posted 01/29/01 04:49 PM Central Time (US) contact the author directly
As one of the people that Mr. Giddins acknowledges in his book, I raced through the book the day it came out and was delighted by the incredible detail and substantial and valid observations of Mr. Giddins. His previous written works and his articles in the VV have always demonstrated his ability to get to the source of nearly everything and after my second reading, it is obvious that no one could have written a better book. Four to five years ago when I first spoke to Mr. Giddins I was hopeful that the book would be honest in every respect. Then about two years ago we talked about Bing's will and also the issue of race and Bing's feelings on the matter. While the will is for volume II, the issue of race was addressed in clear and honest terms. Bing was certainly a pioneer in opening doors for others--- such as Armstrong and others--with the mainstream studio's and recording companies. Someone once asked Bing why he hadn't invited Louis Armstrong to his house---- and Bing replied that frankly Louis and Lucille had not invited him (Bing) over either. Pretty simple and straight forward. Giddins is on target in making clear that Bing was actually very sensitive about issues regarding race and religion. Catholics didn't have an easy time in this country (or elsewhere for that matter) and Giddins is accurate in so many respects when he addresses Bing's personal life. It showed honesty, research, and a desire to get at the truth--- not rumor or the words of a disappointed and potential heir. Actually, Mr. Armstrong did (I believe) make it up to Bing's place and it is true when Mr. Giddins mentions Aremstrong so often. Armstrong was, to Bing, a remarkable and incredible talent---and a very nice man. .Gary Giddins may be a fan, but his research and the resulting book justifies the awe that so many of us feel for this greatly missed man. His talent was only exceeded by his charm--- if he liked you -- and that is usually the case with most of us. The book was incredible and I hope the publisher is pleased with my contribution of some 20 volumes purchased and sent to friends overseas and up in Washington. A marvelous book, a fun read for a fan, and a great primer for anyone wishing to learn more about the evolution of Popular American Music...which was and is, after one reading, Bing.
|Father Robert Murphy||
posted 02/05/01 04:31 PM Central Time (US) contact the author directly
I'm about half way through Gidden's book. The amount of detail is fascinating; almost too much detail at times. I joined the high school seminary after seeing "Going My Way" on late night television for the first time. I wrote Bing any number of letters as a boy in high school and finally got through to him through an uncle of a priest friend who was a fishing buddy of Bing's. Bing not only wrote back and sent me a picture but sent me his address and phone number. After several years of writing back and forth,Bing and Kathryn invited me out to their home in Hillsborough. My first visit with them was on New Year's Day 1969. Bing and family had been snowed in at the ranch in Elko and didn't get back home until New Year's Eve. When I arrived New Year's morning, the Christmas presents were still around the tree in the front hall. I remember a guitar from Glen Campbell for Harry and a rug from Trader Vic for Bing and Kathryn. We visited in the den which had various awards there (including Bing's Oscar) and a few photos including Bob Hope and Jack Benny. Bing brought out his new (and as yet unreleased) album: "Hey Jude. Hey Bing" and sang a few bars from several of the selections. We watched the Rose Bowl Parade. Bob Hope and Dorothy Lamour were in the Parade and the announcer (Curt Gowdy?) wondered what the third famous member of the Road Team was up to. "I'm keepin in out of the cold" Bing responded to the T.V. "Let Dottie and Dad do all the riding they want". Bing did not have his toupee on which was a bit of a shock. Later we went out and walked Bing's black labadors. Kathryn took a few pictures and a friend I had brought with me took some film of all of us playing with the dogs. We sat around for a good long time. The kids came in and Mary Frances sat on my lap as I read a story to her that I was trying to get published. I kidded Nathaniel about running the golf cart into the scenery on "The Hollywood Palace". He just groaned. All in all, it was a wonderful first visit. I kept up with Bing and Kathryn all through the years. The morning I was ordained a priest, I had a telegram from Bing and Kathryn expressing congratulations and sorrow they couldn't be there. I have quite an extensive collection of correspondence from both of them and have kept in touch with Kathryn. She has played the Starlight Theatre here in Kansas City several times and I have taken her to mass at my Parish. I've written on Bing for several publications and am proud to say that Fr. O'Malley continues to be a good example of pristhood to me. Would love to get hold of Gary Giddens as I have some candid shots and material that he might find of interest for Book Two. I join with all of you in being delighted that Bing is back in the limelight in a postive way..Fr. Bob Murphy
posted 05/01/01 07:33 PM Central Time (US) contact the author directly
Here goes nothing! I admittedly hardly ever read a book (it has been years since I read an entire book), I only look up references. But I had to read this and want to share my views, even though I don't have any credentials to speak of, except I am a true blue Bing Crosby Fan. The whole exercise took me a while since I received the book as a St. Valentine's day present. First, I was already reading "My Life With Bing" by Kathryn which I had recently purchased, and then lent came along when I try to read several chapters of the Bible every day. After a while it was ll too much and I put Kathryn's book aside until I finished Giddins' book. And life is just busy all the time anyhow, so I may be a bit rusty on the beginning of the book...Anyhow, I think the book is wonderful. Like many Bing fans, there was not a whole lot new about Bing that came to light after you get all the basics down. But that all changes with this book with so many new details about Bing and considerably more credibility to what you saw in print. I would say the book is more woven than written. I liked the way Giddins would jump ahead when a certain current aspect of Bing's life would have an impact on him in the future. Of course it was very interesting to see how the formnative years of Bing's life shaped the person and celebrity he would become. ..Although this was usually a negative from most of the professional critics, I, and I'm sure most fans who read the book agree, was thrilled at the details of Bing's recording and film efforts. These are peeks into parts of Bing's life that have been practically ignored until now. Those stories and insights give a whole new appreciation of the professional road that Bing traveled on his way to superstardom. And it sure wasn't as easy as I had previously imagined...More than anything else, I really appreciated all the quotes and paraphrases of various individuals who knew Bing personally. Giddins really did his homework here and it brought a great deal of insight and credibilty to the overall story. The last chapter was my favorite and I was really disappointed that the story stops just when it was really picking up steam. Getting into the 1940s when Bing was at his peak as an actor and recording artist, and when his associations with Bob Hope, the Andrews Sisters and others really jelled, really whetted my appetite for more. I'm hoping that by Bing's birthday in 2003, the rest of this fascinating journey will be available...I also have a few things I could have done without in the book, and a double error, one of reference and one of fact. As I already admitted, I do not read books very often, but I am not a dunce either. I did graduate from college, even if I took the easy way out and went nights, and that was many years ago. But for me, the book had to many difficult words for a story that I thought was meant more for the masses than for professionals, musicians, historians, or otherwise. Also, like one professional critic that I read, I thought there were too many references to the effeminate male tenors that preceded Bing. It was like pounding a nail long after it was flush with the wood. That was the style for a long time and those singers just sang the way that was expected of them...I also thougth there was too much apologizing for Bing heading into mainstrem popular music, as opposed to his more jazz influenced early days. Why is pop music a step down? Don't more people buy pop than jazz? I know the book is written by a noted jazz critic and historian, but when you are writing about a primarily popular singing star, why criticize his decision to record that music, or infer that it was some kind of sell-out...I know I'm a prude, but I did not like seeing the ultimate four letter word in print, and not just because it came from Bing. I know all the arguments that this is real life and it is a quote and all of that. But I just feel we give that kind of lauguage too much legitimacy by treating it like any other word. It is because we legitimized and unshamed words like this, that I had the unsettling experience a couple of months ago of walking down Market Street in Philadelphia at noon time and hearing some maniac blasting porno rap from his car with guess what as every other word. It didn't matter that children and clergy and many others who did not want to hear that, had to be subjected to that garbage. I don't consider that an improvement over the days when such an action would have been unthinkable...Finally the double error, not terribly important to be sure, but since Gary Giddins himself encouraged bringing them to the forefront for consideration in future editions, here goes. On page 207 there is a reference to Bobbe Brox being told to sit on Bing's lap during the "A Bench In The Park" number in the "King Of Jazz". On page 211, it says that Bing never did sit in Bobbe's lap, thus there is a mixup of Bobbe's and Bing's lap, the error of reference. the next sentence states that the Rhythm Boys sang the number behind the bench, which is only partially true. .I presume that Bobbe Brox, "the pretty married one" was the blonde,whom I thought was a knockout the first time I saw the film. While the Rhythm Boys do sing their chorus with the Brox Sisters standing behind the bench, and Bing is directly behind Bobbe, both on the far left, there is a later short sequence, one line of the song right at the end, where the Rhythm Boys are seated on the bench and the Brox Sisters are on their laps, except Bing has moved to the center position, with a different Brox sister on his lap. Al Rinker winds up with Bobbe. I remember how strange I thought that was at the time, and now I know the story behind it. ..My contentions not withstanding, I wholeheartedly recommend the book to all Bing fans and anyone who is interested in the magical coming of age of the recorded song and talking pictures, particularly musicals. . .
posted 05/02/01 09:09 AM Central Time (US) contact the author directly
To my fellow Delaware Valley resident I must say that I like your review. I must comment on a couple of things, though...High pitched tenors--I don't think he was hammering the nail to death, rather, this was an important transition in popular music which establishes Bing as the most influential singer of the 20th Century. He sang in a natural, deeper tone with distinct jazz phrasing, using his voice and the new micropohone as musical instruments. No one else was doing that--not Jolson with his Hammy Mammy, sing to the rafters style, not Rudy Vallee with his nasal crooning and not even Gene Austin, who was up there in the vocal range with Henry Burr, Lewis James, Elliot Shaw, etc...Popular Music--I did not get the impression that Gary was nocking Bing's transition from Jazz Singer to America's Singer--he was stating that Bing made a change to a much simpler delivery that stressed the lyric, following Jack Kapp's opinion that the public wanted the unadulterated Crosby without the frills. Giddins credits this change as the key to his success as the greatest popular singer of all time with an extremely broad repertory. I think that many of us Bingophiles would agree that Bing's singing between 1931 and 1936 was more powerful and exciting than the simpler mode he adopted during '36/'37...Vocabulary--Remember, no one had a more extensive vocabulary and loved to twist his tongue around poly-syllabic words than Bing, so the use of those words is kinda apropos!