George Robert "Bob" Crosby (August 23, 1913 – March 9, 1993) was an American Swing music singer and Dixieland bandleader and vocalist, best known for his group the Bob-Cats.
The seven Crosby children are: elder boys, Larry (1895–1975), Everett (1896–1966), Ted (1900–1973), Harry, (1903–1977, popularly known as Bing Crosby), two girls, Catherine (1905–1988) and Mary Rose (1907–1990) and Bob. His parents were English-American bookkeeper Harry Lowe Crosby (1871–1950) and Irish-American Catherine Harrigan (1873–1964), (affectionately known as Kate), the daughter of a builder from County Mayo in Ireland.
Singer and bandleader
Bob Crosby began singing in the early 1930s with the Delta Rhythm Boys which included vocalist Ray Hendricks and guitarist Bill Pollard also with Anson Weeks (1931–34) and the Dorsey Brothers (1934–35). He led his first band in 1935, when the former members of Ben Pollack's band elected him as titular leader. He recorded with the Clark Randall Orchestra in 1935, led by Gil Rodin and featuring singer Frank Tennille, whose pseudonym was Clark Randall. Glenn Miller was a member of that orchestra which recorded the Glenn Miller novelty composition "When Icky Morgan Plays the Organ" in 1935. Crosby's "band-within-the-band", the Bob-Cats, was an authentic New Orleans Dixieland stylejazz octet featuring soloists drawn from the larger orchestra, many of whom were from New Orleans or were heavily influenced by the music of the Crescent City. In the mid-1930s, with the rise of "swing" music and the popularity of the swing bands ever increasing, the Crosby band managed to authentically combine the fundamental elements of the older jazz style with the then-rising-in-popularity swing style into a sound and big-band style all its own. The resulting music they produced as a big band was a sound and style which few other, if any, big-bands and bandleaders even attempted to emulate. By unapologetically ignoring most of the pop-tunes that were the de facto repertoire of most of the swing bands of the mid- to late- 1930's, and stubbornly sticking to playing many older jazz standards with zeal and in the spirit of their tradition, -all brilliantly translated into a big-band context- the band and especially the Bob-Cats presaged the traditional jazz revival of the 1940s. Most of the band's arrangements were written by bassist Bob Haggart and clarinetist/saxophonist Matty Matlock; other original material also primarily came from band members Joe Sullivan, Bob Zurke, and Eddie Miller in addition to Matlock and Haggart. Crosby's singing voice was remarkably similar to that of his brother Bing, but without its range.
In addition to the above mentioned band members, the Bob Crosby Orchestra and the Bob-Cats also included (at various times) Yank Lawson, Billy Butterfield, Charlie Spivak,Muggsy Spanier, Irving Fazola, Nappy Lamare, Ward Silloway, Warren Smith, Joe Sullivan, Bob Zurke, Jess Stacy, Bob Haggart, Walt Yoder, Jack Sperling and Ray Bauduc and many others who came and went. A much-later press account from 1943 mentions a young trumpeter by the name of Gilbert Portmore who occasionally played with the band.
The orchestra was one of the few bands of its time established as a co-operative corporation of its members, and was managed / presided over by saxophonist Gil Rodin. The band was initially formed out of the ruins of the Ben Pollack Orchestra whose members quit en masse, and needing a vocalist, Crosby was chosen simply for his personality, looks and famous surname. He was made the front man of the band and his name became the band's public identity.
For its theme song, the band chose George Gershwin's song "Summertime", and other hit records in addition to their theme included "South Rampart Street Parade" (its biggest hit), "March of the Bob Cats", "In a Little Gypsy Tea Room", "Whispers in The Dark", "Day In, Day Out", "Down Argentine Way", "You Must Have Been a Beautiful Baby", "Dolores" and "New San Antonio Rose" (last three with Bing Crosby). A novelty bass and drums duet between Haggart and Bauduc, "Big Noise from Winnetka," became a hit in 1938-39.
The enduring popularity of the Bob Cats led by Bob Crosby, whose biography was written by British jazz historian John Chilton, was evident during the frequent reunions in the 1950s and 1960s. Bob Haggart and Yank Lawson organized a band that kept the spirit alive, combining Dixieland and swing with a roster of top soloists. From the late 1960s until the mid-1970s, the group was known as the World's Greatest Jazzband. Since neither leader was happy with that name, they eventually reverted to the Lawson Haggart Jazzband. The Lawson-Haggart group was consistent in keeping the Bob Crosby tradition alive.
Three of his songs ("Way Back Home" (1949), "Happy Times" and "Dear Hearts and Gentle People") were featured in two hit video games, Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas, published by Bethesda Softworks. Most of the popularity of all of these songs were achieved by the use of them in the game trailers, in which they used his lighthearted music to contrast with the combat taking place in the video.
Bob Crosby has two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, for Television and Recording.
During World War II, Bob Crosby spent 18 months in the Marines, touring with bands in the Pacific. His radio variety series, The Bob Crosby Show, aired on NBC and CBS in different runs between the years 1943 to 1950. This was followed by Club Fifteen on CBS from 1947 through 1953, minus a brief interlude when he was replaced as host by singer Dick Haymes during parts of 1949 and 1950. During his stint on "Club Fifteen," he was teamed with the ever-popular Andrews Sisters three nights per week, singing with them and engaging in comedy skits. He first met the trio in 1938 when his orchestra backed their Decca recording of "Begin the Beguine," their popular vocalization of Artie Shaw's big band hit. One can't help when hearing these old "Club Fifteen" broadcasts how eerily similar Bob & The Andrews Sisters sound to the trio's very frequent and hugely successful pairings with brother Bing Crosby on the Decca label. Bob and Patty even scored a hit duet on Decca Records with their duet recording of the novelty "The Pussy Cat Song (Nyow! Nyot Nyow!)" which peaked at No. 12 on Billboard. A half-hour CBS daytime series, The Bob Crosby Show followed from 1953–1957. He introduced the Canadian singer Gisele MacKenzie to American audiences and subsequently guest starred in 1957 on her NBC television series, The Gisele MacKenzie Show.
On September 14, 1952, Bob replaced Phil Harris as the bandleader on The Jack Benny Program, remaining until Benny retired the radio show in 1955 after 23 years. In joining the show, he became the leader of the same group of musicians who had played under Harris. According to Benny writer Milt Josefsberg, the issue was budget. Because radio had strong competition from TV, the program budget had to be reduced, so Bob replaced Phil. Prior to joining Benny on the radio, Crosby, who was based on the East Coast, would often play with Benny during Benny's live New York appearances, and he was seen frequently throughout the 1950s on Benny's television series.
As a performer, Crosby had tremendous charisma and wit combined with a laid back persona. He was able to swap jokes competently with Benny, including humorous references to his brother Bing's wealth and his string of losing racehorses. An exchange during one of the popular Christmas programs ran thus: Crosby muses to Jack that he's bought gifts for everyone but bandmember Frank Remley. When Jack suggests "a cordial, like a bottle of Drambuie," Crosby counters that Drambuie is an after-dinner drink and adds, alluding to Remley's penchant for alcohol, that "Remley never quite makes it to after dinner."