The Rhythm Boys
(above) The Rhythm Boys: Bing Crosby, Harry Barris, and Al Rinker
In 1926, while singing at Los Angeles Metropolitan Theater, Bing Crosby and his vocal duo partner Al Rinker were brought to the attention of Paul Whiteman, arguably the most famous bandleader at the time. Hired for $150 a week, they made their debut on December 6, 1926 at the Tivoli Theatre (Chicago). Their first recording, “I’ve Got The Girl,” with Don Clark’s Orchestra, was issued by Columbia and did them no vocal favors as it sounded as if they were singing in a key much too high for them. It was later revealed that the 78rpm was recorded at a speed slower than it should have been, which increased the pitch when played at 78rpm. – adapted from wikipedia
The Rhythm Boys – profile by redhotjazz.com, adapted; comment, photo and video added:
Bing Crosby and Al Rinker had been together in a jazz band in Spokane, Washington while in college. The band was so popular that the two decided to drop out of college and broaden their horizons with a move to Los Angeles.
[doc: Contrary to the above account, during an interview in the second video below Al Rinker suggests that the pair traveled to LA primarily to make a surprise visit to his sister, but also “just to drive down.” See too the comment by visitor Bill Stimson of Spokane who notes that Crosby and Rinker were never classmates and that Al Rinker never attended Gonzaga University. According to the birth dates given in their respective biography.com articles (as well as Wikipedia), Crosby was 4 years and 7 1/2 months years older than Rinker, who was 18 at the time of the trip to LA.]
They drove Rinker’s Model T to LA where Rinker’s sister, jazz singer Mildred Bailey, was working. Shortly after their arrival in the City of Angels they landed a gig on the vaudeville circuit, as a vocal act. Some members of Paul Whiteman’s Orchestra, caught their act and recommended them to Whiteman who hired them in October of 1926. While waiting to join Whiteman’s Orchestra they made their first record “I’ve Got the Girl” with Don Clark and His Hotel Biltmore Orchestra, at the Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles (506 South Grand Avenue).
I’ve Got the Girl (Walter Donaldson) – Don Clark and His Hotel Biltmore Orchestra, with vocals by Bing Crosby and Al Rinker
Bing and Al then joined the Whiteman Orchestra in Chicago, where they made their first records with Whiteman. At first, things didn’t go well for Crosby and Rinker. Whiteman’s audience didn’t like them and the theatre manager where they were playing at the time asked that they be dropped from the act, but rather than drop them, Whiteman added a young singer and songwriter, Harry Barris to the act. The act was billed as the Rhythm Boys. The trio sang in three part harmony with both Rinker and Barris playing piano. Barris wrote a song called “Mississippi Mud” which became a hit for the Whiteman Orchesta. It featured Bix Beiderbecke on cornet. But after awhile, Whiteman and Crosby were not getting along. Bing drank a lot had landed in jail a couple of times. He missed some of the filming of Whiteman’s movie “King Of Jazz,” after being involved in an auto accident while driving drunk. Whiteman pulled some strings and got Bing released from the jail. Crosby was escorted in handcuffs to the studio by a police officer whenever he was scheduled to appear in the film. After the movie was completed in 1930, Whiteman fired them. The Rhythm Boys then joined the Gus Arnheim Orchestra at the Cocoanut Grove in Los Angeles. Bing was featured more and more as a soloist, and in 1931, Bing recorded his first solo hit, I Surrender, Dear with Gus Arnheim and his Cocoanut Grove Orchestra. Radio broadcasts from the Cocoanut Grove made Bing a star, but his wild ways caused him to start missing performances, and Crosby’s pay was docked. The Rhythm Boys quit playing at the club, but the local musicians’ union banned them from playing, which caused the Rhythm Boys to call it quits. Bing’s solo career soared after the Rhythm Boys broke up.
(below) In a documentary of Bing Crosby’s early singing career, including the period with the Rhythm Boys, Al Rinker is interviewed. Source unknown; seems to be part of a larger biographical work.
Side By Side (Harry M. Woods, Gus Kahn)
I’m Coming Virginia (Donald Heywood, Will Marion Cook)
A review of the recording at jazz.com provides the following information:
personnel: Paul Whiteman (leader), Red Nichols (cornet solo), Bing Crosby, Al Rinker & Harry Barris as The Rhythm Boys (vocals), Henry Busse, Teddy Bartell (trumpets), Wilbur Hall, Vincent Grande (trombones), Max Farley, Hal McLean, Chester Hazlett (clarinets, alto saxes), Charles Strickfaden (alto & baritone saxes), Harry Perrella (piano), Kurt Dieterle, Mischa Russell, Mario Perry (violins), Matty Malneck (violin, viola), Mike Pingitore (banjo), Gilbert Torres (guitar), Al Armer (bass), George Marsh (drums) — Arranged by Matt Malneck; recorded in New York, 29 April 1927
Mississippi Mud (Harry Barris) / I Left My Sugar Standing In The Rain (m. Sammy Fain, w. Irving Kahal) medley — recorded on 20 June 1927; issued on Victor 20783, as the B-side of “Sweet L’il” / “Ain’t She Sweet”
What Price Lyrics? (Harry Barris / Matt Malneck / Bing Crosby)
It Won’t Be Long Now (m. Ray Henderson, w: B. G. DeSylva and Lew Brown) from the Broadway show Manhattan Mary (1927) – see IBDb
Miss Annabelle Lee (Who’s Wonderful? Who’s Marvelous?) – (Sidney Clare, Lew Pollack, Harry Richman)
Changes (Walter Donaldson) – recorded on 23 Nov 1927
From Monday On (Harry Barris, Bing Crosby)
The Bing Crosby discography at jazzdiscography.com gives the following information:
Recorded 13 February 1928 at Liederkranz Hall , New York, NY — Bing Crosby (voc, vbk), Paul Whiteman Orchestra (orc), Jack Fulton, Charles Gaylord, Austin Young (vbk), Bix Beiderbecke (cn), Steve Brown (sb), arr: Matty Malneck.
Sunshine (Irving Berlin) – recorded 13 February 1928
Wa-Da-Da (Ev’rybody’s Doin’ It Now) – (Harry Barris, James Cavanaugh) — recorded on 17 June 1928
Mississippi Mud (Harry Barris) — recorded on 18 February 1928; issued on Victor 25366, c/w “Lonely Melody”
My Suppressed Desire (Ned Miller, Chester Cohn) ) — recorded on 10 Nov 1928
Ogg Vorbis (1.5 MB) audio file, from the Internet Archive:
Out-O’-Town Gal (Walter Donaldson)
That’s My Weakness Now (Bud Green, Sam H. Stept)
The provider of the first video identifies the recording as follows:
Paul Whiteman and his Orchestra, featuring They Rhythm Boys (Bing Crosby, Al Rinker, and Harry Barris) with sax solos by Frank Trumbauer, cornet breaks by Bix Beiderbecke, and a hot clarinet solo by Izzy Friedman.
Great Day (m. Vincent Youmans w. Billy Rose & Edward Eliscu) originally published as Great Day!, This is the title song of a 1929 Broadway musical composed by Vincent Youmans, with lyrics Billy Rose & Edward Eliscu.
Louise (Leo Robin, Richard Whiting) from the film Innocents of Paris in which it was sung by Maurice Chevalier
King of Jazz (1930). The Rhythm Boys performed the following songs in the film: Mississippi Mud, So the Bluebirds and the Blackbirds Got Together, I’m a Fisherman, A Bench in the Park, and Happy Feet.
So the Bluebirds and the Blackbirds Got Together (Harry Barris, Billy Moll) includes the end of “Mississippi Mud,” and brief dialogue as an intro
Happy Feet (Milton Ager, Jack Yellen) – a production number in three parts
- 1 — Introduced by the Rhythm Boys then taken over by Sisters G, Eleanor and Karla Gutchrlein.
- 2 — Al “Rubber Legs” Norman and chorus line
- 3 — Paul Whiteman
A Bench in the Park (m. Milton Alger, w. Jack Yellen) — Sung by Glenn Tryon and Laura LaPlante [IMDb credits the wrong singers here], the Brox Sisters and Bing Crosby, Harry Barris, and Al Rinker / Dance sections [IMDB credits only The Russell Markert Girls; but there are couples dancing, male and female]; music by Paul Whiteman and his Orchestra throughout
Paul Whiteman’s Rhythm Boys — B-side of the 78 rpm single Columbia 2223-D; the A-side is “Girl Trouble,” recorded by Eddie Walters, a “talkie hit” from the MGM film Children Of Pleasure
Three Little Words (m. Harry Ruby, w. Bert Kalmar) – with Duke Ellington & his Orchestra, recorded 26 Aug 1930 (26/08/30)
Musicians: Duke Ellington, p, a, dir:Arthur Whetsel, Freddy Jenkins, t / Cootie Williams, t / Joe Nanton, tb / Juan Tizol, vtb / Johnny Hodges, cl, ss, as / Harry Carney, cl, as, bar / Barney Bigard, cl, ts / Fred Guy, bj / Wellman Braud, sb / Sonny Greer, d / The Rhythm Boys (Bing Crosby, Al Rinker, Harry Barris), v trio. Hollywood, August 26, 1930.
Everything’s Agreed Upon (authorship: ?) – redhotjazz.com reports only a recording of the song from a radio performance, on the Walter O’Keefe Show in May 1930.
From the film Confessions of a Co-ed (1931). The Rhythm Boys play a band performing at a fraternity dance near the beginning of the film. In between dialogue they are seen and heard performing two songs: Out of Nowhere (John Green, Edward Heyman) and Ya Got Love (Al Goodhart, Ed Nelson, Al Hoffman)