About George Robert Crosby
American dixieland bandleader and vocalist Bob Crosby, best known for his group Crosby and the Bob-Cats, enjoyed a long career in music although he couldn’t play an instrument or read a note of music. Bob Crosby has two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, for Television and Recording.
He was the youngest of seven children: five boys, Larry, Everett, Ted, Harry (popularly known as Bing Crosby) and Bob; and two girls, Catherine and Mary Rose. His parents were English-American bookkeeper Harry Lowe Crosby and Irish-American Catherine Harrigan, (affectionately known as Kate), the daughter of a builder from County Mayo in Ireland.
He began singing in the early 1930s with the Delta Rhythm Boys which included vocalist Ray Hendricks and guitarist Bill Pollard also with Anson Weeks and the Dorsey Brothers. 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. His most famous band, the Bob-Cats, was a Dixieland jazz group with members from the Bob Crosby Orchestra. Both the Bob Crosby Orchestra and the smaller Bob-Cats group specialized in Dixieland jazz, presaging the traditional jazz revival of the 1940s. Crosby's singing voice was remarkably similar to that of his brother Bing, but without its range.
The Bob Crosby Orchestra and the Bob Cats included (at various times) Yank Lawson, Billy Butterfield, Muggsy Spanier, Matty Matlock, Irving Fazola, Ward Silloway, Warren Smith, Eddie Miller, Joe Sullivan, Bob Zurke, Jess Stacy, Nappy Lamare, Bob Haggart, Walt Yoder, Jack Sperling, and Ray Bauduc. Arrangements for the orchestra were often done by a young trumpeter by the name of Gilbert Portmore who, during the time he was a decorated WWII fighter pilot in the South Pacific, started an Air Force swing band known as Cap'n Portmore's Hepcats.
The orchestra was actually led by sax player Gil Rodin, with Crosby himself simply the front man, chosen for his personality, looks, and famous last name.
Hits included "Summertime" (theme song), "In a Little Gypsy Tea Room", "Whispers in The Dark", "South Rampart Street Parade", "March of the Bob Cats", "Day In, Day Out", "You Must Have Been a Beautiful Baby", "Dolores" and "New San Antonio Rose" (last three with Bing Crosby). A bass and drums duet between Haggart and Bauduc, "Big Noise from Winnetka," became a hit in 1938-39.
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, followed by Club Fifteen on CBS from 1947 through 1953 and a half-hour CBS daytime series, The Bob Crosby Show (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. Crosby successfully starred on his own daytime program for CBS, which ran from 1953 through 1957; he then moved to NBC, where he headlined a prime-time summer replacement series for Perry Como in 1958. He made his final film appearance along with several other jazz greats in the Red Nichols biopic The Five Pennies (1959).
Bob Crosby died in 1993 due to complications from cancer.
Crosby was married and had five children, three girls and two boys.