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American Masters: Bing Crosby Rediscovered

December 1st, 2014
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How big was Bing Crosby? In the 40’s and 50’s he was the number one radio, movie and recording star. Fifty-million people turned into his radio show every week. He performed duets or performed with, among many, many others, Bob Hope, Judy Garland, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and David Bowie.

His style of singing is not so popular these days, to our loss. But he changed the way people sang. With the invention of the microphone, you no longer needed to belt, and Bing caressed the microphone, singing in a folksy, homespun style. He influenced everybody who came after him.

During World War II, he came home from touring Europe interested in tape recording. In 1947, he invested in Ampex recorders. He wanted to pre-record his radio shows. However, NBC balked, and he refused to work. The ensuing court case found his contract to be essentially “indentured servitude.” Crosby took his magnetic tape device to ABC and changed how radio was done. Later, he gave one of his Ampex recorders to his pal Les Paul, who would develop multi-tracking using it.

Crosby was so big, to answer the question, that he fundamentally changed everything he touched: movies, radio and recording.

All this and more is covered in exquisite detail in PBS’ American Master Series show, Bing Crosby – Rediscovered. The show covers Crosby’s career in about as much detail as you can cover such a diverse, lengthy career in 90 minutes. It features clips ranging from Bing in Mac Sennet movies to Johnny Carson.

Narrated by Stanley Tucci, and featuring interviews with all surviving members of Crosby’s immediate family, wife Kathryn, daughter Mary and sons Harry and Nathaniel, Crosby’s estate granted American Masters access to his archives, including never-before-seen home movies, Dictabelt recordings, photos and more.

American Masters: Bing Crosby – Rediscovered airs on PBS beginning tomorrow, and can also be ordered on DVD. American Masters: Bing Crosby Rediscovered – The Soundtrack features songs heard in the documentary, including 16 previously unreleased recordings.

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