Bing Crosby: selected recordings, 1927-1934

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Songbook’s Bing Crosby Index:

Excerpts from the Bing Crosby biography by John Bush at allmusic.com

Bing Crosby was, without doubt, the most popular and influential media star of the first half of the 20th century. The undisputed best-selling artist until well into the rock era (with over half a billion records in circulation), the most popular radio star of all time, and the biggest box-office draw of the 1940s, Crosby dominated the entertainment world from the Depression until the mid-1950s and proved just as influential as he was popular. Unlike the many vocal artists before him, Crosby grew up with radio, and his intimate bedside manner was a style perfectly suited to emphasize the strengths of a medium transmitted directly into the home. He was also helped by the emerging microphone technology: scientists had perfected the electrically amplified recording process scant months before Crosby debuted on record, and in contrast to earlier vocalists, who were forced to strain their voices into the upper register to make an impression on mechanically recorded tracks, Crosby’s warm, manly baritone crooned contentedly without a thought of excess.

Bing Crosby was born Harry Lillis Crosby in Tacoma, WA, on May 3, 1903. (Bingo was a childhood nickname from one of his favorite comic strips.) The fourth of seven children in a poverty-level family who loved to sing, he was briefly sent to vocal lessons early on by his mother, until he grew tired of the training. An early admirer of Al Jolson, Crosby saw his hero perform in 1917. Crosby sang in a high-school jazz band, and when he began attending nearby Gonzaga College (he had grown up practically in the middle of the campus), he ordered a drum set through the mail and practiced on the set. Introduced to a local bandleader named Al Rinker, he was invited to join Rinker’s group, the Musicaladers, singing and playing drums with the group throughout college.

Though the Musicaladers broke up soon after his graduation in 1925, Bing Crosby was ready to stick with the music business. Crosby had made quite a bit of money during the band’s career, and he and Rinker — who was the brother of Mildred Bailey — were confident they could make it in California. They packed up their belongings and headed out for Los Angeles, finding good money working in vaudeville until they were hired by Paul Whiteman, leader of the most popular jazz band in the country (and known as the “King of Jazz” in an era when black pioneers were mostly ignored since they were unmarketable). For a few songs during Whiteman’s shows, Rinker and Crosby sang as the Rhythm Boys with Harry Barris (a pianist, arranger, vocal effects artist, and songwriter later renowned for “I Surrender Dear” and “Wrap Your Troubles in Dreams”). With their clever songwriting and stage routines, the trio soon became one of the Paul Whiteman Orchestra’s most popular attractions, and Crosby took a vocal on one of Whiteman’s biggest hits of 1927-1928, “Ol’ Man River.” Besides appearing on record with Whiteman’s orchestra, the Rhythm Boys also recorded on their own… read more

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It is difficult to determine on which songs that Crosby recorded with Paul Whiteman he was the lone vocalist. An index of Crosby’s pre-1931 solo vocals would help.* In most cases the only way I’ve been able to differentiate between tracks featuring the Rhythm Boys and those with Bing Crosby solo vocals is to listen to each of them, when available. I’ve only begun the task, making it through the 1927 recordings and most of those of 1928. I will post those Whiteman recordings of 1927-28 which I have found to have vocals by Crosby alone.

In 1929 Crosby recorded Let’s Do It (Cole Porter) with the Dorsey Brothers. That recording will be included here; but the remainder of the recordings with Whiteman from 1929 and 1930 will be excluded until I have time to differentiate those on which Crosby sang solo (if any) from those with the Rhythm Boys.

The Rhythm Boys left Paul Whiteman shortly after the premiere of the film King of Jazz. Wikipedia:

In May 1930, after three and a half years with Paul Whiteman, The Rhythm Boys left and took up residency at the Ambassador Hotel’s Cocoanut Grove night club performing there with Gus Arnheim‘s Orchestra. Many of these nightly performances were broadcast live from the club along the Pacific coast. They recorded one song, Them There Eyes, with Arnheim’s Orchestra for Victor Records in November 1930 before disbanding.[1]

The Rhythm Boys recorded only the one song with Arnheim; but Crosby recorded several with the Orchestra in 1930-31. I’ll include some, perhaps all, of these which will take us into Crosby’s phenomenally successful run of hit songs beginning with 1931’s I Surrender Dear. I have selected songs from the period 1931-1934 with a preference for standards and others which were reportedly the most popular of his many hits for the respective year. Although all “chart positions” reported for years prior to 1940, the year Billboard began publishing its Music Popularity Chart**, might be questionable, one has to take notice of the fact that Wikipedia lists 67 top-twenty recordings by Crosby for this four year period, including 20 in 1931 and 21 in 1933.

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With Paul Whiteman and his Orchestra

I’ve excluded from this Bing Crosby feature those songs recorded with Whiteman as a member of the vocal group The Rhythm Boys. See my feature page on the trio, here: The Rhythm Boys.

(above) The Rhythm Boys: Bing Crosby, Harry Barris, and Al Rinker

1927

Muddy Water (Jo Trent, Peter De Rose, Harry Richman) – A radio broadcast recording from c. 1950, G.I. Jive program. Disc jockey G.I. Jill believes the record was made in 1929 or ’30. She notes that Bix Beiderbecke and Frank Trumbauer were members of the band; and warns, “Remember, it’s twenty years old, so…it’s a little beat.”

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1928

Two songs from the musical Show Boat which opened at the Ziegfeld Theatre in New York on 27 December 1927 with Norma Terris as “Magnolia”, Howard Marsh as “Gaylord” and Helen Morgan as “Julie.” It ran for 572 performances.

Ol’ Man River (Jerome Kern, Oscar Hammerstein II)  – Paul Whiteman (dir), Henry Busse, Charles Margulis (tp); Bix Beiderbecke (c); Boyce Cullen, Wilbur Hall, Bill Rank, Jack Fulton (tb); Frank Trumbauer, Chester Hazlett, Harold McLean, Jimmy Dorsey, Charles Strickfaden (reeds); Kurt Dieterle, Mischa Russell, Matty Malneck, Mario Perry, John Bouman (vln); Harry Perrella (p); Steve Brown (sb) ; Mike Trafficante (tu); Mike Pingitore (bj); Hal McDonald (dm); Bing Crosby (voc) : New York, 11 January 1928

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Make Believe (Jerome Kern, Oscar Hammerstein II) – recorded 27 January 1928

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1929

Let’s Do It (Let’s Fall in Love) - (Cole Porter) – The Dorsey Brothers with vocal by Bing Crosby – recorded 26 January 1929 in NY, NY according to redhotjazz.com

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1930

When the Folks High-Up Do That Mean Low-Down (Irving Berlin) – sung by Bing Crosby, Bebe Daniels, June MacCloy and chorus in the movie Reaching For the Moon (1930). It was one of the earliest film appearances by Crosby.  He performed several numbers in King of Jazz with the Rhythm Boys that year as well. The Rhythm Boys also appear in one other 1930 film, Check and Double Check, to sing one song(Three Little Words).

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With Gus Arnheim & his Orchestra


The list of Crosby singles at Wikipedia includes the following recordings by Gus Arnheim with Bing as the vocalist:

  • 1930: “It Must Be True”
  • 1931: “The Little Things In Life” ,”I Surrender Dear”,”One More Time”
  • On a fifth recording, “Ho Hum!,” he shared vocals with Loyce Whiteman.

1930

It Must Be True (Barris, Arnheim, Clifford) – according to wikipedia, this is the first track which Crosby recorded with Gus Arnheim.

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1931

I Surrender Dear (Harry Barris, Gordon Clifford)

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More 1931 recordings:

Just One More Chance (Arthur Johnston, Sam Coslow) / I Surrender Dear – I don’t know which film this clip is from. IMDb credits I Surrender Dear, sung by Crosby, in the 1931 film of that title, but not Just One More Chance. It’s clearly not from The Road to Hollywood as claimed by the youtube provider. That was a much later film.

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Out of Nowhere

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A clip from the film I Surrender Dear (1931)

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Wrap Your Troubles in Dreams (Harry Barris, Ted Koehler, Billy Moll) – sung by Crosby to a group of Indians in the film One More Chance (1931)

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I Found a Million Dollar Baby (in a Five and Ten Cent Store) – (m. Harry Warren, w. Mort Dixon, Billy Rose)

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Star Dust (Hoagy Carmichael, Mitchell Parish)

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1932

Dinah (m. Harry Akst, w. Sam M. Lewis, Joe Young) – with the Mills Brothers

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Dinah and Please (Leo Robin, Ralph Rainger) – from the film The Big Broadcast (1932). Playing guitar in Please is Eddie Lang.

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Here Lies Love (m. Ralph Rainger, w. Leo Robin) – another song from The Big Broadcast (1932) – Bing and the Vincent Lopez Orchestra

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Paradise (Nacio Herb Brown, Gordon Clifford)

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Sweet Georgia Brown (Ben Bernie, Maceo Pinkard, w. Kenneth Casey)includes a chorus of scat by der Bingle

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Some of These Days (w. m. Shelton Brooks)

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Brother, Can You Spare a Dime? (Jay Gorney, E. Y. Harburg)

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1933

(I Don’t Stand a) Ghost of Chance With You (m. Victor Young, w. Ned Washington and Bing Crosby)

Crosby performs the song in the 1933 Paramount short Please

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Young and Healthy (Harry Warren, Al Dubin) – a popular song from the film 42nd Street (1932). Recorded with Guy Lombardo and his Royal Canadians. Bing evidently had big hits with both this song and You’re Getting to Be a Habit with Me from the same show.

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Temptation (Nacio Herb Brown, Arthur Freed) sung in the film Going Hollywood (1933)

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1934

Good-Night, Lovely Little Lady (Harry Revel, Mack Gordon) – the recording was used in the film We’re Not Dressing (1934) starring Bing Crosby, Carole Lombard, George Burns, Gracie Allen, and Ethel Merman. It is played on a radio. Music for this and the following two songs, also from We’re Not Dressing, by Nat W. Finston And His Paramount Orchestra

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Love Thy Neighbor (m. Harry Revel, w. Mack Gordon)

From the film We’re Not Dressing (1934) starring Bing Crosby, Carole Lombard, George Burns, Gracie Allen, and Ethel Merman.

Never treat others with scorn
We’re only here ’cause we’re born
Although you’re way up
You may not stay up
Stop tootin’ your horn

Why boast of the wealth you possess
High on the hill of success
On friendship you never should frown
You’ll need the same friends on the weary way down

So, love thy neighbor
Walk up and say “How be ya
Gee, but I’m glad to see ya, pal
How’s tricks? What’s new?”

Love thy neighbor
Offer to share his burden
Tell him to say the word’n
You will see him through

‘Specially if there should be
A beautiful girl next door
Say to that girl next door
“Now don’t think I’m bold
But my mother told me to

Love thy neighbor
And you will find your labor
A great deal easier
Life will be breezier
If you love thy neighbor”

‘Specially should there be…
(repeat rest of sections 5 and 6)

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Each of the lines highlighted in maroon in the above lyric is often given incorrectly in online lyrics sites. For the first they typically give “Stop cheatin’ your heart” (which doesn’t even rhyme with “born” as it should), and the second is frequently given as “Why most of the wealth you possess.” Neither of these make sense in context. Unlike today, it was generally important during the songbook era for lyrics to be coherent. An exception being if you intentionally wrote nonsense for comic effect.

The phrase “Stop tootin’ your horn,” found at the end of the first section, means stop boasting, or behaving with excessive pride. The two lines which precede this, “Although you’re way up / You may not stay up,” provide one reason for remaining modest amid success, and suggest the adage “Pride come (or goes) before a fall.”

The second section argues that you shouldn’t be boastful and “frown” upon friends when you’ve reached a successful position, because you’re going to need the same friends when you inevitably find yourself on the way down the ladder. The first two lines of the second section form a complete interrogatory sentence: “Why boast of the wealth you possess, high on the hill of success?” If you substitute “most” for “boast,” as is often done, you transform the original rhetorical, interrogative couplet (lines 6 and 7) into the beginning of a proposition which is not completed in the subsequent lines.

May I? (Harry Revel, Mack Gordon)

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She Reminds Me of You (Harry Revel, Mack Gordon) – also sung by Crosby in the film We’re Not Dressing. But according to the youtube provider, the band is not the same as for the previous tracks from the film. Music for this one is credited to Jimmy Grier and his Orchestra.

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Love in Bloom (m. Ralph Rainger, w. Leo Robin) Crosby introduced the song and had one of his biggest hits of the year with it in 1934. It also became the theme song of Jack Benny who was known for playing it off-key on a violin.

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The above recordings are all Pre-Decca. After Crosby’s move to Decca in 1934 he had several more hits that year. I haven’t had a chance to gather and review these yet. I may add a couple of more recordings to 1934.

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* Update, August 2011: I’ve recently discovered the the Bing Crosby Discography at jazzdiscography. It evidently makes such differentiation on the early Whiteman recordings, identifying each vocalist or vocal grouping, at least for those I’ve checked. I’ll try to get to work on this as soon as possible

** According to Wikipedia, the Billboard hit parade, first published in 1936, ranked “the most popular recordings at a given point in time, usually determined by sales and/or airplay,” rather than the popularity of specific recordings.

7 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. John Worsley
    May 15, 2010 @ 10:07:43

    I am constantly looking for recordings of the songs Bing made before his voice changed after the operation. I had the great fortune to meet him, of all places, on top of St Peters in Rome in 1960 when I was there with other fencing masters to support the British team!

    Many thanks for your efforts.

    Reply

    • doc
      May 15, 2010 @ 10:23:08

      Hi John, Thanks for your note. St. Peters in Rome 1960. I’ll bet that seems like a fortnight ago if you’re like me. Let me know if there is anything, any song or recording, you’d like especially to hear. This Bing feature was thrown together pretty hastily. I’ve got to work on it. – Cheers, Jim

      Reply

  2. Nelkane Benton
    Jun 15, 2010 @ 00:21:52

    What wonderful tribute to the greatest singer of the 20th century.

    In addition his acting and magnetic personality, makes Bing a talent not likely to ever be seen again.

    Reply

    • doc
      Jun 15, 2010 @ 01:47:53

      Hi Nelkane, Yes, Bing was one of a kind. And he remains a great treasure. I’m glad that you enjoyed the tribute. One of these days I’ll try to get to work on part 2. – Cheers, Jim

      Reply

  3. Nelkane Benton
    Jun 20, 2010 @ 20:08:09

    I hope you are able to continue this historic tribute ,because Bing must never be forgotten.
    Bing’s contribution to movies and music is without peer.

    Reply

  4. Allison Norris (@allis2024)
    Sep 15, 2011 @ 16:15:34

    Is there a way to get a higher resolution version of that 1920s autograph at the beginning? That picture just made my day…

    Reply

    • doc
      Sep 15, 2011 @ 17:58:11

      Hi Allison. I don’t know. That’s a photo I’ve had for a couple of years, found in a Google search, but I don’t recall where it came from. It’s undated, was undated where I found it, but certainly looks like a very early pic. I removed or reduced tint. The image as I found it is reproduced below.

      The same image is available at Photobucket, here: Bing Crosby early
      pic
      .

      Presently, I don’t have the time to do an extensive search of image galleries, but I’ll give you some of the galleries I might use when the time comes to construct a Crosby gallery (I’ve been putting the job off).

      Photobucket has 424 results for a search of “Bing Crosby.” They aren’t all relevant, but most seem to be photos of der Bingle. That total is surprisingly low (to me) considering that there are presently over 4500 results for “Judy Garland” at Photobucket.
      Others: All Star Pics has 156 images.
      FanPix.net has 191. Happy hunting.
      Yours truly, doc

      Reply

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