Bob Crosby got his start at the age of eighteen as a vocalist with the West Coast band Anson Weeks and His Orchestra. He spent a brief time with the Dorsey Brothers Orchestra but in 1935 left to begin his own band at the request of Gil Rodin. Rodin had defected from the Ben Pollack band when Pollack turned his focus towards promoting his future wife Doris Robbins’ singing career.
n actuality Crosby functioned more as a front man than a comprehensive bandleader providing congeniality, a family name, and a sincere admiration for his musicians. His vocal abilities were not those of his brother Bing. In George T. Simon’s comprehensive The Big Bands, Bob Crosby is quoted as saying; “I’m the only guy in the business who made it without any talent.”
Crosby’s band stood out from the pack, its Dixieland style generally considered passé at the time. The band compensated, however, with a stellar lineup (including trumpeter Yank Lawson) and an enthusiasm for the freer Dixieland style. Gil Rodin (tenor and alto sax) ran the show as music director and business manager. Clarinetist Matty Matlock and bass player Bob Haggart arranged for the group, the latter writing much of their material including “What’s New?” (originally “I’m Free”) as a trumpet solo for Billy Butterfield.
Bob Crosby and His Orchestra were very successful with over forty hit recordings, three of which made number one on the recording charts: “In a Little Gypsy Tea Room” (1935), “Whispers in the Dark” (1937), and “Day in Day Out” (1939). Their theme song was “Summertime.”
During the war years Bob Crosby and His Orchestra disbanded and Crosby formed a new orchestra that went on to enjoy some success on radio and television throughout the 1950s. Bob Crosby also had a modest film career including an appearance in Road to Bali (1952) with his brother Bing. In the 1960s and 1970s Crosby stayed active doing occasional emcee and solo appearances. Also, from time to time he would reunite the Bob Crosby Bob Cats, a band within a band he formed in 1937 that specialized in ensemble oriented Chicago style jazz.
-- Jeremy Wilson
Courtesy of JazzStandards.com