Chapter 5

                                                                     

 

The Making of the Legend, 1936–1939

 

By the end of 1935, Bing was one of the top ten box office film stars and his screen persona was further cemented by films such as Pennies from Heaven and Sing You Sinners as he revealed greater depth in his acting performances. He continued to have regular number one record hits and after having earlier changed radio sponsors a couple of times, he took over the prestigious Kraft Music Hall from Paul Whiteman. For ten years, the Kraft show became one of the top rated radio programs under Bing’s leadership. As the decade closed, Bing was far and away the most successful recording star, as his voice deepened into an easier and richer style after the powerful, more aggressive approach of the early thirties. He was carefully guided by Jack Kapp into singing a wide variety of material for Decca Records and this policy also helped to increase his appeal.

Bing’s family life appeared to be happy and he and Dixie had four sons. His father and several of his brothers had come to California to work for him and the image of the carefree and relaxed family man who enjoyed his sports activities began to develop. Bing invested heavily in the Del Mar racetrack and also set up his own horse breeding farm. The Bing Crosby National Pro-Am Golf Tournament began in 1937 and this was to raise a fortune for youth charities over the years.

Bing seemed to enjoy his show business life and he participated frequently in the Hollywood social scene. This period may well have been the happiest and most artistically satisfying period of his life and he was building himself into a legend. In 1939, he and Bob Hope made a film called Road to Singapore and history was in the making.

In 1939, $100 was equivalent to $1,237 in the year 2000.

 

1936

 

KMHJanuary 2, Thursday. (7:00–8:00 p.m.) Begins the Kraft Music Hall under his own contract for NBC. The guests include Kay Weber, Eleanor Whitney, and Cecil B. De Mille. Bing earns $5,500 per show jointly with Jimmy Dorsey and broadcasts every Thursday until June 11. The announcer is Don Wilson. Bob Burns is a regular on the show which at the outset comes from NBC’s Studio B, a big barn-like building on the back lot of the RKO Studios at Melrose and Gower. The show’s director is Cal Kuhl. The opening program receives a poor review in Variety magazine.

The rating for the season is 14.8 which puts the show in 17th. position for evening programs. The top program with a rating of 45.2 is the Major Bowes Amateur Hour which is broadcast every Sunday evening. Rudy Vallee’s show has a rating of 28.2. The ratings are now collected by C. E. Hooper. Hooper’s methodology was similar to the previous system operated by Crossley except that respondents were asked what programs they were listening to at the time of the call.

 

About the only thing missing from the conglomeration of entertainment that served to debut Bing Crosby as the master of this Thursday evening spot was a pair of Australian woodchoppers. (The) program was not only, badly routined and paced but talked itself into a state of painful boredom. Even allowing for the fact that the producers equipped him with a lollapalooza of a script, Crosby must have been largely to blame for the fog he walked himself into. There may be many moments in the session when hosts of listeners must have wished that the guy would quit blabbering and go into one of his songs. . . . Nevertheless, Crosby did a version of “Boots and Saddle” that was cooked to the queen’s taste.

(Variety, January 8, 1936)

 

January (undated). The Twenty-Second District Agricultural Association begin to build a fairground at Del Mar, north of San Diego, which is to include a grandstand and a one-mile racetrack. Bing, who has a ranch nearby at Rancho Santa Fe, is approached by local sportsman William A. Quigley to form a syndicate to put on a race meeting at Del Mar. See May 5, 1936.

January 9, Thursday. (7:00–8:00 p.m.) Bing hosts the Kraft Music Hall show. Guests include Joe Venuti, Mischa Levitzki, Kay Weber, and the Radio Rogues.

 

Radio’s finest purveyor of popular violin music, heard nightly with his band on coast networks for the past eight weeks, winds up his stay in Southern California with a featured appearance as guest of the Bing Crosby program. He is Joe Venuti, leader of American jazz violinists for many years, and still tops. On the same program, a world renowned pianist, in person of Mischa Levitzki, will play in his delightful fashion.

In direct contract, the mimicking Radio Rogues make fun at the expense of famed people, sing popular and droll songs. The Rogues have had a long run locally, but the programmers here evidently think them still capable of new stuff. Rupert Hughes, the author, supplies the serious moments of the program when he is not being witty. Music is by Jimmy Dorsey’s band.

      Crosby again will be master of ceremonies in gruff manner. Alas for him, he apparently will have to run out his contract in this role so unfitted to him. Everybody makes mistakes and Crosby certainly chalked up an error when he agreed to an m.c. part. His singing will have to be awfully good to offset it.

(Kenneth Frogley. Los Angeles Illustrated Daily News. January 9, 1936)

 

In his program report for the first show, Kuhl complained about Bing’s stubborn hugging of the mike and worried, “Show may need a bit of working over to find correct formula to the Crosby style and personality. Improvement was immediate. Following the second installment, Kuhl exulted, “Crosby in fine fettle. Show changed from opening program and now is more in the Crosby style, which is distinctive and different.”He found it well engineered and fast moving, especially praising contributions by classical pianist Mischa Levitski and commentator Rupert Hughes. Bing even held back on the mike. The jazz and humor quotient were raised by old friend Joe Venuti, whose impertinent, monosyllabic wit invariably made Bing laugh and who, in the argot of musicians, could swing you into bad health.  On the next few shows, guests included John Barrymore (who arrived in his cups yet, steadied by Bing, flawlessly rendered Hamlet’s soliloquy), Percy Grainger, Joe E. Brown, Leopold Stokowski, and Marina Schubert, a minor actress whose singing made her an early KMH favorite.

(Gary Giddins, Bing Crosby, A Pocketful of Dreams, The Early Years, 1903-1940, pages 399-400)

 

January 16, Thursday. (7:00–8:00 p.m.) Bing hosts the Kraft Music Hall show. Guests include John Barrymore, the Radio Rogues, and Nina Koshetz.

January 23, Thursday. Bing’s film Anything Goes is released.

 

Crosby has an effective light comedy manner and sings better than usual.

(Hollywood Citizen News, January 24, 1936)

 

Paramount uncorked its pent-up version of Anything Goes at the Paramount Theatre yesterday and instead of an exuberant pop and a merry fizz, there was merely a gentle sigh...Bing Crosby is an acceptable substitute for the show’s William Gaxton in almost every subdivision except that in which he joins Miss Merman in “You’re The Top”. It doesn’t seem possible but Mr. Crosby croons it.

(The New York Times, February 6, 1936)

 

Cole Porter’s lyrics, which were the original essence and chief asset of the original stage ‘Anything Goes,’ have been sacrificed for and replaced by plot motion in this Paramount film adaptation…Ethel Merman comes from the original cast and her job in the picture equals her job in the stage version, which means aces. Crosby in the Billy Gaxton juve lead makes it more important than the latter did, because of the extra territory taken in by his singing…

      Miss Merman starts the musical section off on the correct gam with ‘Kick,’ and from then on it’s a crossfire of solo and double singing by Miss Merman and Crosby. Even though they haven’t as bright a set of lyrics to play with, and despite that the novelty number is no longer quite novel, they do a bang-up job with their ‘You’re the Top’ duet. Crosby is fine singing “Sailor Beware” alone and working in with the three ship’s crew members (The Pug-Uglies) who sing as a trio, and he’s also there as usual when it comes to getting his quota of laughs. And there’s also a few sotto voce cracks in his vocal swingin’ for the special benefit of the boys at the Famous Door. . .

      As directed by Lewis Milestone everything moves along swiftly. On the whole, as screen entertainment and as musical adaptation, Par’s ‘Goes’ will do.

(Variety, February 12, 1936)

 

(7:00–8:00 p.m.) Bing hosts the Kraft Music Hall show. Guests include Percy Grainger and Joe E. Brown.

 

Joe E. Brown, screen comedian, and Percy Grainger, pianist and composer, have the guest spots on this evening’s Music Hall (KFI, 7 o’clock). The singing master of ceremonies, Bing Crosby, will present Brown in a comedy sketch, while Grainger offers several of his own compositions at the keyboard. KFWB’s pride, “Sons of the Pioneers,” also will take part in the show.

(Ray De O’Fan, Los Angeles Examiner, January 23, 1936)

 

January 24, Friday. Press comment states that Bing has been on the Hauser diet for a week and lost twelve pounds.

January 25, Saturday. Bing and Dixie are said to have been at the Mayfair Club’s formal ball “The White Mayfair” at Victor Hugo’s in Beverly Hills.

 

Johnny and Ginger fell into a hard-drinking crowd that centered on the Crosbys. Because Ginger had dated Bing before she met Johnny, they became friends with him and his wife, Dixie, who as a southerner enjoyed being with Johnny “It was my good fortune to know him when he was married to Dixie and his boys were small,” Mercer wrote. “They often rode on my back and I enjoyed the happy days around the track and poolside with this most attractive couple. She was very kind to me, as I was in such awe of him and she knew it.” What Mercer loved most about Crosby, even more than his singing, was his hipster talk - “his slang, his ad libs.” Mercer’s awe at Crosby’s stardom must have deepened now that he saw how elusive such success was in Hollywood.

(Skylark: the Life and Times of Johnny Mercer, p84)

 

January 29, Wednesday. Bing is photographed showing Eleanor Whitney and Marsha Hunt his racing stables.

January 30, Thursday. (7:00–8:00 p.m.) Bing hosts the Kraft Music Hall show. Guests include Leopold Stokowski and Nina Koshetz.

February 3, Monday. Bing goes on salary at Paramount to make the film Rhythm on the Range even though the script is not ready.

February 6, Thursday. (7:00–8:00 p.m.) Bing’s Kraft Music Hall show. Guests include Walter Huston, Marina Schubert, and Kay Weber. Ken Carpenter makes his debut as announcer. After the show, Bing attends a party given by Nina Koshetz for her daughter Marina Schubert. Accompanied by the Chmaras Brothers and their guitars, Bing sings “Dinah” and later, in the early hours when the lingering guests gather in the breakfast room for a late supper, Bing and Taylor Holmes lead a Russian chorus in singing “Sweet Adeline” and “Down by the Old Mill Stream.”

 

The February 6 show was memorable. Walter Huston’s dramatic reading fell flat, but he enchanted listeners by reminiscing about his years in vaudeville and movingly croaking a song—in effect, a prelude to his triumph in the 1938 musical Knickerbocker Holiday and his renowned recording of the score’s only hit, “September Song .” Elusive Russian pianist Josef Lhevinne, however, showed a slackening in his fabled technique; “the mike is cruel,” Kuhl wrote. Most important, that night marked the KMH debut of Bing’s new announcer, Ken Carpenter.

Don Wilson was well known as Jack Benny’s corpulent foil, and KMH wanted a fresh personality to serve as Bing’s man. Ken Carpenter was made to order. Mildly stentorian and quick on his feet, he was a sincere, gentle, and never unctuous pitchman. Like Benny’s Wilson, Carpenter became an essential part of the show, an agile straight man who relished every opportunity for clowning. Bing called him “a genuine professional radioman. He made me look good every time. He could do a lot of things with that big voice of his. He’d kinda surprise you. He could break you up putting on some kind of character - a rube or something like that.”

(Gary Giddins, Bing Crosby, A Pocketful of Dreams, The Early Years, 1903-1940, pages 399-400)

 

February 13, Thursday. (7:00–8:00 p.m.) The Kraft Music Hall broadcast on NBC. Bing acts as host and his guests include Andres Segovia, Alice Faye, and Spencer Tracy.

February 20, Thursday. (7:00–8:00 p.m.) Bing’s Kraft Music Hall show. Guests include Alfred G. Vanderbilt and Charles Ruggles.

 

The ‘Sport of Kings’ will be the main topic of conversation on Bing Crosby’s show, tonight.  Crosby, who freely mentions that he has one of the finest stables, will have as his guests on the broadcast, none other than the millionaire turf man, Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt.  With Vanderbilt will be his jockey, Bejsbak and trainer, J.R. Budstoller who will indulge in the four way conversation to be broadcast on a coast to coast NBC network.  Charles Ruggles, screen comedian, will be featured in an original sketch written especially for the program.  Musical highlights will be reflected by two prodigies, Leonard Pennario, 11 year-old pianist and Dorothy Wade, 10 year-old violinist who will offer solos.  Comedy by the Arkansas humorist, Bob Burns and popular music by Jimmy Dorsey’s Orchestra with Kay Weber, vocalist will round out the evening’s entertainment from the Music Hall.

(San Francisco Chronicle, 20th February 1936)

 

February 22, Saturday. Bing is thought to have entertained at the third annual dinner dance of the Screen Actors’ Guild in the Biltmore Ballroom.

February 25, Tuesday. Bing attends a party at Michael Bartlett’s Bel-Air home in honor of Mrs. Joan Whitney Payson.  Others present include Lord and Lady Cavendish, Errol Flynn, Charles Boyer, Grantland Rice, David Selznick, Elsa Maxwell, Merle Oberon, Billie Burke, Miriam Hopkins, Carole Lombard, David Niven, Humphrey Bogart and Clifton Webb.

February 27, Thursday. (7:00–8:00 p.m.) The Kraft Music Hall broadcast on NBC. Bing acts as host and his guests include Ann Sothern, Lotte Lehmann, and Kay Weber.

February 29,Saturday. Bing is at the Santa Anita race track and celebrates his first win of the season as his horse "Aunt Kitty" wins the race for 2-year olds.

March 1, Sunday. Bing is thought to have been at a reception at the Ambassador Hotel for Leopold Stokowski.

March (undated). Carroll Carroll rejoins the Kraft Music Hall as staff writer.

 

The trend of his last years of broadcasting on CBS for Woodbury and Chesterfield, during which some inkling of the Crosby personality had been allowed to ooze out between songs, was continued more forcibly in the Kraft Music Hall programs. A writer with the curious name of Carroll Carroll displayed even more curious talent. He actually caught Bing’s personality, giving him back his own lines; they sprang right out of his mouth onto Carroll’s typewriter. The continuity was also so loosely woven that it was always possible for Bing to ad-lib more than a few occasional “ands,” “ifs,” and “buts” and to give added life to one of the most lively radio programs ever organized.

From the very beginning, the show had astonishing balance and remarkable maturity for American radio. The comedy for its first few years was in the long hands and bilious bazooka barks of Bob Burns. Burns, an Arkansas hillbilly comedian, traded slow lines of a pseudomoronic character with Bing’s fast, polysyllabic speech and semiprofessorial, semiham-actor delivery. The music was supplied by Jimmy Dorsey’s band, a pert little combination consisting of most of the men Jimmy and his brother Tommy had led in New York before a fight over rehearsal time on a song had broken up their dually led organization. There was even a mite of jazz from time to time, hastened to the microphone by Freddie Slack’s piano and Jimmy’s clarinet and alto, but the general tenor of the program’s music was set by Bing’s baritone. And Bing’s baritone, through never Asleep in the Deep or On the Road to Mandalay, was confined more and more to the straight and narrow path of the No. 1 plug popular song and the standard classics of American musical comedy and film composers.

Carroll Carroll (the first name was always his; the second was originally Weinshenk) had to overcome some timidity on Bing’s part when he first took over from Paul Whiteman on the Music Hall.

“I’m a singer and a pretty bad actor,” Bing explained. “I don’t think I’ll do so well with a lot of lines.”

“Let me try,” Carroll suggested.

Carroll, a very small man (just five feet tall), followed Bing around closely during the first six months of the program, listening carefully to the singer’s speech, making some notes, remembering other lines. He was small enough not to be noticed when Bing was busy with a song or a visitor. Not until the six months were up did Bing call him by his name. After that opening period, the Crosby-Carroll relationship warmed up. A working routine was established. Each Thursday, the day of the program, he and Bing lunched at the Brown Derby on Vine Street, a block away from the NBC studio where the program was aired.

“We’ll make it in the side room.” Bing had made the first appointment. He wanted to avoid the main dining room of the Derby, crowded as it was with show-business people, many out to impress the others by having their names called for telephone messages during lunch. Bing felt it was ostentatious to make “a grand entrance through the center door into the main room.”

Bing seldom changed Carroll’s scripts. He would occasionally suggest a substitute line, a new ending, a different twist for a gag. He ad-libbed changes, but rarely by subtracting, almost always by adding. He and Carroll both liked polysyllabic words, florid diction, particularly the juxtaposition of slang and a choice, precise, proper vocabulary. They worked well together.

There were some unwritten rules. Bing’s jokes had to be plausible. “No falling out of windows,” Carroll once explained, “or one lung talking to another.” It was program policy to present opera singers like Feodor Chaliapin, Lauritz Melchior, Grete Stueckgold, and Rose Bampton, concert artists like Alexander Brailowsky, Harold Bauer, and Jose Iturbi, along with Connee Boswell and Mary Martin, Duke Ellington and Art Tatum, any and all movie stars and radio comedians. The longhairs were shortened; the crew-cuts were lengthened. Men and women from the opera and concert stage were humanized; jazz musicians and rowdy comics were treated with dignity, presented as artists in their own right. The result was a humanization all around that did well both for the program and for its guests…

Carroll explained some of his method after it had been developed by a few years of work with Bing. “Give him something he can see himself in. Bing plays Bing on the air, and certain things are appropriate. Every person has a cadence, and when I talk to a person I try to capture that cadence.” He explained further how that treatment worked with several of the singers who had appeared for regular periods opposite Bing on the Kraft show. “When Mary Martin was Bing’s air partner, she played the wife - a wife a little bit sharper than her husband, because Mary is a sophisticated young woman. Trudy Erwin was made the mousy type, not meaning that Trudy is actually mousy, but that she’s a soft personality.”  When, in 1944, Marilyn Maxwell took over, “we scripted her as Bing’s sweetheart because one imagines her better that way than as his wife. She is a ready and willing girl, but Bing was cast more in the role of a diffident wolf.”

(Barry Ulanov, The Incredible Crosby, pages120-123)

 

Comes now a mention of my employment by the Kraft Music Hall, beginning in December, 1935. I had been broadcasting for Woodbury Soap and Chesterfields, but when I went with Kraft I was with them for a long, fat decade.

Once more, as with Jack Kapp, I fell into the hands of a man who took a personal interest in developing me. He was the writer of the show, Carroll Carroll. Its producer was Cal Cuhl.

In addition to doing radio work, Carroll had written for a number of publications. He seemed to have an ear for the way I talked, and he encouraged me to incorporate as many of my own words as possible into the script. He’d send a script around to my home and I’d try to rewrite the speeches he’d written for me so as to make them sound even more like me. And I’d try to put in little jokes if I could think of any. Most of them were clumsy and pointless, but once in a while I hit something mildly amusing and Carroll wouldn’t delete it if he thought it had a chance of getting a laugh. The way we worked together resulted in the next thing to ad libbing.

The names of those who appeared with me on the Kraft show are a Blue Book of the loftiest talent in show business, but I had fun with them just the same. Those longhairs go for humanizing in a big way. They love it and the audience loves it, too. I never had any trouble with them about song material, the dialogue we were going to do together, or what we were going to talk about.

We were careful never to make my guests seem tawdry or cheap, or trick them into buffoonery. They got a kick out of yaketing about baseball or horse racing with me, and I’d sing an aria with them (although it was difficult to find an aria I could handle) and they’d sing a scat song with me.

I imagine over the ten-year span, at one time or another we had every important opera or concert name on the show, some of them many times, like Rose Bampton, Rise Stevens, Lotte Lehmann, Piatigorsky, Grainger, and others.

(Call Me Lucky, page 150)

 

March 5, Thursday. (7:00–8:00 p.m.) The Kraft Music Hall broadcast on NBC. Bing acts as host and his guests include Jack Oakie and Wini Shaw.

March (undated). Bing and Dixie watch the annual mid winter polo tournament at Santa Barbara.

March 12, Thursday. (7:00–8:00 p.m.) Another Kraft Music Hall broadcast. Bing’s guests include Patsy Kelly and Owen Davis.

 

Owen Davis, playwright and Patsy Kelly of the Hal Roach Studios will appear on Bing Crosby’s program from KFI at 7. Last week for the first time in this series, Mr. Crosby did not wear a hat or a cap. When he hung his headgear near the microphone, Bob Burns bet with him that he’d forget and put it on before the program was over. Always when he reached for it, the singer would remember. He was just about to put it on once, when he was stopped by a smile on the face of Mr. Burns.

(Zuma Palmer, Hollywood Citizen News, March 12, 1936)

 

March 19, Thursday. (7:00–8:00 p.m.) Bing’s Kraft Music Hall broadcast on NBC. Guests include Fred Stone and Marina Schubert.

March 24, Tuesday. Records four songs, including “The Touch of Your Lips” and “Twilight on the Trail,” with Victor Young and his Orchestra in Hollywood.


The most impressive of his new cowboy songs (including "We’ll Rest at the End of the Trail," "A Roundup Lullaby," "Empty Saddles") was "Twilight on the Trail," a lament introduced that year by Fuzzy Knight in The Trail of the Lonesome Pine and sung by Bing as though it were an old western hymn. That’s how it may have sounded to President Roosevelt, who declared it his favorite song after "Home on the Range"; Mrs. Roosevelt requested Bing’s record for the Roosevelt Library.

(Gary Giddins, A Pocketful of Deams, page 473)


March 26, Thursday. (7:00–8:00 p.m.) The Kraft Music Hall broadcast on NBC. Bing acts as host and his guests include Virginia Bruce and Grete Stueckgold. The Paul Taylor Choristers make their first appearance and remain as regulars.

March 29, Sunday. Records four more songs (including “Would You” and songs from Porgy & Bess) with Victor Young and his Orchestra in Los Angeles. Later, Bing sings “Thanks a Million” on an NBC broadcast celebrating Paul Whiteman’s 46th birthday the previous day.

 

Bing Crosby’s filmusicals not having kept pace with his Decca requirements, Crosby must again have recourse to stock catalogue stuff and not adhere to a preconceived preference of waxing only the tunes he introduces on the air or screen. Two from Gershwin’s ‘Porgy & Bess’ serve as Crosby’s latest on Decca ‘It Ain’t Necessarily So’ and ‘I Got Plenty of Nuttin’’ and they’re among Crosby’s tops in the waxworks. Victor Young, his fave maestro, batons a distinguished orchestral accompaniment.

(Variety, June 24, 1936)

 

April (undated). Bing’s parents sell their house in Spokane to the Higgins family for $3500. The Higgins family had rented it for a year or two.

April 2, Thursday. (7:00–8:00 p.m.) The Kraft Music Hall broadcast on NBC. Bing’s guests include Albert Spalding, Edward Everett Horton, Ned Sparks, and Binnie Barnes. Bing goes on with Bob Burns to the first annual Radio Ball of the radio industry at the Palomar where they share emceeing duties. There are said to be 7500 people there.

April 4–June 26, Saturday–Friday. Films Rhythm on the Range for Paramount with Frances Farmer, Bob Burns, and Martha Raye. The film is directed by Norman Taurog with musical direction by Boris Morros.

 

When they returned to Hollywood, Mercer had “I’m an Old Cowhand,” but, as he knew from his days on Tin Pan Alley, a good song didn’t make it on its own; it needed a “plug” from a big star. The best plug he could have hoped for came from Bing Crosby, who liked the song and got it into his next movie, Rhythm on the Range, where it became a hit in the fall of 1936. “I really think he saved my Hollywood career,” Mercer said. “Because I began to get more offers after that.” While Mercer was obviously grateful for Crosby’s help at this critical time, it might also have gnawed at those inner demons he carried that he was beholden to a man whose success he had recently hoped to emulate and perhaps even surpass.

(Skylark: the Life and Times of Johnny Mercer, p88)

 

Johnny Burke first came out from New York to write songs for Pennies from Heaven and arrived at Paramount while Bing was making Rhythm on the Range. They briefly exchanged greetings and Johnny went to work immediately writing the love song with Arthur Johnston. The number was “And So Do I.”

      “I’ll never forget the day that Arthur and I went out to the set to play the song for Bing. He was wearing a cowboy outfit, and he followed us over to the piano in the corner of the sound stage. Arthur played the piano and I sang, scared half to death. When I finished, there was a moment of awful silence, before Bing said, ‘Why, Johnny, that’s poetry.’ Then he turned and walked away. He never did say whether he liked it or not, but those were the sweetest words I’d ever heard.”

(From an article in Modern Screen magazine, April, 1951)

 

April 4, Saturday. Bing and Dixie are said to have attended the Screen Dancers Guild annual Easter Ball and Pageant in the Fiesta Room of the Ambassador Hotel.

April 6, Monday. The softball season opens at Loyola Stadium and Bing is there to sponsor his all girls team which is called “The Croonerettes.”

April 7, Tuesday. Bing is one of the hosts at a luncheon at the Paramount commissary when the president of Paramount entertains several prominent New York bankers.

April 8, Wednesday. Places his prints and name in cement at Grauman’s Chinese Theater, Hollywood.

April 9, Thursday. (7:00–8:00 p.m.) The Kraft Music Hall broadcast on NBC. Bing acts as host and his guests include Joan Crawford, Rudolph Ganz, and Florence Gill.

 

Celebrities in a variety of fields will be presented on Bing Crosby’s show at 7 p.m. Joan Crawford, in an interview with Bing, will tell about some of her experiences in pictures and some behind-the-scenes stories of Hollywood. In keeping with the season Madame Schuman-Heinck will sing several, familiar Easter songs. Rudolf Ganz, concert pianist, will play and Florence Gill, “Queen of Cackle,” will offer animal imitations.

(Los Angeles Times, April 9, 1936)

 

April 16, Thursday. (7:00–8:00 p.m.) Another Kraft Music Hall broadcast with Bing as host. Guests include Efrem Zimbalist and Zasu Pitts.

April 23, Thursday. Bing is on the Paramount lot and just misses by 100 feet an electrical accident that kills one man and leaves another seriously injured. A crane swinging steel girders into position accidentally touched a power line and the two men electrocuted were leaning against the crane. (7:00–8:00 p.m.) Bing’s Kraft Music Hall broadcast on NBC. Guests include Fred Keating, Fritz Leiber, and Grete Stueckgold.

April 30, Thursday. (7:00–8:00 p.m.) The Kraft Music Hall broadcast on NBC. Bing acts as host and most of the program is devoted to the Philadelphia Orchestra conducted by Leopold Stokowski. Louis Prima and his Jam Band also appear.

 

Leopold Stokowski dominated practically all of the Kraft program on Thursday night, with the first half solid for the Philadelphia Orchestra together with certain stanzas in the last portion, taken up by the guest conductor. Bing Crosby in top singing and MC position, handled the crossfire banter but it was flat. Louis Prima’s crew was in the last ten minutes and while a marked contrast to the Wagner and Debussy fare by Stokowski’s contingent, did not create any excitement - the regular Dorsey Band was better. Kraft has been delivering some sock entertainment of late. This program seemed overboard on guests but the J. Walter Thompson office, smoothed it out quite expertly. (The) idea of allotting the Symphony first place was OK and a quartet of classic examples was distinguished for ether listeners. Especially, the Debussy composition which took up nearly 16 minutes - first commercial came at 10.35, showing the free rein permitted the conductor for this appearance. Crosby managed to bring the program around for the Prima flash while tracing certain milestones in US musical and front page history. ‘Dinah’ was Prima’s offering with typical variations running riot and most attention centered on extended trumpet blasting. Bob Burns and program’s chorus were pushed into the background for this broadcast. Singer’s chores were also clipped. Closing conversation between Crosby and Stokowski took in the currently RCA sponsored tour of the Philly Orchestra.     

(Variety, May 6, 1936)

 

May 2, Saturday. Paramount gives a surprise luncheon for Bing in honor of his birthday. There are about 60 guests, including studio executives and stars. Martha Raye mounts a grand piano and sings a special song written for the occasion by Sam Coslow. Bob Burns plays a special bazooka solo inspired by the party. Norman Taurog acts as a chairman of the festivities. An enormous birthday cake features one lone candle. At night, Bing and the Westmores charter a bus for 20 for a week-end fishing cruise off San Diego.

May 5, Tuesday. Following on from the earlier approach to Bing, the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club is incorporated.

May 6, Wednesday. Bing organizes a gathering of potential investors for the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club at Warner Brothers Studios in Burbank. Bing is elected president, brother Everett is secretary-treasurer, with Pat O’Brien and Oliver Hardy as officers. Also on the executive committee are Joe E. Brown, Gary Cooper, and other Hollywood stars. Bing is said to have invested $45,000 for thirty-five per cent of the stock. A ten year lease is granted by the Twenty-Second District but the project, which is partly financed by the Federal Works Progress Administration, soon runs out of cash. Bing and Pat O’Brien borrow against their life policies and they lend $600,000 to the Twenty-Second District to complete the construction of exhibition buildings and the grandstand. Racing begins on July 3, 1937.

May 7, Thursday. A ten-minute film short called Screen Snapshots No. 9 is released by Columbia in which Bing is shown at Santa Anita race track. (7:00–8:00 p.m.) The Kraft Music Hall broadcast on NBC. Bing acts as host and his guests include George Raft and Una Merkel.

May 8, Friday. Press review seen of a nine-minute Will Rogers trailer which has been made for use during the Will Rogers Memorial Fund Drive, May 22–28. Bing is included singing “Home on the Range” and his segment was filmed at Paramount.  The trailer is to be shown several times each day in cinemas during the Drive. Others in the trailer are Lowell Thomas,  Shirley Temple, Irving Cobb and  May Robson. Collections are to be taken  while the trailers are being shown.

May 12, Tuesday. Bing is thought to have visited the San Diego Exposition.

May 14, Thursday. (6:00–7:00 p.m.) Bing’s Kraft Music Hall broadcast. Guests include Murdo MacKenzie and Bonnie Lake.

May 16, Saturday. It is reported that Bing and Dixie attended the opening of the Kit Kat Club.

May 21, Thursday. Bing and Bob Burns are rushed by special car to Hollywood from Lone Pine, near Sequoia National Park (where they are filming Rhythm on the Range) to take part in the Kraft Music Hall broadcast at 6:00 p.m. Bing’s guests include Frank Morgan, Mischa Levitzki, and the Avalon Boys.

May 28, Thursday. Press reports state that Bing has turned down a role for Dixie in a forthcoming Paramount film Lady Be Careful. (6:00–7:00 p.m.) The Kraft Music Hall broadcast on NBC. Bing acts as host and his guests include Bette Davis, Rose Bampton, and John Erskine.

May 30–31, Saturday–Sunday. Bing and Dixie entertain Frances Farmer and Leif Erickson at their Rancho Santa Fe home.

June 1, Monday. Bing and Dixie move into their new house at 10500 Camarillo Street at Toluca Lake. It has twenty rooms including seven bathrooms.

June 4, Thursday. (6:00–7:00 p.m.) Bing’s Kraft Music Hall show. The guests include George Jessel and his wife Norma Talmadge, Feodor Chaliapin, plus twelve-year-old Edith Fellowes.

 

First time on the air for Norma Talmadge and George Jessel (Mr. & Mrs.), as a team, was an auspicious one. They were presented with an ingratiating routine, indulging in three-way ribbing that put them right with the listening audience. The stunt started as something of an interview with Miss Talmadge by Crosby, bringing out the fact that she’s retired from the screen and is now, just, Mrs. Jessel, with plenty of work in just phoning Jessel’s relatives. Then Jessel broke in and from thereon it was a ribbing session that even included Bob Burns. One of the elements of their bit was the Crosby and the Choral Group singing, ‘The Last of My Past’, lyrics of which were written by Jessel, title by Miss Talmadge and music by Paul Oakland. Jessel’s material was strong on the humorous side. His take-off on himself, speaking to his relatives in Bob Burns’ Arkansas twang, being especially neat. Coupled with his wife Madge as the ideal American pair, Jessel and his frau were a natural for the Kraft Phoenix product and they fit perfectly into the underlying ‘June Bride’ theme of the Crosby broadcast.    

(Variety, June 10, 1936)

 

June 5, Friday. Bing, after shooting a 75, defeats Maury Luxford on the 20th hole to reach the finals of the Lakeside golf championship. Meanwhile, his horse "Lady Lakeside" wins at Agua Caliente. This is Bing's 8th purse of the Agua Caleinte season.

June (undated). Bing and Dixie attend a dinner party at the home of George Burns and Gracie Allen. Jack Benny, Eddie Cantor, George Jessel, and their wives are also guests.

June 11, Thursday. No Kraft Music Hall broadcast because of the Republican Convention although some newspapers stated that a show hosted by Bing with guests Ernest Hutcheson, Virginia Bruce, and Bert Wheeler was to take place.

June 14, Sunday. Bing wins the thirty-six hole Lakeside Golf Championship for the first time as he defeats Duke Hinnau two and one, watched by a crowd of 200.

June 17, Wednesday. It is announced that Bing, George Raft, and William Frawley will back the Hollywood baseball club in the Pacific Coast League if they can swing the franchise. Variety notes that Bing is receiving the top pay for a picture at $150,000 plus a percentage (compared with Fredric March $150,000 and Gary Cooper $125,000).

June 18, Thursday. (6:00–7:00 p.m.) Bing hosts the Kraft Music Hall with guests Pat O’Brien and Josephine Tuminia. The broadcast of the Joe Louis versus Max Schmeling fight was due to have either replaced or curtailed the show but heavy rain forced the postponement of the fight until the next night.

June 25, Thursday. No Kraft Music Hall broadcast takes place due to the Democratic Convention although it had been planned that Bing would host a show with guests Bert Wheeler and Jean Arthur.

June (undated). Bing and Dixie throw a party in their new home. Amongst the guests are Sue Carol, Georgie Stoll, the Cal Kuhls, the Jimmy Dorseys, and the Larry Crosbys. Kitty Lang makes one of her spaghetti dinners for which she is so celebrated.

July 2, Thursday. (6:00–7:00 p.m.) Bing hosts the Kraft Music Hall show with guests Martha Raye, Frank Morgan, and Frances Farmer. Songs and scenes from Rhythm on the Range are featured.

 

At four o’clock on broadcast day, we stood in line at the NBC studios in Hollywood. Then the usher told us to take our seats silently, and my friend and I sat approximately in the fourth row. The rehearsal was in progress and Bing was singing a song that turned out to be “Empty Saddles”. Bing was surrounded by the Paul Taylor Choristers. We noticed that two young women with bright red hair were also standing in the back. They were the guests of the evening, Frances Farmer and Martha Raye. Their strange hair color, I understood, was designed to be more photogenic for the film Rhythm on the Range which they had just completed. In the middle of the stage sat Jimmy Dorsey and his orchestra.

      Just before air time, Bob Burns, known as the “Arkansas Traveler”, addressed the audience and said, “My name is Bob Burns and this musical instrument is a bazooka. And that fella back there in the corner is Bing Crosby.” Bing tipped his cap, and continuing, Bob Burns added “Our guests tonight are Frances Farmer and Martha Raye, who are starring in the new Bing Crosby movie Rhythm on the Range opening in Paramount theaters around the country.” Bob Burns continued, “The Kraft people welcome you all here and ask you not to applaud, but if you find something funny, feel free to laugh. Now, when that green light turns to red, we will be on the air. And then, when the red light goes off and the green light comes on again, if you feel like applauding, please do.”

      When the broadcast began, Bing opened with “I’m An Old Cowhand (From the Rio Grande)”, and later he sang “Empty Saddles.” Bing interviewed Frances Farmer, and Martha Raye sang “You’ll Have to Swing It (Mr. Paganini)”. This was the first time that Martha Raye was heard on national radio. Bing seemed to always open the KMH with a peppy song in those days. Bob Eberly, the vocalist with the Jimmy Dorsey band, was not allowed to sing on the KMH broadcast and just sat in a chair during the program. This was because the Kraft people who paid good money believed this was Bing’s show and Bob Eberly wasn’t needed. Helen O’Connell had not yet joined Jimmy Dorsey at that time.

      Upon leaving the Kraft Music Hall broadcast, we passed by the Fred Astaire radio program. Fred was dancing on a small platform with the microphone close to the floor. Outside, a large crowd was standing as Bing drove away in a convertible with a driver, waving to them.

(George McCabe, writing in BING magazine, spring, 1999)

 

July 6–August. Films Pennies from Heaven with Madge Evans, Donald Meek, Louis Armstrong, and Edith Fellows. The film is directed by Norman Z. McLeod and the musical director is George Stoll with John Scott Trotter handling the musical arrangements for Bing’s songs. This is Bing’s first independent production jointly with Emanuel Cohen’s Major Pictures and he has a share in the profits. The film is distributed by Columbia Pictures.

 

“One day he [Johnny Burke] said, ‘John, do you want to do the orchestration for Pennies from Heaven?’ Many didn’t realize it was one of the first independent film productions. Bing was then under contract to Paramount but Pennies from Heaven was done at Columbia as an independent and nobody was set to do the music. I told him I hadn’t come out to work and that was that.

     A week later, he asked, ‘Would you help Arthur Johnston with the piano parts?’ Many great American song writers are melodic geniuses but musical illiterates. I mean they can’t write a single note. This isn’t denigrating their abilities; there was no reason for them to spend the time necessary. So, after much persuasion, I helped Arthur with the piano parts and fell in love with the score. I mean, there was “Pennies from Heaven,” “So Do I,” and “One, Two, Button Your Shoe,” and also the “Skeleton in the Closet.” By the time I’d taken down the melody and made the harmonization for Arthur, made a sketch, more or less, I told Johnny I’d done half the work and would complete the orchestrations if the offer was still open. Of course he said, ‘Yes,’ so I finished it up. Georgie Stoll was the conductor. The day we recorded “Pennies from Heaven” the cameras were rolling with the orchestra on stage; it was not prerecorded. Today everything’s lipsync. Bing was a past master of lip syncing but it wasn’t done then. As Bing usually liked to record in the morning, we finished shooting about noon and then I had lunch, said my goodbyes (my car was already packed) and went back east.”

(John Scott Trotter, speaking in an exclusive interview with Gord Atkinson, subsequently broadcast in Gord Atkinson’s The Crosby Years, www.whenfm.com)


Those scenes I had with Bing in that picture were Classics. Especially the scene where he wanted to open this Big Time Haunted House Night Club. But he didn't have enough loot to open this joint. And he liked our little seven piece band. So ... He said Henry (that was my name in the film), I would like to hire your band and I will give you and your boys 'TEN' percent of the business, so you go and talk it over with your Musicians. Come back tomorrow and let me know as to what conclusion your boys came to. The next day I was right on time. And - Mr Poole (Bing's name) met me halfway in the back yard, saying Henry, have your boys decided yet? And I said, Mr Poole, I talked it over with my boys and told them you are willing to give them ten percent of the business. And my boys said that they cannot figure out ten percent as we're only seven men. So if you will be so kind as to give us seven percent, We'll - Just then Mr Poole said, OK Henry, it's a deal. And I smiled as I walked away saying Mr Poole, thank you very much. - I told those guys that you would do the right thing. - 'GASSUH' personified.

Oh, I could run my mouth about my Man Crosby - those Broadcasts moments, and Stuff - why you'd be reading for years. But I must say this. Here's paying tribute to one of the finest Guys in this musical and wonderful world. With a heart as big. (As the world) Carry on Papa Bing, Ol Boy!! You will still be giving young singers food
for thoughts (Musically) for Generations to come.

(Louis Armstrong, writing in a 1967 letter to an unknown recipient, as reproduced in A Pocketful of Dreams (Gary Giddins).)

 

July 8, Wednesday. Makes a private recording in Hollywood with Jimmy Dorsey as a greeting to Ted Lewis at Decca Records (UK) on the second anniversary of the founding of the US arm of Decca. Bing sings part of “Take My Heart” and others present include Elizabeth Allen and Jack Kapp.

July 9, Thursday. (6:00–7:00 p.m.) The Kraft Music Hall broadcast on NBC. Bing acts as host and his guests include Jean Arthur and Bert Wheeler.

 

Many radioites are nursing grudges against politicos for hogging all that network time but not Bert Wheeler. Comic was cancelled twice on the Kraft show before he went on Thursday but drew triple pay.

(Variety, July 15, 1936)

 

July 12, Sunday. Bing and Dixie attend the Arline Judge-Wesley Ruggles party at Wesley Ruggles’ home in Laurel Road, Beverly Hills, which starts at 2:00 p.m. and carries on until the early hours of the next morning. Others present include Cary Grant, Louella O. Parsons, Virginia Bruce and Cesar Romero, Binnie Barnes, the Buster Colliers, the Skeets Gallaghers, the Elliott Nugents, Toby Wing, the Frank Albertsons, and the Wally Westmores. The party is spread around the large property and “three groups of musicians and songsters peddled their musical wares about the place without once effecting discordant conflict.”

July 14, Tuesday. Records two songs from the film Rhythm on the Range in Hollywood with Victor Young and his Orchestra.

July 16, Thursday. (6:00–7:00 p.m.) Bing’s Kraft Music Hall show. Guests include Robert Taylor, Marjorie Gateson, and Rose Bampton.

July 17, Friday. Bing’s first recording session with Jimmy Dorsey and his Orchestra. He sings songs from the film Rhythm on the Range including “I’m an Old Cowhand” and "Empty Saddles".

 

Bing Crosby has four excerpts from Rhythm on the Range - “Empty Saddles” - “Roundup Lullaby” - “I Can’t Escape From You” and “I’m An Old Cowhand”. Bing ba-ba-bees in typical Crosby manner to sock disc results. Tunes are all there and Crosby knows how to sell ‘em.

(Variety, August 12, 1936)

 

I have not seen Rhythm on the Range so cannot say how Bing Crosby’s “Empty Saddles” and “I’m an Old Cowhand” on Brunswick 02270 compare with his film versions. Somehow this type of number does not seem to suit Bing’s style nearly so well as such numbers as “Would You?” However if you must have the authentic, then this is the record to get.

(The Gramophone, October 1936)


Empty Saddles

There is a short, melancholy introduction to Bing's grieving chorus in this lament for lost friends. He extracts every ounce of emotion from the words with a contrasting, sturdy middle passage in fine tones. His "if you'll only say "I'm lonely?" is particularly intense and the phrasing is impaired only by a break in the middle of the line "as you carry my old pal". His chorus is followed by four bars of the bridge being sung by the Guardsmen before Crosby re-enters to reprise the rest of the song with their vocal support. The Quartette's coda ("in the old corral") is rather theatrical and reminiscent of musical comedy and "Song of the Dawn". The orchestral arrangement and accompaniment is good throughout with excellent work from guitar...Both the composers had worked as cowboys. Billy Hill wrote many western songs and for this one he set a poem previously written by Brennan, grieving for lost companions. Bing sang it in the film astride a white horse, winning the rodeo song contest in a Madison Square Garden setting.

(Fred Reynolds, The Crosby Collection)


I'm an Old Cowhand (From the Rio Grande)" had been used in the film “Rhythm on the Range” when it had been a musical high spot in a campfire scene which had the whole cast clapping and stomping. The commercial recording was the first recording by Crosby of a song by Johnny Mercer and it proved to be the right occasion, the right singer and the right orchestra for a hit of spectacular dimensions that eventually sold over a million. Forget that procession of long-homed cattle moving in a haze of dust hustled by lasso-waving cowboys in gritty frontier tradition. From the brief but boisterous introduction the listener knows that a special treat is in store. Bing sings the first verse happily indicating that he could hardly be considered a representative of the old west; in fact he "never saw a cow", doesn't know how to rope a steer and has no intention of ever doing so. That, however, doesn't deter him from "yippi-hiing" with all the bandsmen joining in. The band then takes over for two verses, first instrumentally, with trumpet lead, and then vocally to proclaim that they, too, are "old cowhands" who have come to town to hear the band. Bing sings the next verse and following the first line Fud Livingston, Charleston-born, calls out in a rich southern accent, "Oh yes sir, Mr Bing" to which Crosby half turning from the microphone (indicating that the interruption was spontaneous) banters "Too hot for you, Uncle Fud?" and continues the song without hesitation or pause. It is the essence of the joyous spirit of the recording. Jimmy Dorsey (clt) leads the band in a short, bright interlude, Bing sings a final stanza and the bandsmen exemplify the general abandon by singing a "yippi-hi" coda and everyone has joined in the fun of an exuberant performance. Crosby points the lyrics with all his considerable skill and some superb lines while his tempo and melody changes are charged with an inherent, simmering jazz feeling. The band, so obviously in buoyant mood, matches Bing all the way and the only verdict on this recording can be a triple-tie - Bing, the band and Johnny Mercer.

(Fred Reynolds, The Crosby Collection)


It was the era of the singing cowboy, and here was life imitating art. In fifteen minutes, writing on the back of an envelope, he worked the image into a song whose satiric underside vented some of Mercer's own bitter frustration with Hollywood:

I'm an old cowhand from the Rio Grande,

But my legs ain't bowed and my cheeks ain't tanned.

I'm a cowboy who never saw a cow,

Never roped a steer 'cause I don't know how,

And I sho' ain't fixin' to start in now, Yippy I 0 Ki Ay ...

I'm a ridin' fool who is up to date,

I know ev'ry trail in the Lone Star State,

'Cause I ride the range in a Ford V-Eight. Yippy 10 Ki Ay.

Only Mercer's perfect ear for regional idioms would have come up with a line like "I sho' ain't fixin' to start in now." Cole Porter, at about this same time, would write his own cowboy song, "Don't Fence Me In," but his lyric would employ such erudite phrases as "where the West commences." In the fifteen minutes it took Mercer to write the lyric to "I'm an Old Cowhand," he also wrote a rollicking melody, which sharpened the satire by suggesting the clip-clop of horse hooves. Many people were amazed that someone like Johnny Mercer, who could neither play the piano nor read music, could write a melody for "I'm an Old Cowhand," as well as for "Dream," "Something's Gotta Give," and other successful songs.

(Philip Furia, Skylark: The Life and Times of Johnny Mercer)


      July 18, Saturday. Bing takes part in a benefit baseball game as part of the “leading men” team against the “comedians” at Wrigley Field. The proceeds go to Mount Sinai Hospital.

July 23, Thursday. Records his first Hawaiian songs “Song of the Islands” and “Aloha Oe” with Dick McIntyre and his Harmony Hawaiians. The Kraft Music Hall is not broadcast that night due to a speech by Alfred Landon, the Republican nominee for president, taking precedence.

July 24, Friday. Records "Pennies from Heaven" and "So Do I" from the film Pennies from Heaven in Hollywood with Georgie Stoll and his Orchestra.

July 29, Wednesday. Records two more songs from the film Pennies from Heaven in Hollywood with Georgie Stoll and his Orchestra. Bing’s film Rhythm on the Range has its New York premiere.

 

Bing Crosby rides a broncho, milks a wild cow, croons a lullaby to a 2,200-pound Hereford bull and has a box-car romance with a runaway heiress in his new picture at the Paramount. All of which may be interesting and amusing—in fact, it is—but we prefer to think of Rhythm on the Range as our screen introduction to Martha Raye.

(Frank S. Nugent, The New York Times, July 30, 1936)

 

Despite the title, the costumes and the characters, this is no western. There’s very little range, but plenty of rhythm, and the latter makes it pleasant entertainment. Bing Crosby shoots par on singing and light comedy but, because of story handicap, he might have had some tough going minus the aid of a pair of new faces (Raye and Bob Burns), clicking on their first picture attempt. . . There’s singing throughout the picture, though technically it’s not a musical, and Crosby does most of it, which will satisfy most everybody. He starts off with “Empty Saddles,” new cowboy dirge by Billy Hill, doing it astride a white horse in the Garden sequence. Later on he sings “I Can’t Escape from You,” by Leo Robin-Richard Whiting, and “The House That Jack Built for Jill,” by Robin and Frederick Hollander (sic – the latter song was cut from the film).

Best musical sequence, and bringing the picture to a corking climax is a jam fest in the ranch house with Crosby and Miss Raye singing and truckin’ to “If You Can’t Sing It, You’ll Have To Swing It” (Sam Coslow) and “I’m An Old Cowhand” (Johnny Mercer). Miss Raye gets in her hottest licks here. There’s also some heated trumpeting by Louis Prima at this time.

No fancy production to speak of, especially during the musical moments. Songs depend on delivery and direction, and get value received in both departments. ‘Cowhand’ has already been extensively plugged.

(Variety, August 5, 1936)

 

Given a good story at last and the best support that has fallen his way in a long time, Bing Crosby hits his stride again in Rhythm on the Range, the new picture at the Paramount.

(Los Angeles Evening Herald Express, July 31, 1936)

 

Rhythm on the Range was much, much better. A clever musical Western that featured Crosby as a rough-and-tumble cowboy, the film is remembered today as the springboard for Martha Raye’s film career. However, Rhythm on the Range is also noteworthy among Crosby’s musicals of the thirties because it contained an intelligent plotline that never got lost. In addition, the film allowed Crosby to wrap his mellow tones around some flavorful Western songs. Crosby delivered them all with equal finesse, but the highlight surely had to be Bing’s beautiful, almost haunting rendition of Billy Hill’s superb tribute to the old West, “Empty Saddles,” a thoughtful and often moving ballad that fit Crosby’s smooth voice like a tailor-made glove. Bing’s dramatic, echoing interpretation, sung from the middle of a rodeo stadium, gives it an unreal, almost ghostly quality.

(The Films of Bing Crosby, page 24)

 

July 30, Thursday. (6:00 to 7:00 p.m.) Bing hosts the Kraft Music Hall on NBC. Guests include Dolores Costello Barrymore, Vera Van, Joan Bennett, and Albert Spalding.

August 1–16, Saturday–Sunday. The Olympic Games take place in Berlin. Jesse Owens picks up four gold medals.

August 4, Tuesday. Bing records “Shoe Shine Boy” with Jimmy Dorsey and his Orchestra in Hollywood. He stays on to record two Hawaiian songs with Dick McIntyre and his Harmony Hawaiians.

August 6, Thursday. (6:00–7:00 p.m.) Bing hosts the Kraft Music Hall with guests Robert Young, Ann Sothern, and Ernest Hutcheson.

 

When Bob Burns toots his bazooka and tells funny stories tonight on Bing Crosby’s Music Hall feature (KFI, 6) he will be holding to that traditional “good trouper’s” spirit in the belief that the “show must go on.” Listeners throughout the country have read of the death of his wife last Sunday. As guests on tonight’s show the famous crooner will have Robert Young and Ann Sothern, picture stars, and Ernest Hutcheson, concert pianist.

(Gene Inge, Los Angeles Evening Herald Express, August 6, 1936)

 

Ann Sothern, RKO film player made a guest appearance on Bing Crosby’s Kraft Music Hall Hour on Thursday evening the 6th, with a George Gershwin song. While being no knockout in giving out with the number on the air-waves, Miss Sothern’s vocal efforts compensated greatly for the meaningless chatter, she indulged in, ahead of it, with Crosby. The talk intended to give the impression (that) Miss Sothern was hungry. This opened the opportunity for a Kraft ‘plug’- J.L. Kraft, head of the commercials sponsoring Crosby’s program was on the air that night and offered to send Miss Sothern a basket of his products. That’s apt to be a businessman’s idea of showmanship. Miss Sothern also said something about her tennis playing. However, with adequate material, listening to her would be more of a pleasure. If any complaints, at all, the film industry has a squawk coming against radio for the dumb material afforded players - it makes them seem like amateurs.

(Variety, August 12, 1936)

 

August 9, Sunday. Bing, Gary Cooper, Pat O’Brien, William LeBaron and a number of other picture names journey to Del Mar for the opening gun on construction work on the new Del Mar race track.

August 10, Monday. Records three songs (including “For Love Alone”) with Victor Young and his Orchestra in Hollywood.

August 12, Wednesday. Recording session with Ivan Ditmars and the Three Cheers in Hollywood. The songs committed to wax are “Dear Old Girl” and “Just One Word of Consolation.”

August 13, Thursday. (6:00–7:00 p.m.) The Kraft Music Hall broadcast on NBC. Bing acts as host and his guests include Louis Armstrong, Anita Louise, and Josephine Tuminia.

August 17, Monday. Makes twelve-inch 78 rpm recordings of the songs from the film Pennies from Heaven with Frances Langford, Louis Armstrong, and Jimmy Dorsey and his Orchestra.

August 18, Tuesday. Larry Crosby’s daughter suffers burn injuries.

 

Mollie Crosby, two-year-old niece of Bing Crosby, was seriously burned at her home yesterday when her dress caught fire from a match which she playfully ignited. Before flames could be extinguished by maid, the child had received second degree burns. New skin may be grafted, according to girl’s father, Larry Crosby.

(Daily Variety, August 18, 1936)

 

August 19, Wednesday. Bing and Dixie sing two duets with Victor Young and his Orchestra for Decca, “The Way You Look Tonight” and “A Fine Romance.” They are Dixie’s last recordings.

 

She cut a couple of records with me, but no one will ever know the ordeal I went through persuading her to make those records. Building the pyramids would have been easier. She thought of scores of reasons why she didn’t want to do them—all of them sprang from her shyness. She was an only daughter; she had been very close to her parents, and they’d sheltered her as much as possible. As a result, she’d never been before the public much prior to leaving home, and she never got over disliking it.

(Bing Crosby, Call Me Lucky, page 47)

 

August 20, Thursday. (6:00–7:00 p.m.) The last Kraft Music Hall broadcast by Bing prior to his vacation. Guests include Joan Bennett and Dorothy Lamour.

August 30, Sunday. Sails with Dixie on the S.S. Lurline to Hawaii.

September 3, Thursday. Bing and Dixie arrive in Honolulu, Oahu. News photographers come on board the Lurline and watch Bing have his breakfast. Bing says that he will be staying in Eugene P. Shone’s house at Kaalawai with his friends from Burlingame, California, Mr. and Mrs. Lindsay Howard, Robert Howard, Maxine Fuller, and Manuela Hudson.

September 5, Saturday. Bing motorglides, swims, and surfs. Local photographers capture the scene and photos appear in the Honolulu Star-Bulletin that day.

September 6, Sunday. Bing attends a meeting of Kamaaina Beachcombers’ Hui (an organization of local sportsmen interested in promoting swimming in the islands) at the home of Alfred L. Castle at Kahuku, Oahu.

September 15, Tuesday. During the afternoon, Bing travels on the sampan “Carrie T” from Honolulu to Kaunakakai, Molokai, with Lindsay Howard, Chick Daniels, and Johnny Gomez.

 

No wahines clustered around Bing Crosby when he arrived unannounced by the sampan Carrie T. from Honolulu with a party of three. The celebrated actor looked up and down Kaunakakai’s main street, threw up his arms and said, “I’m disappointed.”

      But his disappointment was short-lived. Someone breathed that Bing was on the island and everything was all hustle and bustle. While the visitor was busy viewing the settlement from the pali, Molokai’s friendly residents were stringing leis, gathering tropical fruits for a hookupu, a kamasaina welcome.

      By the time Bing had returned from the pali an hour later, a crowd had gathered on Kaunakakai’s main street. “Gee, he’s good looking,” said one wahine. “I wouldn’t miss meeting him for the world,” said another.

      Headed by magistrate Edward McCorriston, acting as the “cockeyed” mayor of Kaunakakai, Bing and his party paraded through the town.

     Picture Bing parading through Kaunakakai, crooning all the way, together with Magistrate McCorriston carrying a flag, another a gallon, another some old town crab nets. Others carried pineapples, coconuts, and other fruits. After the procession circled the town, it stopped at the front steps of the Molokai market. There Bing was crowned with pineapples, coconuts, sweet potatoes, eggplant, and flowers. Armed with his presents, Bing sang “Hawaiian Paradise,” then he tried to sing “Na Lei O Hawaii” but he didn’t know the words.

(Honolulu Star-Bulletin, September 16, 1936)

 

The warmth of the welcome is so great that Bing is persuaded to stay overnight on the island so that he can go deer hunting there the next day.

September 16, Wednesday. Burns and Allen join Bing and Dixie in Honolulu.

September 21, Monday. Bing golfs in the Honolulu Sports Writers Tournament at the Moanalua course.

October 3, Saturday. Bing and Dixie leave Honolulu on the S.S. Lurline. During his extended vacation, Bing is said to have appeared in a rathskeller in the native district of Honolulu and acted as master of ceremonies besides singing. Also, he has discovered Harry Owens’ song “Sweet Leilani” which he later sings in the film Waikiki Wedding. After hearing the song, Bing asked Harry Owens if he could use it but Owens did not want to let it go as it was dedicated to his daughter, Leilani. Bing finally convinced him to agree on the basis that a trust fund could be established into which all the royalties from the song could be put for the benefit of Harry’s daughter Leilani and any additional children that might come along. The next morning after reaching this agreement, Bing and Harry met in a recording studio:

 

“We’ll knock out a rough recording,” said Bing. “Something to take back to Hollywood with me. But first Harry, just hum me the melody from the top all the way through. I want to be sure of every note. I don’t read music, you know.

I hummed. Then Bing took over and tried it just once with the little group. How fast he learned! Once through and he knew it perfectly. Turning to Sakamoto, he said, “Okay, Joe, put on a pie.”             

We made a rough recording and called it a day.

(Harry Owens writing in his book, Sweet Leilani: the story behind the song, an autobiography)  

    

October 8, Thursday. Bing and Dixie arrive back in San Francisco on the S.S. Lurline.

October 10, Saturday. Bing buys the contract of Georgie Turner, a promising young heavyweight boxer.

October 15, Thursday. (7:00–8:00 p.m.) Returns to the Kraft Music Hall and performs weekly until July 1, 1937. The rating for the season is 22.4 which puts the show in 6th. place overall. The top show is the Eddie Cantor program with 29.1. Jimmy Dorsey and his Orchestra continue to provide the musical accompaniment. In the opening show, Bing sings four songs from the film Pennies from Heaven and the guests are Ruth Chatterton, Slip Madigan, and Elisabeth Rethberg.

 

I have been credited with giving Bing Crosby a style of talking. . . . The reason early Crosby/Kraft radio shows sounded stilted was that Bing simply resisted talking. He didn’t want to be bothered with scripts and rehearsals. He just wanted to sing. Finally, we conceived the idea of putting lines in the guests’ scripts that were not in Bing’s script. No performer wants to wind up with egg on his face, and Bing rose to the bait. Always quick enough with a quip in the locker room at Lakeside, he fell back on this natural resource. Between this, and the language I wrote for him which he enjoyed speaking, the public image known as Bing Crosby evolved.

(Carroll Carroll from The Old Time Radio Book by Ted Sennett, pages 68–69)

 

Construction of the new $40,000 Bing Crosby building at 9028 Sunset Boulevard commences. Bing’s organization ultimately occupies the top floor of the three-story building. G. Arnold Stevens, a graduate of the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, takes space on the second floor in 1938 and becomes Bing’s doctor as well as a close friend.

October 22, Thursday. (7:00–8:00 p.m.) The Kraft Music Hall broadcast on NBC. Bing acts as host and his guests include Adolphe Menjou and Anne Shirley. Bing is thought to have gone on to attend the annual Dove Dinner given by J. Lamarr Butler at the Hotel Huntington in Pasadena. The guest of honor is Joe E. Brown.

October 25, Sunday. As Lakeside champion, Bing competes in the first annual tournament of Southern California golf club champions.

October 29, Thursday. (7:00–8:00 p.m.) Another Kraft Music Hall broadcast on NBC. Bing acts as host and his guests include Cary Grant and Elissa Landi. Joe Venuti’s Orchestra replaces Jimmy Dorsey for this show.

October 30, Friday. (4:45 p.m.) Sue Carol weds Howard Wilson at the First Congregational Church of Hollywood. Dixie Lee is maid of honor and Bing is there too. The newlyweds spend the first part of their honeymoon at Bing’s home at Rancho Santa Fe.

November 2, Monday. (9:30–10:30 p.m.) Bing is booked to make a guest appearance on California’s Hour (a chain store sponsored program) over station KHJ but this is cancelled as a result of a concerted protest by independent grocers.

November 3, Tuesday. Franklin D. Roosevelt is reelected as president of the United States.

November 5, Thursday. (7:00–8:00 p.m.) The Kraft Music Hall broadcast on NBC. Bing acts as host and his guests include Gladys George and Warren William.

November 12, Thursday. (7:00–8:00 p.m.) Another Kraft Music Hall broadcast by Bing. The guests include Grete Stueckgold and Edmund Lowe.

November 14/15, Saturday/Sunday. Bing is in San Francisco.

November 19, Thursday. (7:00–8:00 p.m.) The Kraft Music Hall broadcast on NBC. Bing acts as host and his guests include Patsy Kelly and Robert Armstrong.

November 26, Thursday. (7:00–8:00 p.m.) Bing’s Kraft Music Hall broadcast. Guests include Lotte Lehmann and Ricardo Cortez.

November 28, Saturday. Bing in San Diego with Lindsay Howard, gets into a fracas with some sailors during the early hours of the morning as he leaves the College Inn nightspot and news of it appears in the newspapers. Meanwhile Bing’s recording of “Pennies from Heaven” reaches number one in the charts and remains there for ten weeks.

November 29, Sunday. Sees the University of San Francisco beat Loyola 17-14 in their college football match in Los Angeles. A crowd of 10,000 is in attendance.

December 3, Thursday. (7:00–8:00 p.m.) The Kraft Music Hall broadcast on NBC. Bing acts as host and his guests include Alice Faye and Gene Raymond.

December 6, Sunday. Bing and Dixie make what is described by the press as one of their very rare night spot appearances when they visit the Century Club with Joe Venuti and Eddie Sutherland. Bing and Dixie both sing with the band and Bing joins the club’s MC and comedian in a comedy spot.

 

Fortunate were the Century Club customers who selected last Sunday night in which to do their night-clubbing, for they were rewarded with a million-dollar impromptu show, when Bing Crosby sang “Dinah” and “I Kiss Your Hand, Madame,” Dixie Lee sang “Lucky Star.”. . .

(Los Angeles Examiner, December 12, 1936)

 

December 9, Wednesday. The New York premiere of Pennies from Heaven.

 

Pennies from Heaven may qualify as a fair grosser because of Crosby’s name, but basically it’s a weak picture with a story that has little movement and only a scattered few mild giggles. It’s spread pretty thin over 80 minutes, despite a good tuneful score which should be no handicap… Film won’t advance Crosby although Crosby may overcome its faults to some extent. Best individual impression is by Louis Armstrong, Negro cornetist and hi-de-ho expert. Not as an eccentric musician, but as a Negro comedian he suggests possibilities. He toots his solo horn to a nice individual score, plus his band chores. Crosby has a couple of songs that will be reprised into fair popularity…

(Variety, December 16, 1936)

 

After a sultry and inexplicably prolonged session of Mae West, the Paramount opened its ventilators yesterday, admitted the fresh air and completed the cleansing process by presenting the new Bing Crosby film, “Pennies from Heaven.” A wholesome, lightly sentimental and genial comedy, it is all the more ingratiating by contrast to its predecessor. Although the Bing’s voice is not unanimously acclaimed by the nation’s music-lovers—we even noted a faint cheer in the balcony when he admitted he was the last of the troubadours—still he does not swing his hips when he walks and he does not read his lines as though they had been selected from an underlined copy of Uncle Billy’s Whiz Bang.

In his new venture, Mr. Crosby invests his familiar crooning with a certain philosophic romanticism, doing his troubadouring for pennies in back yards and waiting for the day when he can take ship for Venice to become a lute-strumming gondolier. During an inadvertent stay in a prison death house, for reasons as illogical as his place of confinement, he promises to deliver a letter from a condemned murderer to the family of his victim. The family, it develops, is small but troublesome, there being a 10-year-old gamine, Edith Fellows, and an improvident grandfather, Donald Meek, who is resting, pending passage of the Townsend Plan.

Like an old man of the sea, the problem family clings to the neck of the wandering minstrel and, beset by them and by a persistent social worker, Madge Evans, the troubadour is reduced to home-steading in a haunted house, to a brief career as operator of a night club, to a hospital bed and, ultimately, to the adoption of them all. It makes for a light and briskly paced comedy and, naturally, it provides Mr. Crosby with several lyric opportunities. The score by Arthur Johnston and John Burke should be—probably already is— quite popular. It includes “Let’s Call a Heart a Heart,” “Pennies from Heaven,” “One, Two, Button Your Shoe,” “So Do I” and “Skeleton in Your Closet,” the last being played by Louis Armstrong and his band.

Conceding that Mr. Crosby is as good-natured as ever and that Miss Evans is so attractive a social worker that we are tempted to apply for relief and be investigated, the chief honors properly belong to little Miss Fellows. Hers really is an exceptional performance for a youngster, skirting the perils of bathos in her tender scenes and playing her rebellious ones with comic impertinence. Mr. Meek as the grandfather, Nana Bryant as the harried superintendent of an orphanage and William Stack as a welfare commissioner are excellent in the supporting rôles. In sum, “Pennies from Heaven” is one of Mr. Crosby’s best.

(Frank S. Nugent, New York Times, December 10, 1936)

 

Pennies from Heaven ought to silence the Crosby doubters for quite a while. It is a thoroughly enjoyable picture.

(Los Angeles Evening Herald Express, December 19, 1936)

 

As the singing vagabond, Bing Crosby labors hard in a valiant attempt to establish a believable characterization. In spite of the limitations of the film’s ridiculous script, Crosby is successful in presenting his character as a delightfully unorthodox man who scorns the dreary workaday world and is more than content to make his modest living by singing for his supper. However, Bing’s first-rate performance is sadly wasted on a totally ineffectual motion picture.

(The Films of Bing Crosby, page 81)

 

December 10, Thursday. (7:00–8:00 p.m.) The Kraft Music Hall broadcast on NBC. Bing acts as host and his guests include Bruce Cabot and Anita Louise.

December 11, Friday. King Edward VIII of Great Britain abdicates from the throne in order to marry Mrs. Wallis Simpson. Meanwhile, press comment states that “Bing Crosby is on a liquid diet to lose weight for his new epic, Waikiki Wedding.” At night, Bing sings at the Shrine Auditorium for the Los Angeles Examiner benefit.

December 17, Thursday. Bing files an injunction to prevent station KGFJ broadcasting his records. It seems that the station is playing his records in such a way as to convey the impression that Bing is actually there singing songs in person. Judgment is given in Bing’s favor on January 4, 1937. (7:00–8:00 p.m.) The Kraft Music Hall broadcast on NBC. Bing acts as host and his guests include Jack Oakie, Nadine Conner, and Mary Astor.

 

Bing Crosby’s program for Kraft is one of the season’s slickest examples of touching up a program with small details, snatches of saucy dialogue and other tricks and trappings—none of them remarkable but in the assembled show, producing a mood and a tempo that makes for popularity. Lines assigned to Bing Crosby have certain finessing with the type of stuff Ben Bernie does. This is not to suggest any imitative quality or any close resemblance but surely that the leisurely sort of whimsy, Crosby is doing, has a precedent of success on the air. Last Thursday, the 17th, was neither the best or the least of the recent Crosby broadcasts. It was very typical and as such, worth considering in some detail. It would be impossible to recall one gag, one memorable twist or one catchphrase. Yet the hour moved with a kind of radioesque sophistication. Crosby, if anything, overbuilt Nadine Connor [sic], a concert singer. His ballyhoo made it tough for her to deliver but the same ballyhoo humanized the singer and reduced the danger of turning off, among classical-avoiding listeners. Jack Oakie works well with Crosby and Burns. They tore off a hillbilly lampoon. Incidentally, this suggests Oakie-Crosby as a good screen comedy combo.

(Variety, December 23, 1936)

 

December 19–February 1937. Bing films Waikiki Wedding with Shirley Ross, Bob Burns, Martha Raye, and Anthony Quinn. The film is directed by Frank Tuttle with musical direction by Boris Morros and orchestrations by Victor Young. It was originally planned to make the film in Hawaii in color but this idea had to be shelved because of Bing’s radio commitments.

 

Surely no mainlander, and very few islanders, honestly have had such a lengthy love affair with the Hawaiian Islands as Harry Owens. It’s a love affair that’s been productive of a whole clutch of fine songs - many of which have done a great deal for me. In a more practical way he has demonstrated his affection in the shape of the many salutary things he’s done for Hawaiian music and for Hawaiian musicians in the Islands, on the Mainland, and all over the world. When I think of all the songs I sang of Harry’s, one song in particular comes to mind. I had spent about a month in Hawaii, and while there, I heard, among others, a lovely song called “Sweet Leilani”. I was to start a picture called “Waikiki Wedding” on my return home, and I brought the song home with me, intent on using it in the picture, but the score for the film had already been written, and the producer was adamant in his refusal to try and squeeze in another one.

He had a point there, too, because the score, written for the picture by Ralph Rainger and Leo Robin contained some lovely material. Such songs as ‘Blue Hawaii’. I fought manfully for the inclusion of “Sweet Leilani”, even to the point of walking off the picture for a day, and brooding at the golf course. The song was already a hit in Honolulu, and it didn’t take any musical clairvoyant to discern that it would have similar success in the States. I finally won my point, and the song was included in the picture, in a simple scene with a little Hawaiian child.

“Sweet Leilani” won the Oscar that year in the “Best Song” category. Later, I made a record of it, and it was a golden record, too. That was just one of the good things that happened to me through Harry Owens, his music, and his songs. I can’t think of anybody more knowledgeable, or more qualified, to write about Hawaii and what it means to him than Harry Owens. I know it will prove absorbing reading for anyone who has ever been to Hawaii, and for those who haven’t, it’s a certainty to entertain and amuse.

(Bing Crosby, writing in the foreword to Sweet Leilani: the story behind the song, an autobiography)  

 

December 24, Thursday. (7:00–8:00 p.m.) Bing hosts the Kraft Music Hall and sings “Adeste Fideles” and “Silent Night.” The guests include Jose Iturbi and James Gleason.

December (undated). Everett Crosby and his wife Naomi separate.

December 31, Thursday. (7:00–8:00 p.m.) The Kraft Music Hall broadcast on NBC. Bing acts as host and his guests include Pat O’Brien and Art Tatum.

During the year, Bing has had ten records that became chart hits. In the Radio Guide Star of Stars contest, he is named Radio’s Favorite Male Singer of Popular Songs.

 

1937

 

January 6, Wednesday. Figures released by the Security Exchange Commission on salaries (not necessarily total income) show that Bing has received $318.907.

January 7, Thursday. (7:00–8:00 p.m.) The Kraft Music Hall broadcast on NBC. Bing’s guests include Grete Stueckgold and Lawson Little. (8:45–9:45 p.m.) Bing takes part in the “Adolph Zukor Silver Jubilee Dinner” which is broadcast nationwide on NBC. Other participants include Leopold Stokowski with the 103-piece Paramount orchestra; Cecil B. DeMille and Jack Benny as joint master of ceremonies; Dorothy Lamour, Shirley Ross, Eleanor Whitney, Gladys Swarthout, Bob Burns and Martha Raye. The show is written by Bill Morrow and Eddie Beloin.

January (undated). Bing and Dixie attend a large party at Hal Roach’s new home in Beverly Hills. Bing sings “Pennies from Heaven” to the accompaniment of a hillbilly orchestra.

January 14, Thursday. (7:00–8:00 p.m.) The Kraft Music Hall broadcast on NBC. Bing acts as host and his guests include Edward Everett Horton and Patricia Ellis.

January 15, Friday. Bing writes to David O. Selznick, of Selznick International Pictures.

 

Being loath to go down in cinema history as the only citizen not on record for sticking my nose into the casting for Gone with the Wind, I would like to suggest a Mammy. The little lady I have in mind played opposite Robeson in Showboat, and to my mind would be a cinch. I don’t know her name, but your hirelings in the casting office could dig it up. Hoping you will pardon my guts.

 

The little lady was Hattie McDaniel who went on to win the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for 1939. Selznick replied to Bing on January 19 saying, “Thanks for the suggestion, and also for not wanting to play Scarlett.”

January 21, Thursday. (7:00–8:00 p.m.) Bing hosts the Kraft Music Hall broadcast on NBC and the guests include Rose Bampton and Lee Tracy.

January 28, Thursday. (7:00–8:00 p.m.) Another Kraft Music Hall broadcast on NBC and Bing’s guests include Victor McLaglen and Josephine Tuminia.

February 1, Monday. (7:00–9:00 p.m.) Bing is one of many stars taking part in a Red Cross Relief Program on the Blue Network. The show is designed to raise funds to help with the serious flooding in Tennessee, West Virginia, Ohio, and Kentucky. He sings “One, Two, Button Your Shoe.” Al Jolson, John McCormack, and Clark Gable are also on the show.

February 4, Thursday. (7:00–8:00 p.m.) Bing’s Kraft Music Hall show. Guests include Basil Rathbone and William Frawley.

February 6, Saturday. Bing asks the Board of Tax Appeals to redetermine an income tax deficiency of $128,504 assessed for 1933 and 1934. Meanwhile Bing begins his pro-am golf tournament at Rancho Santa Fe. It is meant to be a two-day event, but the first day is washed out by heavy rain and some of the contestants go duck shooting when a flock of mallard ducks lands on the eighteenth green. Radio station KHJ broadcasts a special program from the locker room at 8:45 p.m.

February 7, Sunday. The second day of Bing’s pro-am tournament. Sam Snead is the first winner with a sixty-eight. Bing cards an eighty-seven!

February (undated). Bing and Dixie visit the Club Casanova and Bing sings “Everybody’s Truckin.’”

February 10, Wednesday. Bing is thought to have attended the all-Gershwin concert by the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra at the Philharmonic Auditorium, with Alexander Smallens conducting. George Gershwin himself conducted some of the numbers and played the piano in others.

February 11, Thursday. (7:00–8:00 p.m.) The Kraft Music Hall broadcast on NBC. Bing acts as host and his guests include Edward Everett Horton and Toscha Seidel.

February 16, Tuesday. Bing is at Santa Anita for the racing. At night, he attends the Masquers Club dinner for W. C. Fields. Harold Lloyd is MC and other guests include Eddie Cantor, Edgar Bergen, Jack Benny, Ken Murray, and Groucho Marx.

February 18, Thursday. (7:00–8:00 p.m.) The Kraft Music Hall broadcast on NBC. Bing’s guests include Sophie Tucker and Marion Claire.

February 20, Saturday. Bing is again at Santa Anita for the horse racing.

February 23, Tuesday. Records songs from the film Waikiki Wedding (including “Sweet Leilani”) in Hollywood with Lani McIntyre and his Hawaiians.

 

The male list is headed once again by the inimitable Bing Crosby with “Sweet Leilani” from his film Waikiki Wedding. This is one of Crosby’s best recordings since “May I.”

(The Gramophone, June 1937)

 

“Sweet Leilani” did not fare as well in the long run. But it was a phenomenon in its day, commercially one of the most significant, and musically one of the most unusual, releases, in the history of American popular music.

What did listeners think, in the spring of 1937, hearing “Sweet Leilani” on the radio? A plush glissando sets the stage for a high Hawaiian tenor - Lani McIntyre - singing a chorus backed by humming ensemble and a contralto’s obbligato. If forewarned by an announcer that this was the new Crosby record, did people wonder he had joined the castrati? And if not forewarned, how surprised must they have been when, seventy-seven seconds into a three-minute side, the exotic vocalist is suddenly supplanted by the reassuring virility of Bing’s dulcet baritone? It was a nervy arrangement, to say the least. Yet the switch from McIntyre to Bing underscored the latter’s homey familiarity in a new and categorical way. It was like wandering through a strange city and suddenly meeting an old friend. Bing’s reading is felt and faultless, from the ascending glide of the title phrase to the comely embellishment on the repeat of “heavenly flower” to the drawn-out closing “dream.”

“Sweet Leilani” dominated sales charts for an astonishing six months, more than a third of that period in the number one spot (it was pushed aside briefly by another Bing Crosby record, “Too Marvelous for Words”). As the best-selling American disc in eight years, since the stock market crash, it was acclaimed as a turning point for the recording industry and a good sign for the national economy. That the record also boosted movie queues gave Hollywood reason to cheer as well.

(Gary Giddins, Bing Crosby, A Pocketful of Dreams, The Early Years, 1903-1940, page 480)

 

February 25, Thursday. (7:00–8:00 p.m.) Bing hosts the Kraft Music Hall broadcast on NBC and his guests include James Cagney and Sidney Skolsky.

 

James Cagney grooved pretty nicely into a guesting shot on Bing Crosby’s hour over NBC last week. Could have been better if a better script had been handed to him. As it was, his mike appearances were split up into four briefies; two of them drooping pretty badly before termination, Also there was no semblance of any farewells and up to the end of the program, probably many expected the cocky character, screen player would return. He would have been pressed more firmly, had he had his mike turn compressed into one whirl. Bad judgment was it also to build suspense with heaps of talk from Crosby about Cagney’s warbling then have Cagney beg off. Sidney Skolsky, syndicated Hollywood columnist was used on the program in the Cagney interludes. His voice registered much better that it did, recently, when guesting on a Lux shot over CBS. However, his script could have made him out to be a much more humble person. The treatment of making the writer out to be at once, the H.L. Mencken and the Samuel Pepys of the pic biz, doesn’t register well with listeners, many of whom are, doubtless, Skolsky readers.

(Variety, March 3, 1937)

 

February 27, Saturday. Bing attends the Los Angeles Turf Club Ball in the Palm Court of the Ambassador Hotel and sings “There Was Blood On The Saddle” with Andy Devine.

February 28, Sunday. Records “In a Little Hula Heaven” and “Never in a Million Years” with Jimmy Dorsey and his Orchestra in Hollywood.

March 3, Wednesday. Bing records three songs (including “Too Marvelous for Words”) with Jimmy Dorsey and his Orchestra in Hollywood.

 

I was rather disappointed with Bing Crosby’s choice of songs this month. “Too Marvellous for Words” and “Sentimental and Melancholy” (Brunswick 02452) are a shade better than “What Is Love” and “Never in a Million Years” on Bruns. 02453. Mark you, only the songs are indifferent; his voice and method of singing them are still tops with me.

(The Gramophone, September 1937)

 

March 4, Thursday. (7:00–8:00 p.m.) Bing’s Kraft Music Hall show. Guests include Mischa Auer, Freddie Bartholomew, and Douglas Fairbanks Jr. Later, the Academy Awards are presented at the Biltmore Hotel in Hollywood. “Pennies from Heaven” has been nominated as best song of 1936 but the winner is “The Way You Look Tonight” from Swing Time starring Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.

March 5, Friday. Records three songs (including “The One Rose”) with Victor Young and his Orchestra in Hollywood.

March 8, Monday. Another recording session in Hollywood with Victor Young when three songs are recorded. One of them is “My Little Buckaroo.”

March 11, Thursday. (7:00–8:00 p.m.) The Kraft Music Hall broadcast on NBC. Bing acts as host and his guests include Andres Segovia and Lee Tracy.

March 18, Thursday. (7:00–8:00 p.m.) Bing’s Kraft Music Hall broadcast and his guests include Basil Rathbone and Harriet Hilliard. Meanwhile, frank and direct correspondence of this date from Bing’s accountant, Todd Johnson of Johnson and Johnson, to Bing summarizes his projected income for 1937 as $500,000. From this, he will have to pay 10 percent to Everett and taxes will take about $236,000. This will leave Bing approximately $150,000 to cover his personal expenses. Bing has apparently lost $13,431 on horse races in the previous two months and in addition has paid $9,575 to Dixie for household and other uses. The letter continues:

 

From the above tabulation, you will see that you would have available for personal use or for investment $150,000, or $12,500 per month. I want to call your attention to the fact that during the months of January and February you have had personal expenditures of approximately 100 percent of your total income. Furthermore, if you spend 100 percent of your expected income, this leaves no money for the payment of your $85,000 note at the Citizens Bank or for the purchase of additional investments, additional racehorses, or any other capital expenditures. . . .

      Let me say here, Bing, that I am fully aware of the fact that the size of your personal expenditures is not directly any of my business. I also know that I am taking a chance of incurring your ill will in calling the same to your attention. However, I feel that I am your friend as well as your tax counsel and, regardless of consequences, I feel I must call this matter to your attention. My sole purpose in doing so is the hope that you will restrict your personal expenditures largely to the end that your untiring efforts and long days and hours of work will result in your accumulating a considerable future, instead of having nothing left when your career is ended.

(As reproduced in BINGANG magazine, December, 2000)

 

March 19, Friday. Bing and Dixie travel to Del Monte for a short break before going to Tanforan for the race meeting.

waikikiweddinglobbies[4]March 24, Wednesday. Bing’s film Waikiki Wedding has its New York premiere and goes on to become the third highest grossing picture of the year.

 

Regretting that he has but one voice to give, Bing Crosby is surrendering it cheerfully at the Paramount to the uses of the Hawaiian Board of Trade, the pineapple industry and sundry tourist agencies. His “Waikiki Wedding” places him in a welter of grass skirts, tropical sunsets, Martha Raye and a razorback pig called Walford. Undismayed he sings on-things like “Okolehao” and “Sweet Leilani.”...It is, at least, a workable idea for a musical comedy, even though the fabric has been stretched so far that it has burst in places...Mr. Crosby is still the pleasantest of our crooners and Miss Ross was all right, too.

(Frank S. Nugent, The New York Times, March 25, 1937)

 

A romantic picture, pure and simple, Waikiki Wedding should have no difficulty getting by anywhere. It’s saccharine celluloid, sugar coated by Bing Crosby’s and Shirley Ross’ crooning in a surefire palmetto setting. The prime possible box office deterrent with this pic is that it comes so soon after the release of Crosby’s Pennies from Heaven for Columbia, but this damper should not be drastic.

      While none of the songs here will hit the top performance brackets, they fit the picture’s theme and the voices of Crosby, Shirley Ross and Martha Raye. They should get at least a minor play on the air. . . (Crosby) also makes the best of his songs, a couple of them spotted in night sailboat scenes that are very well photographed and directed.

(Variety, March 31, 1937)

 

March 25, Thursday. (7:00–8:00 p.m.) The Kraft Music Hall broadcast on NBC. Bing acts as host and his guests include Gail Sondergaard and Walter Brennan.

March 26, Friday. Bing attends Basil Rathbone’s party. Variety mentions a new book about Bing by his brothers.

 

Brothers Ted, Larry Do Crosby Biog.

Ted and Larry Crosby are authors of ‘Bing,’ just off the presses of the Bolton Printing Co., Inc. Brothers of the crooner have dramatized his life.

(Daily Variety, March 26, 1937)

 

March 27, Saturday. Dixie Lee discards her blonde locks and becomes a brunette.

April 1, Thursday. (7:00–8:00 p.m.) Bing’s Kraft Music Hall shows. Guests include Amelia Earhart and John Barrymore.

April 8, Thursday. (7:00–8:00 p.m.) The Kraft Music Hall broadcast on NBC. Bing’s guests include Victor McLaglen and Florence Lake.

 

We don’t like to harp on a subject any better that you like to have a subject harped upon (harp, harp, the larp), but we’re confronted today with another angle of this studio applause business and there’s really no side-stepping it.

We refer to the Bing Crosby angle, than which we can find no more intriguing example to present in behalf of the anti-studio applause faction.

Since first taking to the ether, Mr. Crosby has steadfastly refused to admit spectators to his program. It’s not because he doesn’t like strangers around. But he concedes readily that they do more harm than good, even if they’re real nice about it and just sit in a corner without emitting a peep.

And has this steadfast abstinence from the rich diet of hand claps and laughter harmed our Mr. Crosby’s radio standing? It has not, definitely, irrevocably, and — well, you get the idea.

Mr. Crosby also has a comedian on his program. His name is Robin Burns. Even without a background of chirps, cackles, screams and other outward displays of enthusiasm, Mr. Burns manages to be one of the very funniest.

And yet Mr. Burns’ rival funny men claim they couldn’t give their all, do their best, ring the bell, etc., if they couldn’t look beyond the microphone, and find row upon row of happy, upturned faces, ready to giggle and guffaw at any slight provocation.

Maybe we’re wrong, but if Mr. Crosby and Mr. Burns can stay among the first five in national rating without insisting on visible, voluble support, couldn’t a few others?

Incidentally, guesting in the Music Hall tonight will be Victor McLaglen and Florence Lake of the films and Kathryn Meisle of the concert stage. Mr. Crosby will refer to all merely as “Vic,” “Flo,” and “Kathryn”.

(Herb Caen, San Francisco Chronicle, April 8, 1937)

 

April 10, Saturday. Bing has traveled by train from Los Angeles to see the horse races at Tanforan in San Bruno on the San Francisco Peninsula.

April 12, Monday. Bing’s secretaries are churning out replies to fans and a typical letter is sent to British fan Tom Evans, apparently bearing Bing’s signature but probably signed by a member of his staff.

 

Glad to hear from you. I appreciate knowing how my efforts are received and welcome any suggestions. I sincerely hope you will like my last picture, “Waikiki Wedding”. It is a little different from anything I’ve done so far. I have started work at Paramount on a new picture, “Double or Nothing”. I am fortunate in having Mary Carlisle with me again for the first time since we played together in “College Humor”.

I am glad you like my broadcast on the Kraft Music Hall every Thursday evening and hope you enjoy the guest stars I have each time. The picture is being sent under separate cover.

Best wishes, and many thanks for your interest.

Sincerely yours, Bing

 

April 14, Wednesday. Bing is one of many stars who attend the Nestell-Ramage fight at the Olympic Auditorium in Los Angeles. Bob Nestell defeats Lee Ramage when the referee stops the fight at the end of the 10th. round.

April 15, Thursday. (7:00–8:00 p.m.) Another Kraft Music Hall broadcast on NBC. Bing acts as host and his guests include Percy Grainger, Lionel Stander, Frances Farmer, and Harry Barris.

 

There will occur tonight, along about 7 o’clock or shortly after, through KFI, an event which is momentous in the radio industry. To the ordinary dialler in Podunk, it may mean little but to those who know the inside story, the re-union of Harry Barris and Bing Crosby, if only for a few minutes, is something to think about. You see, since Crosby became something of a dignitary in his own right, he hasn’t gone much for singing with others unless it be with a full chorus. So far as I know, he has not engaged in trio or duet work, his first love. Tonight, he and Barris, once two of the famous Rhythm Boys from Paul Whiteman’s and Gus Arnheim’s Orchestras, get together for a spell of ‘hot’ singing. True, Al Rinker is not scheduled to be among those present but the other two should carry on. We should hear some of the ‘noodling’ which this pair made famous. Also on the program will be the eminent pianist and composer, Percy Grainger, whose radio appearances are all too infrequent to suit me. Frances Farmer and Lionel Stander represent the motion picture industry and Bob Burns and Jimmy Dorsey’s Orchestra represent the regular cast of Kraft Music Hall.

(Los Angeles Examiner, April 15, 1937)

 

April 17, Saturday. Bing’s song “Sweet Leilani” is the number one record and is quickly followed at the top of the charts by “Too Marvelous for Words.”

April 22, Thursday. (7:00–8:00 p.m.) The Kraft Music Hall broadcast on NBC. Bing acts as host and his guests include Rose Bampton and Walter Connolly. Bing duets with Rose Bampton on the sextet from Lucia di Lammermoor.

 

...If one were hunting for bad points, I think his only one would be that perhaps he is too self-effacing. I can recall the occasion of one broadcast which demanded that Bing learn an arrangement of the sextette of “Lucia.” Bing insisted that he didn’t read music, that he wasn’t a good musician, yet in spite of all this, inside of fifteen minutes he was singing as nonchalantly as any opera singer a most difficult arrangement which had been allotted to him.

      By this little criticism I do not mean to say that one must be arrogant, but surely Bing should be cognizant a little more of his own quite unique ability and standing.

      But then, perhaps that is just one of the reasons why every artist who is on his program comes away with a feeling of having made a very sincere new friend, and is just another Crosby fan for ever after.

(Rose Bampton, in a letter to journalist Marie Manovill dated April 4, 1938)

 

April 23, Friday. It is announced that Bing has signed with Kraft for another two seasons for $3,500 per week. The contract allows Bing thirteen weeks off each year.

April (undated). Bing and Dixie attend the twenty-first birthday party for Robert S. Howard (son of Charles S. Howard) at the Beverly-Wilshire Hotel. Bing sings “Sweet Leilani” with the Harry Owens orchestra. Others present include the Dick Arlens, the Andy Devines, the Hal Tuttles, and Paula Stone.

April 26–June 15, Monday–Tuesday. Films Double or Nothing with Mary Carlisle, Martha Raye, Andy Devine, and William Frawley. Harry Barris also has a small part. The film is directed by Theodore Reed with musical direction by Boris Morros.

April 29, Thursday. (6:00–7:00 p.m.) Bing’s Kraft Music Hall broadcast on NBC. The guests include Connie Boswell, Mischa Auer, and Madeleine Carroll.

April 30, Friday. Bing writes to MGM Studio Manager Eddie Mannix, regarding the new Del Mar Turf Club.

 

At your suggestion, I am enclosing prospectus containing information relative to the Del Mar Turf Club. I think you will find all the information necessary contained therein, and it is my earnest desire to have some representative in this venture from your Studio, and I would consider it a great favor if you would call it to the attention of Hunt Stromberg, Bob Leonard, or some of the other race-minded members of your organization. If any of them are interested have them call me or write me at Paramount Studio and I will see that someone is sent out to discuss the thing more in detail with them.

Your sincere friend,

Bing Crosby.

 

The prospectus elaborates on:

v     Capitalization at $250,000 consisting of 2500 shares of the par value at $100.00 per share.

v     San Diego is constructing a fairgrounds and race track

v     The turf club will have exclusive 10 year franchise rights, costing $100,000

v     Stable space for 550 horses

v     Applications already received to date for stall space for 400 horses.

v     Track easily accessible from all points via auto, train, plane or yacht. Santa Fe railroad to run special trains from L.A. at a fare of $2.00 round trip!

May 6, Thursday. The Hindenburg airship explodes over New Jersey. Thirty-six die. (6:00–7:00 p.m.) Bing’s Kraft Music Hall show. Guests include Basil Rathbone and Mary Garden.

 

More and more the conviction grows that Bing Crosby’s Music Hall is variety radio entertainment at its best. Mr. Crosby is, without doubt, the most “relaxed” emcee on the air.

(San Francisco Chronicle, May 5, 1937)

 

May 9, Sunday. Bing may have been at Agua Caliente to see his stable have a third winner in two days. His two-year-old Rocco came on to nose out Pasadena Stable’s Halstead in the four-and-a-half furlong third.

May 11, Tuesday. A strike takes place at the various Hollywood film studios. Bing is one of several stars who cross the picket lines.

May 12, Wednesday. Bing wins his first match in defense of his title as club champion at Lakeside by defeating George Marshall.

May 13, Thursday. (6:00–7:00 p.m.) The Kraft Music Hall broadcast on NBC. Bing acts as host and his guests include Elissa Landi, Josephine Tuminia, and John McCormack.

 

John McCormack having retired and given up singing forever and a day, duly appeared on the Bing Crosby Kraft Music Hall hour and sang a couple of numbers. Numbers weren’t important nor, for that matter, the fact that he’d come out of retirement at his very first moment after commencing it. What counted was that the Irishman was in rare good humor and had himself a royal good time all through the program, clowning with Crosby, Bob Burns (sic) and Lionel Stander. It was good fun throughout and if McCormack really means it about quitting the concert stage but wants to shift to some other branch of the biz he might consider being an MC. He could get away with it.

(Variety, May 19, 1937)

 

May 16, Sunday. Bing and Dixie and their children attend a birthday party for Pat O’Brien’s daughter, Mavourneen.

May 16, Sunday. At Agua Caliente, Bing’s stable makes it five wins and one second out of six starts when Lady Lakeside takes the first, a six-furlong affair, to reward machine players at even money. It is not known whether Bing was there.

May 19, Wednesday. Fire in the Melrose Grotto at 5511 Melrose Avenue, forces Bing and many others to flee from the adjoining recording studio. No one is hurt.

May 20, Thursday. (6:00–7:00 p.m.) The Kraft Music Hall broadcast on NBC. Bing acts as host and his guests include Lee Tracy, Connie Boswell, and William Gargan.

May 21, Friday. (8:30 p.m.) Thought to have guested on the Al Jarvis ‘Jam Session’ show on KFWB.

May 23, Sunday. (Starting at 2:15 p.m.) Bing organizes and appears in a five-hour benefit for pianist Joe Sullivan at the Pan-Pacific Auditorium in front of an audience of six thousand. (Joe suffered from TB and was convalescing at a sanitarium in Monrovia.) The show is broadcast over two different radio stations and Bing is praised for his master of ceremonies performance by Herb Caen of the San Francisco Chronicle. Fourteen bands attend (including those led by Woody Herman, Ray Noble, Jimmy Dorsey, Jimmie Grier, Louis Prima, Harry Owens, and Victor Young) and other performers include Connie Boswell, Johnny Mercer, Red Norvo, and Ella Logan. Approximately $3,000 is raised for Joe Sullivan.


The big swing concert given at the Pan-Pacific auditorium in honor of Joe Sullivan bringing out practically all of Hollywood with the exception of Martha Raye. The crowd plenty peeved when Martha, who had been widely advertised, failed to show. Jean Harlow, in dark glasses, arriving at the concert with a thin man (not Bill Powell); Bing Crosby singing all his sentimental songs directly to Dixie Lee Crosby; Ella Logan scoring a terrific ovation…

(Louella O. Parsons, syndicated column, May 26, 1937)


May 27, Thursday. (6:00–7:00 p.m.) Bing’s Kraft Music Hall broadcast on NBC and his guests include Zasu Pitts, Gail Patrick, and Rudolph Ganz.

 

Bob Burns returned last week to the Kraft Phoenix program, after a fortnight’s absence to fish the trout streams in the High Sierras. He has been sorely missed during his siesta, so he stepped right in, sounding fresh and helped lift the period to its old level. Bing Crosby seemed exuberant with Burns’ return and displayed more pep than he had done on the two previous editions. Zasu Pitts was the guest in the show and not too impressive. Her singing of ‘Melancholy Baby’ was choppy and not bravely ventured. Interruptions by Burns’ mild kidding detracted further. An announcement that Miss Pitts would carol in the forthcoming Wanger production, “52nd Street” for United Artists, wasn’t too good a ballyhoo in view of the performance. Boys and comedienne wound it up with a skit on Christopher Columbus putting the touch on Queen Isabella for his voyage of discovery. Burns was seaman and Crosby, King Ferdinand - Bit was quite funny.

(Variety, June 2, 1937)

 

May 28, Friday. Bing and Dixie attend the boxing matches at Wrigley Field with many other Hollywood stars including Al Jolson, Ruby Keeler, Clark Gable, and Fred Astaire.

May 29, Saturday. Bing and Dixie attend a party at Carole Lombard’s house and they sing on a homemade record.

June (undated). Bing puts on an impromptu show at the La Maze night club.

June 3, Thursday. (6:00–7:00 p.m.) Bing’s Kraft Music Hall show. Guests include Charles Ruggles and McLellan Barclay.

June 7, Monday. Hollywood star Jean Harlow dies of a kidney disease at the age of twenty-six.

June 10, Thursday. (6:00–7:00 p.m.) The Kraft Music Hall broadcast on NBC. Bing acts as host and his guests include Harriet Hilliard, William Frawley, and Douglas Fairbanks Jr.

June 13, Sunday. Bing (handicap five) wins the thirty-six holes Lakeside golf championship for the second consecutive year when he beats businessman Robert Beekman eight and seven. Celebrities such as Oliver Hardy, Bill Frawley, Adolphe Menjou, Randolph Scott, and Johnny Mercer are among the crowd of five hundred who watch the game.

 

Playing in a white cap and an old gray sweat shirt, Bing was carefree at all times while the gallery seemed to bother Beekman, his game being far below his usual form.

(Los Angeles Times, June 14, 1937)

 

BIG GOLF BUGS

We witnessed our first golf match when the justly celebrated Bing “Crooner” Crosby, screen and radio star, added the coveted Lakeside championship to his big treasure chest. We were told on all sides that he was “shooting” a game of which any professional would be proud. Not only did Bing win, but he now holds the honor of being the only man to win the Lakeside championship twice. He won last year.

Knowing little about this game of golf, which appears to hold its addicts tightly in its clutches, we sought enlightenment from our old friend, William Frawley. In case you have forgotten, the inimitable Bill Frawley, who has become one of the most popular character actors ever to work under the Paramount banner, was America’s first crooner....and one of the best. Old Man Cinemania will attest that Bill can still warble “Carolina in the Morning” with more feeling than any other singer we know.

As one crooner to another, Bill was all for Bing. Although Bing’s opponent, one Robert Beekman, a prominent business man, was Lakeside’s first golf champion back in 1927....and had previously defeated three of the best players in this tournament, Bill had no fears.

“Bing is a champion,” Bill confided to us as we watched Bing coolly hitting his shots (with the old pipe in mouth), “and a real champion always rises to the occasion.

“The other fellow is a fine sportsman and a gentleman....and I like to see him win....but not from Crosby. There’s only one Bing.”As we strolled around the beautiful green golf course....we felt the same warmth and friendliness of feeling for Bing....despite the fact that he was playing one of the most popular of club members....not only from his motion picture and radio colleagues, but from the laymen, with whom he is very popular.

“Plain as an old shoe and a swell fellow,” seems to be the general feeling about Bing Crosby.

That enjoyable afternoon we bumped into such celebrities as Oliver “Babe” Hardy, Adolphe Menjou, Guy Kibbee and William Seiter.....husky Barton MacLane and the distinguished Henry O’Neil....three cronies, Ralph Morgan, Frank Morgan and Fran Craven....Norman McLeod and Scoop Conlon...."Slow-Burn” Edgar Kennedy and George Von Elm....little Jimmy McLarnin....Edward Sutherland....Bert and Sally Wheeler, who have just purchased a new home right on the golf course....Harry Joe Brown and Sally Eilers....handsome Randolph Scott....Jimmy Dorsey, the band leader....Johnny Mercer and Johnny Burke, the song writers....Johnny Gallaudet, C. Henry Gordon, Clyde Cook and big George Bancroft, who tells me he has taken up golf again....the one and only Willie Collier, dean of farceurs, with Charlie Hill, who is Bert Wheeler’s Partner in Palm Springs’ popular Lone Palm....Jobyna Arlen....without Dick, who had to go out on their new boat....and with Dorothy and Andy Devine....the Charlie Bartons and Alfred Werkers... .Claude Binyon....Huntley Gordon....Andy Clyde and Bob McGowan, the Scotch inseparables....and many, many others. We missed the hearty laugh of Alan Hale....but he was somewhere in the mountains....fishing and vacationing.

That evening, the championship was really celebrated at Lakeside....with a dinner dance....and such impromptu entertainment as one could only find at the Lambs in New York or the Masquers here in Hollywood. Bing sang a few numbers....and accepted his hard-won honors very modestly....Babe Hardy officiated, giving away the prizes to the winners....Johnny Mercer sang....George Bancroft, Huntley Gordon and Henry O’Neil spoke briefly....Bert Wheeler warbled a very funny song....Dixie Lee Crosby was introduced, but refused to sing....big Andy Devine brought down the house with his gravel-throat rendition of “Blood on the Saddle.”....and Bill Frawley refused to “follow” the greatest crooner with a song.... instead telling the Lakesiders what a fine fellow they have for a champion.

(Edwin Martin, Hollywood Citizen News, June 25, 1937)

 

In the evening, Bing is presented with his prize at a dinner dance at the club and he also sings several songs. During the day, his horse “Rocco” wins the fourth race at Agua Caliente.

June 17, Thursday. (6:00–7:00 p.m.) The Kraft Music Hall broadcast on NBC. Bing acts as host and his guests include Jose Iturbi and Pat O’Brien.

 

Radio is his game and he’s so deaf you almost have to shout to make him hear. He’s small and of nondescript appearance. You’d never pick him out in a crowd and the chances are you’ve never heard his rather odd name. Carroll Carroll is the brains behind the success of Bing Crosby’s air show. He studies Bing constantly - not an affectation or colloquialism used by the crooning idol of radio escapes his sharp eyes which are trained to read the Crosby lips. He writes Bing’s scripts. Yes, Bing’s informed chatter on the air is all written and the reason you’d swear it was ad-libbed is because Carroll Carroll writes right down Bing’s alley and be it known to Bing’s credit that he appreciates Carroll’s talent. He takes one look at the script and says, ‘It’s swell.’ When Crosby reads that script, he can’t help falling into a natural groove, thereby giving his hour the inimitable style and all the time Carroll Carroll watches him from the control booth, studying, studying. He has absorbed so much of Bing’s personality that he, consistently and successfully, transcribes it to typewritten paper, each week. The Crosby cast never assembles for rehearsals until Thursday morning. They work all day, cutting and changing and building up that ‘spark’ that accounts for its present Crossley Report rating. The show is seldom timed at the start of a broadcast. The crew have been working so hard all day that they have on hand a wealth of material, discarded during rehearsal, to fill with should the program run short. So when you tune in tonight (KPO 6 to 7) and hear Bing winding out, in his own style, just realize that a little semi-deaf guy by the name of Carroll Carroll is doing his bit to preserve that personality in consistency.

(San Francisco Chronicle, June 17, 1937)

 

 

June 21, Monday. Clyde Tolson of the FBI writes to his director, J. Edgar Hoover, stating that Hollywood is “overrun at the present time with all types and kinds of racketeers.” He gives an instance of Bing being induced to part with $10,000 to someone who had preyed on Bing’s sympathy saying that he was afflicted with a disease and was unable to work.

June 22, Tuesday. Boxer Joe Louis becomes World Heavyweight Champion after defeating James J. Braddock.

June 24, Thursday. (6:00–7:00 p.m.) Bing’s Kraft Music Hall broadcast on NBC and his guests include Constance Bennett and Reginald Denny.

 

Bing Crosby - Bob Burns Thursday night session over NBC Red for Kraft Phoenix Miracle Whip was not the only commercial plugging inserted. Two guests, Constance Bennett and Reginald Denny also slipped in some blurbing for their extra-film business ventures. It seems Miss Bennett peddles cosmetics and Denny is interested in a firm manufacturing model airplanes although the trade labels of neither were mentioned. All the chatter on their two separate sessions with Mr. C and Mr. B circled around their businesses. Usually, on the Kraft Show, guests get ribbed. The pair, last week, escaped completely and both bits, in consequence were much duller than customarily encountered on this sturdy show.

(Variety, June 30, 1937)

 

June 25, Friday. Bing is thought to have attended the Friday night boxing at the Legion Stadium in Hollywood.

July 1, Thursday. (6:00–7:00 p.m.) The last Kraft Music Hall broadcast by Bing until October. His guests are Toby Wing, Roland Young, and Mischa Levitzki. It is Jimmy Dorsey’s final appearance as resident orchestra leader.

 

Roland Young, the stage and screen comic, lived up to his best traditions as a sly humorist on his guest appearance on Bing Crosby’s Kraft Music Hall program, last Thursday. Tops was the reference to Young’s ability to talk without seeming to open his mouth, with a suggestion that he’d do a Bergen/McCarthy act being carried out as he went through a ventriloquial routine with Burns. The pair were introduced as ‘Roland Bergen’ and ‘Bob McBurns’, the latter doing snappy dummy and crossfire banter. Mischa Levitzki, on same show, introduced as being on the broadcast for the fourth time, readily showed his capability, in three distinct types of selections - brilliant work on ivories. Levitzki indicated his versatility by joining in some of the gagging.

(Variety, July 7, 1937)

 

Another fine pianist, Mischa Levitski, told Bing one Thursday that he thought he played the piano better when he was a guest on The Kraft Music Hall than at any other of his public performances because, he said, he could dress informally and be comfortable.         

Bing said, “I’m delighted to hear it, and may I say that all day long I’ve been admiring your splendid red suspenders.”

“A great many pianists wear suspenders exactly like these,” Mischa answered.

“Any particular reason?” Bing asked.

“Yes. To hold up their pants.”

This old joke, coming from a man of Levitski’s stature, was such a surprise it was one of the biggest laughs ever heard on the broadcast, and Bing laughed louder than the rest because on the script where Mischa said, “To hold up their pants,” Bing’s script read, “Because the flannel is soft and doesn’t cut into the shoulders the way elastic suspenders do.”

(Carroll Carroll, My Life With…)

 

“Larry Crosby, Bing’s brother and public relations director, sent me a wire, ‘Can you be in Hollywood on the 28th of June and take over the orchestra of the Kraft Music Hall on July 8, 1937?’ Actually that is what you might call, as my good friend George Gobel says, starting rather ‘high line,’ because although I’d rehearsed and directed orchestras, I had never had an orchestra of my own, with my own name. That was sort of beginning at the top. The first time I appeared under my own name ‘John Scott Trotter and his Orchestra’ was on the Kraft Music Hall with Bing. The Kraft Music Hall went fifty weeks a year. I did one hundred and forty consecutive Thursdays without missing one; some sort of record.”

(John Scott Trotter, speaking in an exclusive interview with Gord Atkinson, subsequently broadcast in Gord Atkinson’s The Crosby Years.)

 

John Scott Trotter joined my musical family at the beginning of my Kraft Music Hall series in the 1930’s. He’s been with me ever since. Id known John in New York when he played piano and made arrangements for the Hal Kemp band. Both Hal and Johnny were products of the University of North Carolina. John —as everybody whos listened to our radio program knows—goes about two hundred and ninety-five pounds. For a band leader he has remarkable self-control. Never have I heard him resort to profanity during the long, tiresome rehearsals. Things can go wrong with an arrangement. Musicians are late or maybe hung a little. After five or six hours, they often get fidgety and restless, or their attention wanders. But Ive never heard John raise his voice or upbraid his musicians. Once, when they really got out of line, he rapped with his baton and said, in cool, crisp tones, “Gentlemen!The bandsmen were so shocked that he’d said anything at all that they calmed down and he had no more trouble with them.

(Call Me Lucky, page 262-3)

 

July 3, Saturday. The Del Mar Turf Club opens with an attendance of fifteen thousand. The first race at 2:24 p.m. is won by Bing’s horse “High Strike.” The directors of the track are Bing, Pat O’Brien, Kent Allen, Charles Howard, and William Quigley. Bing hosts a huge dinner dance in the clubhouse following the races, with Jimmy Dorsey and his Orchestra playing for the dancing. This starts a pattern of regular Saturday night stage shows involving celebrities at Del Mar. A crowd of 18,000 shows up on the second day but attendances then drop off drastically with an average of only 5,000 attending each day due to the difficulties of traveling from Los Angeles. Saturday morning radio shows begin and continue through July and August on NBC.

July 9, Friday. (5:00-5:20 p.m.) Bing gives the racing commentary from Del Mar on the Motion Picture Handicap for NBC. NBC give him a check for $100 for “any charity cause of your choice.” Meanwhile, Bing’s occasional golfing partner at Lakeside, John Montague, is arrested for a robbery committed seven years earlier. Bing had recently played in a one-hole match at Lakeside with Montague when Montague played with a garden rake, a baseball bat, and a shovel to beat Bing who was using orthodox clubs. The newspaper reports of this incredible match were seen by police in New York State searching for Laverne Moore (alias John Montague).

 

There was a golfer playing Lakeside in those days named John (“Mysterious”) Montague, who was a shadowy figure. Grantland Rice, who was a Lakeside member, used to write about him. Montague was reluctant to be photographed. Whenever he was in position to break the course record at Lakeside he picked up on the 18th tee. Apparently at one time he had some alleged connections with the underworld, and the word was that he was wanted by the police in Buffalo. He was strong enough to pick up Babe Hardy and hold him upside down. Montague was an excellent golfer, relentless under pressure. We played him for a $5.00 nassau and he’d give you any number of strokes you wanted. He usually won. One day he and Bing had played, and afterward they were sitting around the bar at Lakeside. Bing had lost, and he was a little petulant. “You don’t give me enough strokes,” he told Montague, and Monty replied, “I can handle you with a shovel, a bat and a rake.” So they went out and played one of the most famous 1-hole matches in Lakeside history.

   Montague took a bat on the tee and hit a lovely shot. Then he used the same weapon and hit another one, but it veered off into a trap. Bing was on the green in two, about thirty feet from the pin. Montague took his shovel and got the ball on the green. Bing hit his first putt three feet past the hole and Monty said, “That’s good, pal,” and knocked Bing’s ball away. With Bing watching in astonishment, Monty used the rake like a pool cue and knocked the ball right into the cup. Bing shook his head in wonderment, and walked back in.

      (Bob Hope, writing in Confessions of a Hooker, page 132)

July 11, Sunday. George Gershwin dies in Hollywood from a brain tumor at the age of thirty-eight.

July 12, Monday. Bing has his first recording session with John Scott Trotter and his Orchestra with Spike Jones playing the drums in the Trotter ensemble. In Hollywood, they record four songs from the film Double or Nothing including “The Moon Got in My Eyes.” Later Bing takes part in a star-studded radio tribute to George Gershwin.

 

The star disc of a trio by Bing Crosby is undoubtedly Brunswick 02499, which contains “All You Want to Do Is Dance” and “It’s the Natural Thing to Do.” These show that Bing is still untouchable.

(The Gramophone, January 1938)

 

July 14, Wednesday. Bing is on crutches at Del Mar following a tennis injury.

July 16, Friday. (4:45-5:00 p.m.) Broadcasts a “man at the race track” type program from Del Mar on the NBC Blue Network.

July 19, Monday.Bing is named “Hollywood’s Most Typical Father” in a contest among male members of the film colony. Pat O'Brien is second, Edward G.Robinson is in third place.

July 23, Friday. (4:45-5:00 p.m.) Broadcasts another “man at the race track” type program from Del Mar on the NBC Blue Network.

July 24, Saturday. Bing hosts a special show to entertain the guests at the Del Mar club.

July 30, Friday. (4:45-5:00 p.m.) Ken Carpenter talks with Bing at the Del Mar Jockey Club in a program broadcast by the NBC Blue Network.

August 5, Thursday. Bing is advertised as entertaining at a dinner and dance at the Fiesta Room of the Ambassador Hotel for the Hollywood Anti-Nazi League for the Defense of American Democracy. Other stars that are said to be attending include Robert Benchley, Eddie Cantor, Charles Butterworth, Fred MacMurray, Ray Bolger, Don Ameche, Fanny Brice, Sigmund Romberg, George Jessel, Benny Goodman, Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy, Gordon and Revel, Frances Langford and Johnny Green and his orchestra. Bing and Charles Butterworth are thought to have performed their Boswell Sisters impersonation.

August 15, Sunday. Is one of thirty-five stars who accept membership in a National Board of Directors for the newly formed American Federation of Radio Artists. During the day, Bing travels out on the Union Pacific streamliner to the East coast for the racing at Saratoga, and whilst there he is planning to meet Lieutenant Governor Lehman of New York State to discuss the extradition of his Lakeside golfing friend, John Montague.

August 20, Friday. Bing’s friend John Montague waives extradition and agrees to leave California voluntarily for New York State to face charges.

August (undated). In Saratoga Springs in New York State to attend the races and the yearling auctions.

August 24, Tuesday. John Montague is returned by police to Elizabethtown in New York to face trial. En route, his train stops at Saratoga Springs and he and Bing talk on the railway station platform for ten minutes. Bing later follows Montague to Elizabethtown to support Montague’s application for bail and arrives there in the early afternoon.

August 26, Thursday. After two days in jail, Montague is released on bail of $25,000. Bing is not present at the hearing. Montague eventually goes to trial on October 19.

August (undated). At Saratoga, Bing dines at the Arrowhead Inn where Xavier Cugat and his Orchestra are performing. Desi Arnaz is a singer with the orchestra and Bing is persuaded to join him on stage and sing a duet with him.

 

From Cleveland we went to Saratoga to play at Arrowhead Inn, one of the finest gambling casinos in New York State at that time. It was a great thrill for me when Cugat decided that I should open the show with “Para Vigo Me Voy” before Veloz and Yolanda, who were the most famous dancing act in the world then, and of course the stars of the show, came on to do their act.

Saratoga, during the racing season, is always, up to its ass with Vanderbilts, Whitneys and Du Ponts, plus an assortment of the top breeders, owners, trainers and jockeys of thoroughbred horses in America, and also stage, radio, and movie stars by the dozen.

One night, the headwaiter came over to the bandstand a couple of times with a request for me to sing “Quiero Mucho” (In English the song was called “Yours”) The third time he came over I heard him ask Cugat if it would be all right for me to sit with one of the guests. Cugat told him “You know the rules.” (Members of the band were not supposed to mingle with the guests, then.) The headwaiter said that it would be okay. “It’s Mr. Crosby.”

As I approached the table and saw him I told the headwaiter, “What do you mean, Mr. Crosby? That’s Bing Crosby!”

Bing stood up and greeted me with “Mucho gusto, Senor.”

I answered, “El gusto es todo mio, Senor Crosby.”

He then said, “Como se llama usted?”

Desi Amaz, Senor.”

Sientese, por favor.” He indicated a chair. “Quiere un Scotch o quiere rum?”

“Rum. Bacardi, por favor,” I answered.

Si Como no.”

A bottle of good old Anejo Bacardi was brought to the table. Mr. Crosby told me how much he loved Cuban music and that to celebrate meeting a native he would join me in the rum. After a couple he asked me, “’How much is this Spaniard paying you?”

“Thirty a week,” I told him.

‘"That cheap crook,” he said. “Come on, let’s talk to him.”

“Hello, Bing,” Cugat greeted him.

“Listen, you cheap Spaniard, what do you mean paying this fine Cuban singer thirty a week?”

“He’s just starting. Bingo.”

“Never mind the Bingo stuff. Give him a raise. One of these days you are going to be asking him for a job.”

“Okay, okay. How about singing a song with the band, Bing?”

Bing said, “Will you give him a raise?”

“Of course.”

Bing sang and the audience went wild. It was quite a feather in Cugat’s cap to have Bing Crosby sing with his orchestra. He sang many songs, some of them with me. “Quiereme Mucho,” his favorite, he sang in Spanish, which was pretty good, and then I sang it in English, which was pretty bad. The Anejo Bacardi helped a lot.

The next time I saw Bing was when I was a guest on his Kraft Music Hall radio show. It was the very first time I appeared on a national radio show.

The first thing he asked was “Did you ever get that raise?”

(Desi Arnaz, from his autobiography, A Book by Desi Arnaz, page 54)

 

August 28, Saturday. On his way back to the West Coast, Bing is in Chicago at the races.

September 1, Wednesday. The New York premiere of Bing’s film Double or Nothing takes place.

 

The Bing Crosby-Martha Raye followers turned out en masse yesterday morning at the Paramount (Manager Bob Weitman had counted 3,000 by 10 a.m.) to greet the troubadour and the lady of the cavernous mouth in Double Or Nothing, their new conglomeration of songs, dances, variety acts, romance and comedy. It is a tuneful show with three numbers better than average—"It’s The Natural Thing To Do”, “It’s On, It’s Off” and “The Moon Got In My Eyes”—but a show which lacks buoyance and sparkle, perhaps because of unimaginative direction....Although Bing delivers five songs in his customary agreeable voice and makes a pleasant enough suitor for the fair Mary Carlisle, it is really the explosive Miss Raye, the madcap adagio dance team of Ames and Arno and the Calgary Brothers (specialists in inebriation) who provide the brighter moments.

(The New York Times, September 2, 1937)

 

Bing Crosby and Martha Raye are teamed again in Double or Nothing which should give the film big first run sendoffs, as their names are potent on marquees. . . This is not the first time that Crosby has carried a heavy load on his broad shoulders. Point is, can he keep on doing it indefinitely? He is strictly a personality, just passing fair as an actor, but his croon is unique and the wide radio exploitation he has keeps him a valuable asset for theaters. He needs carefully selected vehicles in which his share of the entertainment obligations is limited to his particular talents. . . Value of the Crosby warble is dimmed because he sings in nearly every episode in which he appears. Some of it is so casual that his major effort near the end of the picture falls rather flat.

(Variety, August 18, 1937)

 

That gorgeous rowdy-dow, Martha Raye, divides honors evenly with Bing Crosby, now undisputed king of the musicals, his mere crooner days forgotten...Bing Crosby was never better and this critic thinks never so good, as in Double or Nothing. This is praise with a vengeance. But when you see Monsieur Crosby dancing with Mary Carlisle and warbling such numbers as “Smarty”, “It’s The Natural Thing To Do”, “All You Want To Do Is Dance” and “After You”—well, we’ll wager a plugged nickel against a double eagle that you’ll agree. Bing is one of the few Hollywoodites who ripens mellowly.

(The Washington Post, September 18, 1937)

 

In Bing Crosby’s excellently entertaining Double or Nothing, music does not accompany action all the time. What would happen if, on the legitimate, an orchestra were to play uninterruptedly during an operetta? Why on the screen, or rather during a merry screen play of unequivocal nature?

      What Bing Crosby himself calls in the dialogue his “tired baritone,” sounds more and more like a beautiful voice. His singing has improved steadily for at least a year, especially since there is less and less of what in the past often suggested a sublimation of a gastric portamento. It appeared to me that Martha Raye, too, has turned over a new vocal leaf, singing more resonantly quite often than in her former raucous style. In Beatonian terms, there is more music to be found in the new Crosby-Raye vocalism.

      Double or Nothing will find a place in the history of film music because of Max Terr’s “sing band” and really gorgeous effects of “vocalistrations” as well as combinations of choir and orchestra, the latter under Victor Young and Arthur Franklin.

(Bruno David Ussher, Hollywood Spectator Music And Screen, September 11, 1937)

September 5, Sunday. Bing attends the State Fair race meeting in Detroit, Michigan.

September 8, Wednesday. Bing arrives back in Los Angeles aboard the Union Pacific’s streamliner “City of Los Angeles.” He plays in the “Champion of Champions” tournament at Lakeside but has disappointing rounds of 83 and 79. (9:30-10:00) He emcees the broadcast over station KHJ when awards to the “Champion of Champions” winners are presented. (8:30-11:00) Bing is also thought to have participated in a tribute to the late George Gershwin at the Hollywood Bowl with Al Jolson and Fred Astaire later in the evening which is broadcast over the CBS network.

September (undated).  Bing writes out a list of his employees.


House: housekeeper (Alice Ross, 100), nurse (Eve Waldorf, 100), chauffeur, maid, cook (all 75), watchman (120), gardener (80). Ross, nurse, maid, cook live in house.

Ranch: caretaker (125) and two laborers (100 each) for horses, caretaking, etc.

Stable: trainer (Albert Johnson, 200), and five labor (100, 80x3, 40). Equal 6900.

Office: Everett Crosby manager, Larry Crosby publicity (200), HL Crosby secty (200), Ruth Clark asst (120), clerk (100), bookkeeper (Clay Johnson) 100, EE Wyatt, clerk (100), Mary R Crosby clerk (25)


September 11, Saturday. Cuts four tracks with Lani McIntyre and his Hawaiians in Hollywood.

September 20, Monday. Another recording session in Hollywood with John Scott Trotter and his Orchestra. Bing’s songs include “The Folks Who Live on the Hill” and “Remember Me?”

September 25, Saturday. Bing’s song “The Moon Got in My Eyes” is number one record in the charts. Bing records “Basin Street Blues” and “Bob White” with Connie Boswell in Hollywood. John Scott Trotter and his Orchestra provide the musical backing.

 

Bing Crosby liked “Bob White” and recorded it as a duet with Connie Boswell. The swinging recording was a landmark for Boswell as well as for Crosby, who, after the success of his saccharine “Sweet Leilani” and “Blue Hawaii,” was undergoing a transformation from the bad boy of jazz to the bard of middle-class America (Decca even had him record Stephen Foster songs). Mercer and Hanighen’s “Bob White” provided Crosby with a song he could deliver “in one of his most playful performances, indulging the staccato and vibrato called for in the lyric.” For the sultry-voiced Boswell, who had been part of the Boswell Sisters until Martha and Vet Boswell found husbands and quit the act in 1935, “Bob White” was an opportunity to bolster her individual career and escape Decca’s vigilant efforts to “tone down her jazziness.” Boswell had suffered polio as a child and performed in a wheelchair that was concealed by costuming and lighting, but her skill as a pianist, cellist, and saxophonist bolstered her interpretative range as a singer and made her the idol of such younger singers as Ella Fitzgerald. “The compound of her molasses drawl and Bing’s brisk virility” made “Bob White” a jazzy success at a time when popular music was increasingly receding into “middlebrow blandness.” As Mercer’s singing career developed, he would take Crosby’s place as the hip jazz singer of the airwaves. He might not have achieved Crosby’s stardom, but he kept faith with the early Crosby singing style he had loved as a boy.

(Skylark: the Life and Times of Johnny Mercer, p98)

 

Watching Bing Crosby and Connie Boswell make a record is an experience in “swing” at its best. They record at a tiny studio next to the NBC building on Melrose. Crosby was smoking a pipe, a panama atop his head, a white silk shirt that hung over his trousers. “It’s my pajama jacket,” he told the hecklers in Johnny Trotter’s band. The trombone player in the band, so help me, is named Abe Lincoln. Connie Boswell, in a yellow sweater, her reddish blond hair encircled by a green ribbon, sat on a high chair next to the microphone as she and Bingo collabbed on a new version of “Basin Street Blues”.

“Come on cats,” said Bing. In musical lingo, cats are the hottest of the hot musicians. The song ended, and the master record made, one of the bandsmen said: “The alligators will go nuts over that one, Mr. Crosby.”

I turned to Crosby and songwriter Johnny Mercer in some bewilderment.

“An alligator,” explained The Great Groaner, “is the musician’s description of collegiate youngsters who stand near a bandstand and listen to a tune, with their mouths open, like an alligator.”

(Ed Sullivan in Hollywood, Hollywood Citizen News, September 27, 1937)

 

September 28, Tuesday. Bing and Edmund Lowe are spectators at the Pacific South West Tennis Tournament at the Los Angeles Tennis Club, and are photographed with Donald Budge and Rubye De Remer.

September 30, Thursday. Bing sings at Hal Roach’s Party for Vittorio Mussolini on the Italian dictator’s son’s 21st birthday. It was also Marguerite and Hal Roach’s 21st wedding anniversary.

October 2, Saturday. The Gonzaga football team lose 13-8 to Loyola Marymount at Gilmore Stadium and Bing may well have been there.

October 5, Tuesday. Bing fires the gun to start the international six-day bicycle race at the Pan-Pacific Auditorium.

October 7, Thursday. (7:00 to 8:00 p.m.) Returns to the Kraft Music Hall broadcast and performs weekly until July 21, 1938. Bob Burns and the Paul Taylor Choristers continue as regulars on the show. John Scott Trotter and his Orchestra provide the musical accompaniment. The audience share for the season is 23.1 and again the show is in sixth place overall in the ratings for evening programs. Edgar Bergen’s show takes top place with 39.4.

The guests on the opening show are Beatrice Lillie, Mischa Levitzki, and William Gargan. John Scott Trotter furnishes the orchestral support and continues to do so for Bing’s radio shows until 1954. Ken Carpenter is the announcer.

  

“It was wonderful to work under those circumstances. You couldn’t be under pressure. You had to be relaxed to make it work. This style was picked up by many others and it made sense. High pressure wham wham didn’t work well on radio. Fred Allen, the comedian, was one of the first who started the relaxed way of doing things. We maintained that attitude successfully. We had trouble sometimes with those, perhaps opera singers, or stage people, who had never done anything like that before. But usually they were good-natured about it. It was simply Bing’s attitude opposite the microphone. We didn’t just stand and read scripts. We threw things back and forth. You had to be able to take a line, glance at it and throw one back. Bing was the type of person who could do this and make others feel at ease. He wouldn’t do anything under pressure. It was so natural for him.”

(Ken Carpenter, speaking in an exclusive interview with Gord Atkinson, subsequently broadcast in Gord Atkinson’s The Crosby Years, www.whenfm.com)

 

Dr RhythmOctober 13–December. Films Doctor Rhythm with Mary Carlisle, Beatrice Lillie, and Andy Devine. The film’s working title is “The Badge of Policeman O’Roon”. Directed by Frank Tuttle, it is a Major Films production released through Paramount. Musical direction is by George Stoll with orchestration by John Scott Trotter. After completion, a financial dispute arises between the producer, Emanuel Cohen, and Paramount who are to release the film. Paramount asks Herb Polesie to edit the film and he cuts out a scene featuring Louis Armstrong.

    October 14, Thursday. (7:00–8:00 p.m.) Bing’s Kraft Music Hall show with guests Betty Furness, Walter Huston, and Hope Manning.

   October 19, Tuesday. The trial of Bing’s friend John Montague commences and lasts for eight days. A controversial verdict by the jury results in Montague being acquitted and Bing thinks of using him in his film Dr. Rhythm. However, Paramount subsequently cancels the arrangements for this made between Emanuel Cohen’s Major Pictures and Everett Crosby, who has become Montague’s manager. Also, Bing and his Kraft troupe leave for Spokane to broadcast the KMH show from Bing's home town on Thursday. Those traveling include Larry Crosby, Mr. and Mrs. Crosby Sr.,  Bob Burns, Edmund Lowe, Connie Boswell, Mary Carlisle, The Foursome, John Scott Trotter and his orchestra, Josephine Tumminia, opera singer, Jerry Bergen and Johnny Burke, song writer.

One of the singer's and writer's longest trips was to Spokane, when Crosby received his doctor of music degree from Gonzaga. Carroll seems to have understood Crosby when he got out at station stops, and instead of playing a star role, walked around to the back of the train and talked to the brakeman.

(re Carroll Carroll, “He Made Bing talk”, Radio Life, May 21, 1944, page 26)


October 21, Thursday. Bing arrives in Spokane at 7:00 a.m. by train and goes straight to Gonzaga for mass at 7:30. This is apparently his first return visit since 1926 and he is accompanied by his parents and brothers Larry and Everett. His brother Ted is still living in Spokane. Later at 9 a.m. Bing accepts the honorary degree of Doctor of Philosophy from Gonzaga University. At 11:30 a.m., he is at City Hall to receive the key to the city and is made honorary mayor for the day. That night at 7:00 p.m., the Kraft Music Hall show is broadcast from the Masonic Temple, Spokane, with guests Connie Boswell, Mary Carlisle and Edmund Lowe. A banquet for Bing and his costars is held at the Civic Auditorium at 8:00 p.m. Bing and Bob Burns leave the banquet briefly to make an appearance at the Fox Theater where the Bing Crosby Talent Competition is underway. They return with the winners. Some months later, Bing’s mother is asked about his honorary degree.  

 

“He was really proud of that,” his mother said. “He told me he had a hard time to keep from crying a couple of times when they were giving him the degree. And he was awfully pleased with the football blanket. That was the first time they’d ever given one to anybody who wasn’t on the team.”

      It is not generally known in Hollywood, though the Spokane papers carried the story, that Bing footed the bill for his hometown celebration. He spent about $5,000 to bring all his entertainers with him, to show the home folks a big time, and went to great trouble arranging for the radio program to be broadcast from Gonzaga.

      The $20,000 that he collected in admissions to the broadcast were given immediately to the university.

(Lucie Neville, San Francisco Chronicle, February 6, 1938)

 

That Home-coming Week was a big week for me in more ways than one. I gave the football team a gadget they nicknamed Bing’s Bucket. It was a sort of portable fountain brought out onto the field during times out to give the players a drink. It was painted blue and white and it had rubber wheels. It moved faster than the old-fashioned bucket and water didn’t slosh from it. And it had a hose attached to it so the team could drink out of the hose.

During that week there were a number of festivities to raise money for the athletic fund. All the old grads I’d gone to school with when we were kids were there. One of them had grown up to become a Spokane judge. He presided and made a speech. I made a speech too and sang a song.

The undergraduates were all on hand and the glee club sang. Then someone, inspired by a burst of local pride, decided to confer a degree on me. They gave me a Ph.D., but after I’d gone back to Los Angeles, they found that nothing I’d ever done entitled me to such a degree, so I was sent a substitute certificate. The wording was changed to Doctor of Music.

(Call Me Lucky, page 39)

 

October 22, Friday. Has a game of golf during the morning. (8:00 p.m.) Bing presides over a two-and-a half-hour amateur show at the Armory, Spokane, in front of a crowd of 3,500. Bing and Connie Boswell sing “Basin Street Blues.”

October 23, Saturday. Bing attends breakfast at 8:10 a.m. with the Athletic Round Table at the Desert Hotel in Spokane. At night, he and his costars from the Kraft Music Hall attend a dance at Natatorium Park. It is estimated that the various events involving Bing have raised $10,000 for Gonzaga.

October 24, Sunday. Attends a football game at Gonzaga Stadium between Gonzaga and San Francisco University at 2:00 p.m. Gonzaga lose 7-0. Between the halves, Bing and Connie Boswell are made honorary members of the Gonzaga Glee Club. Bing leaves Spokane later to return to Hollywood by rail. A huge crowd sees him off at the Great Northern Station.

October 25, Monday. Bing’s train going back to Los Angeles pulls in to Klamath Falls, Oregon, in the evening and is greeted by two thousand people at the Southern Pacific Station.

October 26, Tuesday. Bing leaves the train at Oakland and goes to the Bay Meadows racetrack at San Mateo to see his horse “High Strike” win the Home Bred Handicap.

October 28, Thursday. (7:00–8:00 p.m.) Bing’s Kraft Music Hall show. Guests include Robert Young and Marian Marsh. Later, Bing goes on to appear with Bob Crosby and his Orchestra at the Palomar Ballroom, Vermont at Third Street in Los Angeles. The floor shows are at 9:45 p.m. and 12:15 a.m.

 

When Bob was booked into the old Palomar in Los Angeles, he and Bing met again for the first time since Bob had begun fronting a band. Nobody knew better than Bing that his home territory was tough booking for his younger brother. When they flew into Los Angeles, Bob Crosby and Gil Rodin, his manager, were pleasantly surprised when Bob’s parents met them at the airport and informed, “Bing wants you to stay at his home while you’re here.” Bing also made two appearances at the Palomar with the band. The first night they were mobbed, and he and Bob organized another evening as a benefit for their home-town Gonzaga University band. There was a radio show coast-to-coast, and Bing appeared in a tuxedo—which further marked it as an unusual occasion. “It was the first time I’d ever seen Bing in a tux,” Gil Rodin recalls now. (See November 30, 1937)

(Part of an article “The Fabulous Crosbys” in TV and Radio Magazine, c.1955)

 

October 30, Saturday. Bing’s recording of “Remember Me?” is a hit and becomes yet another number one in the charts.

November (undated) With Lindsay Howard, Bing founds Binglin Breeding Stables. Their first purchases are made by Lindsay Howard in Argentina and the horses arrive in New York during November. Lin and Bing tell Lin’s father, Charles S. Howard, that he can buy one of them and after considering both ‘Ligaroti’ and ‘Kayak’, Howard senior chooses the latter. Howard senior conveys them to California on the same train as his famous horse ‘Seabiscuit’.

November 3, Wednesday. It is proposed by Paramount that Bing’s film “The Badge of Policeman O’Roon be renamed Doctor Rhythm “to exploit the reams of publicity printed about Crosby’s doctorate from Gonzaga.” Knowing Gonzaga might not be happy about this, Larry Crosby writes to Gonzaga. He is asked to ensure the degree is “not referred to in any light manner.” A skit in the Fred Allen Town Hall Tonight program had in effect mocked the degree. Bing writes to Father Robinson, the president of Gonzaga as follows:

 

Larry has just shown me your letter of recent date and I am sorry that the undignified reference to the presentation of the degree was made on the Town Hall Tonight radio program. This is the type of thing that they generally do on their show…I don’t think there will be anything more of this nature, however. At least I hope not, as the ceremony and the honor the degree stands for is much too important to me to be either caricatured or referred to in the spirit of levity on the radio or in the newspapers.

 

November 4, Thursday. (7:00–8:00 p.m.) Bing’s Kraft Music Hall show. Guests include Douglas Fairbanks Jr. and Fay Bainter.

November 7, Sunday. Defeats Bob Hope in an eighteen hole golf match at Lakeside. The loser was supposed to act as a stand-in in the other’s film.

 

All joking aside, the golf party at Lakeside, Sunday, given by Bing Crosby to the scribes who were covering his “stand-in” match with Bob Hope, of New York, was a funny one. Bing and Hope started their match at 10:30 am, the luncheon was set at 1 p.m., the newspapermen had to leave to see the pro football game at 1:45 p.m. Crosby finished at 2 p.m., and a good time was had by all. Bing’s match finished after the press had gone and he and his group then had lunch at the table deserted by the fast eating scribes some time before. Bing shooting a 73, had all the best of the going and now Hope must act as Crosby’s stand-in for one day, without pay, in the filming of The Badge of Policeman O’Roon.

(Los Angeles Evening Herald Express, November 9, 1937)

 

November 8, Monday. Spends most of the day rehearsing for the evening Lux Radio Theater broadcast. (6:00–7:00 p.m.) Stars in a Lux Radio Theater version of She Loves Me Not with Joan Blondell, Nan Gray, Sterling Holloway, and William Frawley on CBS. The Lux Radio Theater was probably the most important dramatic show in radio, running from 1934 to 1955.

 

This one represented a dangerous slackening off from the zip and snap of last season, when Lux climbed up to the top of the popularity pyramid. Perhaps what has happened is similar to what occurs in long-run hit shows where it is necessary from time to time to call incentive rehearsals and shake loose from a too comfortable sinking in a rut. Lux production technique in ‘She Loves Me Not’ reveals fraying at the edges. Any defense of a mediocre radio performance merely based on the smug fact of C.A.B. success must butt itself against this rock: in super-expensive shows anything that threatens maximum audience realization means that the money isn’t buying as much circulation as it might.

      Moreover, a dwindling in entertainment is especially dangerous at a time when Hollywood programs are no longer a novelty, and Lux itself has many imitators, some of them real challengers. “She Loves Me Not” as a stage play and later as a film had, above all, pace. Cut down to radio dimensions the contrast in tempo was deplorable. Questions of comparison, however, might be shrugged off as captious if the result were still diverting. Looseness of plot construction absence of the element of surprise plot twist or excitement might be itemized and called secondary. But the crowing fault can’t be laughed off — it was dull. It threw everything on the personalities. It demanded everything of palpitating, uncritical, tolerant fandom. Safety probably lies in that margin. The grooves by now are well lubricated. But —again— is it peak circulation? Not with such listless, punchless story-telling.

      Bing Crosby sang several times within the story, so that was guaranteed pleasure for the thousands. Yet the throwing away of the gilt-edge situations let the job, in toto, down.

(Variety, 10 November 1937)

 

November 10, Wednesday (starting at 11:00 a.m.). Bing and Ed Sullivan play in a golf match against Bob Hope and Chris Dunphy at Lakeside. Mary Carlisle and Shirley Ross act as caddies for the first hole. Bing has a seventy-three. A gallery of several hundred follow the game.

November 11, Thursday. (7:00–8:00 p.m.) Bing hosts the Kraft Music Hall broadcast on NBC and his guests include Ray Milland and Olympe Bradna.

 

Bing Crosby, Bob Burns and company didn’t have lustrously shining guests on Kraft Phoenix, last Thursday but the regulars on the show were definitely “up to snuff” and snuff from a jewel-decked box. Ray Milland and Olympe Bradna from films were up for two-way quizzing from Bing and Bobby. The continuity carvers for the show took fine care of the Messrs. B but overlooked the one-shotters. There was a faulty note too, when after Crosby repeatedly referred to Miss Bradna by her first name, in advance build up, she marched up to the mike and announced he’d mispronounced her name—An overwhelmingly large slice of the public does too! Later, Bing’s pronunciation faltered again during the last few times he addressed her. Third guest was Rosa Tentoni, San Francisco opera oriole who was on near the conclusion and did OK with several selections. Crosby’s patter and Burns’ bumbling were particularly bright when the twain were twitting each other and one schoolroom farce that the boys did was as aces as anything the Kraft show has offered in a long time, if not ever before. JST’s eighteen piece orchestra was in the groove, all the way.

(Variety, November 17, 1937)

 

Later, Bing attends the Armistice Ball of the British United Services Club at the Ambassador Hotel and his ordinary business suit clashes with the white tie and tails worn by the other male guests, leading to some press coverage. Bing also joins in a radio show at 11:00 p.m. with Alice Faye, Beatrice Lillie, Fanny Brice, and Gladys Swarthout which is beamed to the UK and the rest of the British Empire by short wave, and broadcast locally on KECA.

November 12, Friday. Recording session in Hollywood with Eddie Dunstedter providing accompaniment on a Wurlitzer pipe organ. Bing sings “There’s a Goldmine in the Sky” and “When the Organ Played ‘O Promise Me’.”

November 13, Saturday. Watches the football game between Fairfax and Marshall University with Georgie Stoll.

November 14, Sunday. Thought to have golfed with Ed Sullivan, Chris Dunphy and Bob Hope again, this time at Bel-Air.

November 15, Monday. Further recording session with Eddie Dunstedter, who on this occasion uses a Hammond electric organ to accompany Bing.

November 18, Thursday. (7:00–8:00 p.m.) The Kraft Music Hall broadcast on NBC. Bing acts as host and his guests include Fay Wray and Alan Mowbray.

November 20, Saturday. “Bob White” is the next recording by Bing to enter the charts on the way to becoming a number one hit.

November 21, Sunday. 2:15 p.m.. Bing is thought to have made the opening kick-off at the American Professional League football match between the Los Angeles Bulldogs and the Boston Shamrocks at Gilmore Stadium. Later, the Gonzaga-Spokane Club of Southern California is guest of its president, Bing, and the Crosby talent office at the club’s first annual “get-together,” which is held at the Los Angeles Times auditorium. Bing emcees a special radio show from the event.

 November 23, Tuesday. It emerges that Bing has recently paid $1,500 to purchase a Berman Boxer dog of championship strain called “Gunda of Barmere.” He nicknames her “Venus.” Bing plans to establish a kennel and raise the breed commercially. It is intended to show the dog at the Santa Barbara dog show on December 4.

November 24, Wednesday. It is announced that Bing and the agents Rockwell-O’Keefe have severed their business relationship.

November 25, Thursday. (7:00–8:00 p.m.) The Kraft Music Hall broadcast on NBC. Bing acts as host and his guests include Chester Morris and Isabel Jewell.

November 28, Sunday. Bing at the Santa Clara versus Gonzaga football game at Sacramento and sees Gonzaga lose 27-0.

November 29, Monday. (8:15 p.m.) Bing appears on a radio show from station KFWB to discuss sports with Jack Holmes.

November 30, Tuesday. Bing acts as MC at the “Gigantic Gonzaga—Loyola Football Rally” at the Palomar Ballroom. Farewell festivities for Bob Crosby and his Orchestra take place. A 15-minute show from the event is broadcast on KNX.

December 2, Thursday. (7:00–8:00 p.m.) Bing’s Kraft Music Hall show. Guests include Barbara Weeks and Edward Arnold.

December 5, Sunday. Bing entertains the entire Gonzaga football team at Victor Hugo's.

December 9, Thursday. (7:00–8:00 p.m.) The Kraft Music Hall broadcast on NBC. Bing acts as host and his guests include Josephine Tumminia, Verree Teasdale, and Adolphe Menjou.

December 16, Thursday. (7:00–8:00 p.m.) Bing’s Kraft Music Hall broadcast on NBC and his guests include Ralph Bellamy and Anne Shirley.

 

Ralph Bellamy was in the groove on the Bing Crosby/Bob Burns’ show last Thursday and benefited from a good script and careful handling. Latest Bellamy labor before the camera was in the comedy, “The Awful Truth,” in which he played an oil-rich, loam lovin’ Oklahoman. Matching up this character with that Apple of Arkansas, Bob Burns, was a good stunt and produced some rich strikes of comedy. Crosby paced the boys well and kept them from exchanging blows over the merits of the two states. Born and reared in the heart of Chicago, Bellamy did a good Oklahoman. The windup was swell with Bellamy mooing “Home on the Range” as he did in the picture, accompanied by Burns’ bazooka. It was real corn and real comedy.

(Variety, December 22, 1937)

 

December 23, Thursday. (7:00–8:00 p.m.) The Kraft Music Hall broadcast on NBC. Bing acts as host and the guests include Basil Rathbone and Madge Evans. As has become customary in his Christmas broadcast, he sings “Adeste Fideles” and “Silent Night.”

December 25, Saturday. Bing is at Santa Anita racetrack for the opening of the racing season there and sees his horse, the 2-year-old ‘High Strike’, win the first race of the day in front of a crowd of 50,000. Later at 4:00 p.m. Bing takes part in a radio broadcast with W. C. Fields, Hedda Hopper, George Jessel, and others over NBC of the “Christmas Handicap” race which is won by ‘He Did’. He manages to plug his Del Mar track on several occasions.

December 29, Wednesday. Bing is heard in the radio program Sports Forecast for 1938 with Bob Burns and Johnny Mack Brown.

December 30, Thursday. (7:00–8:00 p.m.) The Kraft Music Hall broadcast on NBC. Bing acts as host and his guests include Jose Iturbi, Louis Armstrong, and Connie Boswell.

 

...As usual, though, it was Mr. Bing Crosby, he of the tremendous adjectives and questionable use thereof, who provided the coup de grace, as he is wont to say. His 60-minute cheese seller was as smooth a bit of entertainment as we’ve ever heard. Even the once stand-offish Jose Iturbi rallied ‘round, called Mr. Crosby “Bing,” Bob Burns, “Bob,” and demonstrated that he’s just another guy despite his awesome reputation. His two piano selections, while poorly suited to radio, were masterfully inserted between the “good fellowship” routines.

      But the payoff punch comes when Bing’s other guests, Connie Boswell and Louis Armstrong, teamed with their host and John Scott Trotter’s orchestra for a “jam session” which might not have been as informal as it sounded–but as long as it sounded that way, we’re convinced. And we still think that weekly gag built around announcer Ken Carpenter’s playing of the NBC chimes is the cleverest radio stunt extant.

(Herb Caen, San Francisco Chronicle, January 3, 1938)

 

Once in a lifetime things happened on Thursday evenings in the old Kraft Music Hall that could never happen again. For example, Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto was played as a duet with Jose Iturbi on piano and Bob Burns on bazooka.

In case you’ve forgotten, or never knew, what a bazooka was before it became a weapon of offensive warfare (as if all warfare wasn’t thoroughly offensive), it was simply two pieces of one-and-a-half or two-inch pipe. One slid into the other the way a trombone works. At one end was a large funnel. At the other was Burns. It was a very limited bass instrument, one cut above a jug, and Bob played it as base as it could be played.

Iturbi made a special trip to the Baldwin company, for whom he was an exclusive artist, to help me select a piano. He picked a pip. After abuse from three children, a dozen moving men, and friends who spill drinks, it is still being complimented by all musicians who use it.

(Carroll Carroll, My Life With…)

 

December 31, Friday. (5:30–6:00 p.m. & 8:30–9:00 p.m.) Bing guests on the premiere broadcast of Paul Whiteman’s new radio show for Chesterfield on CBS. The show comes from Wilshire Bell Theatre in Los Angeles. Bing sings “This Is My Night to Dream” and then duets with Jack Teagarden on “Basin Street Blues”. Later Bing and Dixie entertain a few friends including the Andy Devines.

Bing is placed fourth in the USA box office stars list for 1937. Shirley Temple comes first.

During the year, Bing has had sixteen songs that became chart hits.

 

1938

 

January 1, Saturday. Bing goes to the races at Santa Anita.

January (undated). Press coverage seen about a dispute regarding $33,000 said to be owed by the Crosby organization to Rockwell-O’Keefe in respect of commission for the Kraft Music Hall show. An amicable settlement is reached after Everett counterclaims.

January 5, Wednesday. Bing and Dixie’s fourth son, Lindsay Harry is born at 4:35 a.m. at Cedars of Lebanon Hospital, weighing in at six pounds five ounces. He is named after Lindsay Howard, Bing’s racing partner.

 

New Crosby Causes Bing Name Trouble

HOLLYWOOD, Jan. 14 (AP)

The Bing Crosby’s are having trouble naming their fourth son.  Dixie Lee Crosby wants to call her week old son David. Bing likes Lindsay Harry. Bing’s brothers and some of Dixie’s relatives want the parents to compromise on William. Meanwhile the Crosby nursery is being redecorated in blue. They were so certain they were going to have a girl that they painted the nursery pink.

(The Daily Iowan, January 15, 1938)

 

January 6, Thursday. (7:00–8:00 p.m.) Bing’s Kraft Music Hall show on NBC. Guests include Toscha Seidel, Sterling Holloway, and Constance Bennett

 

Constance Bennett, movie personality, will swap badinage with Bing Crosby and Bob Burns on the “Music Hall Program” over the NBC-Red network tonight. Burns has prepared a special questionnaire with which he hopes to embarrass Connie into playing a duet on the bazooka. The program will be heard at 9 o’clock.

(The Daily Iowan, January 6, 1938)

 

January 8, Saturday. Bing goes to the races at Santa Anita. In May, a 10-minute short directed by Buster Keaton and called Hollywood Handicap is released featuring appearances by many Hollywood personalities, including Bing, at the Santa Anita track.

January 13, Thursday. (7:00–8:00 p.m.) The Kraft Music Hall show is broadcast on NBC. Bing acts as host and his guests include Ida Lupino, Douglas Fairbanks Jr., and Joe Venuti.

January 14, Friday. Walt Disney’s first feature-length cartoon Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is released.

January 15/16, Saturday/Sunday. Bing’s second golf pro-am at Rancho Santa Fe. Sam Snead wins again. Bing plays with Harold Sampson and on the first day they start at 11:07 a.m. and have a best ball score of seventy-one. Rain again affects the tournament. Other celebrities playing include Johnny Weissmuller, Richard Arlen, Bob Burns and Leon Errol.

January 19, Wednesday. Dixie Lee comes home from hospital.

January 20, Thursday. (7:00–8:00 p.m.) Bing’s Kraft Music Hall show is broadcast on NBC and the guests include Rose Bampton, Frank McHugh, and Joan Fontaine.

January 21, Friday. (7:00–10:00 p.m.) Bing records three songs from the film Doctor Rhythm and also “The Moon of Manakoora” with John Scott Trotter and his Orchestra.

January 26, Wednesday. Bing, Connie Boswell, Jimmy Dorsey, and Victor Young and his Orchestra make special records (including “Alexander’s Ragtime Band”) to aid the fight against infantile paralysis. The records contain a greeting from Eddie Cantor. Also Bing is thought to have attended the formal dinner dance organized by the Motion Picture Committee for the National Infantile Paralysis Foundation at the Clover Club.

January 27, Thursday. (7:00–8:00 p.m.) The Kraft Music Hall show is broadcast on NBC. Bing acts as host and his guests include Madeleine Carroll and Jan Smeterlin.

 

Proof that applause isn’t necessary on a musical or variety program is provided by the very popular Bing Crosby Music Hall, which does not prohibit sincere, honest laughter and therefore the laughter is restrained and an asset to the show. Applause is prohibited, and the result is fast-moving entertainment, which the listener feels is just for him. Listeners want good entertainment and they appreciate sincerity.

(Radio Guide, for week ending February 5, 1938)

 

January 29, Saturday. Bing’s radio show wins the Hearst Radio Editors’ Poll for the best variety program. He is also named most popular male vocalist. Bing attends a welcome home stag party for James Cagney at the San Fernando home of Hugh Herbert. He is also thought to have appeared briefly at the Birthday Ball for the President at the Palomar. This is a benefit to raise funds for the President’s Infantile Paralysis Fund. Connie Boswell is the resident attraction accompanied by the Phil Harris Orchestra.

January 30, Sunday. Bing hosts a party for Red Nichols at Topsy’s. Other guests are Lennie Hayton, John Scott Trotter, Bob Burns and Everett Crosby.

February 3, Thursday. (7:00–8:00 p.m.) Bing’s Kraft Music Hall show and the guests include Spring Byington and Wayne Morris.

 

Through a subtle, if lengthy, process, Mr. Bing Crosby’s Music Hall has changed its complexion until at this moment it stands as one of the premiere comedy shows of radio. Nobody can say accurately whether this was the original plan of the producers or whether, being uncommonly fortunate souls, they merely stumbled over the realization that the Crosby contingent can juggle gags with the greatest of ease. It seems fairly obvious, though, that within some three years, the Music Hall has turned resolutely from a routine variety show formula to one of refreshing sparkle and humor, topped not even by the facile Jack Benny troupe.

       Nobody will deny the wisdom of this move. Formal variety programs, which run their guests on and off in the familiar vaudeville manner, have their place, admittedly. So have the looser clambakes, with their artificial camaraderie, their trite jovialities, their brittle pace. But never before the late blossoming forth of Mr. Crosby’s stunt, had dialers been let in a 60-minute funfest which not only sounded legitimately informal, but provided, as well, wholly original humor of a relaxed nature.

       The Music Hall’s original and avowed purpose, that of presenting guest stars, has of course been lost in the shuffle, but nobody seems to care a whole lot. Guests of Mr. Crosby aren’t treated as sacred cows. If you want to look at the setup from the angle of a Vallee program, the visitors do, in fact, get a slight working over. It becomes pretty apparent to the listener that the guests are merely there to play stooge roles in a Crosby comedy routine.

       Last Thursday’s Crosby concoction illustrated its new full-blown wittiness pretty well. Its most serious line, if we remember, came during Mr. Crosby’s introduction of duo-pianists Ethel Bartlett and Rae Robertson. Their selection, Beethoven’s “Ruins of Athens” was described by Mr. C. as “one of the juicier morsels turned out by the great and good Loodveeg von B——” The rest of the program was much less pontifical, we assure you.

(Herb Caen, San Francisco Chronicle, February 7, 1938)

 

February 7, Monday. Press reports indicate that Bing has banned newspaper and publicity cameramen from his radio broadcasts as he can’t give his best when “bulb pressers” are around. Meanwhile, Bing attends the racing at Santa Anita with Spencer Tracy and Pat O’Brien.

February (undated). Bing takes Dixie to the House of Murphy for her first outing since the birth of Lindsay. They dine with the Edmund Lowes.

February (undated). Bing and Dixie throw a supper buffet to honor Evelyn Kinder of the play “The Women” prior to the company’s departure. Other guests include the Edmund Lowes, the Johnny Mercers, the Joe Venutis, and Lindsay Howard.

February 10, Thursday. (7:00–8:00 p.m.) The Kraft Music Hall show is broadcast on NBC. Bing acts as host and his guests include Brian Aherne and Gertrude Wettergren.

February 12, Saturday. Bing and Dixie attend Kathryn and Joe E. Brown’s huge dinner party at the Victor Hugo to honor Major and Mrs. Taylor of Vancouver who annually sojourn in Hollywood during the Santa Anita season.

February 17, Thursday. (7:00–8:00 p.m.) Bing hosts the Kraft Music Hall show broadcast on NBC. The guests include Randolph Scott and Heather Angel.

 

Bing Crosby/Bob Burns’ cheese-hawking chapter for Kraft last Thursday had to wrestle for favor with some average guest help. Heather Angel rambled rather vaguely about her British legit background. It wasn’t funny nor very interesting. Both Crosby and Burns seemed unable to draw her out. Grischa Gulahoff, fourteen year old, young classic fiddler, gut–grated a piece by Brahms and a high noted Spanish shortie at the program’s end—Pretty limp! Randolph Scott came closest to scoring when he chatted with his two hosts on the show about the foxhunting, in Virginia, in describing how Jock Whitney and his neighbors dress up to chase that rascal Reynard with hound and horn. The sallies of Burns and Crosby made it pretty good going. Unfortunately, Scott didn’t have a script to point up his personality. Burns’ description of how they hunt in the Ozarks was bristling with laugh levying lines. Crosby clung to the pop song category for his vocals which is always his best element unless he can scare up a rare novelty. Among them were, “Gypsy in Me” [sic]; “Heart Stood Still” [sic] and “You’re Sweetheart” [sic]. John Scott’s eighteen windjammers were in the background throughout, having less chance of mike fronting than usual.

(Variety, February 23, 1938)

 

February 22, Tuesday. Bing attends the Santa Anita Derby with many other Hollywood stars and sees “Stagehand” win. At 4:30 p.m., just before the race commences, Bing is interviewed by Clem McCarthy over the NBC network.

February 24, Thursday. (7:00–8:00 p.m.) The Kraft Music Hall show is broadcast on NBC. Bing acts as host and his guests include Margot Grahame and Lotte Lehmann.

March 3, Thursday. (7:00–8:00 p.m.) Bing’s Kraft Music Hall show. Guests include Maureen O’Sullivan and Mischa Auer.

March 4, Friday. Bing is thought to have attended a reception given by the Metropolitan Artists Club of California in honor of Mme. Lotte Lehmann at the home of Count and Countess John McCormack.

March 5, Saturday. (4:00–4:30 p.m.) Bing "helps" with the commentary on the Santa Anita Handicap over station KNX and again "Stagehand" is the winner..

 

Pardon me while I catch my breath after the most exciting $100,000 Santa Anita Handicap of them all; what a thrill when Stagehand romped home to victory. . . Bing Crosby, in his familiar pancake hat, had a smile that wouldn’t come off up to the six race. He was sure his Ligaroti would come in the money but Bing is a good scout and dashed up to shake the hand of Earl Sande the trainer of Stagehand, saying he’d wait another year to bring his horse in.

(Louella O. Parsons, Los Angeles Examiner, March 6, 1938)

 

...Mrs. Howard had been invited to the rooftop, where Clem McCarthy was broadcasting tidings to a listening world. Broadcasting over a national hookup in an exacting chore, and the man at the “mike” has a right to demand more or less respectful silence from bystanders. With Mrs. Howard, as added entry guest of the management, was Mr. Bing Crosby, the singing gent. Mr. Crosby also had a horse in the race–a thing called Ligaroti. (If memory serves, the said Ligaroti finished dead last. But then, he wanted mud!)

But back to Mrs. Howard, up there on that roof. She wanted to root for Seabiscuit. As who wouldn’t, in her place? In fact, she insisted upon rooting for Seabiscuit, particularly when the gallant son of Hard Tack decided to make his move up there just short of the backstretch, and started running over horses. Mr. Crosby also wanted to put in a word for his Ligaroti. At all events, he wanted to watch him do or die through the binoculars. So Mr. Crosby moved over, in the excitement of the moment, to interfere with the broadcaster’s view of proceedings.

Broadcasters, it seems, sensing that a critical junction had arrived, went immediately into action. He hit Mr. Crosby a left hook in the midriff, and Mr. Crosby obligingly moved over out of range. Then he waved at Mrs. Howard, who by this time was really moving into contention in the rooting line and gave her a persistent and heartfelt “shush-shush.” By this time, Seabiscuit was leading into the stretch, but this tough kid Stagehand was also doing some moving. He was running around horse, out to collar none other than the great ‘Biscuit’. Naturally, Mrs. Howard–who probably rates Seabiscuit as second only to her husband–wanted to tell her pet to do something about this. So, completely disregarding the microphone, the “shush-shush” of the “Torpedo” and all other unimportant details, she “went to the whip” and really gave that horse of hers a root down that stretch.

They say that there was never a better bit of vocal support, regardless of gender or circumstance. It really should have gone out over the air, properly identified as to source. Probably would have made that broadcast a standout for all time.

(Los Angeles Examiner, March 6, 1938)

 

Later, Bing and Dixie are at Kendall and Lewis Milestone’s Beverly Hills home for cocktails with many other stars before going on to the Los Angeles Turf Club Ball at the Ambassador Hotel. Bing and Bob Hope take part in the entertainment as does Dorothy Lamour. Harry Owens pays a public tribute to Bing.

 

Despite all that had gone on before–the big Handicap races and preluding cocktail parties galore–the festive whirl reached its height at the Santa Anita ball. Most impressive, perhaps, was the parade of arriving guests, which included the world’s most celebrated beauties, gorgeously gowned and handsomely cavaliered by escorts whose names make news from New York to Hollywood.

The forecourt of the Fiesta Room was simply made for “entrances.” Antherium–calla lilies gone flamboyant–peach and cherry blossoms, rose-red camelias, tulips, hyacinths, rare ferns, bowers of oak and hedges of bright green made a breathtaking setting for the luxuriant processional. Trackside closeups of the gala affair, that only ended in the rosy dawn of Sunday morning, revealed sumptuous swank merging with blithesome mirth and laughter. The orchestras of Harry Owens, Georgie Stoll, and Eddie Duchin, no less, played for the dancing.

Stagehand may be the horse of the hour, but his jockey, Earl Sande, is definitely the man of the hour. Introduced by Bing Crosby, he was ovationally applauded. And when he burst into song, “When I Grow Too Old to Dream,” he revealed a remarkable voice. The winsome Billie Burke, who “hath such a pretty wit,” thought that Stagehand should have been brought to the party. “After all, he’s what this party is all about,” she opined.

Bob Hope again turned in a masterful performance as m.c. Said he: “Santa Anita has proved to be such a mint that President Roosevelt is going to install horses in Congress instead of Congressmen.”

     Bing sang “Sweet Leilani,” and others who gave of their priceless artistry were the Albertina Rasch dancers, the Raymond Scott Quintet, Buddy Ebsen, Tony Martin, the Bryan Sisters, Romo Vincent, Dorothy Lamour, the Yacht Club Boys, Ben Blue, Connie Boswell, Vincent Song and Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy–all ending with Bob, Bing, Romo and the Yacht Club Boys, attired in trampish garb, singing a titillating ditty, “But We Do Know About Horses.”

(Jack James, Los Angeles Examiner, March 6, 1938)

 

March 8, Tuesday. Bing is at the races at Santa Anita.

March 9, Wednesday. Bing is thought to have been at a party for Rudy Vallee at the Masquers Club.

March 10, Thursday. (7:00–8:00 p.m.) The Kraft Music Hall show is broadcast on NBC. Bing acts as host and his guests include David Niven and Miriam Hopkins.

 

Now I thought I was a dramatic actress, you see, and I want to rehearse everything first. I was on his radio show all the time, and I said, “Bing can’t we rehearse this show?” He ran through it once and we went out and sat in his car and had a cigarette. And I said, “Can’t we do it again?” And he said: “Sweetie, no! We’d get stale. Let’s just do it, you know, we’ve got the line. I’ll say something and [you] ad-lib back and forth with me.”

(Miriam Hopkins, as quoted in the book People Will Talk, page 361)

 

Later, Harry Owens’ song “Sweet Leilani” wins the Oscar for the “Original Song” of 1937 at the ceremonies at the Biltmore Hotel. Other nominated songs include “Remember Me,” “That Old Feeling,” “They Can’t Take That Away from Me,” and “Whispers in the Dark.” Bob Burns is the MC having had to hurry over to the Biltmore following his appearance on the Kraft show. Harry Owens pays a fulsome tribute to Bing (who is not there) as he accepts the Oscar.

March (undated). Bing and Dixie seen with Clair Dodd and Lindsay Howard at Cafe La Maze.

March 17, Thursday. (7:00–8:00 p.m.) Bing’s Kraft Music Hall show and his guests include Pat O’Brien and Franciska Gaal. Later, Bing and Dixie go to the Beverly-Wilshire Hotel to see Harry Owens.

 

Harry Owens, the Los Angeles lad who left here to achieve international fame at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel in Honolulu, and who made the entire nation grass skirt conscious with his lovely song, “Sweet Leilani,” will find himself the guest of honor at several parties simultaneously this evening when he and his Royal Hawaiian Orchestra take their bows for a return engagement in the Florentine Room of the Beverly-Wilshire Hotel. Entertaining at ringside, there will be Bing and Dixie Crosby, Dr. Francis Griffin and Irene Dunne, Everett Crosby, Dorothy Lamour, Ken Murray, the Stroud Twins, Russell Patterson, the Bob Hopes, the Stu Erwins, the Danny Dankers, Ben Blue and Martha Raye.

(Los Angeles Examiner, March 17, 1938)

 

March 24, Thursday. (7:00–8:00 p.m.) The Kraft Music Hall show is broadcast on NBC. Bing acts as host and his guests include Mischa Levitzki and George Brent.


March 26, Saturday. Bing’s horse “Ligaroti” wins the $5,000 added handicap at Bay Meadows, San Mateo.

March 27, Sunday. Bing is at the racing at Agua Caliente, Mexico, where he presents a trophy to Charles S. Howard after his horse “Seabiscuit” has won the Agua Caliente Gold Cup handicap.

March 28, Monday. Bing visits Randolph Scott and Joan Bennett on the set of The Texans at Paramount.

March 31, Thursday. (7:00–8:00 p.m.) The Kraft Music Hall show is broadcast on NBC. Bing acts as host and his guests include Marion Claire and Anna May Wong.

April 6, Wednesday. Attends a charity concert by Helen Gahagan at the Biltmore Hotel.

April 7, Thursday. (7:00–8:00 p.m.) Bing’s Kraft Music Hall show on NBC. Guests include Rudolph Ganz, Gail Patrick, and Edmund Lowe.

 

Bing Crosby’s show over WEAF last Thursday night had Gail Patrick and Edmund Lowe as guesters but they weren’t at the mike together. Part of the appeal of the Crosby show is its informality with the star and Bob Burns apt to uncork some pretty funny stuff, on short notice. Nevertheless, that very informality sometimes dampens the powder which is just what it did for Miss Patrick and Lowe. The session sounded as though neither one of them knew exactly what was expected. Lowe and Crosby exchanged a flock of insults against each other’s tennis ability and kept referring to the recent Spokane trip but the bit was never quite tied up and the loose ends tangled up the kilocycles. Miss Patrick’s stint was, apparently supposed to reveal her passion for collecting copper and uncovered some wacky gags- again, it didn’t quite jell. In the case of Rudolph Ganz, guest pianist, his ivory-massaging was skillful and to the point. So, the clowning served to set it off a trifle but for the two, star visitors - not so good. There is always a danger that informality will lapse into a suggestion of slovenly programming.

(Variety, April 13, 1938)

 

April–May. Films Sing You Sinners with Fred MacMurray, Donald O’Connor, Elizabeth Patterson, and Ellen Drew. Harry Barris also has a small part. The film is produced and directed by Wesley Ruggles. Musical direction is by Boris Morros. Twenty-four of Bing’s horses are used in the racing scenes. The film’s original title was “Harmony for Three” and this becomes “The Unholy Beebes” until it is changed just before release. Bing is reported not to be pleased with the final title.

April 9, Saturday. Bing takes part in the presentation of a “crooner’s diploma” to Bob Hope on behalf of the Professional Music Men of America in the Florentine Room of the Beverly-Wilshire.

April 13, Wednesday. Recording session with Harry Owens and his Royal Hawaiian Hotel Orchestra in Hollywood. Bing sings “Sweet Hawaiian Chimes” and “Little Angel.”

April 14, Thursday. (7:30–8:00 p.m.) The Kraft Music Hall show is broadcast on NBC. Bing acts as host and his guests include the Kraft Choral Society. The show is cut to thirty minutes because of a speech by President Roosevelt on “relief and other important matters.”

April 16, Saturday. A loose association of Bing’s friends known as the Westwood Marching and Chowder Club presents a show called “The Midgie Minstrels” for their own amusement. Bing is featured together with many of his friends.

 

This turn in his career came, thanks again, to Bing Crosby. Johnny and Ginger participated in a series of informal minstrel shows put on by the “Westwood Marching and Chowder Club” that were initially staged at Crosby’s house. The first show was held on April 16, 1938, and Mercer put on blackface to be one of the end men as Pat O’Brien, Jerry Colonna, and Crosby himself performed comic routines and sang old songs such as “Waiting for the Robert E. Lee.” The show was an informal production for themselves and their friends, but, since most of the performers were professionals they were slickly staged affairs, with elaborate costumes, such as Bessie Burke’s cowboy chaps with “cutouts to display her buttocks.” For white show business people raised on minstrel show traditions and accustomed to black-face performances throughout the 1930s, the racist caricatures in these shows would not have seemed offensive.

(Skylark: The Life and Times of Johnny Mercer, p104)

 

April 17, Easter, Sunday. Bing has donated a $1,600 organ to St. Charles Church, North Hollywood, and he dedicates it by singing at a sacred concert.

April 18, Monday. Everett Crosby obtains a divorce from his wife Naomi because of her drinking. He is given custody of their daughter, Mary Sue.

April 21, Thursday. (7:00–8:00 p.m.) The Kraft Music Hall show is broadcast on NBC. Bing acts as host and his guests include Percy Grainger and Ralph Bellamy. Later, Bing is thought to have appeared at the Tri-Guild Ball at the Cocoanut Grove. Press reports state that Jack Benny, George Burns, and Bing were to present a specialty act.

April 22, Friday. (7:30–10:30 p.m.) Bing records “Let Me Whisper I Love You” and “Don’t Be That Way” with John Scott Trotter and his Orchestra in Hollywood.

 

Still, those songs were preferable to newer creations like the non-descript “Let Me Whisper I Love You,” with a Trotter arrangement that combines classical borrowings and a habanera beat, or the stupefying “When Mother Nature Sings Her Lullaby,” for which Bing backed by pipe organ—a throwback to his days at the Paramount Theater and Jesse Crawford, and no more enchanting. Yet the same session that produced “Let Me Whisper I Love You” generated a memorable version of the Edgar Sampson swing anthem “Don’t ‘Be That Way,” three months after Benny Goodman opened his fabled Carnegie Hall concert with it. In place of Benny’s thumping four-four, Trotter’s arrangement bounces not unpleasantly over a two-beat rhythm. Bing, slow and sinuous, glides through the melody, smoothly mining the lyric for nuance: the low way, the drawn-out sky, the mordent on me, the jazzily enhanced “don’t break my heart.” Trotter provides a bona fide swing interlude, with Spike Jones’s splashing cymbals setting up Secrest’s solo, until Bing ends the party with a decisive “Stop it!”

(Gary Giddins, Bing Crosby, A Pocketful of Dreams, The Early Years, 1903-1940, page 518)

 

April (undated). Bing and Pat O’Brien host a private show at Lucey’s which features Connie Boswell, Joe Venuti, Johnny Burke and many others.

April 25, Monday. Bing records “Little Lady Make-Believe” and “When Mother Nature Sings Her Lullaby” with Eddie Dunstedter for Decca at Warner’s studio, Sunset Boulevard, where a production model cinema organ has been installed. He also makes two records with the Paul Taylor Choristers at the same session.

 

Exponents of popular songs some and go, but like the Brook, Bing Crosby will seemingly go on forever. “Little Lady Make-Believe” and “Don’t Be That Way” are his effortless offerings this month.

(The Gramophone, October 1938)

 

April 28, Thursday. Bing’s film Doctor Rhythm has its Los Angeles premiere at the Paramount.

 

In the Paramount’s Doctor Rhythm, Bing Crosby, Bea Lillie & Co. are wooing the comic muse as though they had a $5 bet on its surrender. Maybe a $3 bet. Nothing quite so grim as their pursuing of the elfin guffaw has been seen in these parts since Martha Raye fell down the incinerator chute....An advantage—we might say the only advantage—is the complete informality of the show, an attitude for which Miss Lillie is largely and blessedly responsible....This puts her one up on Mr. Crosby, whose crooning is almost too liquid this time. “On the Sentimental Side”, “This Is My Night to Dream” and “My Heart Is Taking Lessons” were not so much sung as wrung out. Too bad, too, for they’re good numbers.

(Frank S. Nugent, New York Times, May 19, 1938)

 

…There is good marquee display in the title and top names, and customers will spread favorable comment after leaving theatres. This film should do nice business…'On the Sentimental Side,’ one of five songs by John Burke and James V. Monaco, looms the likeliest along with ‘My Heart Is Taking Lessons.’ Frank Tuttle, who directed Waikiki Wedding with Crosby starred, seems to have the right combination on the crooner’s films...Dr. Rhythm will keep Crosby at his present high box-office rating.

(Variety, April 27, 1938)

 

It is an agreeable hodgepodge of a musical film replete with comedy, and blessed with a couple of pleasant song numbers which Crosby delivers in a manner which proved highly ingratiating to last night’s preview patrons, even to the inclusion of this reporter, who was once “the groaner’s” diligent detractor.

(James Francis Crow, Hollywood Citizen News, April 29, 1938)

 

    (6:00–7:00 p.m.) The Kraft Music Hall show is broadcast on NBC. Bing acts as host and his guests include Roland Young and Binnie Barnes.

May 2, Monday. Bing and Stanton Griffis (chairman of the Paramount executive committee) celebrate their birthdays in the Paramount commissary with Fred MacMurray acting as MC.

May 5, Thursday. (6:00–7:00 p.m.) Bing’s Kraft Music Hall show on NBC. Guests include Walter Huston, Beulah Bondi, and Alec Templeton.

May 12, Thursday. (6:00–7:00 p.m.) Bing hosts the Kraft Music Hall show and his guests are Basil Rathbone and Toscha Seidel.

May 15, Sunday. Defends his Lakeside Golf Club championship title against Duke Hinnau.

May 19, Thursday. (6:00–7:00 p.m.) Bing’s Kraft Music Hall show on NBC with guests Rose Bampton and Humphrey Bogart.

Paris HoneymoonMay 23–July. Films Paris Honeymoon for Paramount with Franciska Gaal, Shirley Ross, Edward Everett Horton, and Akim Tamiroff. The film is directed by Frank Tuttle with musical direction by Boris Morros.

May 23, Monday. (8:30–11:45 a.m.) At a recording session with John Scott Trotter and his Orchestra in Hollywood, Bing has a cold and while he records four songs, only two—“Now It Can Be Told” and “It’s the Dreamer in Me”—are released.

 

It is doubtful whether a more satisfying vocal record of “Now It Can Be Told” will be heard than Brunswick 02646. One Bing Crosby is responsible for it. Yes, the same fellow who never fails to intrigue us month after month. The coupling ‘When You Dream About Hawaii’ is almost of the ‘Sweet Leilani’ standard and that is praise enough.

(The Gramophone, November 1938)

 

May 26, Thursday. (6:00–7:00 p.m.) The Kraft Music Hall show on NBC. Bing’s guests include Miriam Hopkins, Alec Templeton, and Edward Everett Horton.

June 2, Thursday. (6:00–7:00 p.m.) Bing’s Kraft Music Hall show with guests Mary Astor, Joel McCrea, and Grete Stueckgold.

June 9, Thursday. (6:00–7:00 p.m.) Bing hosts the Kraft Music Hall show on NBC. Guests include Claude Rains, Gladys George, and Efrem Zimbalist.

June 10, Friday. The opening day of the Hollywood Park race track at Inglewood. Bing is one of the original 600 shareholders in the Hollywood Turf Club and was probably at the opening day.

June 11, Saturday. Bing's horse 'Ligaroti' wins the Inglewood Mile Handicap at Hollywood Park.

June 12, Sunday. Bing plays in a golf tournament at Lakeside which is restricted to players in the film business. He wins with a 72. Richard Arlen is runner-up with a 73.

June (undated). Bing attends the Roller Derby at the Pan-Pacific Auditorium on several occasions.

June 15, Wednesday. Bing's horse 'High Strike' wins a $1000 6-furlong race at Hollywood Park.

June 16, Thursday. (6:00–7:00 p.m.) Bing’s Kraft Music Hall show and his guests include Akim Tamiroff, Wesley Ruggles, and Edna May Oliver.

June 23, Thursday. (6:00–7:00 p.m.) Bing hosts the Kraft Music Hall show on NBC. Guests include Roscoe Karns and Alec Templeton.

 

Roscoe Karns guested on the Kraft show last Thursday night and teamed with Bing Crosby in a skit about a frantic poppa-to-be, hogging a drugstore phone booth. It was a characterization which was right up the screen comic’s alley and he whammed it over. However, the very persuasion the actor put into the bit, merely emphasized the negative taste of the material. Rather inexplicable that such subjects as tooth-extraction, gout and the agony of prospective fatherhood and the like are considered never-failing sources of fun. Laughter at the pain of another is not evidence of a sense of humor, rather it indicates a lack of imagination and imagination is the essence of humor. Or is “Variety” too rough-fined?

(Variety, June 29, 1938)

 

June (undated). Bing and Dixie attend the birthday party given by Lloyd Bacon for his wife Nadine’s birthday. Among the other guests are Pat O’Brien, Frank McHugh, Dick Powell, James Cagney, Johnny Mercer, and Richard Arlen.

June 25, Saturday. Starting at 7:00 p.m., Bing takes part in another meeting of the Westwood Marching and Chowder Club, North Hollywood branch at his home. Other guests include Bette Davis, Shirley Ross, Wesley Ruggles, Edmund Lowe, and Skeets Gallagher. Bing sings “Nobody” and duets “Mr. Gallagher and Mr. Shean” with Johnny Mercer. A tent is erected over the tennis court for the event which goes on until dawn. All guests are asked to come in costume.

 

The first performance aroused so much interest around Hollywood that a second show was scheduled for June 25, and along with most of the original performers, the cast included Andy Devine, Fred MacMurray, and Bill Frawley (who would go on to play Fred Mertz on television’s I Love Lucy). A small band was also brought in that included Tommy Dorsey and Spike Jones. Mercer later fondly recalled these early Westwood Marching and Chowder Club shows. . . “It was all very spontaneous,” Ginger recalled, “and as usual those are much more fun than when they get too well rehearsed.” But one wonders if she was expressing Johnny’s feeling, more than her own. She seems to have loved sitting quietly to the side and taking in all the glitz and glamour. . . The Westwood minstrels printed up programs and had large glossy photographs taken of themselves performing and watching one another perform, drinks in hand. These shows brought Bob Hope and Crosby together, and there was even talk at one point of filming one of them for Paramount. For Savannah-bred Mercer, that was going too far in mixing one’s private and public lives.

      The highlight of this second show, however, was a duet between Crosby and Mercer that Mercer had written as a blackface parody of the old ethnic vaudeville act “Mr Gallagher and Mr. Shean.” As “Lasses Mercer” and “Chitlins Crosby,” he and Bing provided an “erudite analyseration of swing.” Crosby had recently been given an honorary degree by Gonzaga University in his hometown of Spokane, Washington, and Mercer addresses him with mock deference as Crosby hums and scats:

Oh, Mr. Crosby, Dear Dr. Crosby,

Is it true that swing’s another name for jazz?

And the first place it was played

Was a New Orleans parade

And the Southern Negro gave it all it has?

To which Crosby replies:

Oh, Mr. Mercer, Mr. Mercer, Mr. Mercer, Mr. Mercer,

I believe that its foundation came from them.

When Mercer asks, “Are you positive?” Crosby continues:

Yeesss. They just slowed the tempo down

And then they really went to town.

The verse ends with this folksy exchange:

Allegretto, Mr. Crosby?

Alligators, Mr. M.

While other numbers in the show were merely in-circle fun, this duet “dazzled the audience” with its “smooth-running wit.” Within a week, Crosby and Mercer made a recording, and it became one of the big hits of 1938, with Time magazine calling “Mr. Crosby and Mr. Mercer” the “summer’s most amusing ditty.” The recording rekindled Mercer’s singing career, which had languished since he’d left Paul Whiteman.

(Skylark: The Life And Times Of Johnny Mercer, p106)

 

June 27, Monday. Press comment suggests that Bing owes $400,000 in back taxes.

June 29, Wednesday. Lindsay is christened. Bing and Dixie are thought to have attended the Red and White Sports Ball at the Biltmore Bowl.

June 30, Thursday. (6:00–7:00 p.m.) Bing’s Kraft Music Hall show on NBC. Guests include Jack Oakie and Gloria Stuart.

 

Bing Crosby’s Kraft show was in bright gait, last Thursday, with Jack Oakie the particular target via his weight loss of 50 lbs. Oakie, a not bad mike stealer on his own, when he has the material, did much to bolster the triple cross-talk with Bob Burns and Crosby. The latter, his usual suave host but Bob Burns blew a couple of lines and got himself over the hurdles by ad-libbing on the level. Gloria Stuart’s forthcoming 20th Century Fox film was the basic structure for further gab but the idea petered out fast.

(Variety, July 6, 1938)

     

July (undated). Bing enters three dogs in the Long Beach dog show.

July 1, Friday. (6:30 to 9:30 p.m.) Records “Small Fry” and “Mr. Gallagher and Mr. Shean” with Johnny Mercer and Victor Young’s Small Fryers.

 

“Mr. Gallagher and Mr. Shean,” as sung by Mr. Crosby and Mr. Mercer, is the highlight waxing of the week, Decca, 1960, as Bing Crosby and Johnny Mercer vocalize the latter’s special lyrics discoursing on swing. It’s coupled with “Small Fry,” Hoagy Carmichael’s sequel to his memorable “Lazy Bones,” and part of Crosby’s forthcoming “Sing You Sinners” (Par) filmusical score. Victor Young’s Small Fryer, as the band is quaintly billed, does the acomp to both and manifests anew the Crosby-Decca showmanship on wax which has made both best-sellers.

(Abel Green, Variety, August 17, 1938)

 

July 5, Tuesday. Bing is thought to have been at Hollywood Park to see his horse ‘Ligaroti’ win the American Handicap and break the track record.

July 7, Thursday. (6:00–7:00 p.m.) The Kraft Music Hall show on NBC. Bing’s guests include Mary Carlisle and Henry Fonda.

July 8, Friday. Bing records “Summertime” and “A Blues Serenade” with Matty Malneck and his Orchestra in Hollywood.

July 11, Monday. (5:30 to 8:30 p.m.) Another recording session in Hollywood with John Scott Trotter and his Orchestra where songs from the film Sing You Sinners are recorded including “I’ve Got a Pocketful of Dreams.” He also  records"Mexicali Rose".

 

John Scott Trotter accomps Crosby on Decca  1934 in “Don’t Let That Moon Get Away” and “Laugh and Call It Love,” another couplet out of “Sinners”; and still another excerpt is “Pocketful of Dreams” (Decca 1933), also with Trotter, although the companion piece, “A Blues Serenade,” has Matty Malneck doing the batoning.

(Abel Green, Variety, August 17, 1938)


Bing sang "Mexicali Rose" for four months on the air before making a record that infused it with the vivid and wistful melancholy he had used to transform so many commonplace and even trite songs ("Home on the Range," "Black Moonlight"). He made the song resonate as a quasi-western hymn for the last days of the Depression. Autry reclaimed it a year later in a movie of the same name, but in his or anyone else's hands, it was merely a sentimental love song. Bing's interpretation produced a frisson, an eerily palpable suggestion of what the times sounded and felt like. We tend to recall 1938 with the images of swing - stomping feet and flying skirts. "Mexicali Rose" renders the flip side, far from the ballrooms, where the night is black, inert, and full of longing. The force of his reading transcends the lyric and its southwestern setting.

(Gary Giddins, A Pocketful of Dreams, page 519)

 

July 14, Thursday. (6:00–7:00 p.m.) Bob Hope is Bing’s radio guest on the Kraft Music Hall for the first time. Helen Jepson is another guest.

 

Then Bing put me on his Kraft radio show, and when I got my own Pepsodent show on radio, I invited him. Radio was the big thing in those days. The audience was tremendous. Bing had a remarkable ability to double as a straight man or a comedian. He had a marvelous touch, with exquisite timing. In show business, there’s a sharp delineation between a comedian and a comic. A comic does broad comedy, with pratfalls and all. A comedian is a line comic—doing lines and stanza and talking straight to people. Jack Benny, for example, was the consummate comedian. He could take anyone on the stage and make them funny, by his subtle reactions to the audience from a line. Timing, it’s all timing. Bing had the same faculty. He could feed a line, and respond to it, and like I say, the chemistry between us was perfect.

      And what a golfer! He was always a little better than I was. For a long time his handicap wavered between a two and a four. He worked hard at it. Misery Hill, the practice range at Lakeside, never had a more diligent customer. . . . Bing actually lived a very quiet existence. He’d go home at night and have a little dinner and be in bed by nine-thirty or ten. Then he’d get up at six and hit balls, or maybe play a few holes with the caddies at Wilshire or Lakeside. Bing was a man who took his golf very seriously.

(Bob Hope, Confessions of a Hooker, page 130)

 

July 16, Saturday. Bing is at Hollywood Park to see his horse ‘Ligaroti’ run in the Hollywood Gold Cup. ‘Ligaroti’ finishes fourth to ‘Seabiscuit’.

 

One night shortly after the Hollywood Gold Cup, Lin was sitting at a restaurant table across from his father and Bing Crosby. They were apparently talking about the Gold Cup, and Lin was sitting there looking at his father and doing a slow burn. Bing wasn’t too happy either; his misadventures as a horse owner were becoming an embarrassment. An idea was kicking around in Lin’s head, and it seemed as good a time as any to toss it out there. Why not have a match race between Seabiscuit and Ligaroti?

      Charles snorted.

Crosby lit up. The year before, he had invested $600,000 in the building of a new track, Del Mar, a magnificent seaside racing palace near San Diego. Del Mar was a Bing paradise, featuring good racing by day and dinner, dancing, and crooning by night. But in its second year Del Mar needed a boost; daily attendance averaged just six thousand. A match race featuring Seabiscuit was just what the track needed. Crosby knew he could talk the board of directors into footing a big purse for the event. Crosby and Lin worked on Howard for the rest of the meal.

      Howard began to see the merits of the race. For one, a sizable purse could get Seabiscuit that much closer to Sun Beau’s money-winning mark; he was still $85,000 short. In addition, Smith might enjoy pitting his horse against one trained by his son, Jimmy, just as Howard would enjoy facing off against Lin. And Lin wouldn’t let up on the needling. Howard gave in.

      Lin wanted to make it interesting. He dared his father to make a side bet with him. Howard shook him off. He told him he couldn’t bear to take any more money from his own son.

      Crosby hustled off to make the arrangements. He returned with a fair deal. Del Mar would put up a winner-take-all purse of $25,000, 14 percent of the entire purse budget for the track’s meeting.

(Seabiscuit, page 262)

 

July 20, Wednesday. (5:30–6:00 p.m.) Bing appears on the Tommy Dorsey radio show on NBC and plays drums as part of a Westwood Marching and Chowder Club performance with Jack Benny, Dick Powell, Ken Murray, and Shirley Ross.

 

We felt that the Amateur Swing Contest had run its course. It had done a good job, functioning best when we hit a different city each week. We would be in Hollywood for most of the summer, and there would be better ways of renewing and maintaining audience interest. “But,” I said, “Let’s have one final fling. Let’s get four picture stars who play instruments and have them be the amateur contestants. We’ll treat them exactly the way we treat the kids - pretend we don’t know they are stars.”

“I like the idea,” Tommy said, “but how can we do it? We don’t have the budget.”

He was right. We didn’t. But there might be a way.

“You’re a pal of Bing Crosby,” I reminded Tommy. “I’ll bet that, if you ask him to play drums, he’ll do it. And if he says yes, I know we can get the others.”

Tommy’s eyes lit up and glowed. “Okay,” he said with just the right inflection.

Tommy had planned to call Bing anyway, naturally.

We got together at Bing’s house. Tommy greeting Bing as “the Groaner,” a bit of nomenclature from the Whiteman days. Tommy asked Bing if he would join us and play drums in this special edition of the Amateur Swing Contest. Without hesitation, Bing said, “Sure, it sounds like a fun idea.” A Crosby film was in production at Paramount, and the lot was right next to the NBC studios, then located on Melrose Avenue.

We recalled that Dick Powell, whose current picture was Cowboy from Brooklyn, had played trumpet when he was a singing master-of-ceremonies. A Warner Brothers talent scout discovered him in a neighborhood theatre near Pittsburgh. And we had heard that he still had an affectionate spot in his heart for the horn.

We arranged to meet Dick at his home in Beverly Hills. Neither Tommy nor I had met him before. We had nothing to go on except the idea itself and the fact that Bing was playing drums. Dick seemed amused at the idea. He thought for a moment, then said, “You say Crosby is going to do this? Count me in.”

We were getting on fine. We had drums and trumpet.

Next we remembered that Ken Murray did a vaudeville routine in which he played clarinet. Next day we called on him at his Sunset Towers apartment. He was not hard to convince. By all means yes, he would be there.

We needed a fourth. How about a girl? True, there was no television, but it would be a nice touch. Shirley Ross had recently completed The Big Broadcast with Bob Hope and Jack Benny, and Thanks for the Memory, in which she and Bob Hope had introduced “Two Sleepy People.” We learned that Shirley had played piano when she was at UCLA, and we were told she was better than ever. Shirley was invited, and she said she would love it.

That gave us our complement of four. There were no business arrangements. We were in no position to ask for advance meetings or rehearsals. But they all agreed to show up for dress rehearsal on broadcast day. Tunes were selected. There would be no script to worry about. We would plot the questions; answers would be up to them. The date was set for two weeks ahead.

One day, during a rehearsal break, Tommy and I were having a hamburger at the Melrose Grotto, next to the NBC studios, when Jack Benny strolled in and sat down with us. “I hear you’re having some kind of swing contest. You’re not going to leave me out, are you?”

We were transfixed. This was incredible. He was asking us?

If Tommy and I were not entirely coherent in our reply, there could be no doubt that we extended a welcome.

Now we were five. And a violin, too. It happened because Bing had met up with Jack Benny bicycling on the Paramount lot. He stopped Jack and told him what was going on the next Wednesday. Jack’s next stop was our cubicle at the Melrose Grotto.

As it must to all shows, broadcast day arrived. July 20, 1938. Rehearsal was in progress - “Honeysuckle Rose” for Bing, “Ida” for Dick, “Three O’clock in the Morning” for Ken, “Thanks for the Memory” for Shirley, My Honey’s Lovin’ Arms” for Jack. Dick was taking it seriously. He asked for a separate studio, where he could work on his embouchure alone. If one stepped into the hall, the sound from the adjoining studio gave proof he was working at it.

Jack Benny did not arrive for dress rehearsal. We slipped in an extra number for the band, to be used only if he didn’t make the show. About two minutes before air time, Jack sauntered in, smiling under his snap-brim hat, smoking a cigar, holding violin and bow at the ready. There was only time to make sure of the key for his number, and we were on the air.

At the top of the show, Tommy introduced a representative of Metronome magazine who presented him with the magazine’s award for best all-around band. Then came the “amateurs.” As each of our “amateurs” came to the mike, he was asked the usual questions - name, occupation, and so on. Dealing with the stars exactly as he had dealt with the actual amateurs gave us a natural, built-in comedy situation.

Jack Benny was asked what his name was. After a pause of just the right length, he answered, “My name’s Jack Benny.”

“What is your line of work?”

“I work in pictures.”

“You mean you’re a movie actor?”

(Deadpan.) “Yeah.” (Pause - deadpan.) “I’m a lover.” (Big laugh)

There is nothing inherently funny in that line. But Benny’s timing and delivery, aided by the situation, made it very funny indeed.

After each one had performed, it was time to ascertain the winner and award the seventy-five dollar prize. We pretended that the applause meter was so overwhelmed by the swinging performances that it ceased to function. We declared a five-way tie. Then the five of them launched into an animated discussion of just how they would handle the seventy-five dollars, including such matters as Social Security and agents’ commissions.

We closed with a jam session, all five playing “When You and I Were Young, Maggie” with Tommy and the band. It was terrible. The audience howled with delight. Over the applause, Bing was heard to holler, “Hey, Tommy, you better tell that man from Metronome to take back the award.”

One thing for sure. Tommy and I never forgot what Bing did for us.

(Herb Sanford, writing in Tommy and Jimmy—The Dorsey Years)

 

July 21, Thursday. (6:00–7:00 p.m.) Last Kraft Music Hall appearance by Bing prior to his vacation. Donald O’Connor, Fay Bainter, and Grete Stueckgold are the guests.

July 28, Thursday. Bing and Pat O’Brien host a dinner and preview opening at Del Mar for the press.

July 29, Friday. Opening day of the Del Mar season. The proceedings are covered in a 30-minute program on the NBC-Blue network. Saturday morning radio shows from Del Mar are aired on NBC with Bing usually participating. The 1938 meet draws 161,485 bettors through the gates and the pari-mutuel handle rises to $3,920,251.

 

ULTRA SOCIAL EVENTS INSPIRED BY RACES

Without benefit of any feminine advice or counsel, President Bing Crosby and such other stalwart Del Mar Turf Club officials as Vice President Pat O’Brien, Harry Cohn, Walter Connolly, Oliver Hardy, Howard Hawks, Eddie Lowe, Ted Reed, Bogart Rogers, Wesley Ruggles, Sidney Sutherland, William Quigley and B.K. Beckwith met over the dinner table at William LeBaron’s home and decided to underscore the coming racing classics with a whirl of ultra-social events.

      Substantiating the fact that you simply can’t divorce social Hollywood from its industrial life, Friday nights will be known as “Preview Night,” featuring the showing of a major film on the Jockey Club’s terrace. Saturday nights, of course, will be gala occasions, with Bing officiating as M.C. and chief entertainer for the regular weekly dinner dances that were so popular last season. Jimmy Monaco and Johnny Burke have written “Where the Turf Meets the Surf,” a new song which Bing will introduce as the club’s theme song at the initial event July 29.

      The committee also selected Carole Lombard to present the trophy to the winning owner whose horse gallops to victory in the $3,000 Motion Picture Handicap Race, scheduled for August 5 and reserved exclusively for the “Big name” thoroughbreds owned by notable Hollywoodites. Incidentally, the only race of its kind in America. So, with Hollywood Park closing next Saturday and Del Mar opening on the following Friday, race-conscious Hollywood will soon be wending its way southward.

(Ella Wickersham, Los Angeles Examiner, July 17, 1938)

 

August 5, Friday. Bing and Pat O’Brien collaborate at the mike for the running of the Motion Picture Handicap at Del Mar which is broadcast on the NBC-Blue network. After the completion of the day’s racing, the film Sing You Sinners is premiered on the race track. The party afterwards goes on until the early hours with some revelers missing the special train back to Los Angeles at 2:00 a.m. on August 6.

August 6, Saturday. Bob Hope joins Bing on stage in the Saturday night shows at Del Mar reviving their patter from the Capitol Theater in 1932.


On Saturday night, August 6, 1938, Bing was master of ceremonies for a special Hollywood night at Del Mar when he called Bob to join him onstage. The two horsed around together, rehashing some of the bits they had done at the Capitol Theatre six years before. Their chemistry so impressed William LeBaron, Paramount's production chief, who was in the audience, that he suggested putting the two of them together in a  movie. The idea took more than a year to come to fruition.

(Richard Zoglin writing in Hope, pages 150-151)


August 12, Friday. Bing watches a special race at Del Mar between his horse Ligaroti and the famous horse, Seabiscuit, with the latter narrowly winning after a photo finish. Dixie Lee presents the $25,000 prize. Seabiscuit is owned by Charles S. Howard, father of Bing’s friend, Lindsay Howard. A record crowd of 22,000 is in attendance.

 

Meanwhile, Lin and Crosby worked hard at putting on a horse race Hollywood-style. Crosby arranged to have a large section of the clubhouse roped off and patrolled by guards, with admission restricted to Ligaroti rooters - the “I’m for Ligaroti” section. He went out on a promotional tour to gather a cast of thousands, contacting four hundred friends, mostly movie people, and talking them into coming to the track to cheer his horse on. He appointed Dave Butler, director of Shirley Temple films, head cheerleader, fitting him with a turtleneck emblazoned with the initials BL, for Binglin. He had four hundred Ligaroti pennants printed up in Ligaroti’s colours, cerise and white polka dots, and attached to canes for waving.

      . . . On the sweltering race day, special trains and buses poured in from San Diego and Los Angeles, filling the track with well over 20,000 people, many more than the official capacity. Scores of Crosby’s friends, including Clark Gable and Carole Lombard, Spencer Tracy and Ray Milland, took up their cerise and white pennants and filed in. “Is there anyone left in Hollywood?” wondered a spectator. . .

      Crosby perched on the roof with Oscar Otis, who would call the race for a national radio broadcast. . . . Seabiscuit flew under the wire first. Lugging 130 pounds, . .  . Seabiscuit had broken the track record by four seconds, the equivalent of some twenty-five lengths.

(Seabiscuit, pages 263-266)

 

The crowd began to yell the moment the horses broke and they never stopped yelling all the way around. . . They turned for home head and head, and they finished that way with both jockeys batting at each other with their whips and grabbing at each other’s saddle cloths. At the wire the picture showed Seabiscuit a winner by a whisker. Although there has always been a dispute as to whether that picture was read properly.

      Be that as it may, they broke every track record en route. They broke the record for the half mile, the three-quarter mile, the mile, and the mile and an eighth. . . . There was an awful stew about the jockeys’ deportment and track manners. The judges claimed that our jockey was at fault. They ruled him off for thirty days and gave him a fine, which we paid. But they didn’t know that I had a movie of the race made and I ran it off for Mr. Howard. In the film it was clear that Richardson was no more to blame than Georgie Woolf. Nothing will be gained by post morteming about which Jock hit the other horse across the nose with his whip, thus starting the fracas. But once it started, they both grabbed clothing and saddle blankets, and from the sixteenth pole home, it was a melee, a pier sixer on horseback.

      We lost the race and lost the money. But to see two fine horses put on performances like that was worth the money. It is certainly one of my most treasured performances of Del Mar.

(Bing Crosby, Call Me Lucky, page 240)

 

August 16, Tuesday. The New York premiere of Bing’s film Sing You Sinners.

 

The happily accidental conjunction of Bing Crosby and horse racing (which is Bing’s other love, besides crooning, as you may have read somewhere) has turned out to be the funniest comedy on Broadway, including all the side streets. The only noteworthy difference between reality and Sing You Sinners at the Paramount, is that in the movies Crosby’s horse wins—an unprecedented thing which may be explained by the fact that Bing undoubtedly must have had a hand in the script....Claude Binyon’s story and Wesley Ruggles’ direction are swell, and the two principal songs, “I’ve Got a Pocketful of Dreams” and “Don’t Let That Moon Get Away” are already being whistled about town. Incidentally, that’s another thing we like about Sing You Sinners: not too much singing.

(Bosley Crowther, New York Times, August 18, 1938)

 

A new and interesting Bing Crosby emerges in Sing You Sinners, a likeable ne’er-do-well who believes that the secret of success lies in taking gambles. He is less the crooner, and, for added relief of tiring Crosby fans, if any, less of a delight for fluttering maidenly hearts. Instead, he’s something of a pain in the neck to a forgiving mother and two brothers. Crosby and a small but good cast combine with an excellent story and good direction for surefire box office. . . . Being less the crooner in this effort than previously, Crosby does only one number solo, though there are four in the footage. Othere are molded for the trio. Crosby’s solo song is ‘Don’t Let That Moon Get Away,’ a good song. …Crosby plays his part strongly but with restraint. He doesn’t hog anything from MacMurray nor moppet O’Connor.

(Variety, August 17, 1938)

 

August 20, Saturday. The record of “Alexander’s Ragtime Band” which Bing made with Connie Boswell and Jimmy Dorsey and his Orchestra becomes a hit and goes on to top the charts.

August 27, Saturday. Bing is at the races at Del Mar and is interviewed on NBC radio about his horses and his return to the Kraft Music Hall later in the year.

August 28, Sunday. During the afternoon and evening, Bing and Dixie attend a reception at the Westwood home of Mr. and Mrs. Skeets Gallagher following the christening of the Gallagher’s baby daughter, Pam. The christening was solemnized at the Little Church of St. Paul, the Apostle. Other guests include the Charles Erwins, the Leo McCareys, the Wesley Ruggles, the Frank Capras and Jack Oakie.

September 17, Saturday. After staying at the Essex House, Bing and Dixie plus son Gary, and Larry and Elaine Crosby board the “S. S. Queen of Bermuda” in New York for a three-week vacation in Bermuda. The ship sails from the West 57th. Street dock at 3 p.m.

September 19, Monday. The Crosby party arrives in Bermuda and checks in at “Windsor Cottage” in Tucker’s Town.

September 22, Thursday. Bob Crosby marries June Kuhn (age 19 – a fashion model) in Spokane, having divorced Marie Grounitz.

September 23, Friday. Although still in Bermuda, Bing is named as a defendant in a $28,441 personal injury damage suit arising from a traffic accident in July. Albert Johnson, the trainer of Bing’s race horses, was allegedly driving a car owned by Bing which crashed into another vehicle. The case is subsequently dismissed on April 28, 1939.

September 30, Friday. The Bermuda newspaper gives details of a recent fishing trip undertaken by Bing and Larry with a Mr. and Mrs. Terry Mowbray of Bermuda. In all the party catches eight game fish off the south east of Bermuda’s coastline. The paper comments that Bing has acquired a wonderful sun tan on the beach, golf course, and tennis courts. The Mid-Ocean Golf Course has been his favorite. During his stay, Bing writes to Johnny Mercer as follows:

 

. . . This is sort of between seasons here now, so we are getting plenty peace and quiet. Live way out on a point with fine beach, surf etc. I spoke to the boys about your going on the Kraft show, and hope something definite has been done about it. Present plans indicate I will be in Hollywood on the 17th. of October.            Best regards to Ginger. Saw Bernie in N. Y. He was reeling slightly - Jack White a mot (? illegible)

Regards,

Bing

(As reproduced in Johnny Mercer: The life, times and song lyrics of our Huckleberry Friend, page 55)

 

October 1, Saturday. Bing’s recording of “I’ve Got a Pocketful of Dreams” becomes the number one record in the charts for four weeks.

October 7, Friday. Bing and his party arrive back in New York from Bermuda.

October 10, Saturday. The Crosby party leaves New York by train.

October 14, Friday. En route from his vacation in Bermuda, Bing has stopped over in Chicago to make his first recordings with his brother Bob, including “You Must Have Been a Beautiful Baby.” Bob and his Bob Cats had been appearing at Chicago’s Blackhawk restaurant.

 

…But the blockbuster of the session was a new song by Mercer and Harry Warren, written for a Dick Powell movie (Hard to Get). “You Must Have Been a Beautiful Baby” is quintessential Bing, a rejoinder to those who thought jazz was something he relegated to his past, the kind of performance that inspired pianist Ralph Sutton to marvel: “He’s right there, right on the button, man. You know—a musician. And so loose. Jesus Christ, it’s unbelievable.”

Here he is: swinging with such poise that he lifts the whole band, but with that choirboy voice that speaks right to you even as it suggests a sleepy-eyed nonchalance. This is not a singer to commune self-consciously with his muse or to emote for the hipster musicians. His approach is disarmingly, almost nakedly, artless, yet so artful that he never shows his hand, never shows off his phrasing or his easy way of rushing or retarding a phrase, never does any of the things singers do to show you how hard they are working.  He is so smooth, you may not notice the flawless diction of the rhymes startinand kindergarten in a phrase that ends with a model mordent on the last word (wild); the impeccably timed cadences of the phrase “I can see the judges eyes as they handed you the prize”; and the neat embellishment on the reprise of “judges’ eyes.” Haggart’s excellent arrangement puts the verse in the middle for a change of pace and shows off the ensemble and tenor saxophonist Eddie Miller in an interlude that begins with a hint of “Muskrat Ramble.” The sustained chords at Bing’s return have the effect of suspending the rhythm. A number one hit, “You Must Have Been a Beautiful Baby” was reckoned as one of the top sellers in a year dominated by big bands. Bing won the Down Beat poll as best jazz singer of 1938.

(Gary Giddins, Bing Crosby, A Pocketful of Dreams, The Early Years, 1903-1940, pages 511-512)

 

October 15, Saturday. Bing takes his son Gary to Dyche Stadium, Evanston, Illinois to watch the Ohio State Buckeyes Football team tie 0-0 with Northwestern Wildcats.

October 17, Monday. Bing, Dixie, and Gary arrive back in Hollywood.

October 20, Thursday. (7:00 to 8:00 p.m.) Bing returns to the Kraft Music Hall show and appears each week until June 15, 1939. The audience share for the season is 24.5 which puts the show in fourth place in the overall Hooper ratings for evening programs. Edgar Bergen’s show is again in top place with a rating of 35.1.

The guests on the opening show are Johnny Mercer, Joan Bennett, and Walter Connolly. The show comes from the new NBC Memorial Rally Room in the newly completed Hollywood Radio City. Bob Burns and the Paul Taylor Choristers are regulars during the season with John Scott Trotter continuing as musical director. Ken Carpenter remains as announcer.

 

With the return of Bing Crosby, last Thursday, this choice radio dish again became complete but only for one installment. Crosby has taken twelve weeks out and Bob Burns stayed long enough for a reconciliation before ducking for a four-week vacation. The Kraft Music Hall remains one of the few air packages that abound in suavity and good taste as well as entertainment.

      The combination of Crosby and Burns has a distinct and happy blend of personalities and there has been no letdown in the successful illusion of informality, camaraderie and surprise interpolation. The banter continues to lean towards the refreshing side and is run off with a subdued leisureliness that makes it a welcome contrast to the over eager shows.

      In guest formula, the show of last Thursday night, had but one difference—there was no representative from the concert field. Instead of a masseur of the high C’s or an ivory digiteer, the program produced Johnny Mercer and a finely, diverting paraphrase of one of his latest tunes, “There’s [sic] Mutiny in the Nursery.” Everybody in the cast but Walter Connolly participated and the upshot was as healthy a “plug” as any film release would want. The number is in Warner Brothers Going Places. Mercer and Crosby preceded this item with a banter of special material on the theme of “Small Fry” and a bit of lively minstrel crossfire that had Burns as interlocutor and a soft spot for the specimen of fine “needling” that accompanied the routine.               

      The script’s gift for mixing bright badinage worked nicely in the case of the two screen guestees, Joan Bennett and Walter Connolly. For the latter it finally got down to showing by example how the spoken word, can be, by deft shading be given various meanings, while Miss Bennett devoted most of her conversation to answering the critics who couldn’t understand why her hair remained so firmly set in The Texans, despite her encounters with blizzards, dust storms, floods and whatnot. She also joined Crosby in applying their tonsils to the lyrics and melody of a current pop number.

      About the only element in this Thursday event that seems to show signs of sliding off key is the sustained gong-ringing gag. It used to be funny. Carroll Carroll, the show’s writer should be able to dig up a substitute before the current one becomes an irritant.

(Variety, October 26, 1938)

 

October 22, Saturday. Bing and Dixie Lee have travelled to Del Monte for golf and to see the Stanford-USC game at Palo Alto. USC win 13-2.

October 27, Thursday. (7:00–8:00 p.m.) Bing’s Kraft Music Hall show. Guests include Henry Fonda, Ogden Nash, and Ralph Bellamy.

 

Ogden Nash, whose unmetered lines have been a vogue for several years, made one of his rare radio appearances, last Thursday, with Bing Crosby on the Kraft program. It was a click session, not only for Nash’s ingenious satiric verses and his ingratiating mike personality but also because of exceedingly able scripting and production. Co-guests on the show, Fonda and Ralph Bellamy together with Crosby and Ken Carpenter, joined in the lyrical fooling.   If consistently presented so engagingly, Nash would be a natural in a regular spot on one of the programs. After Fonda and Bellamy had each offered his individual bit of clowning, Fonda played the trumpet, Bellamy and John Scott Trotter on pianos, Crosby pounded the drums and Carpenter sang, in a comically, terrible edition of “Melody in F”.

(Variety, November 2, 1938)

 

October 30, Sunday. (starting at 1:30 p.m.). Bing plays in an all-star exhibition match at the new Santa Anita Golf Course with Johnny Weissmuller, Jimmy Thomson and local pro Roy Bearden. Thomson and Bing finish even against Weissmuller and Bearden. Over 1000 people watch the proceedings. (8:00–9:00 p.m.) Orson Welles’ CBS broadcast of “War of the Worlds” starts a nationwide panic as listeners believe that Martians really have landed.

November 3, Thursday. (7:00–8:00 p.m.) The Kraft Music Hall show on NBC. Guests include Maureen O’Sullivan, Claude Rains, and Chester Morris.

November 4, Friday. Records songs from the film Paris Honeymoon in Hollywood with John Scott Trotter and his Orchestra.

November 10, Thursday. (7:00–8:00 p.m.) Bing’s Kraft Music Hall show on NBC. Guests include Gene Krupa, Ann Sheridan, and Brian Aherne.

November 11, Friday. Bing and Dixie leave for San Francisco to see the races at Bay Meadows.

November 15, Tuesday. Back in Hollywood, Bing and Dixie attend the wedding of Jimmy Monaco and his bride, Virginia Case, at Monaco's home in Beverly Hills.

November 17, Thursday. (7:00–8:00 p.m.) The Kraft Music Hall broadcast. Bing’s guests include Rose Bampton, Johnny Mercer, Roland Young, and Marie Wilson.

November 24, Thursday. Press reports indicate that Bing has injured himself in his first ice-skating party since school days and now has three stitches in his leg. He has to use crutches for a while. (7:00–8:00 p.m.) Bing hosts the Kraft Music Hall show and the guests are Toscha Seidel, Chester Morris, Andrea Leeds, and the Gonzaga Glee Club. Miss Leeds is paid  $1000 for her appearance.

November 27, Sunday. Bing attends Gilmore Stadium to see the Gonzaga football team play against Loyola. Gonzaga lose 20-19. At night, Bing hosts a party for the team at the Roosevelt Hotel.

November (undated). Bing visits Agua Caliente for the racing.

December 1, Thursday. (7:00–8:00 p.m.) Bing’s Kraft Music Hall show. Guests include David Niven, Joe Sullivan, and Edward Arnold.

 

Reeves Espy spoke to me—poor man, he hated to deliver bad news. “David, Mr. Goldwyn says that you have been working on radio without his permission. Under the terms of the contract, he has the right to everything you earn. However, he’ll let you keep half.”

      The next radio show I did was with Bing Crosby; the sponsor was Kraft. At the end of the show, as was often the custom, I was presented with a large hamper filled with all the Kraft products—cheeses, spreads, and sardines.

      When I got home, Coote helped me, and I meticulously removed half the spread from the jars, cut every cheese in half, every sardine in half; then with an envelope containing a check for half my salary from the show, I sent the lot to Goldwyn inside half the basket.

      It was ridiculous and childish, and I was behaving like a small boy attacking a heavy tank with a water pistol but rather enjoying it.

(David Niven, writing in his book, The Moon’s a Balloon.)

 

December 2, Friday. Records four operetta songs composed by Victor Herbert including “Thine Alone.” Victor Young and his Orchestra in support. The songs are inserted into two Decca 78rpm albums.

 

Bing Crosby also sings “Sweethearts” on Brunswick 02761. Here it is coupled with “Ah! Sweet Mystery of Life.” These suit my temperament even better; what a depth and range the man has. These you must not miss.

(The Gramophone, July, 1939)

 

December 5, Monday. Following earlier talks between Bing, Walt Disney and the most famous sports promoter in Los Angeles, a minor legend named Zack Farmer, Everett Crosby makes an important announcement.

 

Starting on December 5, with only a vague plan, a handshake deal with Hancock (Cpt. Allan Hancock, a wealthy oilman and landowner), and a few pieces of concept art, Bing Crosby’s brother, Everett (now acting as a project manager) held at least two press meetings—perhaps more—to build support. He announced that Walt Disney and Bing Crosby would build a $1.5 million sports complex in the center of Los Angeles—an undertaking so large it would make “Madison Square Garden look like a two-reel picture made in Poverty Row.” Hollywood Sports Garden would host “virtually every type of sport—from ice hockey to jai lai,” as well as present “rodeos, circuses, expositions, [and] conventions.”

(Walt’s First Park, by Todd James Pierce & Paul F. Anderson)

 

December 8, Thursday. (7:00–8:00 p.m.) Bing’s Kraft Music Hall show on NBC. Guests include Priscilla Lane and Florence George (soon to be Everett Crosby’s new wife).

December 9, Friday. Bing records duets with Frances Langford of the Victor Herbert songs “Gypsy Love Song” and “I’m Falling in Love with Someone” accompanied by Victor Young and his Orchestra. The songs are released on a Decca album. Later, Bing acts as MC at the Shrine Auditorium in the Los Angeles Examiner Christmas benefit.

December 12, Monday. (9:00 a.m.–12:30 p.m.) Records four songs with John Scott Trotter and his Orchestra in Hollywood.

 

Bing Crosby, with his ever allied John Scott Trotter, likewise cuts up vocally on Decca 2257 with ‘Just a Kid Named Joe’ and ‘The Lonesome Road’ (Shilkret-Austin), now a bit of a ballad classic, baritoned with distinction by Crosby.

(Variety, February 1, 1939)

 

December 14, Wednesday. The “FORMAL WORLD PREVIEW” of 20th Century-Fox’s Kentucky takes place at the Carthay Circle Theater. A gala reception and supper follows at the Trocadero. Director and Mrs. David Butler entertain the Buddy DeSylvas, the Leo McCareys, Edmund Lowe, the William Conselmans, Dixie and Bing Crosby and the Herbert Polesies.

December 15, Thursday. Bing and Mrs. A. B. Chandler defeat the Hon. A. B. “Happy” Chandler (Governor of Kentucky) and Bill Quigley in a golf match at Lakeside Country Club. (7:00–8:00 p.m.) Bing’s Kraft Music Hall show on NBC. Guests include Leslie Howard, Jane Bryan, and Jan Smeterlin.

 

Leslie Howard had not worn make-up for many years, either on stage or in films, and this was just one more black mark in his mind against appearing in “Gone with the Wind”. Fortunately, he worked steadily on radio programmes and was enchanted when he appeared on Bing Crosby’s show and Crosby sang a Howard composition called ‘Without You’, the music by Leslie and the words by Leslie and Doodie (his daughter). They were delighted with the song, and, must I say, so was I. It sounded marvellous, played by the orchestra and sung by Crosby. Crosby said, “Tell me, Leslie, how do Howard the actor and Howard the director get along with Howard the songwriter?”

(From A Quite Remarkable Father by Leslie Ruth Howard)

 

December 19, Monday. (9:05–11:50 a.m.) Records four more songs with John Scott Trotter and his Orchestra in Hollywood.

 

“It’s a Lonely Trail” / “When the Bloom Is on the Sage”

Bing Crosby with John Scott Trotter Orchestra. Decca 2237. Tunes which stay—and Crosby sings in that warm slow way which means all the more because he knows how to sing. “Lonely Trail” is the better of the two tunes.

(Daily News [Los Angeles], March 1, 1939)

 

December 22, Thursday. (7:00–8:00 p.m.) Bing hosts the Kraft Music Hall again and the guests are Basil Rathbone and Benita Hume.

December 25, Sunday (8:15-8:30 a.m.). Live broadcast on NBC from Bing’s home as his children open their presents. Ken Carpenter gives a commentary from behind the couch!

December 26, Monday. Bing and Dixie are at the opening of Earl Carroll’s Theater-Restaurant, a lavish new entertainment complex on Sunset Boulevard, Hollywood. Many celebrities attend including Bob Hope, Jack Benny, Jimmy Durante, and Errol Flynn.

December 29, Thursday. (7:00–8:00 p.m.) Bing’s Kraft Music Hall show on NBC. Guests include Jack Carson, Louis Prima, and Preston Foster.

December 31, Saturday. Opening of the season at Santa Anita Park. Bing and Dixie attend as part of a crowd totalling 40,000. Bing and Bing and brother Bob’s “You Must Have Been a Beautiful Baby” becomes the number one record in the charts.

December (undated). Song promoters vote Bing “Number One Crooner of the United States.”

During the year, Bing has had fifteen songs that became chart hits.

 

Uncle Dick also taught me that there are many rules to be followed in show business, but that sometimes breaking those rules is just as important as keeping them to become a classic performer. For every golden rule there is one waiting to be broken.    

      One day he sat me down and said in a very serious voice, “There is one singer who has changed the face of this business, and you must watch everything he does. His name is Bing Crosby, and he’s the boss.” From that day on I studied Bing. I learned a lot watching him grow as a performer. He’s the one who showed all of us how to do it. Bing’s early movies were overly dramatic; he was almost too hot for the screen, but with experience, he started relaxing. He’d just sit there on a stool and tell everybody to take it easy, why not just go out fishing! He developed this real relaxed attitude that appealed to everybody.    

      Bing was one of the first performers to effectively use the microphone. Before the microphone, a singer had to sing very loudly in order for his voice to hit the back of the hall or, as Rudy Vallee is classically known for, he would use a cardboard megaphone to amplify the sound. Because of the microphone, Bing was able to relax his voice. There was no longer any need for operatics, and he was able to pioneer the art of intimate singing, which we call crooning. He developed a psychological style that got right under your skin. This was a revelation for singers, and Bing was the most popular singer of all time, bigger than Elvis and the Beatles combined.

(Tony Bennett, writing in his book, The Good Life, page 37)

 

1939

 

January 5, Thursday.  (7:00–8:00 p.m.) Bing’s Kraft Music Hall show is broadcast from NBC Studio B in Hollywood. Guests include Preston Foster and Roland Young.


January (undated). Bing and Dixie join the Pat O’Briens who are celebrating their wedding anniversary at the Victor Hugo.

January 8, Sunday. Bing and Bob Hope play in a featured golf match during the Los Angeles Open Golf Tournament at Griffith Park. Bing and Peggy Graham tie with Bob and Marjorie Ferrie in a close game after 15 holes. Then it is thought that Bing and Dixie attend the races at Santa Anita and go on to the Cocoanut Grove with Lin Howard and Bobbie Mullineaux.

January 12, Thursday. (7:00–8:00 p.m.) Bing hosts the Kraft Music Hall show. Guests include Grete Stueckgold, Spring Byington, and Wayne Morris.

January 13–March 7. Films East Side of Heaven with Joan Blondell, Mischa Auer, Irene Hervey, and C. Aubrey Smith. The film is directed by David Butler with Charles Previn as musical director. This is another independent production in which Bing has a financial interest in 50 percent of the profits. The film is released through Universal Pictures.

 

East Side of Heaven was good fun under the expansive aegis of D. Wingate Butler. Never engaged in a more pleasant and, I hope, profitable enterprise. The budget was astonishingly low and, if John Public takes to the picture favorably, we’re a cinch to make a meg or two.

(Bing Crosby, in a letter to Johnny Mercer dated April 13, 1939)

 

Bing’s usual routine was in no way hindered by the six days per week shooting schedule – a phenomenon no less remarkable for being absolutely typical. Each week he produced an hour program for Kraft Music Hall, requiring his presence at two-hour rehearsals on Wednesdays at 3:30 and seven-and-a-half-hour rehearsals on Thursdays at 11:30, followed at 7:00 by the broadcast, after which he ate at the Universal commissary and worked all night, reporting again on Friday morning.

(Gary Giddins, Bing Crosby, A Pocketful of Dreams, The Early Years, 1903-1940, page 527)

 

January 15, Sunday. After the races at Santa Anita, Bing and Dixie go to the Club 17 with Rita and Eddie Lowe and Lindsay Howard. Joe Frisco entertains.

January 19, Thursday. (7:00–8:00 p.m.) Bing’s Kraft Music Hall show on NBC. Guests include Anita Louise.

January 22, Sunday. (8:00 p.m.) Bing takes part in the first “The March of Dimes” program.  This is radio’s contribution to the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis campaign. Eddie Cantor is the host and others appearing are Burns & Allen, Amos ‘N’ Andy and Connie Boswell.

January 25, Wednesday. Bing’s film Paris Honeymoon has its New York premiere.

 

Crosby again proves himself an able comedian as well as a singer in some rare moments of slapstick while posing as a bodyless, bearded ghost to scare Miss Gaal out of the castle.

(Los Angeles Examiner, January 20, 1939)

 

The Old World charm of Bing Crosby in a ten-gallon hat is the principal Parisian motif in “Paris Honeymoon” (at the Paramount) which marks a return to the ancient Crosby formula of the days before “Sing You Sinners.” There is something almost engaging, however, about the conventional Paramount-Crosby plot, with its irreducible intellectual content and the way everybody concerned just quietly ignores it, as well-bred people always ignore unpleasant necessities. Like dozens of its predecessors, “Paris Honeymoon” is practically an improvisation in theatrical nonchalance and by as nonchalant a company of script-kidders as you’d ever hope to meet.

It may be that the old radio trick of “kidding the script” isn’t so constructive as improving it beforehand would be, but it makes for agreeable relations between the players and the audience, subtly identifying both parties to the transaction as reciprocal sufferers. Bing, for instance, never bothers to pretend that he is really a millionaire cowboy, really in love with Shirley Ross, the heiress divorcée. Later, when the script keeps Miss Ross in Paris, awaiting her final decree, and sends Bing on to get involved with a peasant girl in a Ruritanian castle he has rented for the season, he doesn’t even pretend that he has fallen in love with Franciska Gaal and her Gaalic piquancy, easy as that should have been. One thing about Bing, you never catch him acting. He is always himself.

Or take Miss Ross, who isn’t hard to take, either. Has she any desire to convince you that she is a genuine heiress-divorcée? In the circumstances it would be foolish to try. Could Akim Tamiroff as the tavern keeper be mistaken for anybody save himself, clowning? Is Edward Everett Horton like anybody in the world except a movie actor named Edward Everett Horton, master of the double and triple take, tireless trotter-out of a varied yet pleasantly predictable assortment of grimaces, shudders, smirks, exaggerated deadpans? And regarding Miss Gaal: would even Mr. LeBaron, Paramount’s head of production, have the gall to maintain that her behavior suggests that of any possible peasant girl? Don’t be absurd! Only one member of the cast gives pause to our little thesis, and that is Ben Blue. He really acts like the village idiot.

(Bosley Crowther, New York Times, January 26, 1939)

 

Bing Crosby, back with a bundle of tuneful melodies, nonchalantly meanders through a light romance of the Prince Charming-peasant Cinderella type, displaying a more convincing personality than heretofore. With a group of known featured names surrounding Crosby, aiding considerably in dishing out the entertainment factors, picture is heading for substantial boxoffice.

. . . There’s a greater ease and assurance displayed by Crosby in his handling of the lead spot than previously. He times his lines better, and gives a corking performance throughout. . . Crosby’s four songs are exceptional, and a fifth is sung by a chorus of peasants in the fields. Star’s two solos are ‘Funny Old Hills’ and ‘Sweet Little Headache.’ ‘I Have Eyes’ is handled by Crosby and Miss Ross at opposite ends of the telephone, latter a delightful eyeful in a Paris hotel bath. ‘Joobalai’ is presented by Crosby, Miss Gaal and chorus at the festival. It’s a lilting piece that has a good chance to catch on.

(Variety, December 21, 1938)

 

January 26, Thursday. (7:00–8:00 p.m.) Bing’s Kraft Music Hall show on NBC. Guests include Frances Mercer, Humphrey Bogart and Cote Vandermark.

January 28–29, Saturday/Sunday. Attends his pro–am tournament at Rancho Santa Fe which is won by E. J. (Dutch) Harrison. Bob Hope takes part for the first time. Bing puts up $3000 in prize money and $2000 to cover the cost of an all night barbecue for the contestants and press. A lady golfer, Babe Didrikson Zaharias is accepted as a competitor, apparently by mistake, and plays as a professional with her wrestler husband as her amateur partner. Mrs. Zaharias was the star of the 1932 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles when she won gold medals for the eighty-meter hurdles and the javelin, plus a silver medal for the high jump.

January 31, Tuesday. Bing is at Lakeside Country Club playing cards with Jimmy Fidler at 2:00 p.m. when he suddenly leaves as he has to make recordings at Universal, presumably for his film East Side of Heaven. He is back by 3:45 p.m.

 

I think I would have to say that the Lakeside Golf Club, the friendships developed there, the many wonderful times and exciting events I enjoyed so much, constitutes the most salutary experience of my entire life. I can assure you that this was no ordinary country club. Quite different. I suppose more than 50 percent of the membership was in show business. The roster was laced with comics, leading men, stuntmen, character actors, writers and directors. Raillery, gags, ribs, frame-ups, put-ons and put-downs are incessant, and often hilarious—and no one was immune.

      . . . And the golf course itself. I’ve played all over the world and I don’t think I’ve ever seen a finer inland course. Always beautifully conditioned and a genuine test. But what stands out in my memory about Lakeside is the atmosphere, the ambience, the informal friendliness that prevailed from the president of the club down to the youngest and newest caddy.

(Bing Crosby, writing in 1974 as part of the foreword to the book Lakeside Golf Club of Hollywood)

 

February 2, Thursday. (7:00–8:00 p.m.) Bing’s Kraft Music Hall show on NBC. Guests include Miriam Hopkins and Harry Carey.

 

No New Names Among Male Singers.

On the men’s side of the popular singing business, Bing Crosby rolls up another resounding victory, an annual habit since 1934. Kenny Baker spends his second straight season in second place. The vote on leading male popular singers:-

1. Bing Crosby 2. Kenny Baker 3. Frank Parker 4. Lanny Ross 5. Nelson Eddy 6. Jerry Cooper 7. Rudy Vallee 8. Buddy Clark 9. Frank Munn 10. Tony Martin 11. Donald Novis

(New York World-Telegram, 4 February 1939)

 

February 5, Sunday. (4:30–5:00 p.m.) Stars in the Gulf Screen Guild broadcast with Jane Withers on CBS. Bing sings “This Can’t Be Love,” “I Have Eyes,” and “Small Fry.” The Screen Guild Theatre ran on radio from 1939 to 1952 for various sponsors and networks. All fees that would normally have gone to the stars were given to the Motion Picture Relief Fund.

February 8, Wednesday. Walt Disney signs a lease for a proposed ‘Hollywood Sports Garden’ and a press photograph shows Walt, Bing, attorney Richard Bailey and Everett Crosby present at the signing. However, problems with the Planning Commission ultimately make the scheme unviable and it does not proceed.

 

Walt Disney yesterday brought something besides talk into the Madison-Square-Garden-of-the-West picture, when he signed a $3,500,000 lease for a 31-acre Hancock Park site. Disney represented the Hollywood Sports Gardens as president and Raymond W. Stephens acted for Capt. G. Allan Hancock in completing a 50-year contract lease for most of the property running from Fairfax to Gardner and from Third to Drexel streets. Bing Crosby, board chairman, and William LeBaron, head of the Sports Club to be a part of the new project, were on hand. Walker and Eisen, architects, are now drawing the plans for the largest covered stadium in the world--bigger than New York’s Madison Square Garden or Chicago’s Stadium.

(Los Angeles Times, February 9, 1939)

 

February 9, Thursday. (7:00–8:00 p.m.) Another Kraft Music Hall show on NBC and Bing’s guests include Elizabeth Patterson and Jeffrey Lynn. The Paul Taylor Choristers make their final appearance on the show.

February 13, Monday. Thought to have been at Santa Anita race-track for the Red Cross Handicap.

February 16, Thursday. (7:00–8:00 p.m.) Bing’s Kraft Music Hall show on NBC. Guests include Gregor Piatigorsky and Nigel Bruce. Later, Bing is said to have entertained at the Masquers Club stag dinner for W. C. Fields.

February 23, Thursday. (7:00–8:00 p.m.) Bing hosts the Kraft Music Hall show on NBC. Guests include Ellen Drew and Henry Fonda. The Music Maids take over from the Paul Taylor Choristers as resident vocal group.

 

Bing Crosby and his cohorts were in fine fettle (Thursday 23rd), on Kraft’s WEAF Music Hall. The hour turned up Henry Fonda who first found himself between Bob Burns and Crosby and a comical sequence based on Fonda’s Missouri experiences while making the film, Jesse James. The segment, of course, dragged in Burns’ Arkansas locale. Second place involved Ellen Drew, featured in a recent Crosby film and pictured Fonda as a bashful hillbilly lover (accent and all), seeking advice from Cupid, assisting Miss Drew. Fonda also toted in his trumpet for a dual session with Burns’ bazooka. It sounded like Tin Pan Alley in a full off-key blast and was good for more laughs.

(Variety, March 1, 1939)

 

There are more laughs and less tension and routine at a Music Hall rehearsal than any I walk in upon. Everyone had an especially good time on Thursday when Henry ‘Hank’ Fonda with a trumpet, Bob Burns with his bazooka, Bing Crosby with a cymbal and drum stick and John Scott Trotter at an old upright piano were rehearsing ‘Pennies from Heaven’. ‘Hank’, (pardon the familiarity) wanted to know if he was getting too good and Bob asked if the instruments were balanced. To that query, Bing replied, ‘There’s a better chance of balancing the National Budget than balancing this’. Hank then wanted to know if they would get any pennies. ‘If you get any for this they’ll have to come from Heaven’, was Bob’s answer. When Bob was playing his bazooka solo, Jim Bealle of the agency responsible for the show remarked, ‘He has his soul in his eyes when he blows that instrument’. He certainly was looking off into space. Once, in a number with others, Robert Brewster, the producer, said, ‘That was not enough bazooka’. The Arkansas spinner of tales looked surprised and declared, ‘Well, that’s the first time I ever heard that’. Bob was very proud of some of the pictures taken at the NBC studios, last week, of himself and his daughter, Barbara Ann and some with Bing. Gentleman Ken Carpenter and others had the highest praise for the little miss who, though only 10 months old, talks and takes a great interest in everything. Bing looked down at Frances Scully of the NBC publicity department who was sitting with me in the front row and said, ‘New dress?’ She, ‘Yes, it’s spring’. He, ‘It’s February!’. She, ‘It’s spring, just the same’.

      What were certain well-known men wearing? The best groomed were Bob Burns and Ken Carpenter who wore business suits. Henry Fonda looked as though he had just come in from the tennis court. He wore a soft open-necked shirt, a somewhat worn sports jacket, cream colored trousers and tennis shoes. His hair was rather long in the back. He was a little stoop-shouldered and had the forlorn expression of a cocker spaniel. Whether he was tired or if it was just a pose for the occasion, I don’t know but it wasn’t from lack of sense of humor. Bing Crosby, as usual, wore his shirt outside his trousers. This one was ‘tame’.   None of those Hawaiian or Bermudan purchases. It was plain, dark blue and the pocket was stuffed with pencils and paper. His trousers were dark blue, his shoes brown. Bing’s gray felt hat was old. Frances said that when the cast made fun of it, he added a pheasant feather. Genial, big-around (he has a Southern cook) John Scott Trotter, worked with his coat off so, his shirt was quite wrinkled from the exercise he had rehearsing the orchestra. His gray trousers were held up by a brown belt. You would like his friendly smile.

(Zuma Palmer, Hollywood Citizen News, February 27, 1939)

 

The Music Maids singing group was formed in 1939, with five gals who met and became friends while singing in the film studios in various musicals. The original members of the group were: June Clifford, Virginia Erwin, Dottie Messmer, Alice Ludes, and Denny Wilson. After deciding to stick together as a group, we started rehearsing long hours every day. We contacted Hal Hopper, formerly with the Pied Pipers of the Tommy Dorsey band, who wrote original arrangements for us. After several months, we heard that the producers of Kraft Music Hall were making some changes, and Bing was looking for a group to sing with him. As Larry Crosby had once been the business manager of a trio I sang with, we contacted him. He named us the Music Maids and arranged an audition.

     Bing and the producers liked our group and we signed a contract to sing on Kraft Music Hall. Not long after that, Bing starred in a movie for Universal Studios, “East Side of Heaven” and we were asked to sing a number with him in it, “Hang Your Heart on a Hickory Limb”. Bing always seemed relaxed, but he knew his part, and though he joked a lot, he paid attention to business. It was fun working with him.

      Kraft Music Hall didn’t take time off during the summer, so we worked straight through the year and broadcast every Thursday evening. During Bing’s vacation time, various stars were guest hosts. Mary Martin was on one summer, and Victor Borge another. We sang numbers with them, just as we did with Bing. Our shows were live, so everything had to be done right the first time. Five of us were grouped around one side of one microphone, with Bing on the other side of it. He liked to ad lib and would throw in things to try to break us up. At the end of the number sometimes you could hear us giggling. He seemed to enjoy it. He liked to call us ‘The Mice”. We never knew where he got that idea, but we did have a cheese company as a sponsor!

      Bing didn’t like to rehearse, and preferred singing his own version of a song. It was our privilege to enjoy hearing him sing in person each week, with his clever interpretation of each number. John Scott Trotter led the orchestra, and he wrote the arrangements for the background music we sang in Bing’s numbers. The voices were used as a very effective instrumental background. The Music Maids were also featured in a special arrangement on each program. Frequently the writers would give us some lines to speak with Bing, also.

(Alice Ludes, January 1981, writing on the sleeve notes for the LP ‘Bing And The Music Maids’.)

   

February 25, Saturday. Bing sings at Barbara Stanwyck’s party for Zeppo Marx at Cafe LaMaze.

March 2, Thursday. (7:00–8:00 p.m.) Bing’s Kraft Music Hall show on NBC. Guests include Joseph Calleia and Joan Bennett.

March 4, Saturday. Bing is at Santa Anita to see his horse “Olimpo” win the 4th. race for 4-year-olds and upwards at long odds. At night, there is a gala event at the Biltmore Hotel at which Bing and Bob Hope perform a hilarious “Mr. Gallagher and Mr. Shean” routine.

March 7, Tuesday. Filiming is completed of East Side of Heaven at Universal after a 51-day shooting schedule.

March 9, Thursday. (7:00–8:00 p.m.) The Kraft Music Hall broadcast and Bing’s guests include Frances Langford and William Frawley.

March 10, Friday. Records four songs from the film East Side of Heaven with John Scott Trotter and his Orchestra in Hollywood.

March 11, Saturday. Bing and Dixie host a party at the Victor Hugo for Marge and Charlie Crane of Chicago. Bing and Bob Hope clown the rhumba together.

March 15, Wednesday. Bing records three songs with John Scott Trotter’s Frying Pan Five including “Ida, Sweet as Apple Cider.”

March 16, Thursday. (7:00–8:00 p.m.) Bing’s Kraft Music Hall show on NBC. Guests include Pat O’Brien and the Matty Malneck Orchestra.

March 18, Saturday. Music Maid Alice Sizer marries NBC Chief Sound Engineer Ed Ludes in Hollywood. Services are attended by most of the KMH cast. That evening Bing and the KMH cast give a benefit performance in Palm Springs.

March 22, Wednesday. Records the songs “Deep Purple” and “Stardust” with Matty Malneck and his Orchestra.

 

One of the records of “Deep Purple” likely to be most in demand is Brunswick 02746. Yes, you have probably guessed to whom I refer—Bing Crosby. This is a very deep purple and maybe it would have sounded more colorful had it been pitched a semitone higher.

(The Gramophone, June 1939)

 

March 23, Thursday. (7:00–8:00 p.m.) Bing’s Kraft Music Hall show on NBC. Guests include Florence George and Ralph Bellamy.

March 27, Monday. Bing records “God Bless America” and “The Star-Spangled Banner” with John Scott Trotter and his Orchestra in Hollywood.

March 30, Thursday. (7:00–8:00 p.m.) Another Kraft Music Hall broadcast on NBC. Bing’s guests are Rudolph Ganz and Chester Morris.

March 31, Friday. Records four songs with John Scott Trotter and his Orchestra in Hollywood.

April 3/5, Monday/Wednesday. Records five songs, including “El Rancho Grande” and “And the Angels Sing” in Hollywood with John Scott Trotter and his Orchestra.

April 6, Thursday. (7:00–8:00 p.m.) Bing’s Kraft Music Hall show on NBC. Guests include Alan Mowbray and Rosemary Lane. Press reports state that Bing has had to borrow on his life insurance policy to pay his income tax.

April 7, Friday. Bing joins Dixie at Estrella Villas, Palm Springs, for Easter.

April 8, Saturday. Plays in a tennis doubles match with Paul Lukas against Ralph Bellamy and Reggie Owen at the Racquet Club in Palm Springs. In the evening, Bing entertains at the club singing many songs and Dixie joins him on stage. Errol Flynn, Charles Farrell, Frank Morgan, and other film stars are also in attendance during the weekend.

 

Highlight of the evening, of course, was Bing Crosby, who sang every song request until he was worn out.

(The Desert Sun, April 14, 1939)

 

April 9, Sunday. Bing plays tennis with Karl Struss at the Palm Springs Tennis Club.

April 13, Thursday. (7:00–8:00 p.m.) Bing’s Kraft Music Hall show on NBC. Guests include Leo McCarey and John Wayne. During the day, Bing writes to Johnny Mercer in New York.

 

Dear “Verseable

I thought you would be out this way afore now and was surprised to learn you’re not coming for a piece. We all miss your Saturday nite insouciance, but of course you should strike while the iron is hot - and you’ve got it good and hot right now.

      “Angels”, to my way of thinking, is your best lyric to date. You’re getting practically poetic. It’s a hunk of song. Trouble is, by the time Kapp gets them to me, all the good singers have opened many lengths on me.

      I hope you kept “Drinkable” out of the clip joints during his Gotham Sabbatical. Doesn’t take but two flaggons of Trommers’ lager to send him on the town.

      “Laughable” is a champion now. He’s at Palm Springs with his ma, catching a tan and getting well spoiled by all the ladies.

      “Eastside of Heaven” was good fun under the expansive aegis of D. Wingate Butler. Never engaged in a more pleasant and, I hope, profitable enterprise. The budget was astonishingly low and, if John Public takes to the picture favorably, we’re a cinch to make a meg or two.

      Now, John, we’re expecting you here for the racing and the ‘surfin’ and ‘turfin’, so pack up Ginger et al and summer out this way.

Your friend, Bing

(As reproduced in Johnny Mercer: The life, times and song lyrics of our Huckleberry Friend, page 68)

 

April 17–June. Films The Star Maker for Paramount with Louise Campbell, Ned Sparks, and Linda Ware. The film is directed by Roy Del Ruth with Alfred Newman as musical director.

 

I’ve done some pictures where you didn’t quite know where they were going. I remember a picture called The Star Maker. The director didn’t like the picture but he had to do it—a guy named Roy Del Ruth, he was a good director—and the atmosphere on the set wasn’t too congenial because of that. Roy always treated me very well but wasn’t happy because he disliked things they had done with the script but he had to go ahead with it. And that’s the only picture I can think of where there was even a smidgen of unpleasantness.

(Bing Crosby, as quoted in Bing Crosby, A Pocketful of Dreams, The Early Years, 1903-1940, pages 537-538)

 

April 17, Monday. (10:00 p.m.) Takes part in the broadcast of the Joe Louis versus Jack Roper fight from Wrigley Field, Los Angeles. Louis knocks Roper out in the first round. Bing is utilized to give details of the many celebrities amongst the 25,000 crowd.

April 20, Thursday. (7:00–8:00 p.m.) Bing’s Kraft Music Hall show on NBC. Guests include Irene Hervey and Jackie Cooper.

 

I grew up, and Bing had his tremendously popular radio show, The Kraft Music Hall, and so it was inevitable that I was booked as a guest on his show several times in the late thirties. I was honestly impressed by him as a performer, as a star, and the fact that he was—or, at least, had been—a close family friend impressed me even more. I thought, when I went on his show, that we would be palsy-walsy, more than just the usual host-guest relationship, that he’d reminisce with me about those hundreds of meals he cadged at our house, about the days when I’d tucked him in on the porch swing and brought him a pillow. But it didn’t work out that way. He paid me very little attention.

(Jackie Cooper, writing in his book Please Don’t Shoot My Dog, page 35)

 

But people loved what we called our “concert spots.” One Friday morning, I was getting my shoes shined when the man who did this work regularly said, “I heard Bing last night. Great!”

I was pleased to hear this from a man who was clearly one of our shining citizens. I asked, “What part did you like best?”

“I liked it all.”

After Bing had been on the air a couple of years for Kraft, memoranda started to dribble in from Chicago saying that certain members of the Kraft company (or their wives) thought the public was getting a little tired of Bing’s singing style and that we ought to talk to him about changing it. Makes you laugh, doesn’t it?

It’s a measure of the general public’s naiveté, which existed then and still exists, about artists and the way they work and think. If they had asked us to get rid of Bing because they’d grown tired of him, it would have been foolish but it would not have been insensitive. But to suggest that we ask him to sing some other way than the style that had won him fame was not only stupid, it was presumptuous.

But we answered all the correspondence in re restyling Bing’s singing with suitable vagueness. To have said flat out that we couldn’t or wouldn’t do what they asked would have been unpolitical. What were we there for? To say that it would be nuts would be impolite. And to have mentioned it to Bing would most certainly have won us his resignation.

So we batted it around, shoved it into pigeonholes, kicked it under the rug, and hoped that eventually it would get lost. Then one day we had a break. Bing was making a movie titled East Side of Heaven (sic – It was The Star Maker). The action called for him to sing a revival of the old song, “Look Out for Jimmy Valentine.” He started the verse of it in a husky, throaty recitative and continued to sing the chorus in a whispered way that could be said to be, if you wanted to say so, a “different” style.

As a bit of background, it’s necessary to know that whenever Bing was rehearsing a song and happened to disremember the lyric, it amused him to go right on singing, improvising words that were once not considered fit to broadcast.

For example, he occasionally liked to sing an old number called “Down by the O-Hi-O.” This little gem featured one line of sheer lyric poetry that no man with beauty in his soul could forget: “But jumpinjeepers creepers, when she’s in my arms…” Lovely as it is, Bing never sang it as written during rehearsal. What he liked to sing was, “But holy jumpin’ Jesus, when she’s in my arms.”

When we went on the air live, of course, and it came time for the song, there was always tension for fear he’d forget himself. He never did.

During the recording of the “Jimmy Valentine” song, Bing ran into a memory lapse that brought forth one of his gamy ad-libs. The producer of the picture sent us an acetate recording of this bit and after we listened to it a couple of times we decided it really didn’t sound much like Bing.

So we wrote a long, involved memorandum explaining what we had done, technically and persuasively, to convince Bing to change his style and we sent the memo along with one of the recordings to Chicago. We asked them to listen to the record and give us their opinion of the romantic quality of the new delivery.

The record was addressed to W. F. Lochridge, who was JWT’s VP on the Kraft account. Unfortunately Loch was out of town and his secretary handled the whole deal by sending our letter and the record directly to Jack Platt, who was then advertising manager of the Kraft Cheese Company.

On the assumption that Loch knew what he was doing, Jack talked to the people who had been bucking for a new Crosby style, told them about the record he’d just received, read them our letter. They all agreed that the best way to test the new style and get an unbiased opinion was to play it in the company cafeteria for the girls in the factory during their lunch hour. Not one person sought to form his own opinion by playing it for himself before putting it on for the girls.

Someone made an introductory speech telling the young ladies why they were going to hear the record that was about to be played and asking them to write notes on what they thought of it and put them in the suggestion box. Everybody became very eager to hear what would follow.

There was a mysterioso introduction, and then Bing sang the verse in a breathy undertone that really didn’t sound the way he usually did. When he came to the chorus be segued into his full voice and the girls were just beginning to understand him by the time he went into the second chorus. But as he came to the end of it he did something he rarely did. He missed the rhythm and went out of sync with his accompaniment, so what the girls in the lunch room heard was the blowup we had meant only for interoffice ears when Bing - suddenly aware that he was musically lost - sang:

Help!

Oh, Jesus Christ, I blew the time
And I’m a dirty son of a bitch
Like Jimmy Valentine, that’s me.

It was the spiciest music ever heard in the Kraft cafeteria, and in the Hollywood office we got a pretty hot phone call. Our innocent little gag to get a laugh from our Chicago people very nearly cost J. Walter the Kraft account.

(Carroll Carroll, My Life with…)

 

April 22, Saturday. Bing joins Dixie at Estrella Villas, Palm Springs, for a few days vacation.

April (undated). An informant tells the FBI that he has overheard a conversation in which someone stated that “Bing was good for $10,000.” The FBI advises Bing and he dismisses the story stating that it is probably something to do with horse racing.

April 25, Tuesday. The Los Angeles News gives details of the overheard conversation and wonders whether this is connected with a planned kidnap of Bing’s children. Larry Crosby tells the FBI that he does not know how the information leaked out.

 

KIDNAP THREAT

Guard Bing Crosby’s Lake Home

LOS ANGELES, April 25

(AP)- The Toluca lake home of Bing Crosby, film and radio singing star, was under guard tonight, his studio disclosed, because of a kidnap threat against one of his four children. Crosby refused to discuss the matter and said he had been pledged to secrecy by agents of the federal bureau of investigation. Federal agents, the studio source said, talked with him on a motion picture set there last week.

(The Daily Iowan, April 26, 1939)

 

April 27, Thursday. (7:00–8:00 p.m.) Bing hosts the Kraft Music Hall show on NBC. Guests include J. Carrol Naish and Roland Young.

May 2, Tuesday. Before 10,000 fans, the Hollywood Stars minor league baseball team makes its debut at Gilmore Field. Bing has purchased stock in the Hollywood Baseball Association and he takes part in the gala pre-game festivities with Jack Benny, Gary Cooper and Al Jolson. Actress Gail Patrick (wife of team owner Bob Cobb - who also owned the Brown Derby) throws out the first ball. The Stars are beaten by the Seattle Rainiers 8-5.

May 4, Thursday. Bing’s film East Side of Heaven has its New York premiere at Radio City Music Hall.

 

East Side of Heaven is a grand package of entertainment that will play a merry tune at the b. o. . . Picture is Bing Crosby’s outside feature for 1938, allowed him under his Paramount contract. Star is one of the few in the business willing to toss his own coin into productions to get a shot at a cut of the profits. In present instance, understood Crosby put up services and money to equal Universal’s ante, and split is even all through. Star took a nice profit on a similar deal with Columbia several years back.

Despite his financial interests, Crosby gives support plenty of work and opportunity for some fat lines and situations. Result is a nicely molded piece of light entertainment, long on the comedy and human interest sides, with Crosby the dominant factor throughout. . .  Picture is smartly paced, hitting a nice tempo at the start and rolling merrily to the finish. . . Four tunes by Monaco and Burke are handled competently by Crosby, all good, and all with a chance for pop attention.

(Variety, April 12, 1939)

 

If there is anything in motion pictures more subtly calculated to paralyze the critical facility than Bing Crosby, it is the formula which Universal has happily hit upon in East Side of Heaven, at the Music Hall: Bing Crosby and a baby. Whatever the cause—and it is never too wise to inquire too nicely into the origins of the comic spirit—the result in this case is the most felicitous occurrence involving Crosby since last year’s Sing You Sinners, a comedy which, though it shamelessly exploits several other well-known public weaknesses, including Joan Blondell, Mischa Auer and C. Aubrey Smith, is much too ingratiating to be missed in these truculent and sour times.

      Even for persons who hate crooning, the spectacle of Mr. Crosby dutifully chanting holiday greetings over the telephone for Postal Union Telegraph...should afford a certain sadistic pleasure...And those rare, dyspeptical types who hate both crooners and babies will derive an evil joy from the scenes in which Bing forced to hide the child after it is kidnapped from grandpa by mama, walks the floor in his pajamas crooning to the helpless infant.

(Bosley Crowther, The New York Times, May 5, 1939)

 

You’ll go pleasantly daffy about Bing Crosby’s latest picture East Side of Heaven. . . . It is by far Crosby’s most entertaining picture to date.

(Los Angeles Examiner, May 10, 1939)

 

    (6:00–7:00 p.m.) Bing’s Kraft Music Hall show on NBC. Guests include Gladys Swarthout and Bruce Cabot.

May 9, Tuesday. Everett Crosby (forty-two) marries Catherine Gutherie (known professionally as Florence George) (twenty-three) in Bel-Air, Los Angeles and they leave for New York and a European honeymoon. Film director Victor Schertzinger is best man.

May 11, Thursday. (6:00–7:00 p.m.) Bing’s Kraft Music Hall show on NBC. Guests include Wendy Barrie and Louis Hayward.

May 18, Thursday. (6:00–7:00 p.m.) Bing hosts the Kraft Music Hall show on NBC and his guests are Patricia Ellis and Basil Rathbone.

May (undated). Bing and Dixie entertain a dinner and dancing party at the Cafe LaMaze for Rita and Eddie Lowe, the Dave Butlers and the Herb Polesies.

May 25, Thursday. (6:00–7:00 p.m.) Bing’s Kraft Music Hall show on NBC. Guests include Freddie Bartholomew and Pat Friday.

June 1, Thursday. (6:00–7:00 p.m.) Bing again presents the Kraft Music Hall show on NBC and the guests include Walter Damrosch and Walter Huston.

June 8, Thursday. (6:00–7:00 p.m.) Bing’s Kraft Music Hall show on NBC. Guests include Bert Lahr, Linda Ware, and Lucille Ball.

 

Kraft Music Hall was an hour show on NBC network, and every week there were several guest stars... the top stars from films, stage, opera, etc. We always looked forward to seeing the stars each week, and many times we sang background music with them also. I especially remember when Bert Lahr was a guest and we sang background while he sang the cowardly lion song from The Wizard of Oz... “Courage”. Working on the same mike with him, it was difficult to keep from breaking up as he distorted his face, singing in the comical voice of the lion.

(Alice Ludes, January 1981, writing on the sleeve notes for the LP ‘Bing And The Music Maids’.)

 

June 9, Friday. Recording date in Hollywood with John Scott Trotter and his Orchestra where Bing has his most famous “blowup” “Wrap Your Troubles in Dreams” when he continues singing ad-lib and occasionally risqué words perfectly in tune.

 

“Life’s really funny that way.

Sang the wrong melody

We’ll play it back

See what it sounds like, hey-hey.

 

They cut out eight bars,

the dirty bastards.

I didn’t know which eight bars,

he was gonna cut.

 

Why don’t somebody tell me

these things around here?

Holy Christ, I’m going off my nut.”

 

June 12, Monday. Records songs from the film The Star Maker with John Scott Trotter and his Orchestra in Hollywood.

June 13, Tuesday. Records “To You, Sweetheart, Aloha” and “My Isle of Golden Dreams” in Hollywood with Dick McIntyre and his Harmony Hawaiians.

June 14, Wednesday. Records three songs with Victor Young and his Orchestra in Hollywood. To many, these sessions represent Bing at the peak of his vocal powers. (5:00 p.m.) Takes part in the “America Calling” radio show singing “God Bless America.”

June 15, Thursday. (6:00–7:00 p.m.) Bing’s last appearance on the Kraft Music Hall until July 20. The guests are Donald Meek and Walter Connolly.

June 21, Wednesday. June Crosby (Bob’s new wife following his divorce from Marie) gives birth to a daughter, Cathleen Denyse.

June 22, Thursday. Everett Crosby gives evidence in the fraud trial of William P. Buckner. Part of the fraud involved attempting to borrow $35,000 from Bing on which a 20 percent profit was promised. Meanwhile, Bing records “Start the Day Right” and “An Apple for the Teacher” with Connie Boswell and John Scott Trotter and his Orchestra in Hollywood.

June 30, Friday. Bing records more songs from The Star Maker in Hollywood with John Scott Trotter and his Orchestra plus “What’s New?” and a song written by Harry Barris “Neighbors in the Sky”.

 

In the summer of 1939, Camel Caravan replaced Benny Goodman with Bob Crosby’s orchestra, but Mercer stayed on with the show. Crosby’s arranger, Bob Haggart, had concocted a beautiful ballad as he was playing around with chord changes. The melody seemed perfect for trumpeter Billy Butterfield, and as “I’m Free” it became a hit jazz instrumental. Thinking to repeat the success of “And the Angels Sing,” Crosby asked Mercer to write a lyric for “I’m Free.” “He worked on it for two months,” Haggart recalled. “But he said, ‘I keep coming up with the same thing—I’m free, free as the birds in the trees, dad da da da.’”

      The tune was then given to Johnny Burke, who took the advice of Larry Crosby, that he write in a less “poetic,” more conversational style—"like ‘what’s new?’ ‘how’s things’ something like that, one-on-one.” Burke transformed the melody into the classic “What’s New?” which Bing Crosby, then Louis Armstrong, Frank Sinatra, Peggy Lee, and Linda Ronstadt, made into an enduring standard. Mercer and Burke had been vying to be the lyricist of the moment for Bing Crosby, and with “What’s New?” Burke got the long-term assignment of writing songs, with Jimmy Van Heusen, for the Bing Crosby-Bob Hope “Road” pictures. For Mercer, the loss must have added to his envy of Crosby; now, having abandoned his dreams of emulating Crosby’s stardom, he could not even serve as his in-house lyricist. Mercer would ever after carry a chip on his shoulder about Johnny Burke. In the 1960s, his son-in-law, a jazz pianist, was trying to write songs. When Bob Corwin showed Mercer one of his lyrics, Johnny scoffed at it: “Sounds like Johnny Burke.”

(Skylark: The Life and Times of Johnny Mercer, p115)

 

July 1/2, Saturday/Sunday. Bing seen at the Trocadero.

July 12, Wednesday. Bing and Lindsay Howard are in Boston, having traveled with their horse Ligaroti from California to see it run in the $68,000 Massachusetts Handicap at Suffolk Downs. The horse finishes eleventh out of twelve. Bing is interviewed by Clem McCarthy on the NBC Blue Network.

July 13, Thursday. Bing takes part in an Old Timers’ baseball game at Fenway Park in Boston between Lowell Thomas’ Nine Old Men and a team fielded by Leverett Saltonstall. Some of the proceedings are broadcast on the NBC Blue Network.

July 20, Thursday. Makes a “guest” appearance on the Kraft Music Hall show to plug songs from the film The Star Maker.

July 21, Friday. Bing Crosby, Ltd., Inc., files suit against the United States to recover capital stock tax paid for 1933 on stock valued at $2,000,000.

July 25, Tuesday. Bing’s horse “Midge” wins at Hollywood Park. Bing sends a good-sized bet with a friend but the friend does not get to the track in time.

August 2, Wednesday. Bing is at Del Mar for the opening of the twenty-four day race meeting.

August 21, Monday. Bing’s film The Star Maker is premiered at the Carthay Circle Theater in Hollywood.

August 23, Wednesday. Bing writes an open letter to Club Crosby.

 

Loyal fans are more important to me than the student rooting section is to the school team. When their encouragement stops, I’ll know it’s time to retire in favor of new talent.

Many fan clubs have made me an honorary member and I receive their publications. Some have a commercial aspect. The “Bingang” bunch stands out to me, both for the excellence of the club paper and the sincerity of the members.

Many times I am sorry we don’t have a more personal contact. You know me better than I know you. I must keep busy with so many interests, when I would prefer more time with my friends.

I fully appreciate your help, and hope the club activities will prove interesting and beneficial to you.

Sincerely, Bing

 

August 29, Tuesday. Bing writes on Del Mar notepaper to Dick Klein at the Paramount gymnasium at Paramount Studios.


Dear Dick,

Would you send me as soon as possible a couple of the rubber excercise gadgets that you furnished me with before.

I would appreciate getting these before the end of the week, as I leave here on Monday. Just address them to Rancho Santa Fe, California, and I will pay you for them when I see you at the studio.

Thanks, Sincerely, Bing.


August 30, Wednesday. The Star Maker has its New York premiere.

 

“The Star Maker,” the new Bing Crosby film at the Paramount, was inspired (to employ a euphemism) by the career of Gus Edwards, a show-minded Pied Piper who used to swing around the old vaudeville circuits followed by precocious little song and dance teams—the girls in sunbonnets, the boys in newsies’ tatters—who grew up, or at least some of them did, to become Walter Winchell, George Jessel, Eddie Cantor and Mervyn LeRoy. So it is possible that among the tiny tots, the not-so-tiny-tots and the not-tots at all recruited by Paramount for its interminable Gus Edward revue there may be a future Fred Astaire, Alice Faye, Vera Zorina or even a Bing Crosby. And if so, what of it? Mightn’t it have been better to have waited a few years to see?

If we have to take a stand on the problem of talented children, and “The Star Maker” demands it, it is this: we think it is perfectly marvelous for a 5-year-old to be able to toe-dance, for a 6-year-old to be able to do a buck and wing, for a group of under-tens to be able to do a shuffle-off-to-Buffalo together, but if you don’t mind we’ll give our seat to a proud parent and go somewhere to watch the professionals do it. We believe the young should be encouraged, encouraged to rehearse and practise and grow up in private so that no one will have to say, as we must, “aren’t they remarkable for children!”

There isn’t much more to the picture. Mr. Crosby sings in his usual lullaby manner and hasn’t many good lines to play with. Ned Sparks sneaks away with a comic scene or two as the child-hating press agent who has to tell bedtime stories and spins a grim whopper about the mean old wolf who gobbled up the little kiddies. Linda Ware, 14 years old, sings with the Los Angeles Philharmonic (Walter Damrosch conducting) in a clear, if slight, soprano which probably is better than its recording and projection: the sound gadget wheezed in the higher register. But it is all, if Mr. Edwards will pardon us, too much like a Gus Edwards revue and far too much of that.

(Frank S. Nugent, New York Times, August 31, 1939)

 

Crooner has the role of a producer-performer which is suggested, if not accurately based upon the career of Gus Edwards. Film is first-class entertainment, a lively combination of the conventional backstage story, which is played for comedy angles, and filmusical technique, that is up to best standards. Roy Del Ruth directed.

      Audiences will quickly and cheerfully respond to the gayety [sic] which pervades the film. . . .  It’s the Gus Edwards repertoire of pop tunes which gives the film zest and the feeling that yesterday is worth remembering. ‘School Days’ is recreated in an elaborate production number, including an interpolation when Crosby, speaking directly from the screen to the film audience, invites and obtains a spirited if somewhat vocally uncertain choral participation.

(Variety, August 23, 1939)

 

One of the best things about Bing Crosby’s pictures is Bing Crosby, and although in The Star Maker, he is in danger of being smothered by his juvenile accomplices, he still takes his acting with a wink, and plugs some new tunes by James Monaco and Johnny Burke which already are up in the hit class.

(Hollywood Citizen News, August 22, 1939)

 

September 1, Friday. (5:45 a.m.) German troops invade Poland.

September 3, Sunday. Great Britain issues a formal declaration of war with Germany.

September 4, Monday. The last day of the Del Mar race meeting and Bing returns to  Hollywood.

September 8, Friday. The Crosby twins enter the Good Samaritan Hospital to have their tonsils removed. Bing has departed for New York and is unaware of the plans for the operation. Presumably the death of Eddie Lang following a tonsillectomy in 1933 was a factor in the subterfuge.

September 9, Saturday. Bing is at the races at Narrangansett Park, Rhode Island, and sees the Binglin horse Preceptor II win the Blackstone Valley Handicap.

September 12, Tuesday. Takes part in the Long Island Golf Association one-day tournament at Meadow Brook Golf Club. Bing has a no-return.

September 13, Wednesday. Bing is in the clubhouse at Aqueduct to see Preceptor II come in fifth in the Bay Shore Handicap.

September (undated). Bing suffers from lobster poisoning.

September (undated). Bing and his friend Harvey Shaeffer golf at Meadow Brook and then go on to Billy Rose’s Aquacade Review in the New York World’s Fair at Flushing Meadow. Shaeffer bets Bing $100 that he would not dare to go off the twenty-five-foot high board.

 

I used to play a lot of golf with Bing—we were sort of rivals. He was frugal. He would check you out before the first tee to find out your handicap. He would pay off, but begrudgingly. . . . At the Aquacade one night, Bing got real brave and somebody talked him into going off up the high board (twenty-five-foot high) and diving off. We were in the middle of a show. He put my suit on. They bet him that he wouldn’t dive off. He walked out there and he walked back. About five or six times; the crowd roared. He says, “Now,” and he took a run and almost killed himself. He couldn’t dive. He landed on his rear, thank God.

(Johnny Weissmuller, as quoted in Lakeside Golf Club of Hollywood)

 

Shaeffer only pays up $65 as Bing had jumped and not dived.

September 15, Friday. Bing is at Aqueduct racetrack in New York and watches the racing from A. G. Vanderbilt’s box.

September 20, Wednesday. Starting at 8:00 a.m., in New York at the Decca Studios at 50 West 57th Street, Bing records with the Andrews Sisters for the first time. The songs are “Ciribiribin” and “Yodelin’ Jive.” Joe Venuti and his Orchestra provide the accompaniment.

 

Patty was so nervous during that first session with Crosby that she was unable to look directly into his eyes. She recalled, “I was so nervous I didn’t think I’d be able to sing. He was on one side of the mike and we were on the other, facing him. But I knew that if I looked at him I would not be able to open my mouth.” According to music historian Joseph Laredo, “Crosby was not unaware of the intimidating effect he often had on female duet partners, and in the case of one particular skittish radio costar, had gone as far as gently taking her hand in a paternal gesture of reassurance. By averting her eyes to the ground during that first session, Patty stumbled across an interesting Crosby idiosyncrasy: “He had a thing with his foot” [she said]. ‘He would move it right-to-left, right-to-left and so on—just like a metronome.’”

(John Sforza, Swing It! page 40)

 

We had started recording for Decca and one day Mr. Jack Kapp called us into his office and said, “How would you like to record with Bing Crosby?” Well, do you know what that felt like? That was like from heaven! And so, of course, we all got very excited and nervous about it. At the time we were rehearsing in the apartment of a young man who became our manager and eventually my husband. So we went back to the apartment and started to talk about it with Vic Schoen, who was then also very young. Of course, all nervous talk— “How can we record with him? What’s he going to sing? How is he to sing with? What are we going we don’t read music?” And it went back and forth and all the nerves came out.

So Jack Kapp, the president of Decca Records, called us and said, “I want you girls to pick out the songs. Whatever you want to do. However, there is one song I want you to do with Bing.” And we said, “What is that?” And he said. “Ciribiribin.” So we said, “Fine.”  We learned the song and Vic helped us with the vocal arrangements.  Vic did all of the orchestral arrangements, but he’d also help us with the vocal arrangements.  Finally we had it down and we called Jack up and said we were ready. Very nervously we were ready.

I should explain a little bit about the setup of the studio because I don’t know if you know what the studios were like in those days. Decca had a very large studio, but it was longer than it was wide and the control room had four knobs. You’ve seen the boards they have today. They go on forever and ever. They had four knobs. That was because they had four mikes. You had a microphone for the brass. You had a microphone for the reeds.  And then you had a microphone for the rhythm. And then one mike for the singers. So that meant that Bing and the three of us would work opposite each other.  In those days—it was before tape—they had green wax about two or three inches thick. And when they were ready, that’s what they made the master from. If you popped a P or made an SSS sound, that would cause that sensitive needle to jump and break the groove. They’d have to take that whole big wax off, set it down, put another one on, and then you started again from the beginning.

This is what happened. I have a picture of that first day with Bing, We walked into the studio and Bing never said a word. He was sitting on the piano. Not the piano bench, but on the piano. But his hat was back a little bit. And his brother Everett was there, who was at that time Bing’s manager. So, we didn’t know whether we should say hello to him. We didn’t know anything. So finally he called Vic over and Vic showed him—played him—the melody, and my sister Pat sang along with it. Vic was a fantastic arranger, but he couldn’t play piano. He played with two fingers. From that point on, when we went into a recording date. Bing always said, “Hey, Patty, come over here and show me what we’re going to sing.” But at that time we walked in and we had a sheet of paper probably about this size [81/2x 11”). Just one sheet and on it were all the lyrics of the song. But we had the girl type it out so that it did the whole thing of the arrangement. In other words, if Bing started, it would say “Bing” and then the lyrics. And then, if it was Bing and the trio, it would be “Bing and trio” and then the lyrics. If it was Bing and Patty, it would be “Bing and Patty” and the lyrics. But when we got into the second chorus, it would be “Bing and trio” and “dat dat dat dat dat dat” or “reet-a-dee, reet-a-dee, reet-a-dee” or whatever it was that you sang on those days. It would be written out and that’s all he got and that’s all we had!

We had crazy Joe Venuti on the violin. The greatest in the world. We always worked with a small group. I think we had maybe at most seven musicians, if we did have seven, more in the Dixieland style. Bing started out and, of course, we were mesmerized because there we were singing into a mike and we were looking directly at him singing this way [profile] so he didn’t look at us. The other side of the record was called “The Yodelin’ Jive.” We just did the two sides and it went very fast.

When the date was over, we flew out of that studio. I don’t think we said goodbye to anybody. We just flew because we had been so uncomfortable and we were so nervous that maybe the record wouldn’t be good and maybe we felt that we weren’t good enough. After all, we were pretty new in the business. We talked about it and then we forgot about it. And we thought, you know, that would be the one record we’d make with Bing. But at least in our career, we could say we recorded with Bing Crosby…

(Maxene Andrews, interviewed by Mark Scrimger, October 11, 1992 – as reproduced in BINGANG magazine, December 1992)

 

The songs stand out from the many later songs the sisters would record with Crosby. Their parts are less integrated with that of Crosby who almost sounds uncomfortable singing with the sisters, especially in “Ciribiribin” where the Andrews’ sound comes across like bees attacking Crosby’s baritone. In “Yodelin’ Jive” Crosby mostly yodels while the sisters sing the song. To my ear, the sisters carry both songs and Crosby seems along for the ride. He recording was favorably reviewed in The Billboard’s “Record Buying Guide” for jukebox operators.

Yodelin’ Jive It’s a pretty even toss-up, according to reports sent in to this department this week, between this side and the reverse since they were both recorded by Bing Crosby and the Andrews Sisters, a prize combination in any man’s phonograph. Mating Crosby and the singing sisters on one disk was an inspiration thought, and it’s already bearing fruit in bigger and bigger returns to ops from this record. Take your choice of sides; one is as good and as potent as the other.

Metronome also predicted that the record would be a big seller and added: “Bing, of course, steals the show on both, with Joe Venuti doing some neat fiddling.” Down Beat liked the recording too and concluded: “Quite a combination of stars, and well worth hearing as a novelty.” In a discussion of the best recordings of 1939, Metronome noted: “Bing CrosbyYodelin’ Jive. One of the cheeriest records of the age, with the Andrews Sisters as additional rays.”

(Harry Nimmo, The Andrews Sisters: A Biography and Career Record, page 96)

 

September 25, Monday. Bing arrives back in Los Angeles on the Super Chief. By coincidence, Bob Hope's wife, Dolores, is also on board.


Mrs. Bob Hope arrived in town yesterday morning with 6-weeks-old Linda Hope, whom she and Bob adopted at the Cradle in Evanston. Never did any debutante ever have such glamorous bodyguards or nurses as did that young lady on the trip out. It happened that Bing Crosby and Bob Montgomery were both on the Super-Chief and from Kansas City Bing wired Papa Hope: “I’m walking your baby from coast to coast.” Montgomery also had his innings at playing nurse and since both of these gents are parents, they should know their jobs.

(Louella O. Parsons, Los Angeles Examiner, September 26, 1939)


September 28, Thursday. (7:00 to 8:00 p.m.) Back on the West Coast, Bing returns to the Kraft Music Hall show with guests Jackie Cooper and Bobby Riggs (tennis champion). Bob Burns, Ken Carpenter, The Music Maids and John Scott Trotter continue as regulars on the show. Bing appears weekly until June 20, 1940. The audience share for the season is 23.3 which makes it the top musical program but leaves it in seventh place in the Hooper ratings for evening programs as a whole. For the third year running, the Edgar Bergen program tops the table with a rating of 34.6 overall. Bob Hope’s show enters the ratings with 25.0 which earns it sixth place.

September 29, Friday. In the news for alleged income tax evasion of $178,000 during the years 1935–1937, with special mention of $10,000 which had represented deductible losses on certain unspecified horses. Bing refutes this.

September (undated). Signs a contract to host the Kraft Music Hall for 1940 (with an option for a further ten years).

October 1, Sunday. Bing plays an exhibition golf match at Virginia Country Club, Long Beach, California, in a mixed foursome with Richard Arlen, Elizabeth Hicks, and Patti Berg. Bing and Miss Hicks win three and two. Bing cards a seventy-three.

Road to SingaporeOctober 2–December. Bing, Bob Hope, and Dorothy Lamour film Road to Singapore, the first of the famous series. Charles Coburn and Anthony Quinn are also featured and the film is directed by Victor Schertzinger. The musical director is Victor Young. The jungle scenes are filmed at the Los Angeles County Arboretum.

 

The Road pictures grew out of a typical Hollywood switch, one of those it-starts-out-to-be-this-then-somebody-gets-a-brighter-idea things. Originally there was a projected picture called The Road to Mandalay. Harlan Thompson was set to be its producer. Who it was who wrote the original version of The Road to Mandalay I don’t know, but two Paramount contract writers, Frank Butler and Don Hartman, did a rewrite job on it. They changed it from serious to funny—they had George Burns and Gracie Allen in mind for it—and retitled it The Road to Singapore. Burns and Allen proved unavailable and the next notion was to star Fred MacMurray and Jack Oakie in it. When MacMurray and Oakie were lost because of a previous commitment, Bing and I were tapped for the assignment.

(Bob Hope, Have Tux, Will Travel, page 139)

 

I’ll never forget Bing clinging to his hat in The Road to Singapore. After much persuasion, he had been cajoled into wearing a skull doyley when he uncovered his head before a camera. But that didn’t mean he liked it. We had one scene in which we were in bed and I said, “We’re going to take off our hats when we’re in the sack, aren’t we?”

“No,” he said firmly. “We sleep with our hats on.” When we crawled into bed, the director took one look at us and yelled, “What goes? Take your hats off!”

“I can’t,” I said. “Bing won’t let me.”

The director said “Cut!” Then he summoned the producer to talk Bing into removing his hat and putting on his skull doyley. I lay back on my pillow and enjoyed it. After two hours of gentlemanly discussion, a compromise was reached. We kept our hats on.

(Bob Hope, This Is On Me, page 123)

 

October 5, Thursday. (7:00–8:00 p.m.) Bing’s Kraft Music Hall show on NBC. Guests include Wendy Barrie, John Payne, and Frankie Albertson.

October 8, Sunday. Bing helps to attract the largest attendance (187,730) at the Golden Gate International Exposition on Treasure Island, San Francisco, where he sings with George Olsen and his band in two free shows in the Temple Compound at 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. The crowds are so vast that Bing is unable to reach the island by road and he has to be taken there by yacht. His songs include “Mexicali Rose” and “Deep Purple.”

 

I was 22 years old at that time and had driven to San Leandro, picked up my girlfriend, now my wife, drove to the Bay Bridge but had to turn back because the bridge was packed with cars. There was no parking space at Treasure Island.

I parked the car on an Oakland side street, went to the World’s Fair on a train that resembled a street car. It was also jammed with people. I mean it was really jammed.

It was a very warm day and Bing Crosby appeared on stage at 4:00 p.m. The crowd had waited for many hours to see Bing. Bing sang the following songs, among many others:  “Pennies from Heaven,” “El Rancho Grande,” “An Apple for the Teacher,” and “Somewhere over the Rainbow.”

I saw three women faint from the heat of the day and because of the crowd of people. I also saw two fellows fight. It started when Bing was singing “Pennies from Heaven.” One began to whistle and hum as Bing sang; the other one told him to be quiet as he said, “I would rather listen to Bing!” Heated words and blows were exchanged almost causing a riot.

Bing wore a brown suit, no hat. Posters throughout the fair read “Bing Crosby, the Most Popular singer in the Nation.”

It was impossible to get close to see him because of the tremendous crowd.

(Matt DeVera, writing in BINGANG magazine, September, 1975)

 

It was Sunday, October 8, 1939, and it would be a day to remember. Bing Crosby was to make an appearance at the Golden Gate International Exposition on Treasure Island, San Francisco. Needless to say, my husband and I were going to be there.

We started out to drive there, but when we reached the approach to the bridge (it was several lanes wide, even then), the traffic scene that greeted us looked more like “commute time” today. My husband took one look and decided we would never make it, with that mess. So we drove back almost home, parked the car on the street and took the electric train to Treasure Island.

It was a “mob scene” when we got off the train and tried to get to the Temple Compound, where Bing was to perform. When we finally got there, what you see in the photo above was what greeted us. There were more than 60,000 people there. About 22,500 were seated on the benches and staircases, and the rest were standing shoulder to shoulder along the shore of the lagoon, on the roof tops, and on the parapets. All were desperately trying to see Bing. I myself was boosted up on a light standard so I could see and take the photograph.

The figure in white, center stage, is Bing, and the orchestra is that of George Olsen, a popular bandleader of the time. The bridge at the top is the newly-opened San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge. The “clock” announces that the next concert will be at five o’clock. Incredibly, this immense crowd stayed for that concert, too!

By today’s standards 60,000 people are not an unusually large crowd, but for that day and time so many people in an audience was unheard of. This was a long time before the days of the mammoth rock concerts.

(Helen Tolton, writing in BINGANG, December, 1988)

 

October 11, Wednesday.  Bing attends the premiere of James Cagney’s latest film The Roaring Twenties at Warner Brothers Hollywood Theatre. Many other celebrities are also present.

October 12, Thursday. (7:00–8:00 p.m.) Bing’s Kraft Music Hall show on NBC. Guests include Erle Stanley Gardner, Reginald Gardiner, and Rosemary Lane.

October 19, Thursday. (7:00–8:00 p.m.) Again hosts the Kraft Music Hall show on NBC and the guests are Jack Oakie, Walter Connolly, and Preston Foster.

October 22, Sunday. Bing takes part in a special Community Chest program and sings three songs from The Star Maker.

October 26, Thursday. (7:00–8:00 p.m.) Bing’s Kraft Music Hall show on NBC and the guests include Kirsten Flagstad, Sterling Holloway, and Brian Aherne.

October (undated). Bing’s parents are burglarized at their Toluca Lake home for the third time in as many months.

November 2, Thursday. (7:00–8:00 p.m.) Bing hosts the Kraft Music Hall show and the guests include Joan Bennett, Mark Hellinger, and Charles Butterworth.

November 9, Thursday. (7:00–8:00 p.m.) Bing’s Kraft Music Hall show on NBC and the guests are Lou Holtz, Larry Adler, Chester Morris, and Lucille Ball.

November 16, Thursday. (7:00–8:00 p.m.) Another Kraft Music Hall show and Bing’s guests include Louis Hayward and Reginald Gardiner.

November 17, Friday. Bing hosts the Santa Clara football squad at Paramount with a showing of The Cat and the Canary.

November 23, Thursday. (7:00–8:00 p.m.) The Kraft Music Hall show on NBC. Bing’s guests include Stuart Erwin and Shirley Ross.

November 30, Thursday. (7:00–8:00 p.m.) Bing hosts the Kraft Music Hall show on NBC. Guests include Florence George and Harry Carey.

December 7, Thursday. (7:00–8:00 p.m.) Again presents the Kraft Music Hall show on NBC. Bing’s guests include Jackie Cooper and Maria Ouspenskaya.

December 10, Sunday. Bing and Paulette Goddard play Bob Hope and Ruby Keeler in a charity golf match at Lakeside Country Club in front of 3,500 spectators. Hope and Keeler win. (4:30 p.m.) Bing stars in the Gulf Screen Guild radio show Mr. Jinx Goes to Sea with Andy Devine and Jean Parker on CBS. The show originates from Earl Carroll’s Theater-Restaurant in Hollywood.


December 14, Thursday. (7:00–8:00 p.m.) Bing’s Kraft Music Hall show on NBC. Guests include Jack Holt, Efrem Zimbalist, and Una Merkel.

December 15, Friday. Elected as a director of the Western Golf Association. Records three songs from the film Road to Singapore in Hollywood with support from John Scott Trotter and his Orchestra plus the Foursome. Finishes the session by recording “Between 18th and 19th on Chestnut Street” with Connie Boswell.

 

Of the new records of 18th and 19th which have already started to make their appearance, this Crosby-Boswell one is worth considering. To Mr. C’s idea of hot style, which is good enough for the purpose, you have to add his undeniable finish and voice. That goes for Connie too. . . . To add to another good accompaniment you have, on the other side, [Sweet Potato Piper] the Foursome and their hot ocarinas, and if they’re not worth three out of a possible five stars I don’t know what is. Bing’s clean enunciation and polish are also points which make the record easy on the ear even if he isn’t in every other respect the connoisseur’s dream of all that swing should be.

(The Gramophone, June 1940)

 

December 19, Tuesday. Bing takes part in the Salvation Army broadcast with other stars such as Don Ameche, Barbara Stanwyck and Robert Taylor.

December 21, Thursday. (7:00–8:00 p.m.) Bing hosts the Kraft Music Hall show on NBC. Guests include Fay Bainter, Billy Lenhart, and the Kraft Choral Society.

December 22, Friday. Bing and Bob Hope beat Ed Sullivan and Jimmy Fidler one up in a sudden death play-off in the Warner Bros. Studio Charity Golf Match at Lakeside Country Club. Bing has an eighty. In the evening, Bing and Dixie are thought to have attended a buffet dinner and dance at the Beverly Hills home of Hal Roach.

December 24, Sunday. Bing and Bud Ward golf against Richard Arlen and Johnny Dawson and win 2 and 1. Bing has a 75.

December 26, Tuesday. (7:30 p.m.) Bing appears on a radio show from station KNX with sportswriter Braven Dyer and Tom Breneman.

December 28, Thursday. (7:00–8:00 p.m.) Bing’s Kraft Music Hall show on NBC. Guests include Georges Barrere and Claude Rains.

December 30, Saturday. Bing is amongst the crowd of 40,000 at Santa Anita Park for the races. Other celebrities there are Dorothy Lamour, Marlene Dietrich, Joan Bennett, Barbara Stanwyck, Pat O’Brien, Jack Benny and Don Ameche.

December 31, Sunday. Welcomes the New Year at a party at the Racquet Club in Palm Springs.

During the year, Bing has had an incredible twenty-six songs that became chart hits. He receives the Downbeat Award for Male Vocalist.