Bob Crosby

Photo of Bob Crosby
  • Birth Name

    George Robert Crosby
  • Born

    August 23, 1913
    Spokane, Washington
  • Died

    March 9, 1993 (age 79)
    La Jolla, Califoria

Bob Crosby is prob­a­bly best re­mem­bered for the Dixieland band that bore his name dur­ing the 1930s and early 1940s. The Bob Crosby Orchestra, along with its combo side group, the Bob Cats, is con­sid­ered one of the great­est jazz bands of all time. The or­ches­tra was ac­tu­ally led by sax player Gil Rodin how­ever. Crosby him­self was sim­ply the front man, cho­sen for his per­son­al­ity, looks, and fa­mous last name.

The younger brother of Bing Crosby, Bob got his first break in show busi­ness when band­leader Anson Weeks of­fered him a singing job in 1931. He was work­ing for the Dorsey Brothers in 1935 when asked by Rodin to front his new out­fit, which had been formed the pre­vi­ous year by a group of dis­grun­tled Ben Pollack band­mem­bers. Rodin’s band had played briefly be­hind Red Nichols on the Kellogg College Prom ra­dio se­ries and recorded a few sides un­der the name of singer Clark Randall. When Benny Goodman made it big the group de­cided to strike out on its own. They first of­fered Jack Teagarden the job as leader. Teagarden de­clined due to his con­trac­tual agree­ment with Paul Whiteman, and agent Cork O’Keefe of­fered three choices to Rodin: Fred Waring singer Johnnie Davis, Whiteman trum­peter Goldie, and Crosby. Rodin, who had met Crosby and liked him, of­fered Bob the po­si­tion.

Crosby turned out to be the per­fect front man. A friendly fel­low who had a way with the crowd, he re­spected and ad­mired all the mu­si­cians and made no ef­fort to ex­ert his in­flu­ence on them, let­ting Rodin qui­etly run things be­hind the scenes. In re­turn, the band made his name a house­hold word, and it be­came one of the most re­spected of all time.

The group’s mu­sic was not ap­pre­ci­ated by all, how­ever. The two-beat Dixieland style they ag­gres­sively played was con­sid­ered old-fash­ioned by many of the young hip­sters who flocked around Goodman, but those worldly enough to ap­pre­ci­ate them rec­og­nized the im­mense tal­ent the band pos­sessed and the fan­tas­tic mu­sic it pro­duced. The band’s rhythm sec­tion was led by drum­mer Ray Bauduc and bassist Bob Haggart. The duo wrote many fine num­bers, in­clud­ing the now clas­sic South Rampart Street Parade” and the im­mor­tal Big Noise from Winnetka.” In its early days, the band fea­tured such mu­si­cians as Charlie Spivak and Billy Butterfield.

The band con­tin­ued to be crit­i­cally suc­cess­ful un­til 1938, when Tommy Dorsey raided it, tak­ing Spivak, pi­anist Yank Lawson and arranger Dean Kincaide. The loss of such in­te­gral mem­bers had an im­me­di­ate ef­fect on the group, which be­gan to play less and less Dixieland and more com­mer­cial arrange­ments. In 1939, they be­came the fea­tured or­ches­tra on the Camel Caravan ra­dio pro­gram. Female vo­cal­sts in­cluded Dorothy Claire, Kay Weber, Teddy Grace, and Marion Mann. Helen Ward and Johnny Mercer were also part of the pro­gram.

By 1940, the or­ches­tra had aban­doned Dixieland al­to­gether, hir­ing such arrangers as Paul Weston, Ray Conniff, Henry Mancini and Nelson Riddle, and fea­tur­ing, briefly, Doris Day as vo­cal­ist as well as a non­de­script vo­cal group called the Bob-O-Links, which in­cluded fu­ture Glenn Miller mil­i­tary vo­cal­ist Johnny Desmond. Liz Tilton was vo­cal­ist in 1941.

Starting in 1941, the band be­gan to re­turn to its Dixieland roots. By late 1943, though, many of the group’s key mem­bers, in­clud­ing Rodin and Bauduc, had fallen vic­tim to the draft. Kay Starr was vo­cal­ist dur­ing this time. Crosby was of­fered a movie con­tract in early 1944 and, see­ing the end near, ac­cepted it, leav­ing Eddie Miller in charge of the band, which folded soon af­ter when Miller was drafted. Crosby him­self did­n’t es­cape the draft, re­ceiv­ing a com­mis­sion from the Marines. He spent his tour lead­ing bands in the Pacific.

After his dis­charge, Crosby con­tin­ued with his movie ca­reer and formed a new or­ches­tra. The later group, which fo­cused on bal­lads, found suc­cess on ra­dio and tele­vi­sion. From 1953 to 1957, Crosby starred in his own day­time tele­vi­sion pro­gram on CBS, The Bob Crosby Show, with the Modernaires and Paula Kelly as part of the cast. Crosby, who wanted the show to be aired in the evening, took it to NBC in 1958, where it pre­miered as a sum­mer re­place­ment se­ries. By this time, how­ever, rock and roll was all the rage and poor rat­ings doomed the pro­gram. After it was can­celled, Crosby be­gan to con­cen­trate more on his solo ca­reer. Over the years he oc­ca­sion­ally re­united the Bob Cats and in the early 1970s toured the coun­try with a pack­age or­ches­tra. Bob Crosby died in 1993 af­ter a bat­tle with can­cer.

Music

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  • South Rampart Street Parade
    Bob Crosby, Decca (1937)
  • Big Noise from Winnetka
    Bob Haggart and Ray Bauduc, Decca (1938)
  • Day In, Day Out
    Bob Crosby (Helen Ward), Decca (1939)
  • Big Noise from Winnetka
    Bob Crosby (Bob Crosby, The Bob-o-links), Decca (1940)
  • A Gay Ranchero (Las Alenitas)
    Bob Crosby (Liz Tilton), Decca (1941)
  • A Week-End in Havana
    Bob Crosby (Liz Tilton), Decca (1941)
  • Something New (Negra Soy)
    Bob Crosby (Liz Tilton, Bob Crosby), Decca (1941)
  • Will You Still Be Mine?
    Bob Crosby (Liz Tilton), Decca (1941)

All recordings are from the Internet Archive's 78rpm collection. Copyright owners, please see our removal policy.

Films

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  • Screenshot
    "Chattanooga Choo Choo"
    Glenn Miller (Tex Beneke, Paula Kelly, Modernaires)
    from Sun Valley Serenade, 20th Century Fox (1941)
  • Screenshot
    "People Like You and Me"
    Glenn Miller (Ray Eberle, Marion Hutton, Modernaires, Tex Beneke)
    from Orchestra Wives, 20th Century Fox (1942)

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Copyright owners, please see our removal policy.