MUSIC CLIP - OSCAR PETERSON, “MOONGLOW”
Welcome to Afterglow, I’m your host, Mark Chilla.
Even as early as the 1940s, Bing Crosby was already a jazz legend. Crosby was blessed with a rich baritone, an innate musical sense and a winning personality, and for any up-and-coming singer, a chance to “sing-along with Bing” was seen almost as a right of passage. Thankfully, he was more than willing to share the spotlight. Coming up this hour, I’ll be featuring Mr. Crosby alongside other singers, both in the studio and live on the radio. We’ll hear Bing with folks like Louis Armstrong, Rosemary Clooney, Connee Boswell, and even members of his own family.
It’s Bing Crosby Duets, coming up next on Afterglow
MUSIC - BING CROSBY AND ROSEMARY CLOONEY, “THE MERRY GO RUN AROUND”
MUSIC - BING CROSBY AND ROSEMARY CLOONEY, “SHINE ON HARVEST MOON”
Bing Crosby and Rosemary Clooney on The Bing Crosby Show for General Electric on CBS radio. First we heard in November 1952 with “The Merry Go Run Around,” by Jimmy Van Heusen and Johnny Burke. And then we heard them the following year with the old standard “Shine On Harvest Moon.” Crosby and Clooney were frequent partners, recording three albums together, and appearing together on radio, television, and in the film White Christmas.
Mark Chilla here on Afterglow. We’re singing along with Bing this week, looking at his many duets with other singers.
Bing Crosby was perhaps the greatest singular force in American pop music for half a century, but he actually started his career sharing the spotlight. He broke into show business around 1926 as part of a duo with his friend Al Rinkler (the brother of Mildred Bailey), and that duo later became a trio when singer and songwriter Harry Barris joined. They were known as the Rhythm Boys.
MUSIC CLIP - PAUL WHITEMAN AND HIS ORCHESTRA, “SIDE BY SIDE”
The Rhythm Boys were pioneers, helping usher jazz into the art of popular song. But by 1931, Bing Crosby became the breakout star of the trio, and decided to go solo as a pop star. For the next 40 plus years, Bing would become a solo singing icon, but on many occasions he would turn over the microphone to a friend a share some singing duties yet again.
After he achieved stardom, one of the first people he shared the bill with was fellow influential jazz star, Louis Armstrong. The two of them would perform together throughout their entire careers. But let’s hear them together now back in 1936 alongside Jimmy Dorsey and his orchestra.
This is Bing and Louis with “Pennies from Heaven,” on Afterglow
MUSIC - BING CROSBY AND LOUIS ARMSTRONG, “PENNIES FROM HEAVEN”
MUSIC - BING CROSBY AND CONNEE BOSWELL, “BASIN STREET BLUES”
Bing Crosby and a couple of his contemporary jazz legends. Just now we heard Bing and the fantastic Connee Boswell in 1937 with “Basin Street Blues,” performed with the John Scott Trotter Orchestra. Before that we heard Bing and Louis Armstrong in 1936 with “Pennies From Heaven.” We’ll hear more from Bing and Louis a little later in the hour.
Bing Crosby didn’t always sing with other jazz stars. His voice could work with anyone, including film stars, Broadway stars, and even nightclub torch singers. Let’s hear him alongside each one of these kinds of singers now.
First here’s Bing Crosby and the 22-year-old film star Judy Garland in 1944. This is the Gershwin song “Mine,” on Afterglow
MUSIC - BING CROSBY AND JUDY GARLAND, “MINE”
MUSIC - BING CROSBY AND MARY MARTIN, “WAIT TILL THE SUN SHINES”
MUSIC - BING CROSBY AND LEE WILEY, “I STILL SUITS ME”
Bing Crosby and torch singer Lee Wiley in 1947 with the Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein song “I Still Suits Me,” from the musical Show Boat. Before that we heard Bing and Broadway star Mary Martin in 1942 with “Wait Till The Sun Shines, Nellie,” a song by Andrew B. Sterling and Harry Von Tilzer. And first in that set, we heard Bing and film star Judy Garland in 1944 with “Mine,” a song by George and Ira Gershwin.
Since Bing Crosby started his career singing with the vocal group The Rhythm Boys in 1920s, he felt perfectly at ease performing with other prominent vocal groups later in his career. Let’s hear him now performing with two of the biggest vocal groups of the 30s and 40s.
First, here’s Bing Crosby way back in 1932, even singing a scat solo, with the vocal group The Mills Brothers. This is “Shine,” on Afterglow.
MUSIC - BING CROSBY AND THE MILLS BROTHERS, “SHINE”
MUSIC - BING CROSBY AND THE ANDREWS SISTERS, “AC-CENT-TU-ATE THE POSITIVE”
Bing Crosby with two vocal groups. We just heard him in 1944 with The Andrews Sisters, a group he would work with often throughout the 1940s, especially during World War II. That was Harold Arlen and Johnny Mercer’s “Ac-cent-tu-ate The Positive.” They were the first people to record that song, in fact.
Before that we heard Bing Crosby and the Mills Brothers in 1932 and the song “Shine.” Fun fact, that recording was very influential on a young Frank Sinatra, and when Frank was still a teenager, he performed this version of “Shine” at a talent show with his friends, and even tried to replicate Bing’s scat solo — not very successfully
MUSIC CLIP - BING CROSBY AND THE MILLS BROTHERS, “DINAH”
Coming up after a short break, we’ll hear more duets with Bing Crosby.
I’m Mark Chilla, and you’re listening to Afterglow
MUSIC CLIP - LOUIS ARMSTRONG, “BASIN STREET BLUES”
Welcome back to Afterglow, I’m Mark Chilla. We’ve been exploring some Bing Crosby duets this hour. Here’s one from 1947, with the biggest performer in the generation before Bing, singer Al Jolson. This is Irving Berlin’s Alexander’s Ragtime Band…
MUSIC - BING CROSBY AND AL JOLSON, “ALEXANDER’S RAGTIME BAND”
Bing Crosby and Al Jolson in 1947 with Irving Berlin’s first big song “Alexander’s Ragtime Band.” In many ways, Jolson and Crosby were connected. In the 1910s and 20s, Jolson was the biggest entertainer, with a voice perfectly suited to the stage. When radio took over, Crosby eclipsed him, with a voice perfectly suited to the microphone. The recording from the late 1940s was part of Jolson’s comeback, and it makes sense that Crosby would be a part of that comeback.
The other performer that Bing Crosby owed a great deal of debt to was Louis Armstrong. We’ve already heard from Bing and Louis this hour, and I’ll play some more from them now.
Bing said that the most important thing that happened to him early in his career was hearing Louis Armstrong perform live. After that moment, Bing changed his style from something that was more like Jolson to something that was more like jazz. Bing always felt indebted to Louis Armstrong, and they recorded together often, including a 1960 album together called Bing And Satchmo.
MUSIC CLIP - BING CROSBY AND LOUIS ARMSTRONG, “LET’S SING LIKE A DIXIELAND BAND”
But their best music together was probably on Bing’s various radio programs when the two really got to play off one another. Here’s Bing and Satchmo on the radio in 1951 with the tune “Gone Fishin’” on Afterglow.
MUSIC CLIP - BING CROSBY AND LOUIS ARMSTRONG, “GONE FISHIN”
MUSIC CLIP - BING CROSBY, ELLA FITZGERALD AND LOUIS ARMSTRONG, “MEMPHIS BLUES”
A rare trio between Bing Crosby, Louis Armstrong, and the great Ella Fitzgerald. That was them on the radio in 1951 with W.C. Handy’s “Memphis Blues.” Before that we heard Bing and Louis just a few months earlier with “Gone Fishin’”
Louis Armstrong wasn’t the only Louis that Bing Crosby sang with. He also performed alongside Louis Jordan in the 1940s. Stylistically, Crosby and Jordan were fairly opposite, but in this recording they are both true to themselves and full of easy, laid-back charm.
Let’s start off this next with a recording of them in 1944 with the novelty tune “Your Socks Don’t Match,” on Afterglow
MUSIC - BING CROSBY AND LOUIS JORDAN, “YOUR SOCKS DON’T MATCH”
MUSIC - BING CROSBY AND ROSEMARY CLOONEY, “I CAN’T GET STARTED”
Bing Crosby and one of his frequent partners Rosemary Clooney in 1958. That was Vernon Duke and Ira Gershwin’s “I Can’t Get Started,” from their duet album Fancy Meeting You Here. Before that, we heard Bing Crosby and Louis Jordan in 1944 with “Your Socks Don’t Match.”
Bing Crosby was a complicated man. In film, on the radio, or on record, he seemed cool and collected, a perfect picture of a laid-back family man. Take this recording from 1936, a lovely duet between him and his first wife Dixie Lee…
MUSIC CLIP - BING CROSBY AND DIXIE LEE, “THE WAY YOU LOOK TONIGHT”
….that was Jerome Kern and Dorothy Field’s “The Way You Look Tonight,” recorded just before Dixie retired from show business altogether. Behind the scenes, though, Bing’s personal life was fraught with trouble. He was a heavy drinker, which got him into trouble with his former boss Paul Whiteman, and put a strain on his relationship with his Dixie Lee. It also caused quite a bit of trouble with his children.
His eldest son Gary Crosby wrote a scathing memoir about his father after Bing died in 1977, calling him cruel and abusive. As unhappy as their relationship was in real life, it’s ironic that when Gary and Bing first recorded together as father and son, its subtitle was “The Happy Tune.”
Let’s hear that duet now. Here is father and son, BIng and Gary Crosby, in 1950 with “Sam’s Song,” aka “The Happy Tune,” on Afterglow.
MUSIC - BING CROSBY AND GARY CROSBY, “SAM’S SONG”
Bing Crosby with his 17-year-old song Gary, at a rare happy time in their troubled relationship. That was their hit song from 1950 called “Sam’s Song” or “The Happy Tune.”
And thanks for tuning in to this look at some Bing Crosby duets, on Afterglow.
MUSIC CLIP - BOBBY GORDON, “WHEN THE BLUE OF THE NIGHT (MEETS THE GOLD OF THE DAY)”
Afterglow is part of the educational mission of Indiana University, and produced by WFIU Public Radio in beautiful Bloomington, Indiana. The executive producer is John Bailey.
Playlists for this and other Afterglow programs are available on our website. That’s at indianapublicmedia.org/afterglow.
I’m Mark Chilla, and join me next week for our mix of Vocal Jazz and popular song from the Great American Songbook, here on Afterglow