Bing made his solo debut on network radio Sept. 2, 1931, and remained there with at least a weekly show for 31 years until Nov. 2, 1962. Bing's big-budget primetime variety show ended May 30, 1954. By 1954 the new medium of TV was drawing the big money away from radio broadcasting, making it difficult to support expensive stars like Crosby with full orchestras and big-name guests. During his last 8 years on radio (1954-62) Bing mostly sang solo or with Rosemary Clooney to the accompaniment of the Buddy Cole Trio.

Bing's most famous radio show was sponsored by Kraft Foods. Bing first appeared as guest host of the Kraft Music Hall on Dec. 5, 1935, and the following month took over the job full-time from Paul Whiteman. Originally the Kraft show was an hour-long variety show, but was cut to a half hour a week beginning January 7, 1943. The Kraft show was broadcast live, as were all primetime network shows of that era. Recording techniques were considered inadequate for primetime network programming. Crosby disliked the inconvenience of the late broadcast hour and the necessity of repeating a show for different time zones. In 1945 he appealed to Kraft and NBC for more money and to allow him to pre-record his show on disc. He was turned down, and in protest Bing refused to return to the show for the fall 1945 season. After much legal wrangling Bing returned to the Music Hall February 7 of '46, but hosted his final Kraft broadcast May 9. Instead, Bing found a sponsor and a network that would allow him to do what no other performer had been allowed to do ... record his show for later broadcast.

Philco Radio Time starring Bing Crosby made its debut on the ABC network Oct. 16, 1946, with Bob Hope as Bing's first guest. The show was recorded on 16-inch diameter lacquer-coated aluminum disks. The following year the Crosby show would introduce taped broadcasting to primetime network radio.

Nazi Germany developed tape recording, which they used to broadcast music and propaganda at all hours of the day during World War II. As the war in Europe ground to an end in the spring of 1945, several German tape recorders were recovered and brought back to the United States. Following the war one of the technicians who had recovered a couple of these tape recorders, John Mullin, reassembled the recorders and in June 1947 demonstrated their use to Crosby. Mullin was invited to tape record the first show of the new season, and on the evening of Oct. 1, 1947, Philco Radio Time hit the air having been recorded and edited entirely on magnetic tape. Bing's guest on that memorable occasion was Gary Cooper. Bing was sufficiently impressed by the quality that he directed Crosby Enterprises to finance the development of an American version of the German machine, which were produced by the Ampex company and put into operation in 1948.

Bing remained with Philco and ABC until 1949, when he returned to his original radio home, CBS. By then the stigma surrounding recorded broadcasts had disappeared. Bing's sponsor at CBS from 1949 through 1952 was Chesterfield cigarettes. General Electric sponsored the show from the fall of '52 through the spring of '54.

Download five minutes of excerpts from Bing's radio shows from 1931 through '54. (MP3 audio)

Go to Bing Crosby Radio Program Guide

A History of American Radio Broadcasting
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