Bob Crosby: Bing’s Big Little Brother

When one learns Bing Crosby’s younger brother was in show business, one is prepared to encounter one of those hanger-on relatives, who are given make-work assignments and are carried along by their more famous relalation. But Bob Crosby (1913-1993) enjoyed a substantial and respectable career on his own and apparently with a minimum of help from Der Bingle after an initial push.

Bob started out as a replacement for Bing in the popular Rhythm Boys trio in the early ’30s. Next he sang with the Dorsey Brothers (1934-35), and afterwards began to lead his own band. In the mid ’30s he performed with the Clark Randall Orchestra alongside young Glenn Miller, and Frank Tennille, father of The Captain and Tennille’s Toni Tennille. In 1935 he formed his Dixieland Octet the Bob-Cats, which was a popular act for years.

Crosby appeared in over 30 motion pictures beginning 1934. In most of them he is usually playing a version of himself, a bandleader, as was common at the time. But in a few he actually played roles. He co-starred with Judy Canova and Charles Butterworth in Sis Hopkins (1941). He was also in Rookies on Parade (1941) with Gertrude Niesen, Kansas City Kitty (1944) with Joan Davis and Jane Frazee, The Singing Sheriff (1944) with Fay McKenzie and Fuzzy Knight, My Gal Loves Music (1944), and Meet Miss Bobby Socks (1944). 

Crosby’s biggest success probably came on radio, where he hosted The Bob Crosby Show (1943-1950), and Club Fifteen (1947-1953), the latter featuring regular appearances by the Andrews Sisters. This was followed by another The Bob Crosby Show, which aired during the day on both radio and television from 1953 to 1957. From 1952 through 1957 he was the bandleader on The Jack Benny Show, replacing Phil Harris. He also frequently appeared on television variety and talk shows, such as those of Merv Griffin and Mike Douglas, frequently into the early 1970s. His last appearance was on a special called Juke Box Saturday Night, with Betty Hutton and Eddie Albert, in 1983.

To learn more about show biz history,  please see No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous,