Baritone Bob Carroll had a long and successful career as a singer and an actor. During the big band era, his voice was an integral part of both Charlie Barnet’s pre-war band and Jimmy Dorsey’s post-war orchestra. In between, Carroll spent time in the service. In the 1950s, he found success as a solo artist and ventured into television and onto the stage.
In 1939, Carroll sang on the Swing for Chiclets radio program, and in March 1940 he was with George Hall’s band. He joined Barnet in September of that year, replacing Larry Taylor. Barnet’s band at the time was at its peak of popularity, with Carroll singing alongside Mary Ann McCall and the Quintones vocal group before leaving in late 1941 for NBC radio. In summer 1942, he was featured on Meredith Willson’s program, a replacement for Fibber McGee and Molly during the seasonal hiatus. He also recorded with Gordon Jenkins and David Rose in July, before the American Federation of Musician’s recording ban took effect, and made a soundie, “Tenement Symphony,” for RCM.
When the Willson show ended in September 1942, Carroll found himself going into the Army Air Force. He was first stationed at Gardner Field in California. In late December, he was quickly loaned to Harry James when the trumpet player’s band was delayed en route to Hollywood and not able to make their regular Chesterfield radio show. Carroll filled in for singer Johnny McAfee. In mid-1943, Carroll sang with Glenn Miller’s AAF band, being heard on their weekly recruitment broadcasts while they were stationed in New Haven, Connecticut. In 1944, when Miller and his orchestra left for overseas, Carroll sang with the 60-piece military band from Fort Worth, Texas, led by Harry Bluestone, that took over their spot on the I Sustain the Wings radio program.
Upon his discharge in April 1946, Carroll joined Jimmy Dorsey’s outfit, replacing Buddy Hughes. The signing was of mutual benefit for the two performers. Carroll needed a name outlet to re-establish himself, and Dorsey, whose was struggling at that time, needed a strong vocalist. Carroll remained with the orchestra, recording often, until late 1947 when he left to go solo, signing with Decca in December. He made the nightclub circuit and performed on radio throughout the rest of the 1940s, working with Walter Gross and his quartet during early 1948.
In early 1949, Carroll recorded on the Taylee label, backed by organ soloist Joanne Lee, and in mid-1949 he sang for Kay Kyser, recording several numbers with the Ol’ Professor. He recorded with Gordon Jenkins again in 1951 and then with Tutti Camarata. In 1952, he released solo material on the Comet label, switching to Derby by year’s end. 1953 proved to be his banner year as a recording artist when one of his Derby numbers, “Say It With Your Heart,” became a popular hit and his most successful song. He recorded on Camden in 1955 and the Bally label in 1956.
Carroll began to work in television during the late 1940s, appearing on multiple programs in dramatic roles into the 1960s. In 1950, he provided uncredited vocals for the film The Prowler and dubbed for Huntz Hall in Monogram’s The Bowery Thrush. In 1951, he had his own weekly musical show on NBC, and in early 1954 he became a regular on Fred Allen’s NBC television program. In early 1955, WABC tapped him as male vocalist for their new daytime show. Carroll also appeared in several stage productions, most famously as Tevye in the touring company for Fiddler on the Roof during the early 1970s.
Carroll continued singing as well as acting up into the 1980s, recording for a variety of minor labels and making the nightclub circuit. He also sang with several pops orchestras.
Bob Carroll passed away, age 76, in 1994 after a long illness.
Starring Van Heflin and Evelyn Keyes, The Prowler, released in 1951, was a crime and passion story about a cop having an affair with a lonely woman whose husband is an all-night disc jockey. The music played by the husband while on the air was actually produced by an all-star band, which besides Carroll featured Randy Brooks and Benny Carter. ↩︎