Bing Crosby, the Original Crooner

Bing Crosby mesmerized all of us with his soothing voice. The famous crooner was born Harry Lillis Crosby on May 3, 1902, in Tacoma, Washington. He was the fourth of seven children of bookkeeper, Harry Lincoln Crosby.

Little Harry was a fan of “The Bingville Bugle” a Sunday feature of the local newspaper. A neighborhood friend nicknamed Harry “Bingo from Bingville.” The name stuck and was eventually shortened to Bing.

Bing joined with Al Rinker and Harry Barris to form “The Rhythm Boys” in 1925. Their first recording was “I’ve Got a Girl.” By the time the 1930s rolled around the band had gone their separate ways. Bing made his first solo radio debut on September 2, 1931.

In the late 1920s and early 1930s, most popular singers had to “belt” out their songs so that those sitting in the back seats could hear them. Bing discovered the microphone and did not have to strain his voice. A new sound was developed that became known as a “Crooner”. By the end of the 1930s, Crosby was one of the top performers in the country with his deep bass-baritone voice.

In 1930 Bing married Dixie Lee. The couple would have four sons together. He is considered the most successful recording artist of the 1930s and 1940s. He had twenty-four singles in 1939.

Bing loved sports and was an avid golfer. He bought his first racehorse in 1935. He was also a registered Republican.

He became very interested in the technical innovations of a tape recording that were being innovated at the time. He became the first performer to pre-record a radio show. He formed Bing Crosby Enterprises which continued to work on pushing the boundaries technology, including some of the first videotapings.

During World War II he made numerous live appearances to the American troops.

White Christmas” became his biggest hit song. He first introduced it to the public on Christmas Day 1941. The song was featured the following year in the movie “Holiday Inn.” The song was so popular he had to re-record the hit in 1947. This is the version commonly heard today.

He won an Academy Award for Best Actor for his 1944 film “Going My Way.” In 1946 he became part-owner of the Pittsburgh Pirates baseball team. He would retain ownership for the rest of his life.

During the 1950s and 1960s, he appeared on a number of variety shows. Bing’s wife, Dixie, died in 1952. Five years later he married Kathryn Grant and they had three children. The family appeared frequently on the annual Christmas edition of “The Hollywood Palace”.

Bing had 383 chart singles and forty-one Number One hits throughout his career. He also starred in numerous movies and musicals. In 1962, Bing would receive the first Grammy Global Achievement Award. He was inducted to both the radio and popular music halls of fame. He is also one of only a handful of people to have three stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. He collected twenty-three gold and platinum records. He is considered the third most popular actor due to his movie ticket sales {behind Clark Gable and John Wayne}.

Bing’s last appearance on television was filmed in London in September 1977. He recorded two duets with David Bowie. Their recordings of “The Little Drummer Boy” and “Peace on Earth” are still popular today. After he finished with his obligations in England, Bing flew to Spain. On October 14, 1977, he was on the golf course playing a round of golf. At shortly after six o’clock in the evening, he collapsed of a massive heart attack and died on the green. Widely written is the fact that his last words were “That was a great game of golf, fellas.” The special recorded with David Bowie was broadcast just weeks after his death.

Bing would remain one of the best selling artists of the Twentieth Century. Thanks to his advances in tape recording we can still enjoy his soulful croons today.