The Rhythm Boys

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(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).

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I’ve Got the Girl (Walter Donaldson) – Don Clark and His Hotel Biltmore Orchestra, with vocals by Bing Crosby and Al Rinker

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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.

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(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.

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1927

Side By Side (Harry M. Woods, Gus Kahn)

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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

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Sweet L’il (Harry Barris) / Ain’t She Sweet (m. Milton Alger, w. Jack Yellen) medley — recorded on 20 June 1927; issued on Victor 20783, b/w “Mississippi Mud” / “I Left My Sugar Standing in the Rain”

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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”

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What Price Lyrics? (Harry Barris / Matt Malneck / Bing Crosby)

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The Five Step (m. Ray Henderson, w: B. G. DeSylva and Lew Brown) from the Broadway show Manhattan Mary (1927) – see IBDb and nfo.net for more information

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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

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Miss Annabelle Lee (Who’s Wonderful? Who’s Marvelous?) – (Sidney Clare, Lew Pollack, Harry Richman)

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Changes (Walter Donaldson) – recorded on  23 Nov 1927

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1928

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.

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Sunshine (Irving Berlin) – recorded 13 February 1928

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Wa-Da-Da (Ev’rybody’s Doin’ It Now) – (Harry Barris, James Cavanaugh) — recorded on 17 June 1928

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Mississippi Mud (Harry Barris) — recorded on 18 February 1928; issued on Victor 25366, c/w “Lonely Melody”

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My Suppressed Desire (Ned Miller, Chester Cohn) ) — recorded on 10 Nov 1928

Ogg Vorbis (1.5 MB) audio file, from the Internet Archive:

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Out-O’-Town Gal (Walter Donaldson)

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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.

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1929

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.

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Louise (Leo Robin, Richard Whiting) from the film Innocents of Paris in which it was sung by Maurice Chevalier

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King of Jazz-30-poster-2a

1930

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.

King of Jazz (1930) Rhthym Boys-Bluebirds number-1

So the Bluebirds and the Blackbirds Got Together (Harry Barris, Billy Moll) includes the end of “Mississippi Mud,” and brief dialogue as an intro

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King of Jazz (1930) Sisters G (Gutchrlein)-1Gutchrlein Sisters-3-g30h20

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

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King of Jazz (1930) Bench in the Park number-Rhythm Boys-Brox Sisters-1aa

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

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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

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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.

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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.

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1931

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)

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10 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Bill Stimson
    Jan 18, 2010 @ 12:20:50

    This is a wonderful collection. Congratulations for such good work.

    I think there might be a small error in the bio. Bing and Al Rinker were never classmates. Bing Went to Gonzaga High and Al to North Central High. Al never went to Gonzaga University.

    Thanks again for such a great collection.

    Bill Stimson
    Spokane, WA

    Reply

    • doc
      Jan 20, 2010 @ 01:52:01

      Thanks Bill, I greatly appreciate your kind comments as well as your help. One of the weaknesses of my site is that I’ve borrowed a lot of text(planning to replace a lot of it in time). Most of the time I read through any text prior to posting, or I at least catch the obvious errors fairly soon afterward, as I like to review my work.

      I’m not sure where you see the error though, unless it’s an error of omission. The bio I chose skips their high school years and only mention that they worked together while in college, not even mentioning Gonzaga in fact. It does seem to imply that they were going to the same college I suppose. I’ll try to clarify that a bit.

      As I say this bio certainly doesn’t provide many details about their early years. But I plan to do a page, probably more than one on Bing’s solo career. There I will include a bio which might at the same time provide more details about Al Rinker and his sister Mildred Bailey. At this time though I haven’t found a good bio on Al Rinker. Might find some info in his sister’s bios. Here is an interesting article which you might enjoy. I had linked it, but you might not have found it. It’s kind of hidden in my sidebar links.

      Bing Crosby and Mildred Bailey: Spokane Jazz Royalty
      (I’ve abridged the original title which included their birth and death dates).

      Cheers, Doc

      Reply

    • Julia Rinker-Miller
      Jul 17, 2013 @ 14:23:43

      Hi There Bill –
      I’ve been organizing my files regarding, both, my father’s (Al Rinker) and aunt’s (Mildred Rinker Bailey) miscellaneous information in articles and publications everywhere – that now includes this “Rhythm Boy” site – and ran across the exchange regarding my dad attending North Central High – and not Gonzaga High with Bing.

      The truth is, my dad did get sent away to Gonzaga (he always referred to it as a boarding school (with my assuming it was the prep school; certainly not the college) with his brother Miles, where they resided and attended school for what could have been an entire school year. My grandmother had died when Dad was eight, with my grandfather remarrying their housekeeper who didn’t want the boys or Mildred living at home. This was an extremely painful episode in my father’s life, one that he talked about excessively throughout the whole of my childhood, with my grand dad eventually coming around to support his sons (Mildred left home at 17 to escape the new family dynamic) by ‘calling them home’ and divorcing the stepmom.

      Bing was about 6 years older than my father (around the same age as my Aunt Millie, who was, according to all my official ‘hard-copy’ family documents, most likely born in 1899 or 1900 … not in 1907, the year my father was born.) One bit of correct data, however, is that my father never attended college (as opposed to his older brother Miles who graduated from Northwestern University) … because he left Spokane with Bing right after high school which, at that point, was most decidedly – North Central.

      My Warmest Regards –

      Julia Rinker-Miller

      Reply

      • doc
        Jul 17, 2013 @ 22:24:39

        Julia,

        Thanks for kindly taking the trouble to set us straight on these matters, and for adding some rare details. It is my understanding that Gonzaga Preparatory School and Gonzaga High School refer, possibly at different stages of its development, to the same entity. The Wikipedia article on “G-Prep” indicates that it was founded as Gonzaga High School in 1887 in the basement of the Gonzaga University administrative building. However, I haven’t discovered whether the names were ever used interchangeably at the same time, or if and when one name superseded the other.

        If I’m correct that Gonzaga Prep and Gonzaga High School refer to the same school, then your explication suggests that while your father, Al Rinker, attended for a period the same secondary school that Bing Crosby attended and graduated from, due to several years difference in age they may not have attended the school at the same time. According to biography.com and Wikipedia, Crosby was 4 years and 7 1/2 months older than your father. However, school years can be skipped or repeated. So it is possible that Crosby’s senior year overlapped with your father’s freshman year at Gonzaga High (Prep), though it is not clear that he did spend his freshman year at Gonzaga. If you don’t mind my asking, during what year or years did your father attend Gonzaga?

        With warm wishes,
        Doc

        Al Rinker-3

        Reply

  2. William F. Torpey
    Jan 18, 2010 @ 19:18:39

    Fantastic videos.

    Reply

  3. Bill Stimson
    Jan 22, 2010 @ 07:21:56

    I just looked back and I see the line I mentioned was in a Red Hot Jazz profile. It says “the two dropped out of college”” — but I didn’t think Al Rinker ever went to college. It is too minor a point to worry about. I’m glad to hear you are going to add more info about Mildred Baily. I don’t know much about her.

    Bill Stimson

    Reply

  4. Patti
    Apr 13, 2010 @ 14:35:05

    Hi
    Great fun! Nostalgic and a reminder of the great talent and music available to us all those years ago. Thanks

    Reply

  5. Ruth Bothne
    Jun 06, 2014 @ 15:47:48

    I’m traveling through Washington in July and was looking for your schedule. I understand you play in Spokane area

    Reply

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