Best Known For
Bing Crosby sang such hit songs as the ever-popular holiday classic "White Christmas." The beloved crooner was also a star of radio, movies and television.
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Born Harry Lillis Crosby on May 3, 1903, "Bing" grew up to become one of America's most popular entertainers of all time. In 1931, Crosby launched his hugely popular radio show. He soon started starring in films, winning an Academy Award for Going My Way in 1944. Thoughout much of his career, Crosby dominated the music charts with nearly 300 hit singles to his credit. He died in 1977.
One of the most popular entertainers of the 1930s and '40s, Bing Crosby won over fans with his laid-back persona and smooth vocal style. He was the fourth of seven children born to a working-class family. Crosby spent his early years in Tacoma, Washington, before moving to Spokane when he was 6 years old.
With the move to Spokane came the purchase of a revolutionary device—the phonograph. Crosby loved playing music on the phonograph, especially the work of Al Jolson. Crosby earned his famous nickname around the age of 7; "Bing" comes from a comic strip he adored, "The Bingville Bugle."
For his education, Crosby attended Catholic school, reflecting his mother's deep devotion to her faith. He went to Gonzaga High School, which was run by Jesuits. While attending Gonzaga University, Crosby abandoned his aspirations to become a lawyer for his dreams of musical stardom. He performed with a group called the Musicaladers as a singer and a drummer.
In the mid-1920s, Crosby formed a duo with his friend, Al Rinker, and the pair went to Los Angeles in hopes of landing their big break. They quickly became a popular vaudeville act, which they called "Two Boys and a Piano," and played numerous shows on the West Coast. The duo joined Paul Whiteman and his jazz band for a time, and then formed a trio with Harry Barris known as the Rhythm Boys. The Rhythm Boys often performed as part of Whiteman's act. Many of Crosby's early songs reflected his love for jazz and its influence on his sound. He was skilled at scat-singing and showed a talent for jazz-styled phrasing.
In addition to releasing a few singles, the Rhythm Boys appeared together in one of Crosby's first films, 1930's King of Jazz. Crosby soon launched his solo career, landing his own radio show. Debuting in 1931, his radio program became a big success, attracting as many as 50 million listeners during its peak, and lasting nearly 30 years on the airwaves.
That same year, Crosby scored a number of hits with such songs as "I Found a Million-Dollar Baby" and "Just One More Chance." He continued to delight music buyers over the coming years with "Please," "You're Getting to Be a Habit With Me" and "June in January."
In the early 1930s, Crosby signed a contract with Paramount Pictures. His slim frame and protruding ears may not have been the features of a traditionally handsome leading man, but Crosby's easy charm and smooth patter quickly won over film audiences. He started out in a number of musical comedies, such as 1934's Here Is My Heart, with Kitty Carlisle; and 1936's Anything Goes, with Ethel Merman.
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