Speaker Tell us how you came to work with Bing Crosby.

Speaker I was in Los Angeles working for Johnny Mercer, the songwriter, and it was around about the time that Bing was in hospital. He'd just come out of hospital having had a removal of a growth. And I met his manager, Basil Grillo, and I said, how is being said? Well, he's doing fine. He's had about 10000 get well letters and people are rallying round. I said, can he still sing? He said, oh, yes. Yes, he's he can still sing. As a matter of fact, he's thinking about doing some recording. Well, being an enterprising young record producer, I said, has he signed with anybody yet as he got any plans? Well, he's looking at different offers and he's got ideas. So I said, could I put in a bid? He said, certainly you can do better than that. You want to talk to him? I said, do I? So I got on the phone to him in San Francisco and we got chatting. And then he said, Why don't you come out of the house? So I got on a plane, went out to San Francisco and was shown into his study. And at that time, he was writing the forward to a book on Harry Warren. He said, Do you know Harry Warren? As I said, I do indeed. He said, because nobody seems to know who he is, but they all know his songs. And I started reeling off Harry Warren songs. And I think I got Bing on my side immediately. And then I told him that I was the record producer and could I send him some of my albums that I produced in England? He said certainly. And as it turned out, I'd done a couple of albums with Johnny Mercer, an old friend, and he loved them. And so I said, well, what does this mean? He said, it means, he says, that we can think about it. If you come up with the kind of deal I want, I'll I'll consider it. So I went back to London and I didn't think I'd hear any more from him. And then I got a letter. I know I got a phone call. I came in. My wife was kind of just I came in from work one night. My wife said Bing Crosby called. I said, really, I want you to call him back. I had a number that I couldn't get him, couldn't get him on the phone, left a message, and later he came back and he said, Did you get my letter? I said, I didn't get any letter yet. He said, Well, I posted it a couple of days ago. Someone it takes about four or five days for a letter to get here. He said, well, if you look through my letter, he says, if any of the ideas that appeal to you, we can probably do some business. So I said, well, wait a minute, have you got a label in mind? I mean, I, I worked for different labels. Do you want me to go and get a record deal? He said sure. So I put the idea out to every record company that I worked with and they were all interested. So I selected United Artists because there was the American connection there and. They said, can he still sing, you know, I mean, Bing was 72 years old at this time, and I said, I believe he can. He said, you checked it out. I said, no, I haven't, but if he says he can sing, I believe he can sing. So we got a small group session together in Los Angeles, a couple of songs of Johnny Mercer's that he'd written with Andre Previn. And we got a rhythm section and went into Johnny Mercer studio and we made. Two tracks, and this proved conclusively that his voice was in good shape. So having only spent out for a quartet, we then put the orchestra on in London full orchestra, and Bing came over and as he was in town, the United Artists people were so pleased to say, do you suppose while he's here, he would do a second album? I said, I don't know. I can ask him. And he said, Sure. He said, What have you got in mind if I said anything you like? And he chose a lot of standards, a lot of Rodgers and Hart.

Speaker He chose a lot of standards of stuff that you recorded the three tracks in L.A. and then he came to London for a full orchestra session.

Speaker He came to know we we recorded the two tracks in know at the same time we we selected tunes, keys, routines for an album which would be called That's What Life Is All About, and had a single of that song. And the song was a little bit, I suppose, like my way. Bing didn't like the lyric at first. And I said, Well, do you like the idea of the song? And he said, Sure. I said, Well, if I change the lyric, how would that be? He said, Give me a new lyric and I'll tell you, I gave him a new lyric. We threw the old one out, which had been written by somebody else. And then he started refining the lyric so that it became his personal lyric. And we met a single. That's what life is all about. And it struck and became a hit. And much to his surprise, actually, he I said you happened to be in the church now being. You said, could I have some verification of that? I said, certainly, and I got the melody maker and assured him that he'd come in at number 17. He noted approvingly, and, of course, a little while after we we were looking at sales of around a quarter of a million, so he was quite happy.

Speaker I want to jump on to something really quick. You've said before, and you should tell us again, you think that his recording career was hurt by the fact that after he left, he didn't sign with a major label. Tell us. Yes. Tell us that and why you think it was hurt.

Speaker That is exactly you've hit the nail on the head. I think that when he quit Decca in the mid 50s, he should have signed straight away with another label. But he said he'd had it with long contracts. What he wanted to do was record basically on an ad hoc basis, going from one label to another. And he did do this. He succeeded in doing this. If you go through his entire 51 year recording career, there wasn't a single year when he didn't record. So he never went away as a recording artist. But how do you signed with and stayed with a major label? He would have had much more success because the record company will spend money promoting your record if they know for sure that they've got the next one. But it's a one off record.

Speaker They just take it as it comes, release it. They know that Bing had a big fanbase, so he just kept appealing to that fan base. Of course, the fan base dwindled as he got older and what he needed to do was what Perry Como did. Perry Como stayed with RCA, Sinatra stayed with Columbia to begin with. Then he went to Capitol for seven years and then he formed reprieves. Sinatra was only on three labels and his entire career, Bing could be on three labels within the same year. He was always recording his fans appreciated what he did, but I think the the idea of being locked into a contract was something that was anathema to him.

Speaker Talk about how his style evolved from a sort of pompous tenor style and that he wasn't the first of the crooners, Rudy Vallee whispering Jack Smith, but how he incorporated jazz into it. Give us that rundown.

Speaker He was the first. White singer to do that, to incorporate jazz, what incorporate what it was. He was the first white singer to incorporate jazz into popular music. He also broke away from tradition by recording with black artists very early on when this was not fashionable, he was recording with the Duke Ellington, with the Mills Brothers and with Louis Armstrong. As a matter of fact, it was being who urged Louis to start singing popular songs rather than just playing outand out jazz. So he was basically responsible for Louis Armstrong's commercial career. And I know that there was a time in 1936 when Bing was loaned out to Columbia to make pennies from heaven. He insisted on Armstrong being in that picture. The people at Columbia didn't want Armstrong. They didn't think it was a good idea to have a black performer in the movie. And Bing said, Well, no Armstrong, no Crosby. So he forced Louis into that picture and the world was able to see what a great entertainer Armstrong was, but it wasn't just that being in the early days was different from other singers. He came through the rhythm boys, Paul Whiteman's rhythm boys, a bit of a troublemaker in those days. He wasn't he wasn't a good guy that he was later. You know, he was a wild kid. And I think the Jesuit upbringing that he had getting up at six o'clock in the morning and whatever it did, the scrubbing floors or whatever, it was a tough life. He was highly religious, a devout Catholic. I think when he got to the big city and he lived the high life and like to lean on the bottle and chase the ladies, no matter how hungover he was, he would always be at mass on a Sunday morning. And sometimes he was hungover so much that he turned up at the recording studio. They had to hold him up to the mike. This is true. Why did Weitman continue to employ him? The answer is because he was damn good and Weitman had, I think, three or four other singers and it was the musicians in the orchestra said, when you come to do a song, get Bing to do it. The musicians forced Bing into those vocal refrains that were done because they said he's the only guy we've got who can feel some jazz. So it was really the musicians that pushed Bing forward. And he had his first taste of success with the Weitman band All Manner Ever, I think was a number one. And he got the number one habit pretty early in his career. In fact, I believe that. End to end. I think he had 38, no one's a nobody in the history of popular music has had that many. That's more than. That's more than the Beatles and Elvis put together.

Speaker Talk about talking about the.

Speaker Free microphone versus the microphone era, which she was able to take advantage of.

Speaker You know, sort of the timing of that.

Speaker Yes, well, then came up really, he wanted to play drums originally and he was playing drums with a college group. And when vocals were needed, he was the best one to provide the vocals. So he started to sing vocals. He'd he'd been educated in the popular songs by his father, who had a big record collection. So he he grew up with the recordings of Al Jolson, the John McCormack, the Irish tenor. All of these songs were familiar to him growing up. And so he had songs. He would people could hear him come and he'd be whistling. You know, he just had songs coming out of it all the time. And what he got to the to the big city, he made a point of going around the jazz clubs. He would he would go to see Louis Armstrong at the Sunset Cafe and got to know Louis. So he was a he was really different to other white singers. Now, what would have happened to Crosby if he had not succeeded in radio or in movies? I think that today he'd still be remembered as one of the first great white jazz singers. But history doesn't see being that way. History sees him as the guy who sang White Christmas, who comes out every year and you get the duet with David Bowie. That's about the extent to which they know him. But if you talk to pop pundits, they don't consider Crosby. And I don't know why. And I think it's because there are two versions of history. Always there's the received version and there's the real version. And the received version is that the biggest sellers of all time were Elvis Presley and the Beatles. The actual version is that Bing Crosby was the biggest. But people seem to turn a blind eye to anything that happened before 1955. Yeah, that there were two two versions of history, the received version and the real version, the received version is that Elvis Presley and the Beatles are the two biggest recording acts ever. But the actual version is that Bing was bigger. I believe that Bing was the first multimedia entertainer before him. It was Charlie Chaplin's. The first world famous man was Charlie Chaplin. After Chaplin, it was Crosby. He covered. All areas, he was big in movies, big on radio, big on records, and I think the. The international aspect of Krosby was something that had never been witnessed before. He he had it he probably came mainly through the movies when people got a look at the guy on the screen and the voice and the face fits so well together, it was being really putting together his own particular brand of. American furniture, if you like, and selling it to the world, and we all bought it, every country bought it. It wasn't a case of him being popular in America or in the U.K., Canada, Australia, the English speaking countries. He was popular everywhere. That voice seemed to be picked up in every country, whether it was English speaking or not. And I think he was probably the first pop pop artist to I think he was probably the first pop artist to sing in different tongues. He recorded in Spanish, recorded in French. He did every kind of song you could think of. He wasn't just doing pop songs. He was doing religious songs. He was doing Hawaiian songs, Irish songs, patriotic songs, jazz, just about anything you want. And he was good at everything he did the first All-Purpose multimedia singer.

Speaker But you were saying that you are tell us that because he came of age with the microphone, he was able to be more subtle with his inflections, the nuances in the lyric he was able to get.

Speaker That would be impossible if he was singing wide open that he used the microphone is another instrument.

Speaker Yes, he was the first to do that too, when he started singing. Of course, there were no microphones there. At the very least, he would use a megaphone, but he hated that. He said he just hated putting that thing up to his lips and singing through it. So he in those days, he usually sung in the tenor register so he could be heard above the band, as all singers did in those days. But with the coming of the microphone, two things happened to Crosby that changed popular music. One was that he sang too much. He was so keen on singing, he would go to parties after he'd finished work and he'd be singing something like 15, 16 hours a day. And what happened was that his his voice gave in and he developed nodules on his larynx. And so he couldn't talk and he went to the doctor and the doctor excuse me. So he went to the doctor and the doctor advised he could have these nodes removed or he could stop singing for three weeks and see what the voice sounds like when it came back. Well, he elected to stop singing for three weeks, and when the voice came back, it came back as that round baritone close to a bass baritone was no longer the tenor register. I think from that time on with the microphone, he took advantage of the fact that he could sing and lower keys, be more intimate, give a delivery of the lyric that was more conversational. And this was different to anything anybody was doing, because if you compare him with, say, Al Jolson, who would belt and belt, whether there's a microphone there or not, or with Rudy Vallee, who was used to singing through a megaphone, and he had this rather nasal sound. Crosby's was the first pure, intimate sound. And I think that's what made him different, that in the fact that he could handle any kind of. Tune any kind of phrasing, any kind of backing, he could also do comedy, he could sing duets. I don't think there's been anybody in the history of popular music who was no more was more adept. I don't think there's been anybody in the history of popular music who was more adept at singing duets than that being.

Speaker The, uh.

Speaker You this is a good phrase you used.

Speaker I want you to use it, you say he used his voice more intelligently than other singers. So say that and say why.

Speaker He used his voice to me, he used his voice more intelligently than other singers in that he turned the lyric into a conversation. If he's saying. I found a million dollar baby and a 10 cent store. He did that conversationally, you got the whole story. You've got the picture of him visiting the store and meeting the Million Dollar Baby, whereas anyone else singing that song would sing it in a very flat, almost methodical way. In other words, you could say that other singers would sing I Love You the same way as that. Singing I hate your guts. Crosby didn't. He went to the heart of the lyric. And sometimes in these early things, he was a little, I would say, a little too dramatic. You can see the Jolson influence slightly, very slightly in things like temptation, where he he does dramatize a little. But I think he got a little tired of that. He got a little tired of it when other singers started impersonating him, being like that. And if you if you look at his recording career, right, about 1938, he dropped all the Babalu that and he dropped all the cry in his voice that he had. And when he came into a more sedate form of singing, so did every other singer and people like Perry Como, Dean Martin, Bobby, Billy. Dick Haymes, they all were able to develop a very successful career within those same parameters that Crosby laid down, and I think he influenced not only those guys, but just about every singer that followed him.

Speaker Why did he keep getting fired from the Whiteman Orchestra? What did he would keep getting fired from the Paul Whiteman Orchestra?

Speaker Well, because of his. His social habits, the fact that he liked the bottle, he was he was this was prohibition and kids liked to drink, and those days it was against the law. There was something I mean, once they decriminalized alcohol, it wasn't a problem anymore. But but he he liked to enjoy himself. He liked to watch. He he didn't always like singing with the Weitman band because he didn't always like doing those particular songs. He would rather go and sing at a jazz club and do dinner the way Louis Armstrong did it, or sweet Georgia Brown, you know, those kind of songs and. Along with that came the lifestyle. I know that when he was doing the King of Jazz, the film with the Paul Whiteman, he went out on a bender and crashed his car and a lady with him got injured. And he was brought up before a judge for drunk driving and was given 60 days. And they had to take him away from the cell in the morning to the studio to film his scenes, take him back at night because he was it was a 30 days sorry, it was 30 days saying, oh, it was 60 days.

Speaker It was he was reduced to 30 days. Yeah, that is absolutely. Look that up. OK, and why was he banned that? What do you want me to say? It was reduced. Should that be good? Because Mary talked about it too.

Speaker And she said the judge said the judge said to him, are you aware that there's a law prohibition here? And being said, yeah, but nobody pays much attention to it. The judge says, well, you'll have 60 days to pay attention to it. And so off he went to jail for 60 days. But due to white man's influence, that was reduced to 30 days. And during those 30 days, he had to go to the studio to finish filming the king of Jazz. But he said one good thing came out of that was the fact that he was given a song called Song of the Dawn, a very over-the-top, dramatic sort of thing, which he said would not have suited him at all. And the song was given a John Bolls being felt that if he sang the song of the dawn, his career might have ended right there. So he looked upon that as being looking at, you know, some people said that Bing did everything wrong. To become a star, you did everything wrong. And despite that, he he rolled uphill to success. What was the everything wrong? Well, by. Not turning up on time for recording sessions by wild partying, by going with too many ladies when he should be paying attention to the business. But the thing that did happen was that once he married Dixy Lee and many people will tell you this, once he married Dixy Lee and once he got his first break in movies, he became Miss the Respectability. You could set your watch by him after that. And I can tell you for sure that even when I was working with him, which is in the last half a dozen or so albums that I produced with him, you could set your watch by him. He was Mr. Dependability.

Speaker Why does he tell us, put it phrase it as a statement? Why was he banned at the Coconut Grove?

Speaker Oh, that that was with Gus, I'm that that's when he left when Weitman left California, went until he left the rhythm boys in in California and I think it was Bing that got the employment, not the rhythm. Boys, they got hired and hired him to sing songs at the Coconut Grove. And of course, this put him on the air. And I do know one thing that that happened was that he got his brother, then got his brother Everett to be his manager. And once he got on the air, there was a sensation there. And Bing said to his brother, You better book as many of these broadcasts as you can. He said, we can make some money a month from now. Nobody's going to be interested. So, Brooke, as many as you can, and he didn't think his career would last at all and end his first sponsored series, I think it was Christmas, because look that up. I think it was or cigars. They wouldn't let him do any announcements because they didn't think his speaking voice was good enough. And now if you you see how ridiculous that is when you consider that when he got his own radio show, he had the longest run on radio of anybody, you know, he kept on running it well into the 50s when radio was practically dead. And out of the all of those years that he was on the air, I think 25 years or whatever, for 18 of those years, he was number one. What is a recording career began as a soloist, the first records he made didn't do too well.

Speaker I think they came out in October of 2009, which was the year of the Great Crash in Wall Street. But from 1931 onwards, he really began to sell records. He would have as many as five records in the top 10 at one time. And he was the first guy to sell a million records when there were only a million record players.

Speaker Tell us you have this thing we said the way he made people feel that they could be as good or as clever as. Yeah.

Speaker When when asked to. To explain his success, he said, well, any man who hears me sing really believes he can sing as well as I can, he says. And this is no trick because I have very little of the mannerisms of a trained singer and nothing special in the way of a voice. Of course, we know how fallacious that statement is, because if you took a guy into the recording studio, put him in front of an orchestra and asked him to make like Bing Crosby, it wasn't quite the same.

Speaker Right. He. Made the guy next door feel as good as he was. He made the guy next door feel like he could possibly do it. Is what you're saying? Yes.

Speaker The interesting thing about him was that he seemed to have a natural affinity for recording. It was something I don't think it was something he studied. I think it came naturally to him. I remember when I was working with him. You've got to remember that my my time as a recording producer was the 70s and 80s, by then we were well into multi-track recording. Now I saw a photograph of Bing with the Andrews Sisters, and they were gathered around the same one single microphone. And I said, But you didn't record like that Bing, did you? I mean, that's a shot that's been posed, hasn't it? He said no. He said that was taken on a session. He said that's the only way we recorded. I was on one side of the mic and the girls were on the other side. And I went and played some of those rights. And I could not believe the blend that they got because nobody today making an album, making a record would dare record like that. Everything today has to be done in cubicles, on separate tracks, mixed and and brought to the peak of perfection. Not in those days. There was no tape splicing. There was no way of retaking a passage. You have to start at the beginning, go to the end. Every record you heard of Crosby in those days and the same with Sinatra, the same with Perry Como, Ella Fitzgerald, Peggy Lee, all of these people, they came up in a discipline in the studio that doesn't exist today.

Speaker Speaking of some of those people.

Speaker Speaking of some of those people, Judy Garland, Frank Sinatra, there's a current, a neurotic quality to an undercurrent of nervousness to them.

Speaker And they a lot of times they sound like they're on the. Bit of an edge of a nervous breakdown every time, but not so with him really separated him from his contemporaries. Would you agree with that?

Speaker Yes, I would say that what separated him from his contemporaries was the fact that nothing with being was studied, everything came natural to him.

Speaker I will tell you that although he was not a musician in the academic sense, he didn't read music. And you wondered how he could do these wonderful things on record with the arrangements. But I found out that you could play anything at him, however complex it was, and he'd sing it right back to you. Absolutely not. Perfect. And it stayed that way whenever he if he learned. So, I mean, I do remember one time I corrected him in the studio and I said, we've got to stop that bang. And he said, Why? I said, well, you sound the wrong note. He said, where? So I have to take him through the phrase. I said, that's the wrong note. He said, well, it sounded all right to me. I said, well, it's in the code, but it's not the composers note. He said, well, give me the composers note. So we give him the composers note on the piano. And he says. That's the right note. So, yeah, he says, Gee says that's a tough note to find. I don't need a guide dog to find that one. And of course, the musicians just fell about. He had not. So the other thing you see, he had his own vocabulary in his own way of talking, and he was very well read. And I discovered quite by accident that he was multilingual. I didn't know this. And we went into a French restaurant in London and he ordered everything in French. And then when we were in the studio, he left some music with one of the executives of Chappells and he'd taken it home. So they said, Have you got the guys? No, I said, sure. So he rings the number and the guy's wife and said she was Italian. And I swear he chatted with an Italian for three or four minutes and then later a top of the pops. What he was going to do. That's what life is all about. On Top of the Pops, he bumps into Trini Lopez and he was talking with Tony Lopez in Spanish. And I don't know what he was saying, but he had him in fits the you said something I need you to say.

Speaker He was one of those singers who felt he who felt he wasn't one of those singers who felt he knew more than the songwriter.

Speaker You know what I'm saying, no.

Speaker So he wasn't one of those singers who felt he knew more than the songwriter.

Speaker Oh, no, no, no. There are singers and you know them when you hear them who feel that they're more important than the song being wasn't like that. He respected the song and he gave it his best shot. But he wasn't what I would call an emotive singer. He let the songs speak for itself.

Speaker I remember one time I was in the studio with him and he did Cole Porter's looking at you and it was a perfect rendition. But being the smart ALEC record producer I was in those days, I wanted a little more emotion. Being the smart aleck record producer I was in those days, I wanted a little more emotion from him and I said, would you mind doing that song again tomorrow morning?

Speaker He said, What's wrong with it? I said, well, technically there's nothing wrong with it. He said, Well, what do you want from me? I said, Well, come and listen to it and I'll try to explain what I need. So we played the song down. And he listened, he was quite patient. He said, well, it's all in tune, said sure. He said, you can hear all the words I've said, yes, he said my phrasing isn't too bad. I've said no phrases. Fine. So what do you want from me? I said I just wanted a little more dynamic emotion in the song. And he said, can he said, the name's Crosby, not Sinatra.

Speaker Well, I couldn't argue with that well, to that end, you say Sinatra was a greater lyric interpreter.

Speaker Right, they were two different animals being and Frank were two different animals, I guess they were the two greatest popular singers of our time, but they they were two different animals. Sinatra was more intense loved audiences.

Speaker I mean, when when Frank recorded an album in London, he had an audience there in the studio of probably close to 100 people. There's more than the the orchestra. When I recorded Bing, he sent me a letter saying, I don't want anybody in the studio who's not supposed to be there. He wanted he says, I like to concentrate on the recording. And he would also say to me, I see you've got me down to record four songs on this session. On each session. I said, yeah. He said, well, I can do six if you want. He said, get the thing done quickly. And I said, No, Bing. I said, we'll leave it at four because we've got a big orchestra and you've got to think of the orchestra too. And I took him to the studio the day before we did the first session and the engineer was there and he said, I'll show you around. Mr Crosby took him around the studio. He said, I want to put the brass here. I put the strings there. The reeds will go there, the rhythm section will be boxed off here. And you, Mr. Crosby, will be in that booth in the corner and being looked at this booth and he said. And John Timperley, the engineer, said, excuse me. He said, I'm not going in any box. He said I didn't come 6000 miles from California to sing in a goldfish bowl. He says that I went to a state in California and sing to track. He says, I'm an old band singer, put me with the band. And so John got terribly worried about this because the studio was fairly big, but not that big and. He said, Put me in front of the musical director, put me where I can see the rhythm section, he says, and that figure the rest out for yourself, I said, But, Mr. Crosby, the the brass can get awfully loud. He said, well, I'll get louder. And that was the end of that, and the next day when we recorded it was a big orchestra, close to 40 piece orchestra.

Speaker But he cut through he came through on the tapes perfectly and he said to Johnny, should they see if it worked 50 years ago? It'll work today.

Speaker You talk about at his height, he was in such demand that the only time he could squeeze in a game of golf was he would record.

Speaker Early in the morning Gulf. Movie studio, radio show, right?

Speaker Yes, that's that's true. I heard when I was talking with the people in his office that a lot of those big hit records he had were recorded at seven thirty in the morning and they'd be like a three hour session. He'd be there for maybe two hours and do everything that was expected of him and then out of the door with his golf clubs, get in a round of golf before he reports to Paramount Studios. And if he had a chance in lunchtime, he'd be down to Lakeside to play another round of golf.

Speaker Loved his golf to you. You told me that he told you that you would ask him.

Speaker When he did, the country girl, the director said to him, leave Bing Crosby out of it and.

Speaker Yes, yes, I think I think you're being like most big stars of that period played himself on screen just as as John Wayne did, just as Cary Grant did. Bing Crosby was always Bing Crosby because he was the product that people would turn up to see. But when he came to do the country girl, this was a whole different thing. This demanded a lot more from him than the easygoing guy. He played an alcoholic with career problems. And George Seaton, the director, said, look, I want you to forget about Bing Crosby. And put this character on the screen, not Bing Crosby, and it was a performance that got him an Oscar nomination and I don't know where he got that performance from, maybe from his early days, you know, when he was a bit of a bit of a boozer himself or maybe from people he'd known over the years and seen to hit the skids or whatever. But it was a very, very truthful performance and not at all.

Speaker Typically, Crosby, I think you should let us know how he let Jack Kapp pick all his material. How he let Jack Cap pick all his material for him.

Speaker I don't.

Speaker The Gap Jack knap his well, Jack Kemp, yes, oh, of course, yeah, that's right.

Speaker He put his career. He was very trusting. I have to say, if he worked with anybody, he gave them full cooperation. And when Jack Kemp signed him for Decca or 1934, he put his career into caps, hands on Jack Kemp said, you are a popular singer. People want to buy your records. So let's give them every kind of song we can think of. What he wanted to do was spread a very large canvas. From which Crosby would operate on and sing every kind of song he was capable of singing, and in this way Jack Kapp felt that he would be reaching the majority of tastes. In other words, he turned Bing into the all purpose singer.

Speaker A big went along with it, do you think that?

Speaker Hurt him long term or yes, I think I think it hurt him long term because as things began to change, you've got to remember that he was on the air more than any other singer. His records were played more than any other singer. Every singer in the world was aping Crosby at that time. Perry Como told me that if you didn't sing like Crosby, you didn't sing, you didn't work. And so everybody was trying to copy him. And as it. As the 30s came to an end and the big band era was taking over, the singers with the big bands were all trying to sound like Crosby. The one that didn't was Sinatra. And Sinatra became the first singer to challenge Crosby. Now, Sinatra took popular singing in a different direction, in that he developed very early on a love of the great songs of people like Gershwin and Porter and Harold Arlen and people like that. He wouldn't touch the the Irish songs or the Hawaiian songs. And so Sinatra became more hip in people's eyes and Crosby became more avuncular. But Bing was still a bigger seller than Sinatra throughout the 40s, although they say Sinatra created the 40s and became the bobbysoxers idol, he never outsold Bing at any time in the 40s. In fact, it took him until about 1960, before he was able to supplant Crosby.

Speaker But by the 50s, he already had had a pretty he had already had a 20 something year career, so the decline of his sales was natural.

Speaker By the time you got to him, he could almost be considered a nostalgia act. Right. So what was your what was your attraction in getting him at that late stage?

Speaker Well, my attraction in getting it was that I grew up with his records. My parents were big Crosby fans. In fact, he not only sang to my parents, he's singing my grandparents.

Speaker And he was always there somehow. And his films were were always what we went to see as children. And don't forget, while he was, let's say, Alessa. Recording artist, when I got him, he was still a big name.

Speaker He did he did two or three TV specials every year and he did the Christmas special, which was big business. So he wasn't exactly out of the public eye.

Speaker And I mean, he wasn't exactly out of the public eye. But I felt that it was a good time for him to come back 1974. He appeared in that entertainment is one of the narrators of that. And that was a big hit, big box office hit. And so people were talking about him just the same as they were talking about the other people in that Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly and people like that. And we're going out again now with Beautiful.

Ken Barnes
Interview Date:
American Archive of Public Broadcasting GUID:
"Ken Barnes, Bing Crosby Rediscovered." American Masters Digital Archive (WNET). 03 Jun. 2014,
(2014, June 03). Ken Barnes, Bing Crosby Rediscovered. [Video]. American Masters Digital Archive (WNET).
"Ken Barnes, Bing Crosby Rediscovered." American Masters Digital Archive (WNET). June 03, 2014. Accessed November 27, 2021


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