George Robert Crosby was born August 25, 1913. Known as Bob, he was the youngest of Bing’s six siblings. In the early 1930s, he followed in his brother’s footsteps and became vocalist with the bands of Anson Weeks (1931-34), The Dorsey Brothers (1934-35), and Clark Randall (1935). When the jazz orchestra led by Ben Pollack broke up in 1934, most of its members sought to form a new cooperative band in which each player would own an equal share. Eager to find a front man with good looks and name value, they heeded Bing’s recommendation that Bob be hired. Sax player Gil Rodin was the actual leader, as Bob couldn’t read, arrange, nor direct music. Bing paid for his voice lessons as he began his career.
The Bob Crosby Band played a unique brand of big band Dixieland jazz which found international acclaim and paved the way for the traditional jazz revival of the forties. Legendary musicians Eddie Miller, Yank Lawson, Billy Butterfield, Irving Fazola, Matty Matlock, Nappy Lamare, Jess Stacy, Ray Bauduc and Bob Haggart all played in the band as well as the popular aggregation, The Bobcats. They had many hit recordings, such as “Summertime” (the band’s theme song), “South Rampart Street Parade,” and “Big Noise from Winnetka.” Bob sometimes supplied the vocalizing, sounding like Bing but lacking his rhythmic finesse. Without Bob’s knowledge, Bing helped to both promote and finance the band and on several recording dates was featured as guest singer: “You Must Have Been a Beautiful Baby,” “New San Antonio Rose,” “Yes, Indeed,” “When My Dreamboat Comes Home” and “I’m Walking the Floor Over You,” for example. Bob returned the favor, hosting The Kraft Music Hall when Bing took vacations. The Bob Crosby Band broke up in 1942, but not before playing on the soundtrack of Holiday Inn.
Between 1941 and 1944 Bob appeared in several movies: Let’s Make Music, Presenting Lily Mars, Reveille with Beverly, Thousands Cheer, and See Here, Private Hargrove. During World War II, Bob spent eighteen months serving with distinction in the Marine Corps and toured with bands in the Pacific. On radio he hosted The Bob Crosby Show, aired on NBC and CBS between 1943 and 1950, and Club 15 on CBS between 1947 and 1953. Among Bob’s vocalists were Johnny Desmond, Kay Starr, and Doris Day; and he was the first to hire Nelson Riddle as an arranger.
In 1952, Bob Crosby replaced Phil Harris as Jack Benny’s radio band leader and remained on his broadcasts until Benny retired from the medium in 1955. Bob’s easily parried jokes with Benny, often ribbing his older brother. Bob continued to make cameo appearances in films, notably in Two Tickets to Broadway, Road to Bali, and The Five Pennies. Bob also enjoyed television success. From 1953-57 he hosted a daily variety series on CBS. He was also regularly featured on Shower of Stars from 1954-58 on CBS, on the 1955 summer series, America’s Greatest Bands on CBS, and during the summer of 1958 on his own summer replacement for The Perry Como Show on NBC. In the sixties, Bob hosted a late evening television show in Australia.
Into his later years, Bob Crosby kept a busy schedule leading reunions of both his orchestra and The Bobcats. Bob died of cancer on March 9, 1993. He and his wife June had three sons and two daughters.
Everett Nathaniel Crosby was born on April 5, 1896. Despite his color blindness, he served in the Army during World War I. Everett was already a truck salesman in Los Angeles when Bing arrived in 1925. Bing relied on his big brother for all kinds of necessities, including borrowing a dress shirt when he secured an audition to perform at a popular LA café. When Bing was arrested for reckless driving during the filming of King of Jazz, it was Everett who got him moved from a downtown Los Angeles jail to one in more convenient Hollywood. As Bing became more established in show business, he asked Everett to promote him.
When Everett learned that William S. Paley, owner of the CBS radio network, was in search of a new singer, Everett sent him Bing’s recordings of “I Surrender, Dear” and “Just One More Chance.” An impressed Paley contacted Everett, who secured Bing’s first solo radio series. Bing also had Everett to thank for booking his record-breaking 1931 engagement at the New York Paramount and for negotiating his lucrative contracts with Paramount Pictures. Everett was put in charge of Bing Crosby Enterprises, established to oversee his brother’s multi-facetted business enterprises. An Everett brainchild was “Bing’s Things”, a company devoted to the manufacture of unique household products and gadgets.
In Call Me Lucky, Bing reflected on his brother’s influence on his extraordinary success and knack for getting things done. “Everett fired me with a spirit of git-up-and-go at a time when things were static for me. He came into my picture when I was disgusted and had little faith in my future. He supplied the ambition I seemed to lack. I’m glad I went along with him for the ride. He’s a hustler. He knows how to deal with people. He’s tireless at negotiating with motion picture producers, radio sponsors, advertising agencies – anyone who feels that he needs my services and with whom it is necessary to strike a contract or revise one already made. He seems fond of bickering with these people, and he’ll drag the discussions out happily for days, weeks, months, even years, if he thinks he can get me a better shuffle. As a result, he is sometimes called ‘The Wrong Crosby.’”
Bing regularly joked about Everett on his radio broadcasts, making him a household name and an essential part of the Crosby legend.
In 1962 Everett purchased Fair Acres, a farm in Connecticut where he and his wife Florence raised Morgan and Arabian stallions. Everett died from throat cancer in Salisbury, Connecticut on July 13, 1966. He was survived by Mary Sue, a daughter from his first marriage.
Laurence Earl Crosby, the eldest of Bing’s siblings, was born on January 3, 1895. He served in the Army during World War I. As Bing’s stardom grew, he relied upon Larry for assistance and advice. During the filming of The Big Broadcast, many of Bing’s drinking and gambling cronies visited the set, and Larry was asked to take care of this nuisance. In 1975 he told Charles Thompson, Bing’s biographer. “I tried to keep some of his pals off his back, because he was taking it seriously at that time. In fact, Bing gave me a thousand dollars and told me to take the gang away and keep them away as long as possible, so he could get on with the picture.” When Bing refused to record “Silent Night” because he thought it would be improper to profit from such a sacred song, Larry devised a way to overcome his reluctance. He arranged for all the royalties to be distributed to charity.
In 1937 Larry was involved in the arrangements Bing made to finance Del Mar Race Track. Larry recalled, “…we sold stock. Bing had to come up with a hundred thousand dollars in advance for a five year lease on the track; we never owned it.” After months of cost-overruns, Larry arranged for financing through Bing’s insurance policy, which led to the track’s successful opening.
With his career in full swing, Bing’s brother Ted offered to handle publicity for the Crosby organization. Larry recalled, “Ted got the Hollywood urge, and during Del Mar we brought him down to do publicity. But he didn’t get along with the then manager, so Ted quit.” The public relations job then went to Larry. It was Larry who wisely advised Bing to keep private his political affiliations. “Why antagonize the fans?” he wisely questioned.
Bing imposed his views on Larry, as well. “Father was always a tidy dresser and Everett was considered a dandy and always pretty fancy. But Bing gave me orders to look like a businessman, so I don’t go unconventional.” The name of Larry Earl, Bing’s character in The Star Maker (1939) was a fraternal reference.
Larry also ran the Bing Crosby Research Foundation to encourage frustrated inventors. The Government enlisted the foundation to solicit and develop ideas for the war effort. Some outlandish and not-so-outlandish inventions were actually considered by the military!
Larry was also the Crosby family genealogist, often uncovering distant links dating back to the Vikings and the Mayflower. After a coma which lasted two months, Larry died from cancer on February 7, 1975.
EDWARD (TED) CROSBY
Ted, born July 30, 1900, was a businessman who dreamt of being a writer. He wrote a highly fictionalized “biography” of his famous younger brother that only touched on bits of truth. The book, while not a best-seller, was the start of years’ worth of light-hearted “anecdotes” provided by recording, radio, and film publicity offices during most of Bing’s career. Ted died in 1973.
One of two Crosby sisters, Catherine was born October 3, 1904. She was a housewife and mother, and died in 1988.
MARY ROSE CROSBY
Mary Rose, a favorite playmate of young Bing, was born May 3, 1906. A Crosby family “tradition” occurred when the young Mary Rose refused to share her birthday with her older brother, so Bing acquiesced, and the family celebrated his day one day earlier his entire life – and that date was woven into his “biography” from the beginning. Mary Rose, a housewife and mother, died in 1990.