In the Studio with Bing Crosby: The Voice of an Era

In the Studio with Bing Crosby: The Voice of an Era

Sandra Pandora | 
Pandora Writer | 
Watch instead of reading. (Watch the video version of this content on YouTube.)  

Bing Crosby was an American singer, actor, television producer, radio personality, and entrepreneur. He is widely regarded as one of the most popular and influential musical artists of the 20th century worldwide. Crosby was known for his smooth vocals, and he played a significant role in the development of the traditional pop music style.

Bing Crosby

Bing Crosby, a crooner with an unmistakable voice, was born Harry Lillis Crosby on May 3, 1903, in Tacoma, Washington. He was the fourth of seven children to Catherine Harrigan and Harry Lincoln Crosby, a brewery bookkeeper. He acquired the nickname "Bing" inspired by a character named "Bingo" from the comic strip "Bingville Bugle."

Although he pursued law studies at Gonzaga University in Spokane, Crosby's true passion lay in drumming and singing with a local band. During the early 1930s, Crosby's brother Everett sent a recording of him singing "I Surrender, Dear" to the president of CBS. This led to 20 consecutive weeks of Crosby's live performances from New York being broadcast over the national radio network. Paramount Pictures took notice of his radio success and cast him in "The Big Broadcast" in 1932, a film featuring radio favorites.

Thanks to his engaging radio presence, Crosby had become a household name. His laid-back style transitioned seamlessly into the "Road" comedies he made with his friend Bob Hope.

Bing Crosby

He starred in a series of iconic films. Notable among these was the timeless classic "Holiday Inn," featuring the perennial favorite "White Christmas." His role in "Going My Way" not only earned him the admiration of audiences but also clinched the Academy Award for Best Actor. When he portrayed a washed up, alcoholic singer/actor opposite Grace Kelly in "The Country Girl" he received an Oscar nomination.

Crosby revolutionized the art of crooning. His rendition of "White Christmas" remains the best-selling single of all time, confirming the timeless appeal of his voice. With countless chart-topping hits, including "Swinging on a Star" and "Pennies from Heaven," he dominated the airwaves and set the standard for vocal excellence.

Bing Crosby

Beyond his music and acting, he hosted a popular radio show, "The Kraft Music Hall," for over a decade, showcasing his versatility.

Crosby's impact on the music industry is not limited to his vocal prowess alone. With the help of John T. Mullin, he played a significant role in the development of audio recording technology. He was an early adopter of magnetic tape recording, which allowed for better sound quality and editing capabilities compared to earlier technologies.

Crosby advocated for the introduction of this recording technology in his radio shows, a move that didn't sit well with CBS. The reluctance at CBS stemmed from a prevailing belief that recorded material lacked the quality of live broadcasts. 

Motivated by the desire for flexibility and freedom, Crosby sought to develop recordings that would liberate both himself and fellow artists from the constraints of being in a specific location at a designated time. This innovation also offered opportunities for artists to experiment and perfect their craft in the studio.

Bing Crosby

Crosby was also a philanthropist with a deep commitment to various charitable causes. His contributions to organizations such as the American Red Cross and the United Service Organization (USO) during World War II underscored his dedication to making a positive impact in the world.

Crosby’s influence extends far beyond his time. From his early days in radio to his iconic film roles and groundbreaking contributions to recording technology, Bing Crosby's journey is one of unwavering excellence. Crosby will always be remembered as one of the greatest entertainers of all time. The next time you hear "White Christmas" playing during the holiday season, take a moment to appreciate the legacy of Bing Crosby.

Tragically, he passed away at the age of 74 while playing golf at a course outside Madrid, Spain. His death occurred after completing a successful tour of England.


Did you know?

During his youth, he spent a lot of his time partying and drinking. Following a minor car accident, he spent two months in jail (only on weekends) for driving under the influence.

Bing Crosby

Some said he was self-conscious about his height, leading him to use lifts in his shoes. Although Bing consistently claimed to be 5'9", an office secretary said she realized they were the same height of 5'7".

Bing Crosby's recording of "White Christmas" is one of the best-selling singles of all time. It has sold over 50 million copies worldwide, making it the best-selling Christmas single in history.

He was the first multimedia entertainer of the 20th century, achieving stardom on radio, in films, and through chart-topping recordings. With an impressive 38 No. 1 singles, he surpassed even Elvis Presley and The Beatles in this regard.

Crosby was an avid and skilled golfer. He not only played the sport regularly but also hosted the Bing Crosby Pro-Am golf tournament, which later became the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, an event still held annually.

Bing Crosby

The initial choice of the renowned detective "Columbo" was Bing Crosby. However, he declined the role, citing concerns that it would disrupt his golfing pursuits.

Many contemporary musicians cite Bing Crosby as an influence, including Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley. His relaxed, smooth vocal style and innovative use of the microphone helped shape the course of popular music.

In the late 1950s, Crosby, alongside Frank Sinatra, co-founded United Western Recording Studios in Hollywood. This establishment was Hollywood's most advanced recording space at the time. The Los Angeles-based studio boasted impeccable acoustics that continue to be utilized today.

Crosby played a key role in the construction of the Del Mar racetrack in Del Mar, California, which opened its gates in 1937. On the inaugural day, he personally collected tickets from attendees.

Bing Crosby

He had four sons with singer Dixie Lee: Gary, Phillip, Dennis and Lindsay.

He had two sons and one daughter with actress Kathryn Grant: Harry, Nathaniel, and Mary.

Together with his second wife and younger children, he appeared in television commercials endorsing Minute Maid orange juice, a venture fueled by his substantial ownership of stock in the company.

For “Dallas” fans, the character who shot J.R. Ewing was Kristen Shepard, portrayed by actress Mary Crosby, Bing Crosby's daughter. 

Larry Hovis prevented a kidnapping attempt on one of Bing's children outside the El Capitan/Hollywood Palace Theater on the day the 1965 Christmas show was recorded.

His voice holds the record for the highest number of electronic recordings in history.

He received three Stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in Hollywood, California: one for Motion Pictures at 1611 Vine Street, another for Radio at 6769 Hollywood Boulevard, and the third for Recording at 6751 Hollywood Boulevard.

Bing Crosby

In his will, he included a provision stipulating that his sons were not entitled to access their inheritance funds until reaching the age of 65. Despite this clause, their financial needs were already well provided for through a trust fund. All four sons continued to receive financial support from this fund until their respective deaths.

The actor's eldest son (from his first marriage to Dixie Lee), Gary, authored the book "Going My Own Way" in 1983, where he openly expressed criticism towards his father for alleged violent and abusive behavior. The publication drew comparisons to "Mommie Dearest," Christina Crawford's tell-all about her adopted mother, Joan Crawford. Son Phillip contested Gary's portrayal of their father and strongly condemned his older brother's book. In later years, Gary admitted to exaggerating the severity of certain incidents.

On the day of his passing, he completed a full round of 18 holes of golf, achieving a commendable score of 85 and securing victory in the match. Exiting the 18th green at the La Moraleja Golf Club in a suburb of Madrid, Spain, he experienced a massive heart attack. Initial reports stated his last words as, "That was a great game of golf, fellas." However, according to biographer Gary Giddens, Crosby's final words were, "Let's go get a Coke."

Bing Crosby

His final television appearance occurred in "Bing Crosby's Merrie Olde Christmas" in 1977, recorded in London. The broadcast took place in the USA on November 30, 1977, after his passing, and in the United Kingdom on December 24, 1977. This show featured a memorable duet between Crosby and David Bowie.

On December 8, 2006, the Met Theater in downtown Spokane, Washington, where he spent his youth and performed with the Musicaladers in 1925, underwent a renaming and became the Bing Crosby Theater. Originally constructed in 1915, the venue holds historical significance in his early career.

Upon his passing in 1977, he held the title of the highest-selling recording artist of all time.

He was interred at Holy Cross Cemetery, Culver City, California,

“I'll keep singing 'till I die.”  Bing Crosby

Bing Crosby
Back to blog