and spirits.
Always your friend, Bing
March (undated). Bing and Phil Harris form their own import company and launch their first product, Herradura Tequila. They also record a television commercial to promote it.
Bing Crosby and Phil Harris brightened the Bel Air Hotel Garden Room with a bash to Intro their latest teaming - as chairman of the board and president, respectively, of Crosby Harris Import company, their first product, Herradura tequila.
(Daily Variety, March 15, 1976)
March 15, Monday. Bing writes to Pat Sullivan, the President of Club Crosby.
Thanks for the enlargements of the photos which you sent recently.
I understand the concert is all sold out down there in L.A. I use the word “concert” with some trepidation, because it’s only going to be a few songs and a few old ones at that!
But I’ve got some supporting acts which may carry the thing.
We’re talking about playing the Palladium, if we can get something put together. The dates would be the 21st of June through July 4th, I think.
May have to do a thing up here in San Francisco for charity if this thing down in Los Angeles goes well. All these concerts will be for charity. I won’t take any money for any of them. The net proceeds after the expenses are paid will go to a charity which I select.
Have a good time - Bing
March 16, Tuesday. Bing tapes material for an appearance on The Rich Little Show, which is shown on NBC-TV on April 5.
March 17, Wednesday. (Starting at 7:30 p.m.) The Bing Crosby and Friends stage show (with guests Kathryn Crosby, Rosemary Clooney, Rich Little, Nelson Riddle, and Joe Bushkin) takes place at the Music Center in the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, Los Angeles. The proceeds go to the Tarzania Psychiatric Hospital and the Sugar Ray Robinson Youth Foundation. Gary and Lindsay Crosby are in the audience as are many celebrities including Douglas Fairbanks Jr.
Bing Crosby made his “concert debut” at the Music Center last Wednesday (17) in an entertaining tv-styled variety show that saw the smooth singer play host to a number of family and friends. It was a loosely-constructed, almost informal night with a major emphasis on nostalgia and no one attempting to really cut any new ground. As such, a jammed house, could feel comfortably ecstatic in their reminiscences.
Crosby, clearly, could do no wrong — and, in fact, did much right — as he sang his signature tunes, in his usual, casual style and soothing voice, being surprisingly honest and unpretentious in sharing his thoughts and attitudes.
While the audience was ready to have fun with him and his songs, Crosby was too concerned most of the evening with remembering lyrics and arrangements, constricting himself far too much for a concert situation. Perhaps, with more experience at running his own concert show, the quirks could work themselves out; on the other hand, Crosby may be diving into territory not totally suitable for the style of his considerable abilities.
There were moments in which he shined — usually his most at-ease moments, such as the closing “That’s What Life Is All About,” when the pressure of the night was off of him and be could just put his hands in his pockets and emote at his best, or his Act I closing “Send in the Clowns,” a subdued and affecting interpretation.
. . . Crosby hasn’t indicated whether he’s planning, on taking his family on tour with him. Crosby admitted little rehearsal time was involved in this segment’s preparation, and it showed.
(Variety, March 24, 1976)
...Crosby once ascribed his success to the fact that the listener feels he could be up there doing the same thing. I was reminded of this during the medley when he blew the lyrics a few times. Bing is human; it is perhaps his humanity and fallibility coupled with an enduring talent that has sustained him as an American institution.
It was, in fact, the kind of program one might have expected to judge in terms of ambience rather than the actual performance; after all, Bing Crosby as a singer has long since been hors concours. Yet the longer the evening wore on, the clearer it became that this was indeed solid, valid entertainment. Crosby at 71 has a timbre extraordinarily close to the sound you still hear on his late night movies. When he sang “Sweet Leilani,” it could have been 1937 again. . . .
(Leonard Feather, Los Angeles Times, March 19, 1976)
The Los Angeles Times ran a big ad for Bing’s concert, and the vast Dorothy Chandler Pavilion sold out. And when I stood in the wings, peeking out at the 3,000-plus crowd, I knew for sure I wouldn’t be able to slip in unnoticed amid a parade of singers doing a number or two apiece. I only wished I’d known it sooner, while there was still time to say no.
We were there to celebrate Bing’s landmark anniversary, the kickoff of his fiftieth year in show business, and it was so much more than I could handle, I was terrified. I clutched my music in sweaty hands, trying to cram the lyrics into my seething brain. When I felt Bing’s hand on my shoulder, I whirled around.
“I don’t know this,” I hissed. What I really meant was I don’t want to do this, but my fear focused on the more immediate concern.
“If you’re that worried,” he said, “take it with you.”
I stared. Take it with me? “I can’t do that,” I said.
“Why not?” he asked. “Why can’t you?” In the midst of the hubbub backstage, minutes to curtain, he was looking into my eyes, genuinely wanting to know my answer.
“I just can’t.”
He clasped my hands, holding the music, in his own. “You can,” he told me. “You can take the piece of paper out there with you.” Then he smiled at me and walked past me out onto the stage.
I stood where he’d left me, transfixed by fear tinged with an uneasy hope. A singer was expected to know the music. I couldn’t take it onstage with me.
Why can’t you?
Why couldn’t I? I’d been struggling so long to unlearn my expectations and inhabit a new unconstrained self. The idea that I had to know the music belonged to someone else – to that performer named Rosemary Clooney, whom I had created and who wasn’t me at all. The new Rosemary – my real, honest self, freed from outworn expectations – could take the music onstage, and would, and did. With my music held lightly and easily in my hands, I stepped out of the wings and onto the stage. I smiled. I sang.
(Rosemary Clooney, writing in her book Girl Singer, pages 249-250)
The concert did not receive any advance publicity. A simple announcement appeared in the paper and it was an instant sell-out. I was one of the lucky ones favored with a seat by the Crosby Office, the honor later compounded by having my money refunded and finding myself in a front row seat. Bing had set aside about 100 choice seats for which he picked up the tab himself—the rest of the proceeds were donated to two of his favorite charities. Leo Lynn told me that $12.50 was the top price that Bing would permit, saying “My show isn’t that good.”
Other lucky club members were Priscilla Koernig (also in the front row), the Al Suttons, the Herb Bootmans, the Ted Kaspers, the Kevin Andersons, and John Salisbury. Perhaps there were others but those were the ones I know to have been in attendance. Gary and Lindsay Crosby and their wives were seated directly behind the above-mentioned group. Well, there will never be another St. Patrick’s Day like it. When I heard that Rosie Clooney, Joey Bushkin, Rich Little, and the Crosby Family were also on the bill, I thought perhaps a token appearance by Bing would be likely. Instead, Bing knocked himself out for over two hours, singing several major solos (At My Time of Life, Send in the Clowns, The Way We Were) plus duets with Rosemary and his family, and closing with a medley of his standards lasting about a half hour and then still belting out an encore with “That’s What Life Is All About.”
The pre-program consisted of excerpts from old Crosby radio shows followed by a showing of large screen movie clips (the sound being replaced by background piano accompaniment of Joey Bushkin). The Nelson Riddle Orchestra broke into his theme and Bing strolled out, lifting his hand up in the air and touching his toe to his fingertip (try it sometime!). I doubt if he would have had to do much more—the audience already belonged to him. As Joey Bushkin said later, “First, it was Ol Blue Eyes is back, then Sedaka is back, and now it’s Old Boo-Boo-Boo-Boo is back!”
Bing was definitely back in every way. The medley portion was vintage Crosby, and the entire Music Center, including four tiers of balcony, rose to their feet in an ovation. It happened again when he closed with “That’s What Life Is All About.” If there was any question in Bing’s mind about the way the American public feels about him, I would think the message was unmistakable. We were seated directly in front of his stage entrance, and Bing took his closing bows there. He seemed almost dazed by the reception he was receiving, and Kathryn had to motion him out for another bow. Mr. Super Cool appeared to have tears in his eyes.
I’m sure Bing was literally physically exhausted, and I seriously wonder why he agreed to such a strenuous performance. By not holding back, he gave that audience a show they are not likely to ever forget. In my mind, he showed conclusively that there’s still no-one near him as a performer.
Priscilla and I had flown down on the noon plane, spending an extremely enjoyable but too brief afternoon with the Kevin Andersons. We flew back to S.F. on the midnight flight, sitting next to none other than Alan Fisher, the Crosby butler, who had come down for the show with some of the other household staff. According to Alan, the concert was only the first—Bing will do another in the Bay Area next month and a Palladium appearance is in the works this summer.
(Pat Sullivan, President of Club Crosby, in a circular letter to club members)
March 18, Thursday. Bing is interviewed on ABC-TV News.
March 24, Wednesday. Tapes more material for The Rich Little Show. Bing and Rich sing a medley of Bing’s hits with Rich impersonating Bing’s former duet partners. The program is shown on April 5 on NBC-TV. Bing then flies off to Canada, on to Texas and finally to Las Cruces, where he meets up with his son Harry and Phil Harris.
March 26, Friday. (8:30–10:00 p.m.) In conjunction with Liza Minnelli, Bing hosts the ninety-minute Bell Telephone Jubilee on NBC-TV. Guests include Ben Vereen, Marvin Hamlisch, Roy Clark, Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme. Bing later writes to the producers, Dwight Hemion and Gary Smith:
I don’t know what kind of rating the show got, but if it wasn’t something rather large, I think the ratings are going to be very suspect, in my thinking.
I was in San Francisco the day after the show, and I never encountered a reaction like this in my whole career. Total strangers came up to me, no matter where I went. Said they liked the show. Liked the way it was done. They liked the people in it. They liked the music.
Maybe it’s just San Francisco. I don’t know. But these weren’t friends of mine. These were just people on the street, people in the restaurant where I had lunch, people at the Club. Fantastic.
And I thought it was great. Everybody in our house thought it was great.
Really looked classy. Had style. But then that’s your trademark.
Thanks a lot -
“Jubilee” was designed as a salute to the 100th anni of the telephone, to be celebrated by memorable performances seen on the “Bell Telephone Hour” from 1959-’68 and the “Bell System Family Theatre” since then—augmented by contemporary turns from hosts Bing Crosby and Liza Minnelli and guests Joel Grey, Eydie Gorme & Steve Lawrence, Ben Vereen and Roy Clark....On look-backs of this nature, keeping perspective is really what the viewer has a right to expect—and that was achieved by the 90-minute production...It was all okay for what it was.
(Variety, April 7, 1976)
March (undated). At Guadalajara, Mexico, where he meets Derek Jewell of the Sunday Times. Jewell writes the program notes for Bing’s forthcoming U.K. tour.April 5, Monday. (8:00–9:00 p.m.) Bing guests on The Rich Little Show on NBC-TV with Bill Cosby. Bing and Rich sing a medley of Bing’s hits with Rich impersonating Bing’s former duet partners.
I wish I could be there to join your many friends and admirers in the Tribute that is being paid to you this evening.
It's certainly a tribute that is richly deserved. I don't know anybody who has done so much for popular American music, and who has so many friends in this field, as you do.
I always remember our
association back when - particularly with the Armed Forces Radio, and I hope
that the evening provides not only festive moments for you, but also some
nostalgic ones, and I want to join all your friends in wishing you well
Always yours, Bing
April 7, Wednesday. Bing writes to Bob Cowley of WSPD Radio in Toledo, Ohio who had recently sent him some tapes of Bing’s singing in earlier years.
…I don’t sing anything like I sang in those days. Not as good. I think really the reason for this is that I have, through the years toned down my interpretations. That is, I have sung a little more straight and on the nose than I did back some years ago. And this was a bad move.
I was overly conscious of extremism, of doing too much, of being criticized of sounding like I was really trying to put on the schmaltz, and as a result I eliminated a lot of style, a lot of feeling and a lot of sentiment...
Next time I record, which won’t be too far in the future, I’m going to see if I can capture a little of that same atmosphere.
Of course, I sing in a different key now - considerably lower. And I can’t hit the notes I used to. It’s a wise singer who realizes that and doesn’t strive to sing in the keys that he could formerly handle when his vocal instrument was a little less worn and torn…
April 9, Friday. Bing again writes to Dwight Hemion and Gary Smith about Bell Telephone Jubilee show which has recently been broadcast.
Dear Dwight and Gary:
Just thought you ought to see this letter. It’s rather special.
I have received many such, but this is one of the most outstanding.
I have heard nothing but good comment about the show since it was telecast. I hope some day they repeat it.
It would be wonderful if it could be released in England. I’m going to play some vaudeville there and it might boost the gate!
I hope all your projects in the future go smoothly.
April 11, Sunday. Bing arrives in Montreal and stays at the Bonaventure Hotel. He goes on to Rehearsal Hall II, Place Des Arts for a ‘piano & book rehearsal’ of The Bob Hope Olympic Benefit from 12 noon until 4 p.m.. (5:00–7:00 p.m.) Rehearses for the benefit.
April 12, Monday. (2:30 - 6:30 p.m.) Rehearses for that night’s TV show. (8:00–11:00 p.m.) Tapes The Bob Hope Olympic Benefit at the Montreal Forum in front of a crowd said to number 19,000, all of whom have paid $15 each. Other guests are Freddie Prinze, Lynn Anderson, and Shirley Jones. Music is provided by Les Brown and his Band of Renown The show, which is a benefit for the United States and Canadian Olympic teams, airs on NBC-TV on April 21.
Hope–Crosby still draw
Montreal (CP) – The Bob Hope–Bing Crosby Olympic benefit
television spectacular played to a full house at the Forum Monday night, amply
demonstrating the two seasoned performers could still draw audiences. Hope, who
will be 72 next month, and Crosby, 73, won lengthy ovations when they exchanged
the traditional insults and went through a medley of Road–movies songs, much to
the delight of the largely middle-aged audience.
(Brandon Sun, April 14, 1976)
April 15, Thursday. Attends St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York and goes to Yankee Stadium for the reopening of the remodeled stadium. He sees the Yankees top Minnesota 11-4.
April 16, Friday. Visits Aqueduct Racetrack in New York and is photographed traveling there on the subway. Presents the silver salver to the owners of ‘Christopher R’, the winner of the Gravesend Handicap.
April 18, Sunday. (3:30–4:30 p.m.) The American Sportsman television program on ABC features Bing, Phil Harris, and Harry Crosby trying for billfish in the Bahamas.
When Bing Crosby and Phil Harris get together, it’s bound to be a musical experience, even if the purpose of their meeting is to fish the waters of Walkers Cay in the Bahamas.
On The American Sportsman, airing Sunday, April 18 (3:30-4:30 p.m., EST) on the ABC Television Network, Crosby and Harris, with Bing’s son Harry, mix singing and fishing aboard the Sea Lion, skippered by Larry Thomas…
…In the Bahamas, impromptu singing among the
Crosbys and Harris gives a festive air to the trip, as they land a couple of
kingfish and a wahoo. However, their target, the blue marlin, remains elusive.
Although they manage to hook two of them, they are unsuccessful in bringing
them on board. Then with Larry Thomas, Harry Crosby takes a break from fishing
to explore the waters from the fish’s point of view. Clad in wet suits,
they descend 30 feet to explore the newly found ruins of a sunken ship.
(Press Release, April 7, 1976)
April 21, Wednesday. (8:00–9:30 p.m.) The Bob Hope Olympic Benefit is shown on NBC-TV. Bing guests.
April 23, Friday. Bing writes to British fan Leslie Gaylor.
Thanks for the news about our forthcoming Palladium visit and the recording news and the information about the release of the albums…Things are shaping up for the Palladium visit. I think we’ll have a pretty good show. The trouble is getting all the children together for rehearsals because Mary Frances is in Texas and Harry is in Los Angeles and Nathaniel is busy with his golf. Kathryn works every day on TV here, so we’re going to have to get started pretty soon to put something together.
…We have a big problem with the tickets. It might be impossible to take care of everybody in the clubs and still allow the public an opportunity to buy some tickets too…I’ll be looking forward to seeing you.
April 26, Monday. Bing writes to an Australian fan named Harry Price.
Thanks for your very nice letter. I don’t often receive letters from musicians like you, and to receive one from far-off Australia is a special pleasure!
I’m pleased to hear of your interest in Bix and Teagarden and all the others. Teagarden was a great favorite of mine — not only as probably the best trombone player I ever heard, but as a wonderful guy. Great fun, and a perfect gentleman.
I don’t know when I’ll get out to Australia. It’s so far and takes so long to get out there. You’ve really got to provide a couple of months because there’s no use going that far and then turning right around and coming home.
I’m doing some concerts now, and maybe I might come out and do a couple out there.
A fella who just had Neil Diamond out there — a producer — is doing some shows for me in England and he told me a great deal about it. It sounds quite attractive. Hope it can be arranged.
I close with warmest regards to you for your continued health and success –
May 3, Monday. Writes to Ron Field, a fan living in Reading, Berkshire in England.
Thank you for your long newsy letter with all the material about the Calcot Park Golf Club. Looks like a nice lay-out and maybe some day I’ll have a chance to play it.
Glad you enjoyed all the things we did over there last summer – the golf and the shows and the TVs and one thing and another. It was great fun, and we were lucky, of course, to have one of the warmest and driest summers – although, I’m sure the famers wouldn’t feel this way at all.
There’s no present plan, Ron, to make a film in England. We have a script we’ve been trying to improve and until it reaches a condition where we think a picturization would have a chance, we’re not going to do much about it.
We’re going to do another Pro-celebrity Golf at Gleneagles, though. Maybe the boys will play in it this year. I don’t know whether or not they want them or whether they consider them to be celebrities enough to attract an audience on TV. Of course, I do.
I don’t know when I’d get up around Reading, Ron, but you never can tell. When I get to England, I do get around a bit –
Always best wishes, Bing
May 24, Monday. Bing flies into Columbus, Ohio, during the afternoon and dines at night at the Columbus Club on East Broad Street with a party hosted by insurance man Robert Hoag. Unfortunately during the meal, a piece of meat lodges in Bing’s throat and he is taken to the Riverside Hospital. He is given a general anesthetic and the food is removed from the lower end of his esophagus using forceps.
The hospitalization that you read about was greatly exaggerated, of course. It wasn’t a problem with the throat—nothing in there but a few old second choruses! A little trouble with the stomach, but it seems to be okay now.
Glad to see all the favorable results that transpired as a product of your Series which you did about me, and the Award that you received.
You richly deserve this, I’m sure.
As regards the function September 19th in San Francisco, I really don’t know whether or not I’ll be back from Europe by then. I have a number of things booked which haven’t been really inked in, but they will be by mid-summer so possibly you had better contact me some time after that and we’ll see what can be done about an attendance at the function that you describe in your letter.
Sounds like quite an affair.
Best wishes, Bing
(Bing Crosby, in a letter dated June 14, 1976 to Gord Atkinson)
May 25, Tuesday. Bing is released from hospital at 7:45 a.m. and withdraws from a pro-am golf tournament at Muirfield Memorial Golf Club where he was due to have played with Jack Nicklaus, Flip Wilson, and Governor James A. Rhodes. Bing turns up at the club in late afternoon in the company of John Galbreath and Robert Hoag and tours the course in a golf cart.
May 28, Friday. Bing replies to British fan Nick Carter who has sent him an Elizabethan document dated 1563.
Thanks for your letter, and thanks very much indeed for the unusual parchment which you send me and for the translation. Particularly grateful for the translation. I don’t think I ever could have made any sense out of it otherwise! But I see now that it’s a very rare item and I’m proud to have it, and I’m grateful for your thoughtful generosity. I’m sure it will be a conversation piece around the house.
We have three or four in staff who are British and they are already talking about it.
I don’t know if ever I’ll get around Canterbury, although there’s a project afoot to make an album of hymns with the Canterbury Cathedral Choir. If this works out, maybe I could come by and have a spot of tea with you and members of your family. I hope so.
Again, many thanks - Warmest best wishes, Bing
June 2, Wednesday. The Bing Crosby and Friends stage show is at the Masonic Auditorium, San Francisco. Flip Wilson replaces Rich Little as the comedian in the show and it is said to be Flip’s first live appearance in eight years. The show benefits the Louis Armstrong Statue Fund. Alistair Cooke and George Shearing are in the audience.
Crosby shows he’s still King Bing
Crosby, the Irish slugger from Spokane, knocked ’em dead at the Masonic Auditorium last night.
Harry Lillis Crosby has been “Bing” for almost all of his 70-plus years and he’s been a part of all our lives just about as long. But last night’s show, which started on a high note and went up, up, and away by the concluding “That’s What Life Is All About” was the most astonishing and overwhelming one-man presentation I have ever attended.
Crosby, looking fit as a fiddle swinging on a star, knocked off eight or nine solo production numbers, duetted with various members of his family, personally salvaged an uproarious family bit of “round” singing and then casually drifted into a medley of 32 of his best known recorded numbers. Accompanied on this half hour nostalgia trip by the irrepressible Joe Bushkin at the piano (plus Herb Ellis, guitar, Jake Hanna drums and Monty Budwig, bass) Crosby had a great time scat singing, tripping an occasional light fantastic and adlibbing comments and, often, the lyrics.
It was the Crosby of the Kraft Music Hall and the Big Broadcast; of the “Road” movies and of USO shows for the GIs of World War II.
Sometimes on the quiet numbers (“Sweet Leilani”—“I Can‘t Begin to Tell You,” “It’s Been a Long, Long Time” etc.) the sobs of reminiscence, the blowing of noses and the tender sighs bubbled all over the sold out hall.
Bing’s voice seldom cracked and (of course) never wavered; his rhythmic hipness and uncannily accurate pitch, plus that gorgeous tone, have been his trademarks and genius for the more than 50 years since he, Al Rinker and Harry Barris (sic) left Spokane to find fame and fortune in Southern California, ca. 1925. He chatted about San Francisco in the ‘20s (“pokin’ around in the embers of the past”) and sang some fine stuff with Rosemary Clooney, who then turned out a few of her own. - “Song for You” was great. Flip Wilson, slick and funny, did four of his best pieces joined by Bing on “Gone Fishin’” just before the intermission.
Nelson Riddle led the orchestra, a big job; the charts were Hollywood lush. Bushkin’s quartet, never quite sure where in hell Joey was taking them, played marvelously behind Bing. (I suspect he preferred the jazzy informality of the combo to the heavier sounds.)
In the incredible medley, “Wrap Your Troubles in Dreams,” “Pennies from Heaven,” “Please,” “Blue Skies,” and “Mississippi Mud” were among the outstanding renditions; daughter Mary Frances and wife Kathryn joined in occasionally.
During a Crosby Family sequence son
The Bushkin quartet played a glowing “Porgy and Bess” medley; Ellis’ guitar (especially on “Hallelujah,” somewhat earlier) was magnificent
So it was a great night; Bing’s tribute to himself and to Louis Armstrong - whose memorial statue fund in New Orleans will get the proceeds.
(Philip Elwood, San Francisco Examiner, June 3, 1976)
It was, for a change, literally a once-in-a-lifetime experience on Wednesday night when a fella name of Bing Crosby strolled jaunty-jolly out on the stage at the Masonic Auditorium, rambled his eyes easily over a bubbling, euphoric crowd; lifted a microphone to his mouth with the practiced ease of a Roman Catholic priest at the Asperges ceremony, cheerfully acknowledged that “I wore my hair tonight” and then, with a little help from his friends, proceeded to confer a glorious concert of music, charm and warmth on a capacity audience as giddy as children. . . . The fact that Crosby, at 72, could essay a nonstop succession of songs of that duration—and sing them with authority, a full and sonorous voice, exacting intonation and unflagging rhythm—is fully as impressive as every last one of the 33 was a hit. . . . To his fans, he made it look easy.
(John L. Wasserman, San Francisco Chronicle, June 4, 1976)
I welcome this opportunity to disclose a facet of Bing Crosby’s generosity that is not generally known. It was in the mid-’70s, when the Louis Armstrong Statue Fund, which I headed, was stymied on dead-center. We lacked $10,000 for the completion of the twenty foot tall bronze monument already in work at the foundry. Bing learned of the dilemma and donated the entire proceeds of his San Francisco concert to supply the lacking funds. The brightest day of my life was when his phone call informed me that I could pick up a $10,000 check at his Beverly Hills office. The beautiful Armstrong monument now stands proudly in New Orleans’ Louis Armstrong Park - thanks, in great measure, to Bing’s dedicated love for “Satchmo.”
(Floyd Levin, October 1996, taken from sleeve notes to CD Bobby Gordon Plays Bing)
June (undated). Harry Crosby graduates from Bellarmine College Preparatory, San Jose.
June 14, Monday. The Entertainment Hall of Fame TV program honors Bing. Sammy Cahn and Bob Hope take part with Tony Bennett singing a medley of Bing’s hits. Bing makes a short “Thank You” speech at the close. The show had been filmed in advance.
June 15, Tuesday. Bing and his family fly into London Airport, having flown via Seattle. That night they all go to see Julie Andrews in her one-woman show at the Palladium. They stay in a flat at Green Street in the West End. Their butler Alan Fisher is with them.
June 16, Wednesday. At Ascot races where he is turned away from the royal
enclosure as he is inappropriately dressed. Is interviewed by
June 17, Thursday. Again at Ascot and is interviewed by Derek Johnson for
June 20, Sunday. Bing and his family rehearse for their forthcoming show at the London Palladium.
One particular incident I recall was in June 1976 - Bing had had a very gruelling day rehearsing at the Palladium preparing for his opening the following evening. As he was about to leave, someone called out that the limousine was waiting for him. Bing replied: ‘No I think I’ll walk back to the hotel. I feel like some fresh air after being stuck in here all day - let Kathy (Crosby), and whoever else wants to, go back in the car. The stagedoor keeper warned him that there were a lot of fans waiting outside, but he said that he didn’t mind. After signing several autographs, Bing told the crowd that he would have to set off back to the hotel, but if they wanted to walk with him and have a chat, this was quite welcome. It was an offer no one could refuse. It was a memorable sight, seeing Bing set off down Great Marlborough Street surrounded by a sea of fans and answering everyone’s questions.
Bing Crosby was a very caring man - he was much aware of the problems other people went through, particularly with regard to the record company. When he visited the UA offices he was determined to walk round and meet everyone personally. He also had a habit of phoning people direct himself, without using a secretary, with the result that when he told people it was Bing Crosby speaking, they often replied: ‘Oh yes, and I’m President Carter!’
He was a man of many anecdotes, many of which have died with him. I once told him that he ought to record or write them down but he said that nobody would be really interested. He could never accept that people were interested in him as a person. Bing even had his doubts about that first London Palladium season - until that sensational first night, he never realised just how much the public held him in their affections.
(Martin Davis, United Artists Records’ managing director, as quoted in Woman’s Realm magazine after Bing’s death)
June 21–July 4, Monday–Sunday. (Starting at 7:30 p.m.) The Bing Crosby and Friends stage show is at the London Palladium. Pete Moore and his Orchestra provide support to Bing and Rosemary Clooney plus the Crosby family, with Ted Rogers taking the comedian spot. The proceeds go to the National Society for Cancer Relief, the Playing Fields Association, and the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Scheme. The performances on June 24 and 25 are recorded by Ken Barnes and issued as a double album by K-Tel International. The album enters the UK charts in November 1977 and peaks at No. 9.
Bing Crosby’s 13-concert season for charity at the London Palladium potentially will gross an estimated $100,000 at $8.85 top, the scale being kept deliberately low as a gesture to British fans. Early demand for tickets brought out the scalpers and the season portends boffo attendance despite torrid weather.
This Crosby engagement - his first at the Palladium - celebrated his 50th year in showbiz and he will follow the London bow with two concerts in Ireland and two in Scotland, all for promoter Robert Paterson.
On opening night (21) the vet turned in a superlative performance and one perhaps not expected from a performer of his years. Though he looked frail, even tottery at times, the power and warmth of his voice is remarkably preserved, his charisma still intact, his wit still keen and his sense of showbiz paramount.
Crosby was on stage — and on his feet, yet — for a good deal of the three hour initialer. He managed, moreover, to finish in a sprint noticeably stronger than his start.
The Crosby show majors in sentimentality, but cleverly so, stopping short of goo, gush or schmaltz. He introduced his family who went through some musical romps while wife Kathryn showed a real talent for dancing. Crosby’s nostalgic repertory was spiked with a handful of new songs, indicating an awareness of what gives these days, though the crowd stood after his reprise in singalong style some 30 or so standards from the ‘20s, ‘30s and ‘40s.
Even in abbreviated form “Just One More Chance,” “Dinah,” “Pennies from Heaven,” “I’ll Be Seeing You,” “Moonlight Becomes You,” “Wrap Your Troubles in Dreams,” “Blue Skies,” “Temptation,” et al, emerged remarkably fresh, as a consequence of Crosby’s simple, empathetic style. With Crosby the lyric comes into its own.
Supporting was Rosemary Clooney who was in firstrate form, selling with panache. She showed, too, the power of simplicity when the lyrics stand up and a good arranger is part of the act. Local comedian Ted Rogers, a regular these days on the bigtime concert scene, worked through a torrent of topical gags for big laughs and duetted with Crosby on “Gone Fishin’” for beaucoup applause. Joe Bushkin Quartet swung well in accompaniment to Crosby’s songalong while the Pete Moore orch coped well with the topnotch arrangements during the rest.
Show was well balanced, perfectly paced, expertly interlinked and a satisfyingly complete presentation.
(Variety, June 30, 1976)
His Master’s Voice, the man who created the popular song, came to London for the first time for 30 years last night to give his first concerts since the War. Henry Lillis Crosby, who got his name from “The Bingville Bugle” comic, gave a perfect exhibition of what popular singing can be.
The voice of the Old Groaner may not be quite as smooth now at 72. The range and register are only just there, but the pitch is still perfect and the tone and phrasing are magical. No one has ever missed a single word, or a single meaning, of a song that Crosby has sung. The “strolling player” as he calls himself, treated a rapturous audience to a cross section of some of his four-thousand songs he has recorded in fifty years or more of show business. Still looking more like a bank clerk than a star, he reminded them of the 300 million records he has sold in 27 languages and 88 countries in that time. It was not difficult to see why, because he beautifully executed the central art of popular songs by conversing directly with his audience. “Swinging on a Star,” “Pennies from Heaven,” “True Love,” “Moonlight Becomes You”—Crosby smoothed majestically through them all. He even attempted, perhaps a touch rashly, Stephen Sondheim’s “Send in the Clowns.”
But the audience were not listening too closely to his voice. They were caught in the dream, the nostalgia of the times he sang those songs. From the moment the show opened with excerpts from the British Movietone News of the war and his last performance in Britain, that tone was set.
The man who began with Paul Whiteman reminded everyone that he created a style of singing for Sinatra, Como, Bennett and the rest. He also broke new ground, for while Al Jolson sang at you, Bing sang to you, and none of them ever forgot the lesson. He proved again that he invented the alphabet of popular singing in this century.
Occasionally, perhaps, the stylish show bordered on the mawkish. His family appears, to put it kindly, to no particular effect, but that did not detract from the magic of his voice, and above all, of his style; and he didn’t even sing ‘White Christmas’.
(Geoffrey Wansell, The Times, June 22, 1976)
CROSBY - STILL THE MASTER
Bing Crosby told a lot of self-deprecating jokes when he opened his London Palladium fortnight on Monday. But the one that drew most laughter was about the car park attendant in Hollywood who said to him:
“Hey, didn’t you used to be Bing Crosby?”
He laughed, with the audience. Later, hitting a high note, he chided himself, adding: “I haven’t been up there in years.” And when he danced across the stage rather boisterously with his wife, Bing poked his back, which evidently had reminded him he’d had it for 71 years. It would be easy, then, to concentrate on the nostalgia aspects and marvel at the sheer stamina of the man, who was up on stage for most of this three-hour show. But the audience was enthralled to find that as the evening wore on and he relaxed, his voice improved amazingly, getting richer and more resonant. By the end, when he sang the autobiographical ‘That’s What Life Is All About’, Bing Crosby was singing excellently, at least as good as he has sounded in the past 20 years.
It was a sensational achievement by Bing to sweep aside the obvious charge that he had “done well for his age,” for he gave a concert that would have been fine for someone 50 years younger and when the audience delivered that standing ovation at the end, it was not only his history, but a splendid show, which had triumphed. It all drew a neat parallel with Frank Sinatra, who these days tends to rely on who he is and what he stands for rather than his vocal strengths.
Crosby, of course, came out of the crooning era, when songs were about romance and lyrics enthused about kisses that enchanted and pennies from Heaven and blue moons and the beauty of the deep blue sea. At first, looking rather frail and vulnerable on the big stage, Bing seemed as if he might be forced into giving only a nod to the golden oldies. But when he warmed, he duetted with Rosemary Clooney, joked a lot with comedian Ted Rogers and brought on his family, he was fired enough to take a medley of the songs that spanned so many years. (There followed a list of the songs sung by Bing).
Crosby’s edict has always been that the song’s the thing, and he has rarely sought to print his personality on the words, which invariably stand up. Seeing him revive these standards, injecting them with a real freshness, was to understand again the power of simplicity in popular song…
A magical show then, with dignity and a delightful self-effacing stance, Crosby in his first London concerts during 50 years of music-making, is astonishingly agile and making more history.
Bing at the Palladium - for charity incidentally - will rank as one of the highlights of this or any year. He marked our lives and is demonstrating he still has it. Some say, nostalgia isn’t what it used to be. Not so - in disciplined hands it can be richly rewarding,
(Ray Coleman, Melody Maker)
CROONALONGA BING...and who could resist charm like this
Before Sinatra - which is like saying before light - there was Bing. And he it was who created an entirely new style of singing. He may not have sung the best songs ever written, but his effortless authority has lodged, even the worst in the memory-album of almost every family. And there must be many a hack who goes down on his knees all the way to the bank in thanksgiving to Crosby.
Without him, who knows, there might never have been a market for Old Blue Eyes, Mathis, Mel Torme or all the other crooners who followed. So it was something akin to homage which packed the Palladium last night…
Being unfortunate enough to sit directly in front of the talkalong, tap-along Lita Roza, I was possibly the only person present to appreciate the appalling over-amplification afforded the 72-year-old voice box and its backing.… however, this was an evening when most things seemed to be forgiveable… .As a celebration of 50 years turning dross into gold, and gold into better, this was an extraordinary personal experience.
(Jack Tinker, Daily Mail)
The difference between Bing Crosby and Sinatra is that Bing made two jokes - about his toupee and his money - within ten minutes of taking the wide Palladium stage last night. Sinatra doesn’t joke about being bald or rich. He is still a full-time professional, and such things are trade secrets. Bing, the older man, has accepted his age with grace and humour. In his new show at the Palladium, Crosby projects himself in his most natural role - as a friend of the family, the cheerful neighbour, everyone’s idea of a semi-retired nice guy.
Crosby at 72 has earned his unique place in the world’s affections. Now 50 years after his professional debut, he celebrates his anniversary with Britain by bringing onto the Palladium stage his dazzling wife Kathryn, and the Crosby’s three clean-cut polite and musical children.
Crosby is on and off the stage throughout the show in the role of the host. He sings old songs and some modern ones in that familiar, resonant, unvaried Crosby baritone that seems to have been around for ever.
Bing’s Palladium show is not an evening of high excitement. It’s more like a memorable visit to a cluster of familiar and treasured friends.
(Herbert Kretzmer, Daily Express)
A WORTHWHILE WAIT TO
Danny Kaye, Bob Hope, Sinatra, Garland - all have been seen at the Palladium. We have had to wait half a lifetime for the most loved of Hollywood’s entertainers. But, once we were in the theatre, Bing Crosby did not keep us waiting a moment longer. Up went the curtain and on he came, in a solo spotlight, to the centre of the stage, “I’m glad to have the pleasure of your company,” he warbled. Now 71, a slight boyish figure with more hair than was real, he walks with a slight stoop and as he sings turns his strange, glassy eyes full upon us.
But if the gait was stiff, the larynx was in superlative order and he looked, as they say, ‘a million dollars’, giving his impersonation of an orn’ery friendly Joe making the noise we all like to think we produce in the bathtub. The evening is well-planned and he gives full value.... (his voice) seems deeper and. even treaclier than on the records, an educated foghorn, mood music through a lamp-glass. And the phrasing is impeccable: original, unexpected, just as written on the sheet-music. But with style.
Extraordinary to recall that our parents denounced his “crooning” as decadent. With the coming of the microphone, he showed how to use it for intimate person-to-person singing. Joining in last night, the audience also crooned quietly, a lullaby from 2,000 throats.
Regrettably, the sound-system amplified his voice to spoil many delicate effects, and the orchestra of three dozen often drowned the singer. Only when accompanied by the subtle Joe Bushkin Quartet was Bing Crosby heard at his best.
(John Barber, The Daily Telegraph)
At the age of 72, Bing Crosby packs the London Palladium. Night after night audiences rise to their feet in tribute to his genius. It could not happen to a nicer person. For Bing is not just a great singer who has brought sunshine and happiness into the lives of millions. He is a good man. Modest and gentle and unassuming. I applaud his triumph. Will people be queuing to see Mick Jagger in the year 2015?
(The Sunday Express)
BING, IT’S GREAT TO
We weren’t just applauding a smooth performance by Bing Crosby last night. We were giving the Old Groaner - a nice guy extraordinary - an ovation for the pleasure of his company during 50 years in show business. At the age of seventy-two - although Bob Hope insists Crosby is seventy-five - Bing is making his official British stage debut. Older Blue Eyes is well worth seeing. Such an entertainer with around 4,000 recorded songs behind him and disc sales running into the hundreds of millions has got to be a bit special.
Bing is unique. There are better singers and better actors. But none who his so consistently projected his talents with such warmth and amiability.…
Financial footnote: Bing is not singing for his supper. His fee is going to various charities. The guy’s all heart.
(Arthur Thirkell, Daily Mirror)
Some day, should I ever try and put down on paper what were the most exciting events that I have ever attended over the years, I am sure that the list will include Bing Crosby’s 50th Anniversary Show Business salute at the London Palladium. It was an evening to treasure for a lifetime.
Let there be no mistake that Bing Crosby belongs only to America. His records, his films and his radio and television appearances have been seen all over the world. He is truly an international entertainer.
A few years ago Bing Crosby almost died of a lung ailment. He survived surgery and this appearance at the Palladium is a charity event with all proceeds being donated to a worthy cause.
His two week engagement at the Palladium was sold out before the box office ever officially opened. And as I looked over the capacity house on the night I was present, it was not strictly the “moms and dads” crowd. To be sure there were many grey and white haired folks in the crowd, but Bing Crosby brought out all ages from rock and roll fans in their teens to a great number of young adults who have heard the Crosby voice over the decades.
The orchestra struck up the strains of “When the Blue of the Night Meets the Gold of the Day” and with that the curtains parted and out strode Bing Crosby.
At 72 Mr. Crosby is more than a legend in his own time. He is the hallmark of what people 100 years from now will regard as popular singing in America. And the voice? It is in excellent condition. Unlike Sinatra whose singing is an embarrassment today, Mr. Crosby is still crooning and “groaning” with all the style and ease that makes him appear years younger than he is.
The first half of the bill featured Mr. Crosby in song joined along the way by Rosemary Clooney. It had been 25 years since Miss Clooney was last at the Palladium. Then she was the queen of the record industry and her “Come On-a My House” was selling millions. She has gotten a bit heavier but the voice is still as great as ever. I wish she had sung more of her record hits rather than so many contemporary tunes; but it was good to see her again.
THE SECOND HALF of the show was all Crosby. He brought on his wife Kathryn who sang and danced with him. He introduced his children: Harry who played the guitar well; Mary-Francis who sang and danced; and Nathaniel who looked lost. Together they made a happy picture.
The final portion of the show was the most moving, Mr. Crosby with Joe Bushkin at the piano sang a 35-song medley of his many hits. The audience joined in on each song singing along with Bing as they had so many times on their radios and phonographs. With each song from memory lane more eyes seemed to glisten so that Mr. Crosby’s beg off finale must have been a tear-stained blur to most people present. The standing ovation was stopped only when the management turned on the house lights and the orchestra played “God Save the Queen” to finally silence the crowd.
Bing Crosby at the Palladium was an event to take its place among the greatest in show-biz history. I hope that someone will persuade Bing to repeat this concert in America. It is too fantastic not to be seen by more people.
(William E. Sarmento, Lowell Sun, August 31, 1976)
June 24, Thursday. Decca producer Geoff Milne visits Bing at his West End apartment to discuss songs for a forthcoming album to be called Feels Good, Feels Right.
June 25, Friday. Johnny Mercer dies.
June 26, Saturday. Bing records a brief television tribute to Johnny Mercer while at the Palladium.
June 29, Tuesday. Presented with a scroll for services to Britain by Lord
Ponsonby, chairman, Greater London Council at County Hall, Westminster, at a
full session of the Greater London Council. The proceedings are broadcast by
ADDRESS OF WELCOME TO MR BING CROSBY
BY THE RIGHT HONOURABLE THE CHAIRMAN OF THE COUNCIL AT THE COUNCIL MEETING ON 29 JUNE 1976.
We, the Chairman and Members of the Greater London Council on behalf of the people of London extend to you a very warm welcome on your visit to Britain’s Capital City.
Your association with this country, and with London in particular, is a long and distinguished one. Many people still remember with gratitude how, during the Second World War you came to these islands at your own expense and gave so much of your time to entertain our troops and help boost their morale. Your regular trans-Atlantic commuting has made you one of the most distinguished and best loved ambassadors of the United States and you have proclaimed your love of this country, and especially of London, both publicly and privately on many occasions.
During this time you have dedicated yourself without ostentation to many charitable causes in Great Britain. Indeed, you are generously donating the entire net proceeds from your present two-week engagement at the London Palladium to three British charities - the National Playing Fields Association, the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Scheme and the National Society for Cancer Relief. You are also participating in a number of fund raising celebrity golf tournaments, as well as helping the British Tourist Authority with a film to be called “Bing’s Britain”. On top of all this, you are giving much material help and encouragement to the Ochtertyre Theatre in Crieff, Perthshire. We wish you every success in this venture – as also we wish every success to your wife Kathryn who will shortly be acting there in “The Heiress”.
As an artist of world stature and in your 50th year in show business, you have appealed to so many people in this country - and particularly in this our capital city - for so long that your art has become a part of our culture and your visit, therefore, an occasion of national significance.
We offer our sincere good wishes
for your continued health and well-being in the coming years and, as a token of
the esteem and affection in which all London regards you, we present you with
this scroll not only as a memento of your present visit but in appreciation of
all you have done for this country and for our city over so many years.
July 1, Thursday. Bing and family plus Rosemary Clooney are guests of the Duke of Edinburgh at Buckingham Palace. Prince Philip spends an hour talking to Bing at a drinks party in the 1844 Room and the Queen unexpectedly joins the gathering as well.
The Duke of Edinburgh gave a Reception at Buckingham Palace this evening for Mr. Bing Crosby.
(Court Circular, July 1—as reproduced in The Times, July 2, 1976)
Bing’s invitation to work with him was a breakthrough, both personal and professional, like an apostolic blessing. Once I appeared with him, under his imprimatur, in his major venues, the world began to open up to me again. I’d had good reviews from the anniversary benefit; I began getting offers for more and better work, and I accepted them with confidence. So when Bing asked me to join him on tour that same spring, I was ready for the challenge and the exposure.
We played Vegas, San Francisco, New York—then we crossed the Atlantic to play the London Palladium. I felt that the pieces of my life were shifting and locking into place. . . .
One evening before our show, we were all invited to a small party at Buckingham Palace, where Prince Philip seemed happy to meet us. . . .
The Queen was as approachable and amiable as her husband. She and Kathryn and I stood and chatted for a full twenty minutes about our families, our children.
(Rosemary Clooney, writing in her book Girl Singer, page 250)
July 7, Wednesday. Takes part in a photographic session at the ATV Studios at Elstree where he and his family have been rehearsing for their Christmas show.
July 8–10, Thursday–Saturday. At Elstree studios, Bing records his annual Christmas television special (which airs on December 1) with his family, Jackie Gleason, and Bernadette Peters. Norman Campbell is the director and Peter Knight is the musical director. The script originally called for Bing to perform an assortment of contemporary hits with Bernadette Peters but, in view of the recent death of Johnny Mercer, this is replaced by a medley of Mercer songs.
July 11, Sunday. Bing and his party fly into Dublin, Ireland, and are greeted by American Ambassador Walter Curley and the Artane Boys Band at the airport. In the afternoon, Bing golfs in the Musgrave-Christy O’Connor Pro-Am at the Hermitage with Christie O’Connor and during his round he gives a short interview to Noel Mould of Downtown Radio. Bing performs in a hotel cabaret show that night. Stays at the Gresham.
July 12/13, Monday/Tuesday. (7:30–10:30 p.m.) The Bing Crosby and Friends stage show is at the Gaiety Theater, Dublin. Proceeds go to the Artane Boys School and to the Madonna House. Bing writes to the editor of The Irish Times.
My Dear Sir,
I know this is highly unusual but I’m asking, if it is possible, if you would publish a short message to Dubliners from me? i.e. All the Crosby’s and the rest of the strolling players who came along are grateful for the warm reception we received in Dublin. All of this was made possible by the kindly offices of Mr. George O’Reilly who made it all possible.
Sincerely, Bing Crosby
…But thanks to George O’Reilly, I was able to attend the rehearsal for the Gaiety show. The show did, of course, follow the pattern of the Palladium performances I had already seen - but seeing the rehearsal was quite different and certainly a fascinating experience. One difference between this show and the Palladium was, alas, that it was not preceded by that fascinating newsreel shot of Bing in the 1944 Stagedoor Canteen.
I took my seat, unobtrusively, at the back of the stalls, while the band was on stage tuning up, and lots of other activity going on…Kathy was dancing around, limbering up as it were…the two lads came on stage, very casually dressed - chips off the old block, I thought…microphones were being placed at strategic points…and then there was Bing himself dressed in a short-sleeved sports shirt and the inevitable straw hat, and making much of putting out the microphones, checking the light changes and the “spots”, clearly very thorough, very concerned. And for me it was all pure magic.
Before long Bing sat himself on a tall stool and took the mike in hand; the band started up on ‘Send in the Clowns’ and after a false start, Bing went on to sing it all through without further hitch. He did however, sing the final two bars again, and nonchalantly commented: “OK – I’ll buy that. It’ll do... What’s next?” Next was ‘Slow Boat to China’, and naturally, on came Rosie Clooney. Again, there was a false start or two and then they had it all together and went right thro’ it faultlessly.
Kathy joined Bing to rehearse ‘My Cup Runneth Over’ but there were no problems, straight through without a hitch. Bing next put ‘The Way We Were’ through its paces again faultlessly and I began to wonder why they bothered to rehearse! True, Bing sang the last couple of lines again but I saw no need for it. I should mention that throughout these rehearsal proceedings, Bing was joking all the time - with the band boys, his family and the other artists, and all sorts of hands and technicians milling about on the stage. And what was very apparent was that everyone was enjoying themselves, Bing most of all - and he was in top form.
Bing kept singing snatches even between the songs, throwing in plenty of “boo, boo, boo’s” to the obvious delight of everyone there. At one stage he walked to the front of the stage, which sloped quite steeply to the orchestra pit, and seemed to be appraising it. “Better not get too close here,” called Bing to Kathy, who was dispensing sweets from an enormous bag, “a guy could go on his ass down there.”
Following a break, the whole family rehearsed the ‘Row, Row, Row’ routine, right down to the last detail…next Bing called on Ted Rogers and proceeded to swap cracks with him in great style, finally going into ‘Gone Fishin’’ – after which the whole band applauded!
(Noel Mould, writing in BING magazine, Christmas 1976 [#44])
BlNG’S 50 YEARS OF
Fifty years of show-business history sang danced and gagged his way through a three-hour show at the Gaiety Theatre, Dublin, last night and Bing Crosby showed us just what it was all about. He opened his show at 7.30 and at 10.30 took his final bow, each time to standing ovations of several minutes.
What seems, to amaze most people was his great stamina. Bing is 73 and after last night’s show, one wonders how many of today’s show-business names will still be around to perform at that age, let alone handle the lion’s share of a three hour presentation.
Opening his show Bing went back to his start in show-business with a couple of the first songs he sang in public and anecdotes and from there the show rolled along smoothly, with Bing introducing and doing songs and bits with Rosemary Clooney, the Joe Bushkin Quartet and comedian Ted Rogers who won the audience with a snappy line in localised topical jokes and some humorous general political observations.
In the second half of the show Bing was joined by his family - wife Kathryn,
sons Nathaniel and Harry and daughter Frances, all of whom contributed to the
evening. Harry Crosby
The Old Groaner rounded off the evening with a medley of songs - nearly 40 in all - which included ‘Irish Lullaby’, ‘Galway Bay’ and ‘When Irish Eyes Are Smiling’ and the audience were encouraged to sing along. In fact, the only thing he didn’t sing was ‘White Christmas’ and had he done so, it would not have been inappropriate despite it being a warm night in July.
Crosby is a show business master craftsman, of which there are very few. Everything about last night’s show had a subtle class to it. And it’s not something you just get. It’s acquired over years of experience. In short, it was a great and memorable evening in the company of a man who is truly a legend in his own lifetime and deserves to be.
(Tony Wilson, Evening Herald, Dublin, July 12, 1976)
July 14, Wednesday. Arrives at Turnhouse Airport in Edinburgh with his family. They drive to Ochtertyre in Crieff, where Kathryn and Mary Frances are to appear in The Heiress at the local theater. Bing and his sons then golf at Gleneagles.
July 15/16, Thursday/Friday. Bing Crosby and Friends stage show at Usher Hall, Edinburgh. The proceeds go to the Ochtertyre Theater Appeal Fund.
BING AT HIS BEST -
At last I’ve seen Bing in person, on stage. You see the legend in his own lifetime before your very own eyes and you get to feeling that now you’d be content to meet your maker. Crosby at the Usher Hall last night was that kind of experience.
Knock me down your Sinatra records if I detract one iota from the marvellous man himself. The renowned pipes took the strain of the three-hour show with, it seemed, plenty to spare. Bing on stage strung it all together. The singing compere. First Miss Clooney. Delectable… Ted Rogers, Britain’s most topical comedian recommended to Crosby by Como… Bing on his own had given us contemporary hits like ‘The Way We Were’ and ‘Send in the Clowns’, but it was with a 30-minute medley with the quartet that he really scored with this audience.…
(John Gibson, Edinburgh Evening News, July 16, 1976)
His high-stepping, short-paced gait, lively in appearance but economical of effort; his raised chin and firmly closed mouth, an attitude elderly men tend to use for keeping old skin taut. His impeccable microphone technique; his voice rich as ever, except for the high notes, which he avoided. His charm and, well, talent is the only word, I suppose, for an ability to command a stage for almost three hours without moving a wrong muscle…The old man’s watery blue eyes as he sang “The Way We Were”. His self-possession during the applause at the end – doesn’t he realize how rare standing ovations are in Edinburgh? – and his gentle send-up of our enthusiasm as he strutted off, hand on heart.
(The British Medical Journal, October 30, 1977)
I worked with Bing Crosby during his last two Palladium seasons, and also on his provincial date. Previously I had done a British tour with Perry Como, and it was he who went back to the US and persuaded Bing to come over to the UK and play some concerts. He also suggested that he (Bing) should have me on the support bill, which I took to be a tremendous honour.
I remember the first time I met Bing. I had gone round to the offices to discuss with him our routine on stage, which included some duets and comedy together. When I arrived he was in another room, talking on the telephone—I could hear him, and he spoke like he sang! You could hear his voice going up and down. I remember being in great awe of the fact that he was next door and that I would meet him in a few minutes, but the moment we shook hands the whole aura of his legend disappeared. We were simply two artists there to do a job.
After some Scottish dates, Bing took a party of 14 of us from the show, including Rosemary Clooney to a local mansion where we had dinner and were then entertained in the typical Scottish manner. After the proceedings he began to reminisce about his life and career, and he was talking about artists who to me were legends. It was just so marvellous to be with him. I last saw Bing on the Monday before he died when he played his last concert in Brighton, and he seemed particularly bright and aware during his performance. It was a great fun show.
To me, losing Bing Crosby is like losing my father. Everything has been said about him now, but his death still leaves me speechless.
(Ted Rogers, as quoted in Woman’s Realm magazine after Bing’s death)
July 19, Monday. Bing at Churchill Hotel in London.
July 20, Tuesday. Records the first part of the Feels Good–Feels Right album with an orchestra conducted by Alan Cohen at Decca Studio No.3, Broadhurst Gardens, London, working from 10:00 a.m. to 12:45 p.m.
Bing had come to England to create a spoken word, three-LP box-set, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, with Geoff working on the sound effects. While Crosby was there, Geoff (Milne) had snapped up his latest record, Southern Memoir.
“He said nobody wanted it. He had run out of steam, as far as the record labels were concerned,” Geoff says. “I knew John Scott Trotter [Crosby’s regular accompanist and director], whom I’d met in America, and he told Bing I would be interested.”
Having released the album, Geoff was given the chance to produce a new Crosby record: 1976’s Feels Good, Feels Right. “One can get very blasé about this sort of thing, but it was quite an event to meet him,” Geoff says. “It was very pleasant seeing him. I was always interested in Crosby – he was a bit of a legend, a little bit special.”
Geoff says being in the studio with the singer was a memorable experience: “It wasn’t just a job. It was exciting, in a way, listening to him. It’s hard to explain, but he was a man who had been singing since 1926 and he was still going strong – he had an incredible track record.
“He went through a period in the 1950s when he sounded a little bit tired and the records didn’t sound as good, but he seemed to recover from the early ‘70s onwards – there was a new timbre to his voice.”
The first step was to decide which songs Crosby would record, with Geoff driving up to the singer’s rented house at Holland Park to talk over possibilities. “We were going through all sorts of titles in the flat,” he says. “He knew most of them, having probably sung them on the radio at one time or another. But I remember having to sing one of them for him, and him saying: ‘That was very good – you ought to record it’, very much tongue-in-cheek.”
And Geoff did get a chance to croon in the studio, as Bing struggled with one particularly tricky melody line. “There was another song, either Rose in Her Hair or Old Fashioned Love, where he couldn’t get the melody quite right and had to be reminded of how it went,” Geoff says.
“If you look on the back of the LP, there’s a photo of me singing to him, because he couldn’t get it right. Everybody found that very amusing. I suppose even the master professionals can have their weaknesses.”
Mostly, though, Geoff was taken aback by just how easy Crosby found the process. “The actual recording didn’t take very long,” he says. “Myself and the studio producer Kevin Daley suggested titles and Bing usually went along with what we had to say.
“He could nail a song in the first go. If you did it again, it was just a safety, just to be sure. I often heard the first take and thought: ‘How’s he going to improve on that?’”
The album was recorded in one three-day period in July, with a second session at the start of August where Bing recut four songs he was unhappy with, using a different style and tempo, including one that never made the record – That Old Black Magic.
Geoff’s favourite song from the record is the enchanting, dreamy closing number. “The song that stands out from those sessions is When I Leave the World Behind,” he says. “He liked that song; I remember when we talked about it. Al Jolson had made it famous and we thought: ‘Hmm, is it the right sort of material?’, but Bing was convinced it was, and he was right.”
Geoff says that while Bing was “practical” and “no mug”, he had much in common with the happy-go-lucky persona he cultivated in films and on records. “He wasn’t particularly interested in money,” Geoff says. “We signed contracts with him for a very nominal amount. He was just happy to be working.”
Still, it wasn’t always easy for the singer to fit in studio time along with his other commitments. “Golf was more important to him than singing,” Geoff says. “We were fixing duties for the studio and he would say: ‘I shall be at the golf that day’ – that always came first.”
The singer used his trip to the UK to pursue several hobbies, going grouse-shooting near Ripon in North Yorkshire, playing cricket with youngsters at the High Side playing fields in Kirkby Malzeard which he had helped build, and attending a golf championship in West Sussex.
While Crosby was in the country, Geoff did his best to make the star feel at home. “Bing used to come in with all sorts of requests,” he recalls. “That included getting hold of some records of bird noises for his wife Kathryn.” Feels Good, Feels Right was released during a major upturn in Bing’s fortunes.
“It did quite well in sales,” Geoff says. “Bing was in the middle of a resurgence of interest – people were saying his voice was even better than in the ‘50s. He was more relaxed. He had done a concert – two or three nights at the London Palladium, and that had sparked this big interest. By general consensus he was singing very well indeed.”
Geoff remembers Crosby as “a very down-to-earth sort of man”, matter-of-fact and unfailingly polite. “I remember while we were in my office, a West Indian waitress brought some drinks in, and he was up there like a shot to take the tray from her and thank her,” he says.
“He was on his feet instantly, a man of his stature. I can think of many artists who wouldn’t have moved.” Though the company tried to keep Bing’s visit quiet, word inevitably leaked out, with vast numbers of fans visiting the studio. “There are some who hate signing autographs, but Bing would sign anything,” Geoff says.
“He said when people stopped asking for his autograph, that would be the time to worry. People were constantly knocking on the office doors, but he never refused them. That just shows what kind of a man he was.”
July 21, Wednesday. Continues recording the Decca album between 10:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m.
July 22, Thursday. Further recording session at Decca Studios between 10:00 a.m. and 12:20 p.m.
The spirit’s willing, but Bing’s tired pipes aren’t what they once were despite his choice of nine splendid standards and three more recent tunes recorded last summer in London. One must overlook faulty intonation, an inability to sustain notes and an overall feeling of fatigue in this program produced by Kevin Daly and with orchestra conducted by Alan Cohen. For Crosby filberts, however, the LP will hit the mark. No annotation. Best cuts: “Nevertheless,” “When I Leave This World Behind.”
(Billboard, January 29, 1977)
Not having received that advance publicity that most of Bing’s albums have had this last year or so we have, in this Decca presentation, a superb surprise bonus that keeps us reeling in amazement at the resurgence of our new, top-form, Bing. Yes, let’s not lose sight of the fact that Bing is singing better than he was, and this LP is as good an example as any to prove the point.
Basically a collection of love ballads, there is at the same time a nice balance of pace as well as featuring appropriate ‘openers’ for each side. It appears that the up-tempo tunes were recorded at the third of the four sessions and the introductory number, first sung by Bing on a TV programme in the autumn of that anxious 1974, is easily the best example of three of them, It gets the album off to a flying start with Bing infectiously enthused by a lyric which tells us that as far as he is concerned it is great to be alive and well, and back singing in with a band.
Band? Let me not do an injustice to this very fine orchestra conducted by Alan Cohen, who also contrived the arrangements. No line-up is to hand but there is aural evidence of a full string, brass and woodwind complement, including harp and harmonica. The arrangements are mostly traditional without losing sight of the contemporary big band sound and there’s no doubt that the modern recording techniques do full justice to every member of the orchestra.
me, the best session occurred on 21 July when four very fine ballads were
recorded. At one time the verse to a song was almost always featured, then for
a time they became the exception rather than the rule. In several recent
recordings Bing has given us verses which must be quite new to many listeners
and happily, that’s a prominent feature of the presentation of the ballads to
which Bing brings his unique vocal nuances on this LP.
(Bert Bishop, BING magazine, Christmas 1976 [#44])
July 27-31, Tuesday–Saturday. The annual horse race meeting at Goodwood, near Chichester, West Sussex, takes place. Bing attends at some time during the meeting.
August 2, Monday. (3:00 p.m.) Bing is at Decca House to listen to acetates of his recent recording sessions before returning to Claridges.
While in my office with Bing, we were constantly interrupted by knocks at the door. “Would Mr. Crosby please let me have an autograph?” Never once did he demur. We usually tried to keep his visits quiet so that he would not be disturbed, but it would soon get round the building that Geoff Milne was meeting with Bing in his office! Indeed, Bing once said to me that he would be worried when people stopped asking for his autograph. At 3:30 p.m., the door opened for a West Indian waitress bearing tea and biscuits. Bing immediately jumped up and took the tray from her, with profuse thanks, much to her surprise and delight. I don’t think she will have ever forgotten that gracious little act, so typical of Bing.
(Geoff Milne, in a letter to BING magazine, December 1996)
August 3, Tuesday. Golfs in the pro-am curtain raiser for the Colgate European Women’s Championship at Sunningdale. He and his partner, Susan Downer, return a 12-under par 62 but their score is eclipsed by a 57 scored by Nathaniel Crosby and his partner.
August 5, Thursday. (evening) Visits Ashington, West Sussex, and dines at the Old Smithy restaurant off the London Road as one of a party of guests of Capt. H. Ryan Price, the Findon racehorse trainer.
August 9, Monday. Bing and his two youngest sons leave Heathrow for Frankfurt, West Germany.
August 10, Tuesday. Bing and his sons golf in the American Express Pro-Am at Frankfurt Golf Club. Bing tees off at 10:00 a.m.
FRANKFURT - His voice isn’t as strong as it once was and his golf game isn’t as good as it once was, but it is evident at first glance that Harry Lillis Crosby enjoys life. For, lo, these many years, Bing Crosby has been enjoying life. So, why should things have been different Tuesday morning at Frankfurt Golf Club where the old maestro made an appearance to play, along with his two younger sons, Harry and Nathaniel, in the American Express ProAm prelude to the 42nd German Open. Things certainly weren’t any different Tuesday.
“I’ve been working quite hard with my concerts lately, but I’ve thoroughly enjoyed them. Over the years, I’ve played many charity shows, but they haven’t been on such a large scale as the recent presentations in London, Dublin and Edinburgh,” Crosby said.
“My family has been taking part in the performances and I’ve really enjoyed every minute of all of them. We had a great band, we played in great theaters and, most of all, we had a great cast - what more could a man want?” he added.
Harry is an accomplished guitarist and pianist who is interested in serious music, and Bing’s wife is the former actress Kathy Grant. She is currently performing in “The Heiress” in Edinburgh and daughter. Mary Francis (16) also has shown some acting potential.
Crosby, of course, is a golf enthusiast from way back. He tries to play on weekends when the boys are out of school and his Crosby “Clambake,” near Monterey, Calif., the first big pro-am ever staged, is one of golfdom’s annual big attractions.
“Oh, I’ve managed to get in a few rounds of golf in England, Scotland and Ireland between performances. The boys and I have had some wonderful times on those links courses. We really enjoyed Portmarnock (near Dublin), what a great course.
“I don’t play as good a game as I used to play, but it’s still fun for me. That’s why I’m here today, to have some fun. The boys really take the game seriously and they’ll be trying to win today. Me, I’m going to enjoy myself,” Der Bingle said.
Crosby said he didn’t play the game as good as he used to, but he smiled and said “nine” when he was asked what handicap he plays to. A nine isn’t too bad for a 72-year-old performer - no, indeed, it’s pretty darn fine. During his warmup, in preparation for partnering Spanish pro Angel Gallardo and H.O. Krings, president of the German Golf Federation, Crosby hit shot after shot straight down the middle on the Frankfurt driving range and he got off the first tee with a slight hook down the left side.
Harry was teamed with Severiano Ballesteros, the young Spaniard who fared so well in the British Open and won last week’s Dutch Open and Nathaniel (14) played with South Africa’s Hugh Baiocchi and Alexander von Bensheim. Harry, who turned 18 on Sunday, had a net 62 and Bing, who was “playing for fun,” turned in a net 69.
“You have to adjust a few things in your life as you get older,” Bing said. “I know I don’t have the singing range I had 30 or 40 or even 10 years ago. So, I don’t try to hit those high notes, I try to sing an octave lower. Some people believe it’s all over when they can’t reach those high notes. Not me, I keep on singing because I love to sing.”
‘White Christmas,’ Crosby said, had to be his favorite song, because it had the “biggest impact on my life.” It had a big impact on many lives because it is the biggest selling single record of all times. He said he had performed in something like 24 concerts over the past few years and had released six or seven albums and quite a few singles in the last 18 months in addition to his concerts.
“What do you do in your spare time?” he was asked.
“Oh, I golf. I fish. I travel. I enjoy life. And I do as much of this as possible with my family. The basis of a sound community is sound family life within the community and sound communities make for a sound country.
“I am very active in two organizations - the American League of Anglers and Ducks Unlimited. Too many of our American rivers are becoming polluted and too much of our forest land is being destroyed, much of it by sheer carelessness, and those two groups have been fighting a war to preserve the beauty of America and I try to do my bit to help them,” he said.
Crosby also is interested in baseball, especially the Pittsburgh Pirates organization in which he has some cash invested. He spoke right up when he was told that John Candelaria had pitched a no-hitter against the Los Angeles Dodgers Monday night.
“He’s a big lefthander and he can really throw the ball. Sometimes, he doesn’t know where it’s going, but then again neither do the batters. And that can be good sometimes,” Crosby said. “Candelaria’s been having a pretty year.” (Ed. note: Candelaria owns an 11-4 record, proving that Bing keeps on the top of things.)
Der Bingle warbled bits of some of his songs. Like he said, he doesn’t have that far out range any more, but he sure was enjoying his day at Frankfurt Golf Club Tuesday.
(Ben Abrams, Stars & Stripes, August 12, 1976)
August 11, Wednesday. Flies in from West Germany to stay at Godfrey Bostock’s house near Ripon, North Yorkshire.
August 12, Thursday. After grouse shooting on Dallowgill Moor with his son Harry in a party led by Godfrey Bostock (Bing shoots six and a half brace), calls at Kirkby Malzeard, near Ripon, to see the Highside Playing Fields he has helped with donations totaling £1250. Briefly plays cricket there and the event is captured by photographers.
With his pads and batting gloves on Bing strode into the centre of the picturesque village pitch to face the bowling of some youngsters who had never heard him sing or seen his films.
“How do you hold this bat?” he joked. “And what do you do with it? Don’t send those balls down fast,” he said, hitting the first ball for four. But to the delight of the spectators he was out—clean bowled with the second ball.
(Daily Mail, August 13, 1976)
August 13, Friday. Bing and his son Harry remain at Godfrey Bostock’s home.
August 14, Saturday. Bing and Harry travel to London.
August 16-18, Monday–Wednesday. Bing accompanies his fourteen-year-old son Nathaniel to Sunningdale for the British Boys’ Golf Championship. Nathaniel reaches the fourth round before he is knocked out.
August 17, Tuesday. (10:00–12:30 p.m.) Records four more songs for the Feels Good–Feels Right album with an orchestra conducted by Alan Cohen at Decca Studio No. 3, Broadhurst Gardens, London. Three of the songs are not issued until after Bing’s death.
August 21, Saturday. Bing and his sons watch Kathryn and Mary in the final performance of The Heiress in Edinburgh. The play has been a disaster from start to finish during a three week run, first at Ochtertyre and then in Edinburgh.
August 22, Sunday. Starting at 2:30 p.m., Bing captains a team of USA celebrities against a British team led by Sean Connery on the King’s Course at Gleneagles, Scotland. The event is organized by The Saints and Sinners Club of Scotland and the Scottish Taverners Club and is watched by a large crowd.
I don’t like to name-drop, but look at this list of names for when the American team came over to play against the UK members at Gleneagles: Bing Crosby, Burt Lancaster, George C. Scott, Robert Stack, Phil Harris, Steve Forrest, Dick Martin, Jack Lemmon and Alan Shepard, the astronaut who took a golf ball to the moon and actually hit it while he was there. It was one of the most wonderful golf tournaments ever. Sean Connery was our captain, and, among others, we had James Hunt, Jackie Stewart, Max Bygraves, Henry Cooper, Val Doonican and Jimmy Tarbuck in our team. What a crowd. . . . The day I played with the American crooner Bing Crosby, Bing turned on the heat when we got to the last few holes. He gave us a bit of a thrashing and won the game. He was such a keen golfer. He used to smoke this extra-long pipe which he put down on the grass before we played a shot. I often wondered whether the position of the pipe helped to line him up for the direction in which he wanted to hit his shot. But I don’t really think so. Would Bing do that to Brucie? How can I be so untrusting, so cynical? But, believe me, it was a very long pipe!
(Bruce Forsyth writing in his autobiography Bruce: The Autobiography, page 222)
August 23, Monday. Golfs on the King’s Course at Gleneagles,
with Sean Connery, Phil Harris, and Jackie Stewart as they tape a further International
Pro-Celebrity Golf television program. Bing remains at the course all week
to introduce the other matches in the series which is presented by Peter Alliss
and shown on
The event was run by Ken Bowden, a prolific author and golf magazine editor, who timidly asked my father to tape an introduction to the show. Dad agreed, and when he showed up at the appointed hour on a chilly morning, he "amiably greeted the crew," Bowden wrote in one of his books, "then turned to me. 'Okay. Script?' "
Bowden handed him the text, at least a few hundred words long, he estimated, and asked whether he should load it into the teleprompter. "Give me a minute," my father said, He stepped away and quietly read it three times. "I got the impression he was trying to memorize it," Bowden wrote, "but couldn't believe that was possible in so short a time."
the script to Bowden, stood in the designated place in front of the camera, and
said, "Let's go." Bowden again offered to put it on the teleprompter
to let him rehearse once. "Not necessary," Dad
said. Bowden, meanwhile, was concerned that Dad
would stray from the script.
The opposite occurred.
"Amazingly, Bing's delivery was virtually word-perfect, meaning he'd
memorized the darn thing in just three quick readings. By then, I'd worked a
few hundred such tapings, some featuring superstar actors. In golfing terms, Bing
Crosby had just made them all look like bumbling hackers."
(Nathaniel Crosby, 18 Holes with Bing, pages 43-44)
The format was simple: nine
holes, famous celebrity and famous professional golfer versus ditto, with Peter
as the referee, commentator and interviewer. It took off from the first,
getting good viewing figures for
I am not sure who the professional golfers were that year in Gleneagles, but Bing Crosby’s star opponent was the great American screen actor George C. Scott, fresh from his success as Patton. Two nine-hole matches were played every day, one teeing off at 9 a.m. and the afternoon match at 2.30 p.m. Crosby and Scott were due to engage for the morning four ball. Belying his years, Crosby was on the tee early, eager and frisky and ready to bring the King’s Course to its knees. A large crowd of spectators had turned up to cheer on the great men. The problem was that one of the great men was missing: George C. Scott.
There was no panic. George was not known for his time-keeping; indeed, it was suggested that he might be nursing a bit of a hangover, as he had been seen enjoying a post-prandial snifter or several the evening before. Runners were sent to his bedroom, the breakfast room and, finally, to the bar. There he was behind it - well, beneath it, dozing, surrounded by several bottles! He growled at all attempts to move him. All appeals to his finer nature, to his golfing soul, came to nought. Bing Crosby was sent for. In he ambled, and bending over his erstwhile opponent, crooned: ‘George … George!’
The hulking figure opened an eye. ‘Yeah, Bing?’
‘Whaddya want, George?’
‘Two things, Bing ...’
‘Yes, George, and what can we get for you?’
‘A piss, and a plane ticket outta here.’
George C. Scott left for Edinburgh airport within the hour. Peter Alliss recalls him hurling his golf clubs out of the limousine window, as it made its stately progress down the drive.
(Terry Wogan, writing in his book, Is It Me? pages 79/80)
How could one ever forget a week with the late Bing Crosby? At that time he was not too strong, frail, ageing. He was an entirely pleasant man, steeped of course in show business—he has quite the most astonishing wig I have ever seen which fitted sweet as a nut—but not one to talk much about it at all. He was a good conversationalist, enjoyed his life, loved the game of golf, loved the people he found in golf, loved going to Scotland. He enjoyed his Scotch and soda at the end of the day, and did every single thing smoothly and quietly. One thing he said which I cannot forget was that every single day of his life he tried to learn something—a new word, a new phrase, a new thought, a new fact. Just something about life. Pity more of us don’t do just that.
(Peter Alliss—An Autobiography)
August 26, Thursday. Interviewed by a Scottish schoolgirl (Judy Allan) on video at Gleneagles for FETV. The twenty-one minute interview entitled Talking to People is made available to all schools in the Fife educational area. Judy’s father, Morris Allan (the producer of the interview) sends a copy of the interview to Bing who replies as follows:
Thanks for your note and the 16mm film. I haven’t had a chance to view it yet because I don’t know how to run the projector and Harry is away at school. But I’ll get at it soon – when he returns.
Thanks for the cuttings describing the interview that Judy and I did over at Gleneagles when I was there. Very nice exposure – the whole incident – received in the various papers, and I’m pleased. Glad to hear, too, that the film is well received by both parents and children.
As regards the International Crosby Circle, it’s certainly all right for Judy to do a tape and send it to them for their use. They have been a very loyal adjunct of my connections there in Great Britain.
Thanking you very much – and Judy, too – for the interview.
Always a pleasure to oblige – your friend, Bing
During his time at Gleneagles, Bing also films a documentary called Bing’s Britain for the British Tourist Authority. He appears in both productions free of charge. Bing returns to London later in the week.
August 30, Monday. Bing flies to southern Spain for golf.
September 10, Friday. Bing flies into New Orleans from Miami, having been delayed by an airport strike in Madrid. He is greeted by Lt. Gov. James E. Fitzmorris and Archbishop Philip M. Hannan before giving a brief press conference. (8:00–9:00 p.m.) Bing entertains at the Gala Archdiocesan Charities Ball at the Hyatt Regency Hotel, New Orleans, in front of an audience of 1800 who have paid $100 each to attend. Peter Domburian leads the Pat Barberot Orchestra.
It was one of the classic show business moments, Bing Crosby crooning, Al Hirt tooting and Pete Fountain fingering his clarinet. All under the gleeful gaze of 1800 plus persons who attended Friday night’s Gala Archdiocesan Charities Ball at the Hyatt Regency Hotel. Crosby was the headliner for the $100 a plate charity event and Hirt and Fountain were plain customers but the three joined musical forces for one number, “Down the Mississippi” [sic, “Basin Street Blues” was the song] creating an entertainment delight that New Orleansians rarely have the opportunity to view these days.
With his voice as distinctively rich as ever, Crosby was in top form to compete with the musical ways of Hirt and Fountain. The number which came mid-way in a spectacular medley of tunes by Crosby brought a standing ovation. The swank evening kicked off with a gourmet dinner that included tournedos, wild rice and broccoli plus champagne and assorted wines and liquors but it was only a prelude to the “gourmet” entertainment served afterwards by “Der Bingle”. Accompanied by a jazz quartet, Crosby performed solo for more than sixty minutes, belting out a series of old and new tunes that turned out to be as tasty a treat as the dinner itself. He also chatted with the audience, telling a few stories about his career. His best number came early in the act - “Send in the Clowns” - that haunting, touching, Steven Sondheim composition from Broadway’s “A Little Night Music”. Other songs included, “The Way We Were”, “Gone Fishin’” and “At My Time of Life”, a new song from the musical “Great Expectations” which is based on the Charles Dickens novel but the grand finale of Crosby’s performance was a medley of two dozen or more tunes that included, “Swinging on a Star”, “True Love”, “Don’t Fence Me In”, “Pennies from Heaven”, “I Surrender Dear”, “You Are My Sunshine” “I’ll Be Seeing You”, “Way Down Yonder in New Orleans” (which, not surprisingly, drew lots of applause).
Crosby was introduced by Archbishop Philip Hannan. The Archdiocese could not have picked a more imposing performer to launch its yearly benefit event. Crosby’s long awaited appearance in New Orleans - his first performance here ever - should earn him even more fans at the seasoned age of 72. Beyond the material, there was the familiar voice, which was at its best and the impeccable delivery that skyrocketed Crosby to the status of an entertainment giant—now and always.
(New Orleans Times-Picayune, September 11, 1976)
September 11, Saturday. Bing flies back to Los Angeles to attend a nephew’s wedding.
September 19, Sunday. Attends the Radio Awards evening at the Hyatt Regency Hotel, San Francisco, where he is presented with the Armstrong Award by Ken Carpenter for pioneering contributions to radio and for fifty years as an entertainer. Rich Little and Gord Atkinson also make speeches.
September 21, Tuesday. Bing writes to his sister Mary Rose.
Just got home the other day and found your letter awaiting. I’m sorry to hear about the deterioration in your vision. I had thought you had arrested this. It must be very uncomfortable and a great inconvenience. I’ll probably get down there to Pebble Beach soon. I’ve got some business there and will look you up.
Well, we had three great months over there in Europe—touring, working, playing golf. Had a couple of good shoots. A lot of racing. And not one drop of rain! Which was great for us, but not so good for the farmers and for most of Southern England. Scotland was green, but the rest of it was pretty burnt out.
Had a great time in New Orleans on my way home. I did a concert there for the Catholic Charities. Big event—$100 a plate thing with 2600 people and during the medley which I do, I started singing “Basin Street Blues” and out of the audience came Eddie Miller, Pete Fountain and Al Hirt. This really broke it up good! A standing ovation for these fellas. Bushkin took care of things in great style. We didn’t have a very good band. The conductor was all right but the fellas had a little trouble with the arrangements, but Bushkin played the piano, and this fella, Johnny Smith, on the guitar is a tremendous artist. He played a lot of stuff on the electric guitar that was supposed to be for flutes and other instruments that the local musicians couldn’t quite handle. But it was a great night, and a good conclusion to what was an interesting trip for us all.
The rest of them came home a little ahead of me. I went to the south of Spain for a week to play some golf.
Kathryn’s play was very well done . . . She and Mary Frances acquired a lot of experience, I’m sure. Some of it valuable, but most of it just annoying.
The kids did well at the Palladium. By the end of the first week, and from then on, we really had a great act. About two and a half hours—not counting the twenty-minute interval, and the audiences in Ireland and Scotland were tremendous. Standing ovations every night, and a couple of times we couldn’t get Harry offstage. They wouldn’t let him off. He wound up singing at the piano, “I Write the Songs” a la Barry Manilow. Nathaniel was doing a duet with Clooney on “How About You” and Mary Frances was doing a dance and a couple of songs with me. We had a great British comic who really broke it up in the first half, and he and I sang “Gone Fishin’” together because of the Bicentennial and Armstrong’s birthday and all that.
It was an interesting tour and profitable for a lot of great charities.
(As reproduced in The Grapevine, September 1991)
September 27, Monday. Bing writes to British fan, James Dineen in Glasgow.
I just wanted to be sure that you were properly thanked for the pictures you sent me. I thought they were very fine indeed. I saw the letter you wrote Mrs. Crosby and I fear maybe the letter I wrote you when I was in London, hadn’t reached you, so, I’m taking this means of furnishing the proper thanks.
All of us appreciate our association with you, and seeing you every year when we are there, and look forward to seeing you when we come back next summer.
Hope you liked “The Heiress”. I thought it was a good play, and it is probably the best thing Mrs. Crosby has ever done. A very successful thing for her, and I believe she’ll probably do it over here.
Hope that you have a good winter - not too much bad weather - although I know you need the rain, but not as badly as they need it in Southern England, perhaps, but you do need a little bit.
All the best to you and your family.
September 29, Wednesday. While driving to his home at Las Cruces, Bing gets caught up in Hurricane Liza and has to turn back and stay in the El Presidente Hotel in La Paz. He is given a room on the seventh floor but has to evacuate this when rain smashes through the windows. Stays in the basement discotheque with the other guests. Four hundred thirty-three people die in La Paz and the surrounding area. He describes it in his diary as follows:
On my way to Los Angeles, to present the concert for the Thalians, I decided to stop off in La Paz for a week of dove shooting. It was raining when I arrived. By the time I hit the highway, a stiff breeze was blowing, and the potholes were full of water. I ran into Louis Benoit, who was fresh from Las Cruces in a mangled jeep. He described the road ahead as impassable. Chevalo was certain that we could get through, but I made a good decision for once, and turned back to La Paz.
By the time I reached the El Presidente Hotel, I had to fight my way to the entrance through gale-force winds. I checked in, and lay down for a brief nap, only to be awakened by a bellboy, who announced that all guests were to assemble in the banquet hall on the ground floor.
The room had large bay windows with a view of the beach, and they began bending visibly, so we had to move into a windowless basement with strong wooden doors. We lay down on blankets, and prepared to wait out the storm, but minutes later there was an explosion, as the windows gave way in the banquet hall. The locked-and-bolted doors to our room burst open, scattering the guests about the floor, with much screaming and numerous cries of pain.
We were again evacuated, this time to the discotheque, a true subterranean bomb shelter, completely encased by walls of solid concrete. We were served sandwiches and coffee, and remained for seven hours, until we could hear that the wind, which had blown at over 100 miles an hour, was perceptibly diminishing.
The staff began determining which of the guest rooms were still suitable for occupancy. The hotel had lost its electricity, water, telephones, and 60% of its windows. I was escorted back to my room by flashlight at 2 AM. I turned the key in the lock, stepped aside, and kicked the door open. A blast swept through it, and I peeked around the frame to see that all the windows had been blown out. When the gale subsided, I gathered my luggage, sought refuge in a safer room, and finally managed about four hours of sleep.
The morrow dawned absolutely calm, and I started to consider my escape. The mile and a half to the highway was a sea of mud. No one could drive in or out. Even if I managed to reach the airport, it would be closed for lack of power. By early afternoon, the road had started to dry out, and I rented a jeep, whose four-wheel drive managed to carry me as far as the highway to La Paz, where Hughes Air West had a working telephone. I called Aeromexico, and was informed that they’d know by the next morning whether the flight for Los Angeles could take off. Our own strip at Las Cruces was under five feet of muddy water.
La Paz looked as if it had been hit by a thousand-plane raid. Many buildings had been flattened, and those still standing had lost their windows. Most trees were down, and the roads had been washed out by the deluge of water from the mountains. Hundreds of cars and many houses were completely buried. The dam above the city had burst, and the resulting flood had swept the shacks at the edge of town into the nearby gorges. Many persons who had made the mistake of trying to flee from the torrent would have been better off remaining where they were, and hanging onto something. Big boats were beached all along the coast, several right in front of the hotel.
The death toll was over a thousand, and we had an immediate mass burial of seven hundred people, to avoid an ensuing plague. The President has flown up from Mexico City to attempt to assess the damage.
(Extracted from My Last Years with Bing, page 377)
October 2, Saturday. Flies from La Paz to Los Angeles in the CBS camera plane. At night, Bing, Bob Hope, and Dorothy Lamour are honored with the “Mr. Wonderful Award” at the Twenty-First Annual Thalian Show, a benefit charity ball in the International Ballroom at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Los Angeles. They announce that they will make the film The Road to Tomorrow in Moscow, London and Saudi Arabia.
Many years later, my charity, The Thalians, planned to honor Bing, Bob Hope, and Dorothy Lamour, who had starred together in the seven popular “Road” movies. Everyone told me that I’d have trouble getting Bing to come to accept his award. Bob Hope teased me that I would never get him to agree to it. So I decided to call Bing. In those days you could go direct to anyone, even the biggest stars. You didn’t have to go through their agent or manager or hairdresser like you do now—if you can even get them on the line.
I was then appearing on Broadway in Irene, and Bing was on vacation in Scotland, playing golf. Just as I was going on onstage, I got word that he was on the line. Long-distance phone calls weren’t as easy to place then as they are now, so of course I took the call. They held the curtain until I finished. When I asked Bing to be our honoree, he agreed, but only if he could accept the award before dinner. He didn’t want to wait around all night to receive it. I agreed to his simple request.
(Debbie Reynolds, Unsinkable – A Memoir, page 239)
October 11, Monday. Connee Boswell dies. Bing had been telephoning her daily at Mt. Sinai Hospital prior to her death. He sends a hand-written note to her sister Vet.
My most heartfelt condolences on Connie’s passing – (she was my favorite gal – I called her “sister Constance” and she called me “brother Bingstance”). A great lady, with boundless courage and divine talent. I loved her.
October 14, Thursday. Bing is in Las Vegas discussing how to help the Rev. Ben Franzinelli build a church for his Holy Family parish. The priest has been saying Sunday mass in the Sundancer Saloon for the previous twelve months.
October 19, Tuesday. Bing records at Devonshire Sound Studios, Magnolia Boulevard, North Hollywood, for United Artists. Bing adds his voice to tracks recorded by Pete Moore and his Orchestra in London. Most of the songs appear on the Beautiful Memories album.
Sadness inevitably surrounds “Beautiful Memories” by the late Bing Crosby, which must be one of the last LPs we will enjoy by this splendid gentleman with fifty years of consummate artistry to his credit, although we are advised of at least one more in the pipeline from Polydor. It is not his best album by any means, but Crosby never made a bad one to my knowledge, and there is much of value and interest in his versions of mostly recent pop ballads such as “A Little Love and Understanding,” “My Resistance Is Low,” “When a Child Is Born,” and “The Woman on Your Arm.” It is certainly a very adequate valedictory souvenir from a singer who has left beautiful memories for a multitude around the world.
(The Gramophone, December, 1977)
October 20, Wednesday. Bing writes to Father Bob Murphy of the Church of the Risen Christ in Kansas City.
Thanks for your note. See you’ve been moving around a bit – from church to church – and I hope that the present assignment proves to be a salutary one.
There’s certainly going to be a lot of work to do with the schedule that you indicated in your letter but nice to know you did get a chance to catch the Royals once in a while.
They went a long way for an expansion team. George Brett is going to be a superstar, I’m sure, if he can keep the weight off and he attains speed on the bases, because he certainly is great with the bat, and looks like a pretty good defensive player, too.
Yes, I think we’re going to play in New York at the Uris Theatre. We’re working out the details now. Hope if we do you can arrange to catch the act.
All best wishes, Bing
October 23, Saturday. Tapes a television commercial for the K-Tel Palladium LP album in San Francisco.
October 29, Friday. Bing records further tracks under Ken Barnes’ direction at Devonshire Sound Studios, Magnolia Boulevard, North Hollywood, for United Artists. Again tracks laid down by Pete Moore and his Orchestra in London are used.
November 2, Tuesday. Democrat Jimmy Carter is elected president of the United States of America.
November 5, Friday. Bing records three more songs at Devonshire Sound Studios, Magnolia Boulevard, North Hollywood, using tracks recorded in London by Pete Moore and his Orchestra.
November 25, Thursday. Bing and his family fly into Las Vegas.
November 26, Friday. (Starting at 8:00 p.m.) Brings the Bing Crosby and Friends show to the huge new Aladdin Theater in Las Vegas to raise funds to help the Rev. Ben Franzinelli build a church for his Holy Family parish. Rosemary Clooney, Joe Bushkin, Ted Rogers, and the family take part with Billy Byers leading the Al Gambino Orchestra. Bill Loeb presents the show. 4833 people attend and over $65,000 is raised for the cause.
It was a cold and windy desert night that felt like it could have turned into a “White Christmas” had it been Christmas Eve, but Bing Crosby warmed the hearts of an estimated 6,000 persons Friday night with his first-ever appearance on the famed Las Vegas Strip. . . For more than two hours, Crosby, his family, singer Rosemary Clooney, the Joe Bushkin Quartet and British comic Ted Rogers held a captive audience in the sparkling new theater.
(Las Vegas Sun, November 28, 1976)
Bill Loeb was Rosemary Clooney’s manager for many years until 1981 and he produced Bing’s appearances in Las Vegas and at the Uris Theatre in New York in 1976. I asked him what Bing was like and he was fulsome in his praise saying:
“…he was one of the nicest people –
the most professional I have ever been involved with – he had no ego, he had no
demands, he didn’t travel with an entourage. He was very much to himself and he
had a saying that he would only get involved with people who knew more about it
than he did… A very private person, he didn’t go out partying after shows. He
would have his cereal at a coffee shop and go back and go to bed. He was a very
simple human being and to me that was very impressive…I had tremendous respect
for him and it was a marvellous experience in my career.”
(Author interview with Bill Loeb, June 9, 2011)