One personality from the Golden Age of Radio who needs no introduction is Bing Crosby. Best loved and remembered for his rendition of White Christmas, Bing's ability to take advantage of new technologies as they came along boosted his career. There is no denying Bing's rich voice, but it was his ability to take advantage of electrical amplification that allowed him to develop his trademark laid back, intimate style.
Bing was not afraid to invest his own money in technology. He had long advocated recording his radio programs so that the best material could be broadcast, but both CBS and NBC felt that audiences would not be receptive to “Canned” performances. After all, the best radio comics, Bob Hope, Jack Benny, Fred Allen, even Crosby himself, got the biggest laughs on the material that did not go exactly right.
The networks scoffed that prerecording was simply a dodge to allow Crosby to get more time on the golf course. Bing stuck to his guns, and eventually walked out on Kraft Music Hall, after being with the show for 10 years.
Army Signal Corp Officer Jack Mullin's mission was to investigate German recording and broadcasting technology at the end of the war. Among his discoveries was a magnetic recording machine that used tape and provided a higher fidelity recording than traditional shellac records.
Crosby saw a demonstration of the technology when Mullin pitched it to the movie industry. He immediately saw the potential for radio programs, but he could not sell it to the NBC brass.
However, ABC, which had recently formed from the Blue Network, found the idea of a pre recorded show much more acceptable. ABC offered Bing $30,000 per week to produce the Philco shows, and he received another $40,000 from independent stations, which aired the show from lacquer/aluminum disks.
Bing had complete control over the production, which he found incredibly rewarding. Not only was he able to use the recording technology, he was able to place the microphones to his best advantage. Bing was a significant enough celebrity that he had little trouble attracting guest talent. The shows were recorded “before a live audience”, usually lasting 35-45 minutes, and the best material kept for the broadcast. Those closest to Bing reported that his favorite element of the production was being able to work in a hat, rather than wearing the hated toupee which was necessary in the NBC studio.
The show is a great listen, not only for Bing and his guests great music, but also for the fun, informal tone of the show. Many of Bing's guests had a close association with other sponsors, and Bing had little problem allowing them a good natured plug while still getting the message across for Philco. Bing also made regular plugs for the Pittsburgh Pirates, the professional baseball team in which he had part ownership.
Once the songs were sung, the editing done, and the show in the can, Bing still had time to get to the golf course.