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An Underrated Vocalist Lost In The Glare Of An Illustrious DadOct. 2 2011
- Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
When you talk about tough acts to follow there can be no greater examples than those of Frank Sinatra, Jr and Gary Crosby, eldest son of the legendary Bing, both of whom, despite having fine voices, always suffered the slings and arrows of supercilious critics who repeatedly compared them to their illustrious dads (imagine, for example, what it would have been like if Elvis Presley had had a son who also wished to become a R&R star).
Born Gary Evan Crosby in Los Angeles on June 27, 1933 to Bing and his first wife, actress, dancer, and singer Dixie Lee, he first tasted widespread fame of his own when, in the summer of 1950, at age 17, he had a double-sided hit single with Play A Simple Melody # 2) and Sam's Song (# 3) on Decca 27112 billed as Gary Crosby & Friend. The "friend" of course was proud papa Bing, both backed by the Matty Matlock All-Stars. Later that same year, in time for Christmas and with Bing's long-time associates John Scott Trotter and his orchestra along with the Jeff Alexander Choir, Gary, his brothers Lindsay, Dennis, Philip and Bing, cut A Crosby Christmas Parts 1 & 2 (Decca 40181), each taking turns on a medley of The Snowman, That Christmas Feeling and I'd Like To Hitch A Ride With Santa Claus, which reached # 22.
The following spring, Gary and Bing were back with another two-sided hit with When You And I Were Young, Maggie, Blues (# 8) b/w Moonlight Bay (# 14) on Decca 27577, and in February 1954 they enjoyed one last hit together with the # 28 Down By The Riverside on Decca 28995 (b/w What A Little Moonlight Can Do). By now, however, Gary began gravitating more towards jazz and many of the singles he recorded from this point forward had that genre in mind, including 1955 duets with the family friend, Louis Armstrong (Easy Street/Lazy Bones (Decca 29921) and Ko Ko Mo (I Love You So)/Struttin' With Some Barbecue (Decca 29420).
After serving two years in the military from 1956 to 1958, and having tasted the acting bug in his childhood (Star Spangled Rhythm in 1942, and Duffy's Tavern and Out of this World, both in 1945), he also pursued that career, most notably in a 1964 episode of The Twilight Zone (Come Wander With Me) as well as in the 1965 Elvis Presley film Girl Happy, but his most enduring role was that of police officer Ed Wells in NBC's Adam-12 which ran from 1968 to 1975.
In between he also kept his hand in music, and demonstrated his love of jazz in the two Verve stereo albums presented here in this fine release, both originally recorded in 1959. Tracks 1 to 12 are from the album Gary Crosby Belts The Blues (Verve MG VS 6018) with the backing of an 11-piece orchestra led by Marty Paitch, while 13 to 24 appeared in Gary Crosby: The Happy Bachelor (Verve MG VS 6067), which had Bunny Botkin (an alias used by Perry Botkin, Jr) leading a quintet of pianist Paul Smith, percussionist Gene Estes, guitarist Howard Roberts, trumpeter Pete Candoli, and bassist Joe Mondragon.
While it's nice to finally see some of this underrated vocalist's offerings in a quality CD, it would also be great to see someone pull together all his hit singles with Bing, including the uncharted B-side to the last one, and some of the uncharted singles he had with Decca over the years, especially those with Louis Armstrong. Because, sadly, he is likely better remembered today for his 1983 "tell-all" book - published some six years after Bing's death - Going My Own Way which dealt with his own battle with the bottle (his mother was also an alcoholic) and, much more damaging to his dad's carefully-polished image, Bing's emotional and physical abuse, something that many believe led to the later suicides of Lindsay and Dennis. Gary himself passed away from lung cancer in Burbank on August 24, 1995.