14/4/2012 7:37 am  #1

Bing Sings Whilst Bregman Swings

Mind if start a ball rolling..?

In his review of Volume 9 of "Through The Years" in the current issue of "Bing" magazine, Ken Crossland mentions the "infamous Bing Sings Whilst Bregman Sings", and it's the "infamous" bit I want to ask about.

I first became aware of the album in the mid/late 70s, when it was released as an LP called "The Special Magic of Bing Crosby" as part of a "Special Magic" series on - I think - the MGM label. ("The Special Magic of Bing and Satchmo" was also released). I seem to remember that the track listing order was different from the CD release which I'm listening to as I type this. At the time I was not aware of the original title of the album, but it quickly became, and has remained, a firm favourite.

Over the years I've read a few comments which would hint at the "infamous" nature of this release amongst fans. (Am I right in saying that it was apparently the late Leslie Gaylor's least favourite Bing recording..?)

Could any contributors with longer memories - not to mention much greater knowledge - than mine give any background to the reputation this album seems to have gained? I would also be very interested to hear some general views about "Bing Sings Whilst Bregman Sings."

(I've done a bit of research on Google since I first made this posting a few hours ago, and have now corrected a couple of facts about which my memory had indeed failed me..!)

Last edited by jeremyrose (14/4/2012 2:39 pm)


14/4/2012 4:27 pm  #2

Re: Bing Sings Whilst Bregman Swings

Jeremy,   I cannot be confident of the precise reason for Ken's use of the word 'infamous', but certainly the the album was not originally received with universal rapture.

It was regarded by many then (and possibly still now) as a failure because of what were seen as brash arrangements unsuited to Bing's style, and several otherwise fervent fans of Bing have expressed strong views about it.

As to the track listing it is certainly true that there was an LP issue that contained alternative versions of three tracks, but I think most issues have otherwise contained the same twelve tracks.

In 1956 Bing had relatively recently emerged from the contract with Decca and there was no strong artistic 'guiding hand' left to him. On top of that the 'pop' musical tastes were changing fairly rapidly. Cut loose on his own he was, it seems, willing to try anything. Buddy Bregman was very young - around 25 at the time. He was the nephew of the composer Jule Styne and apparently also a friend of Bing's son Gary, two or three years younger, though I have read this only recently and do not know the level of the friendship.  Bing might have been 'doing a favour' for Bregman due to either or both of those connections. From any viewpoint the meeting was very disproportionate in terms of public awareness, accomplishment and experience.  (The original sleeve illustration was really very apt - a large portrait of Bing wearing a baseball cap looking over his shoulder at a very small image of Buddy!)

The idea behind the album was good - to emulate for Verve the sort of album that Nelson Riddle had been doing with Frank Sinatra. But in my view Bregman was allowed too much freedom to indulge in his own tastes and ideas; he failed to adapt to Bing's style. And possibly it was a step too far for Bing to adapt to that of Bregman. Several commentators have observed that Bing was too good natured and tolerant to challenge him. In this respect Bing was certainly no Sinatra (who knew what he wanted and was determined to get it).

Taken as a whole I suspect that not many listeners even now would rank it very high on Mr. C's list of successes, though some tracks do stand out and I think that the arrangements are no longer seen as quite so outlandish as they appeared to be in 1956.

But whether this background was what Ken had in mind   - -  ?

Jeremy, the album that you refer to - 'The Special Magic of Bing Crosby'' was an early 1970s reissue in the UK on the MGM/Polydor label. I don't think that there was a US equivalent but I am not certain.

The original issue In the US was on Verve and in the UK on HMV in their Verve series.


15/4/2012 4:26 am  #3

Re: Bing Sings Whilst Bregman Swings

There in fact was a US equivalent to The Special Magic of Bing Crosby, titled simply Bing Crosby, on Metro Records, which contained all of the songs on the Bregman LP except "The Song Is You" and "Deed I Do." Not sure of the release date, but the illustration of Bing on the cover is executed in a loose, colorful style that was popular in the 1960's -- similar to the cover art of On the Happy Side and I Wish You a Merry Christmas, both from the early '60's.

As for the Bregman LP's "infamous" reputation, Fred Reynolds* had this to say of the songs Bing recorded with Buddy and his orchestra during the June 11-12, 1956 sessions that comprised Bing Sings Whilst Bregman Swings:
"Although the LP proved commercially successful the support by a modern, brash swinging outfit was alien to Bing's style and a departure from any of his previous accompaniments. The venture was not an unqualified artistic success but the experiment was typical of his attitude to try any sort of popular music."
... and about "'Deed I Do" specifically:
"The affectionate, intimate assurances of this 1926 song are completely lost in the arrangement. The orchestra seems to compete with rather than accompany Crosby in his two choruses and, while the instrumental chorus features a good sax solo, the strident brass is an abrasive distraction. It is a cry much too far from Trotter and Young."
..."I've Got Five Dollars":
"Indiscriminate crash chords from the brass section..."
... and "The Song Is You":
"In spite of the orchestra's best efforts to defeat (Jerome) Kern's superior melodic writing Crosby proves beyond any doubt his ability to swing a tune. [...] The orchestral passage includes a saxophone solo but otherwise, even if the attempt had been deliberate, could have done little more to expunge all thoughts of Kern's flowing, melodic delight."
*in his comprehensive The Crosby Collection 1926-1977, Part Four: 1951-1960

Personally, I've never been put off by the recordings or their arrangements/executions, and have enjoyed them over the years as much as any of Bing's 1950's output. This may be due to the fact that they were recorded a few years before I was born, rendering their chronological impact on ears of that era moot, from my baby boomer's perspective.

It should be noted that also on Buddy Bregman's resume' from that period were a couple of Ella Fitzgerald's highly regarded Songbook collections.

Last edited by Jon O. (15/4/2012 4:54 am)


15/4/2012 7:27 am  #4

Re: Bing Sings Whilst Bregman Swings

It is said that Bing was a little reluctant to become involved in this project as he thought that Buddy Bregman’s accompaniment might not suit his style (“too jazzy") but after Bing negotiated a particularly favorable contract (10% of the gross without deduction for recording costs), he participated enthusiastically. This is what Buddy had to say about it.

Question: In between the Ella songbooks, you were responsible for another landmark LP, one that brought Bing Crosby bang up to date. with some hard swinging arrangements, BING SINGS WHILST BREGMAN SWINGS, a tremendous contrast to the somewhat staid arrangements of long term Crosby arranger John Scott Trotter.
Answer: Yes, this was my idea. Bing was at the end of his long contract with Decca, and although he re-signed, it was on a non-exclusive basis, which meant he was free to record with whom he chose. I’d recently worked with Gary Crosby on a Decca session and become friendly with him and I had Bing’s private home telephone number so I rang him to ask about doing an album with me at Verve. I went over to the house and played some things over to him on the piano. He agreed to do it and a deal was worked out, and I was given carte blanche with the arrangements and musicians. He didn’t even insist on his regular pianist Buddy Cole being on the date The only thing Bing stipulated was that he had to record at nine o’clock in the morning, because his voice was best at that time of day.
He wanted to get out on the golf course! You can imagine the state of the musicians falling into the studio at that time of the morning, most of them hadn’t even been to bed!
Question: You would never know it from listening to the album now, everyone sounds as fresh as a daisy. Must have been the coffee/ As I say, this was a real departure for Bing, did he need any extra rehearsing, the liner notes say he hadn’t recorded any of these songs before and he certainly hadn’t recorded with this sort of line up ?
Answer: No, he just came into the Capitol studio and we did the album in two sessions (June 11 & 12 1956)
It’s a really hard swinging album, with some superb solos by the likes of Frank Rosolino, Bud Shank, Harry Edison of course and the drumming by Alvin Stoller really drives it along.
(Buddy Bregman being interviewed in In Tune magazine. Reproduced in Bing’s Friends & Collectors Society Newsletter, February - March 2002)   

This Bing Sings While Bregman Swings must be the first  Crosby record on the HMV label since the Rhythm Boys of the ‘twenties. Like last month’s LP, this is of songs not previously sung by Der Bingle. The accompaniments sound brash and are too loud - he is surely best with an intimate accompaniment of the Buddy Cole type - and the songs include “Mountain Greenery", but with all respect is this really a vocal number?
(The Gramophone, January 1957)

It seems too odd to find Bing Crosby and the HMV dog sharing the same label, but the voice and the manner sound just as happy-go-lucky as ever. “Bing Sings Whilst Bregman Swings," the first album Crosby has recorded for American Verve, catches him in a typically casual mood. . . . Taken at a slower tempo, “Mountain Geeenery" sounds more rural than the Mel Torme version. . . . Buddy Bregman’s orchestra provides a brisk, carefree setting.
(The Gramophone, February, 1957)

Bing Crosby himself is represented [on an EP] by an extract from his LP of Bing Sings While Bregman Swings including “Mountain Greenery"  which was made for him if ever a song was, on HMV 7EG8475.
(The Gramophone, September, 1959)

Last edited by Malcolm Macfarlane (15/4/2012 7:28 am)


15/4/2012 8:23 am  #5

Re: Bing Sings Whilst Bregman Swings

Here's what the Crosby Post had to say about the LP when it came out.

"From HMV comes a much more up-to-date Bing, if you prefer him that way, "Bing Sings Whilst Bregman Swings". I gave all the titles in the December issue, but HMV have made a lovely job of this one. My only grudge is that there seems to be far too much "Top" in the recording. The tendency is to give the brass section a harsh shrill note. Perhaps one day, I may have the excellent equipment that is on the market to counteract this failing with some recording engineers. In spite of this, it is still fine value for your money."
(Bill Taylor, reviewing the LP for Crosby Post - February 1957)

Trade reaction in the USA was favourable.

"Bing Crosby's first wax trip away from Decca in more than 20 years is a happy musical excursion."
(Variety, October 10, 1956)

This is Bing's first album on Verve, and he draws support from a modern, swinging group of musicians. - The package contains a list of great tunes which Bing never recorded before; reason enough to make this attractive to the faithful. Tunes include "Mountain Greenery," "Blue Room," "Have You Met Miss Jones" and other great ones, most dating from the golden age of show music. Bregman orchestrated the songs brightly, and Bing sings them with his casual charm and technical pefection.
(Billboard October 20, 1956)

But Ken Barnes looking back many years later was not so sure.

"This popular album has been re-issued many times on various labels over the years. As an example of Crosby's art it is something of an enigma. On the one hand the choice of songs is impeccable - beautifully written standards like "They All Laughed," The Songs Is You," "Have You Met Miss Jones" and "September in the Rain" and Biig's singing, for the most part, is exemplary. But, on the other hand, it is very difficult to accept Buddy Bregman seriously as a reliable orchestral accompanist. His writing can be reasonably tasteful on tracks like "They All Laughed." "Mountain Greenery" and "The Blue Room", but his brass scoring is ham-fisted and bitterly distracting in "Cheek to Cheek" and "I've Got Five Dollars". And one wonders how Bing ever managed to stay on pitch in the middle of "Heat Wave" where Bregman has the orchestra playing suspect chords.
Despite all these faults, it was refreshing at the time to hear Crosby with a modern-sounding orchestra and while this album is no match for Sinatra's "Songs for Swingin' Lovers" classic LP. it was a step - albeit a hesitant one - in the right direction."
(Ken Barnes, writing in his book "The Crosby Years")


15/4/2012 6:28 pm  #6

Re: Bing Sings Whilst Bregman Swings

Gentlemen - what can I say..? Thank you all so much for your input. It never ceases to amaze me that so many people are willing to share their vast knowledge of all aspects Bing's career for the benefit of others. I've learned a great deal...

I was almost certain that in my mind's eye I could see the Polydor label on my long-gone "Special Magic of Bing Crosby" LP, but an image of the LP cover found on the internet clearly showed the MGM logo so I amended my original posting. That same image also confirmed my recollection that the track order was different from my Japanese CD release which seems to contain the original album cover notes.

I'm very interested to learn from Richard's contribution that three of the tracks on the LP release were alternate takes. Which tracks were they and have they ever appeared in a digital (CD) format?

I've listened to the album a few more times in the light of the comments pointed out by Jon O.from
Fred Reynolds's book (which I had consulted) and Malcolm's quotations from the Ken Barnes book (which I hadn't).

I have to admit that I don't really have a problem with the arrangements per se. To my mind they are arrangements made by someone who is above all arranging the melody, without too much (if any) thought for the lyrics which set the mood of the song in question. You therefore get an arrangement of a fundamentally intimate song like - for instance - "Cheek To Cheek" with all those crashing brass chords.

With regard to the "suspect chords" that Ken Barnes mentions in the middle of "Heat Wave", I've listened to it several times and I can't detect any suspect harmonies, but it does seem that there's a sort of cross-synchopation on different beats of the bar between band and vocalist that doesn't quite gel. (I can't quite believe that I've just questioned a statement made by Ken Barnes..!)

It might be just a bit fanciful, but I suppose you could argue that the very title of this album suggests that vocalist and arranger have a different agenda. Ken Barnes is, of course, right in saying that this album is no match for Sinatra's "Songs for Swingin' Lovers", but then Bregman is a good arranger, Nelson Riddle is a GREAT one...

Over and above all this, however, is Bing's contribution. As always, what amazes me is Bing's ability to just "sit" on everything he does. From the recording balance of the album, I can't think that Bing would have been in an open studio with the band either in front of or behind him. He must have been in a booth with cans on. (I could, of course, be TOTALLY wrong about this.) This would explain the contrast between the laid-back, rhythmically spot-on vocals and the in-your-face, sometimes blaring arrangements.

Anyway, thanks to Richard, John and Malcolm for their contributions, and I still find it amazing that after more than 40 years of listening to Bing, there is alway something else that is open to fascinating discussion and analysis.

     Thread Starter

15/4/2012 10:05 pm  #7

Re: Bing Sings Whilst Bregman Swings

jeremyrose wrote:

I'm very interested to learn from Richard's contribution that three of the tracks on the LP release were alternate takes. Which tracks were they and have they ever appeared in a digital (CD) format?


The three alternate tracks in question are ''The Blue Room'', ''Cheek To Cheek'', and ''Mountain Greenery''.

They appeared on an Australian Verve LP in substitution for the generally used takes.

I am fairly confident that they have not appeared on an official CD, but things like that have a habit of circulating on ''unofficial'' copies. 

You seem to have ''The Crosby Collection'' by Fred Reynolds. He details the differences. Not great but fairly easily observable.


16/4/2012 4:31 pm  #8

Re: Bing Sings Whilst Bregman Swings

Thanks for that, Richard...

I'll keep an eye open on e-bay for the Australian LP issue.

Do we know whether BCE hold the rights to this album? If so, it would make a great release, with the three alternative takes (at least) as bonus tracks.

I bought a set of the "The Crosby Collection" at the Leeds meeting a couple of years ago. This year I'm hoping to be able to buy Volume 2 of the Gary Giddins biography!

Thanks again, everyone, for all your in-put.

     Thread Starter

16/4/2012 9:46 pm  #9

Re: Bing Sings Whilst Bregman Swings

I like this album. But I wonder if Mr. S and Bing had a conversation about Frank's then-current recording project "Songs for Swingin' Lovers" (recorded in January, 1956) and Bing picked up on the idea. This was new stuff...this easy, yet deliberate marriage of big orchestra and singer all tied together with a theme. Bing was free to do what he wished and may have just decide to try one out. In many ways I've always considered it "Bing For Those Who Don't Like Bing". Bregman may have been a little too free with the arrangements (just ask Billy May what he thought of Bregman!!!!)   but overall it all balances out by the conclusion of the record.

For giggles, I often play the two LP's back-to-back.

All the best,
Paul M. Mock

18/4/2012 1:34 am  #10

Re: Bing Sings Whilst Bregman Swings

I like this album too. But I do think that Buddy Bregman was suited more towards Ella Fitzgerald than Bing. Bing seemed more at home on the album he did with Bob Scobey. I have a lot of albums by Bregman. While I like him, his band was a little "harsh" for me. He seemed like a wild Billy May...if that is a good analogy.


18/4/2012 11:22 am  #11

Re: Bing Sings Whilst Bregman Swings

I certainly agree that the Crosby/Scobey combination works better then the Crosby/Bregman one - and that's a great analogy, by the way..!

     Thread Starter

30/4/2012 2:09 pm  #12

Re: Bing Sings Whilst Bregman Swings

I'm very fond of the Bregman album, and despite my fondness for Dixieland I am not quite as taken by the Scobey album.  While the intrumental arrangements are different, I find much in common in Bing's ease with swinging between the Bregman album and the more recently released Mozaic set of Bing's CBS radio recordings.

I confess to a personal bias in favor of some of Bing's efforts which expanded his range, for example his more dramatic film rolls, and his rendition of the folk song "Hang Me" (on the "How the West Was Won" album) which certainly was a far cry from more popular fair like "Swinging on a Star."


16/5/2013 4:42 pm  #13

Re: Bing Sings Whilst Bregman Swings

I managed to pick up a MFSL LP copy of this album last week at a rather decent price. They usually go pretty highly bid on ebay, et al. I am very, very pleased with the great monaural sound vs any other copy I have heard (including their gold CD). What amazes me most is the weight of the record itself. It is more than any 180gm I own. This one must be a 200gm. edition and it is far better for it as it rests very firmly on the turntable and plays beautifully.  

All the best,
Paul M. Mock

16/5/2013 7:03 pm  #14

Re: Bing Sings Whilst Bregman Swings

I should have mentioned when commenting on this topic earlier that, in addition to the METRO partial reissue that John O. mentioned there is an MGM Records reissue of the album titled "Bing Sings The Great American Standards" MGM E4129. It has all of the tracks and in the same order.  So that's another one out there in the used LP racks for people looking for the original, but not finding it yet. Did anyone metion that the original label, Verve, re-issued the album on CD in 2002--very nice packaging with a booklet to boot.  Before I found the original LP, I found a copy of the MGM reissue, then still impatient I ordered a copy of the CD...then eventually I found the original LP.

Paul, I hadn't heard of MFSL before.  I guess the copy you got is on what they call "super vinyl."


16/5/2013 9:27 pm  #15

Re: Bing Sings Whilst Bregman Swings

I hold both albums, Bing Sings Whilst Bregman Swings and Bing with a Beat, in very high esteem among (or amongst, in the case of the Bing-Bregman LP http://cdn.boardhost.com/emoticons/happy.png
) Bing's best albums, and for different reasons. The arrangements on the Bregman set are a little brassy, it's true, but they still allow some room for some interesting solos, and Bing's voice sounds confident and attractive. I also like Dixieland jazz and appreciate Bob Scobey's recordings without Bing as well. On Bing with a Beat, Crosby sounds very relaxed and extremely at ease, and I think that has to be not only because of the fine backing provided by Scobey's band, but also because Dixieland jazz really mattered to Bing. I really love the asides that he ad-libs during some of Scobey's solos, which add to the relaxed atmosphere of the sessions.

I don't have any of the two albums on vinyl, but I do have the CD versions, and they are both great reissues, with informative notes and very good sound quality. Unfortunately, Bing with a Beat seems to be currently out of print on CD and can only be found on Amazon US as an on-demand CD-R edition. I ordered it for my father, who is not really a big Crosby fan but likes his jazzy side, and unfortunately the last song, "Mama Loves Papa," is oddly cut at the very end in this CD-R version and ends perhaps a couple of seconds early. Has this happened to anyone else?


03/3/2020 4:03 pm  #16

Re: Bing Sings Whilst Bregman Swings

This album is one of my favorites of Bing’s although I feel it’s unfair to compare to Songs for Swingin’ Lovers as it’s more of a Come Dance With Me with very brass heavy arrangements by Billy May for Frank. It even shares two songs. I find those two albums more comparable than comparing Swingin’ Lovers. As Swingin’ lovers have a lot more slow paced Swingin’ ones and not as many hard swingers as in Bing Sings or Come Dance.

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