13/3/2016 2:41 pm  #1

Good reading recommendations?

I mentioned this in a reply to Anton, but I thought I'd send this to all of you and request your counsel. I've really only read the Gary Giddins book on Bing, but I would certainly like to read more. What do you consider quality biographies of Bing? I'd very much appreciate your thoughts. Thank you! Mo 

Last edited by Bingmo (13/3/2016 2:41 pm)


14/3/2016 8:27 am  #2

Re: Good reading recommendations?

Bingmo wrote:

I mentioned this in a reply to Anton, but I thought I'd send this to all of you and request your counsel. I've really only read the Gary Giddins book on Bing, but I would certainly like to read more. What do you consider quality biographies of Bing? I'd very much appreciate your thoughts. Thank you! Mo 

I think that there is a problem here. By common consent Giddin's book is the best of the biographical works about Bing because of the enormous scope and depth and erudition from one of the major "jazz" commentators. What can anyone recommend to follow it?

It seems to me that the likely way to go is into the more specialized works - but there lies the problem. What area of specialization might be of interest? There is Malcolm Macfarlane's "Day By Day" which covers Bing's activities just as it says, day by day - and is now available on line here http://www.bingmagazine.co.uk/bingmagazine/1903-1935.htm, or there are the various works covering the films and recordings (such as the five volume work "The Crosby Collection 1926-1977" by Fred Reynolds, which has a commentary on every commercial recording. And there are others addressing specific special areas (if you can find them). 

The point I am making is that whilst there are numerous "general" biographies, most will seem a little lightweight and superficial if you come at them after Giddins.

There are several "insider" biographies written by members of the family, and one at least by a record producer - (The Crosby Years, by Ken Barnes), each addressing things from a different perspective.

But which direction might you wish to take?



14/3/2016 10:50 am  #3

Re: Good reading recommendations?

I have a listing - very far from comprehensive - of various books covering a variety of angles, here https://sites.google.com/site/crosbyfanworld/books-and-reference-material


14/3/2016 2:46 pm  #4

Re: Good reading recommendations?

RIchard--it's a fair question. I've already resigned myself to the fact that I'm not going to get the same level of detail and accuracy with other books the way I did with the Giddins volume. But I feel like once we hit 1940 I don't even know 'the rest of' Bing's story, so I'd like a general overview at the very least. I trust the people here to have a good sense of what's good and what's drivel. I'll take a look at your link and I very much appreciate your help! mo

     Thread Starter

14/3/2016 6:04 pm  #5

Re: Good reading recommendations?

Bing of,
There is Bing's own story written with brother Ted - Call Me Lucky.
Interesting book and not too big with some nice photos. Also, Bing wasn't an "I am" or "I did this" show off type as some are.
The song from "My Fair Lady" is probably more Bing - I'm an ordinary man.
Bing was just one of the crowd. So many stories of him not thinking of how famous he was.
I've had the experience of ringing Bing, when I lived in the UK, at his hotel and answering the phone.
And, Bing even rang me at work one day - don't believe other "well knows" did that.
So many acts of kindness you'll find when digging further into Bing's life.
Enjoy it all.


15/3/2016 2:35 am  #6

Re: Good reading recommendations?


I just published a reply to this question on a different thread. I'll copy and paste it here:

When I first discovered Bing's music, I was also mostly a fan of his early stuff, though it didn't take me too long to discover the rest of his output, and even though I'm still quite partial to his early material, I really love his later stuff as well.

Regarding books, I have quite a few volumes on Bing, though I don't think any can compare with Giddins's biography, which is excellent. I love Bing's own Call Me Lucky, from 1953, and I bemoan the fact that he never got around to writing another autobiography towards the end of his life. Malcolm Macfarlane's book Day by Day is fantastic if you want to know absolutely everything that Bing did chronologically throughout his life. It's a very valuable book, though it's quite expensive now that it's gone out of print. Fortunately, the ICC's website offers its contents for free online, and it's a source I constantly consult. Then, I also like the late Ken Barnes's The Crosby Years, which discusses his later period quite a bit in depth and deals with his work, which is what really fascinates me about Bing's life. Will Friedwald never devoted a whole book to Bing, but one of the chapters of his fine book Jazz Singing is devoted to Bing and Louis Armstrong. and I think every Crosby fan should read it.

There are quite a few biographies that aren't too interesting and that paint what I believe to be an unfair, biased picture of Bing. A very charming novelized biography of Bing is the one written by his brothers Ted and Larry, though it was published in the mid-1940s and is therefore very incomplete. It's a good summer read if you'd like to learn a little bit about Bing's life up until that time told in the form of a novel. The book The Rise of the Crooners also has a whole chapter about Bing that is very well written and well worth reading. That book is interesting because it also talks about other early crooners like Johnny Marvin, Nick Lucas, Russ Columbo, and Rudy Vallee, all of whom I also enjoy.

And that's just what I can think of right off the bat, although there are several other books that I haven't mentioned, and I am sure everyone on this forum has his or her favorite.

Last edited by Anton G.-F. (15/3/2016 2:35 am)


16/3/2016 6:13 pm  #7

Re: Good reading recommendations?

Anton--I've been looking over your list and the link Richard sent. Both are very helpful and I thank you! I'm looking for "Call Me Lucky" now and Ken Barnes' book as well. I noticed the "Day by Day" on the ICC website--and I've not even scratched the surface. I have much to learn and I look forward to it!

     Thread Starter

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