Stars of Vaudeville #151: Bing Crosby
Der Bingle (1903-1977) wasn’t a star of vaudeville per se — his rise was far too meteoric, and too late in the game, for that. But he did spend a few years there.
He started out in Spokane as a drummer for a band formed by his pal Al Rinker in 1920. Gradually, Bing’s vocal skills came to the fore, and in 1925 he and Rinker moved to Los Angeles to properly break into show business. While touring the west coast vaudeville wheel, they were discovered by Paul Whiteman in 1926, who teamed them up with Harry Barris (Chuck Barris’s uncle), calling them the Rhythm Boys. In short order Crosby became the obvious star of both the Rhythm Boys and of Whiteman’s band.
By the early 30s, Crosby was divested of both them, and a solo star of radio, record albums and films (including the famous series of comedies he made as a team with Bob Hope). While his early style was patterned on such old school singers as Al Jolson, and Joe Schenck of Van and Schenck, he was to become the principle pioneer of the intimate new, microphone-based style of singing known as crooning, ushering in the modern age. His 50 year career bridged the eras of Rudy Vallee and David Bowie. Today is Bing Crosby’s birthday.
To find out more about these variety artists and the history of vaudeville, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.