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Bob Crosby (1913 - 1993)


Bob Crosby got his start at the age of eighteen as a vocalist with the West Coast band Anson Weeks and His Orchestra. He spent a brief time with the Dorsey Brothers Orchestra but in 1935 left to begin his own band at the request of Gil Rodin. Rodin had defected from the Ben Pollack band when Pollack turned his focus towards promoting his future wife Doris Robbins’ singing career.

n actuality Crosby functioned more as a front man than a comprehensive bandleader providing congeniality, a family name, and a sincere admiration for his musicians. His vocal abilities were not those of his brother Bing. In George T. Simon’s comprehensive The Big Bands, Bob Crosby is quoted as saying; “I’m the only guy in the business who made it without any talent.”

Crosby’s band stood out from the pack, its Dixieland style generally considered passé at the time. The band compensated, however, with a stellar lineup (including trumpeter Yank Lawson) and an enthusiasm for the freer Dixieland style. Gil Rodin (tenor and alto sax) ran the show as music director and business manager. Clarinetist Matty Matlock and bass player Bob Haggart arranged for the group, the latter writing much of their material including “What’s New?” (originally “I’m Free”) as a trumpet solo for Billy Butterfield.

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