In June of 1931 the head of CBS radio, William Paley, heard Bing's recording of I Surrender Dear while aboard a ship to Europe and ordered him signed to a radio contract. Despite warnings of Bing's playboy reputation CBS signed Bing to an unsponsored daily 15-minute broadcast for a remarkable sum of $1500 a week -- equivalent to more than $20,000 in 2015 dollars. Bing was scheduled to debut in a live CBS network radio show on Monday, August 31, 1931. Bing arrived hoarse for an afternoon rehearsal at the New York studios of CBS. After 3 hours CBS decided to cancel the evening premier because of Bing's worsening laryngitis. After a second postponement, Bing finally made his network debut on Wednesday, Sept. 2, accompanied by the CBS Studio Orchestra, which included Tommy Dorsey, Artie Shaw, Eddie Lang, Joe Venuti and Jerry Colonna on trombone. His first song was, appropriately, Just One More Chance. To conclude the broadcast he sang I'm thru with Love. Bing did not talk during the 15-minute broadcast. The announcer, Harry Von Zell, explained that Bing had missed the previous two shows because of laryngitis. Bing's network radio debut was recorded by rival network NBC, who signed Russ Columbo to compete with Bing, but only a portion of the broadcast is known to exist today as an aircheck from a Los Angeles radio station, KHJ.
According to broadcast historian Elizabeth McLeod:
I wish that BMG would look in their vaults to see if there's any trace of the 16-inch matrix for the first Crosby broadcast, of 9/2/31. RCA Victor in Hollywood recorded the entire 15 minute show on a 16 inch master, and two of the individual songs on 78rpm masters. Only the 78rpm excerpts are known to have survived. I know the matrix number of the 16 inch platter -- PMVE 68312 -- but I've never been able to determine what became of this recording. It was made for NBC -- apparently they were interested in checking up on the competition!
Click on the icon to download Bing's first prime-time network radio show (MP3 audio format, 7:37 minutes, 1931)
On November 3 Cremo Cigars began sponsoring Bing's nightly CBS broadcast, and Bing's weekly salary was doubled to $3000.
What song did Bing choose as his radio theme?
Bing Crosby on Radio: 1931-62
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