1929 was a whole new world to the one we live in today. Ellington, Beiderbecke, Trumbauer, Lang, the Dorseys and Condon were ripping up the music world and a young singer trying to make his way in the world was among them. His name was Bing Crosby.
This guy had sung with all the above mentioned artists, or knew them. He came from a time when “singers” did not exist, just bands with vocals. Records would just say the name of the band, with vocal refrain.
Bing changed all of that. He was the first guy to take a solo singer and turn himself into a super star. Now you may be thinking, what has that got to do with rock and roll? Well, it’s everything, because without Crosby there would be no Sinatra, no Johnnie Ray, no Elvis, no Beatles and no rock bands.
So, what were the early discs like? Not staid, I can tell you that. Crosby sounded like anything but the little old man he is remembered as. He scats, feels the song and makes them swing. ‘Mississippi Mud’ moved, it moved like nothing had moved before. Just as Elvis would make ‘Heartbreak Hotel’ the hottest sound in town, Crosby made his first discs sound like he was an alien from Mars. ‘Muddy Water’, ‘My Kinda Love’, ‘It Must Be True’, ‘Learn To Croon’ all had that same edgy quality. The man was born to sing Jazz.
What happened next was the same fate all new fads end up with– he became part of the establishment, a movie star. The man who had invented superstars became a little old guy who sat on TV every Christmas and sang jolly refrains. The memories of his rip roaring, heavy drinking, womanising rock and roll past, erased. The man who had battled with his weight suddenly became skinny, the man who was the first to sing Hoagy Carmichael’s tunes became Mr White Christmas…
Check out the early discs and tell me if you can’t hear the vocal hiccups of Elvis in those records.
*Ol’ Man River
*I Surrender Dear
I can tell you, I love all the work Bing accomplished, the movies and the albums. I like the Sinatra styled albums he did in the 50’s, like Bing Sings whilst Bregman Swings’ with Buddy Bregman, and the jazzed up hitter entitled “New Tricks” with Buddy Cole, but sometimes I wish he had just stayed with his roots, the rockin’ jazz of the 20’s and 30’s.
Just check him out, he swings, sings and rocks with the best of them.