Last week we left Bing developing a following from the younger members of the audience – so much so that he was assigned a key solo spot in a major production number. The number was ‘Song of the Dawn’ which the Whiteman band filmed in Hollywood in 1930. But …… things didn’t quite go to plan!
It was the night before the ‘Song of the Dawn’ was to be filmed that things went ‘a little awry’. Bing had developed a reputation within the Whiteman clan as a fun-loving boozer and womanizer – and this night he was arrested for drunken driving. Bing was jailed for 30 days and singer-actor John Boles – a Warner Brothers leading man – was brought-in to sing the part. However – for several of the other numbers in King of Jazz featuring the Rhythm Boys Whiteman arranged to have Crosby brought to the studio under police guard and returned to jail after each day’s shooting ended! When the film was completed Whiteman left Hollywood and went on a national tour.
The police experience had a sobering effect on the young Crosby and he began to take his career more seriously – particularly with regard to the potential of musical movies. The group went to work in the Cocoanut Grove nightclub with Gus Arnheim’s orchestra. There was also another reason for Bing to stay where they were – Miss Wilma Wyatt, a singer known as Dixie Lee! In September 1930 they married and their unity initiated some ‘interesting’ responses! News stories had comments such as ‘Rising young Fox star weds obscure crooner’ or, as Bing put it ‘Miss Big marries Mr Little’.
Dixie had played half-a-dozen movies for Fox but soon gave up that career and supported Bing in his. As a result he worked on improving his breath control and started singing fewer rhythmic numbers and more romantic ballads. Things now moved on at speed. He left the Rhythm Boys after he missed a show and the group were briefly put on the blacklist by the musicians union and CBS Radio heard him and offered Bing a network contract. Wife, brother and Bing moved to New York and, in September 1931 began a nightly 15 minute broadcast over the CBS Radio Network. As singer-pianist, author and record producer Larry Carr once so aptly put it:
“After six long years of learning and honing his craft, he was an overnight success!”