17/7/2022 6:58 pm  #1

Books 'n' Bing

I realise the subject of books on Bing will have previously been discussed many times but I was just wondering if anyone currently on the forum has read any of which they're particularly fond (or perhaps not so fond) and has any views or memories of them? 

I thought I'd get things going by burbling on about the following … 

The first book on Bing I read was at the age of twelve years. It was a paperback edition of Charles Thompson's authorised 1976 biography “Bing”. I was being narrow boat driven at the time, gliding through the beautiful English idyll of the Shropshire Union Canal, overhanging weeping willows and all, during a sun kissed 1981 summer's week and comfortably seated on the boat's bow deck … “busy doing nothing”.  

What was so lovely was that due to the book originally being published the year before his death, everything of course was written in the present tense and for some reason both then and looking back now, that seemed so touching for my first serious reading of anything Bing. 

I found it to be a beautifully intimate, highly accessible and warm introduction to our man's life and career. Bing's own original contributions are quoted throughout and he emerges as most engaging and affable. However Mr Thompson, since the early 1980's (and after a similar biography of Bob Hope), has seemingly disappeared without trace! Having already asked a couple of highly esteemed Crosbyphiles does anyone have any idea as to what became of him?  

The book so far has easily been my most pleasurable holiday reading of all. Due, on that trip to an English waterways shortage on equally appealing books, I ended up reading it twice!

 As many of you will be aware, one of our most distinguished members, Mr Malcolm MacFarlane has authored a most monumentally researched, outstandingly detailed and essential volume on Mr Cros, “Bing Crosby: Day by Day”. Although actual copies are now very hard to come by, a reminder that the book's unsurpassable contents remains available online, here: http://www.bingmagazine.co.uk/bingmagazine/1903-1935.htm#Chapter_2 

So … what are your particular views between the hard and soft covers of our forum's favourite singer?  

Last edited by Ian Kerstein (17/7/2022 7:02 pm)


18/7/2022 9:20 am  #2

Re: Books 'n' Bing

Hi Ian,
Yes I have an old copy of Bing by Charles Thompson and though it’s been many years since I read it I do remember enjoying it. I was lucky enough back in the mid 1990s when browsing through one of the bookstores on Hollywood Boulevard to find a first edition of Bings own book Call me Lucky. It’s an enjoyable book although it does jump all over the place (time wise that is) but it’s nice to hear the stories from the “horse’s mouth” so to speak. Also this may be controversial but I didn’t mind Gary Crosby’s book too. I think he was more harsh on himself and didn’t hide the fact that his mother had issues as far as alcohol was concerned. Some of the stories may have been exaggerated however for me it didn’t damage Bings reputation or my opinion of him - it was Gary’s side of things which was coming from a man that was filled with anger management issues. It was nice to hear that Philip had a different viewpoint praising his father. Of course the most balanced and honest book on Bing would have to be Gary Giddens. I hope he gets around to finishing the third book before we are all too old to read it. Of course I totally understand the mammoth job it is to write such comprehensive books but I can’t help being impatient!!


18/7/2022 9:23 am  #3

Re: Books 'n' Bing

PS: Malcolm book Day by Day is such a wonderful read. A lot of information in my series on Bing I have obtained from Malcolm’s on line book which I’m so glad he is sharing. If it was still available at a normal price as a book I’d buy it but copies are now going for $100s which shows it’s rarity and importance. 


19/7/2022 3:25 pm  #4

Re: Books 'n' Bing

Hello Dave,

That is mightily impressive, buying Bing's autobiography on Hollywood Boulevard. Perfect! It also surprised me on first reading by its jumping here, there and everywhere. Pleasant though it is (his ghost writer Pete Martin did a wonderful job of conveying Bing's voice from the page) it definitely had the feeling of being a bit rushed but then again I suppose it was there to generally and breezily convey Bing's public persona and history – and not to plunge any particular depths.  I was though, so surprised (just as I was over David Niven's books), that there was virtually nothing mentioned about his wartime activities. Until Gary Giddins' revelations, such was the scarcity, I thought Bing might even have been some sort of foreign service intelligence agent!

I'm so pleased you enjoyed "missing man in action" Charles Thompson's book. There was another version which was published around a year later called "The Complete Crosby", which of course adjusted all the tenses and included Bing's death. Malcolm's book is truly one of the giants!

Yes, Gary's book, “Going my Own Way” is an interesting one. At the time I was riveted - reading it all in just over a couple of days. It certainly was a page turner and I must confess, I am always most keen to read what family members or close associates write in their memoirs of the great and the good. You've also, dmgprod - summed up much of my own feelings about it precisely with yours.  

What Gary Giddins has to say about its authorship is also most informative, going through the book in the 1990's, page by page with Gary Crosby himself, who had little recall or was completely unable to give much credence to great chunks of it. Mr Giddins, after a conversation with Gary's ghost writer, Ross Firestone then learned that Gary was sometimes so intoxicated by the time deadlines were approaching, that Mr Firestone himself with confessed factual licence, had to fill in the so far unprovided gaps, much of it covering the future disputed extremities and frequencies of Bing's disciplinarian behaviour.  

On a personal note, I saw Bob Hope in concert a year later (1984) and he vented, what I remember being, his full blown fury over it from the stage. Markedly different in tone if not in words from his more sanguine approach on the subject whenever asked during television and radio appearances.

As for Gary Giddins' own lavish books on Bing, although I have in my custody a copy of each, they remain unread until I know that publication of the final volume (now number three) has been fully realised – or not. I'd currently find it too much of a distraction reading a work until I was certain of its end point.

I am quite willing to face the music and (but not dance) …… over my stance.  
I share your impatience:

Anyone out there in Bingland know anything of volume three's progress so far towards publication? I know Mr Giddins has said the future of Volume Three with his publisher of Volume Two at the time, largely rested on the success of the second volume. Does anyone also know if the second volume was judged a commercial success?

How do feel, Dave (or please, anyone else) about any other books or  first hand account memoirs of Bing? On this, there's been three from widow Kathryn, one from youngest son Nathaniel, another from niece, Carolyn Schneider and “The Crosby Years” by his later UK record producer, Ken Barnes.

Last edited by Ian Kerstein (20/7/2022 2:40 am)

     Thread Starter

19/7/2022 9:05 pm  #5

Re: Books 'n' Bing

Hi Ian,
Yes it is interesting to hear that Gary Giddins sat down with Gary Crosby and went through his book and that some parts were just exaggerated. With that in mind it’s easier to read and accept. I hope volume two of Gary Giddins was a success and number three is in the works - we can only hope. As for the other books I do have Nathaniel’s book which is nice and tends to concentrate on the golf side of things. Not being a huge golf fan it is not as interesting as the other books but is nice to hear of Nat’s memories. I also have Carolyn Schneider’s  book which I enjoyed and Kathryn’s first book “My Life with Bing” in my collection. The Crosby Years by Ken Barnes I read years ago but lost my copy and I enjoyed that as a good recollection of Bing in his later recording career. Of course other books that I have can be seen in my book collection which is located behind me when talking to camera on my episodes - I can’t recall all of them now but all are very enjoyable to browse through every now and again. Keep well. Dave


25/7/2022 1:16 pm  #6

Re: Books 'n' Bing

Hello Dave and everyone,

It seems that once again my acute lack of observational skills have once again surfaced. Even after watching so many of your wonderful series of programmes, I'd still managed to overlook your heavily featured Bing book shelves. Oh dear!

It looks as if we're "on the same page" when it comes to Nathaniel's book. It is indeed a nice one but I must confess after reading, I even considered for the very first time concerning a book on Bing, whether or not to keep it! It's pleasantly written but I was stretched to the point of skipping a number of pages when it came to the corporate and political minutiae of the post Bing golf tournament structures and their corporate arrangements. The book's title emphasised the moments between father and son and it would have been even nicer had there been more pages of this with perhaps additional anecdotes and reflections on the man and their relatively short time together.  

Have you or anyone else on here, read Kathryn's lesser known "Bing and Other Things" from 1966? It's markedly different from her two later books, "My Life with Bing" and "My Last Years with Bing".

Also, never having read it, has anyone anyone done so with "Bing", the 1937 biography by two of Bing's brother's Ted and Larry Crosby - or indeed any books so far mentioned or unmentioned on our favourite singer? 


Last edited by Ian Kerstein (25/7/2022 1:18 pm)

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