MARK SCRIMGER, former president of the Club Crosby,
from the liner notes for Broadway Intermission BR-129, Bing Crosby: The War Years:

Although his age and color-blindness kept him from directly serving in the Armed Forces during World War II, Bing Crosby contributed his great civilian talents to help defeat the Axis. His radio program, the Kraft Music Hall, became a traveling USO show which often broadcast from one of the many naval bases, air fields, and army camps located around the United States. These personal appearances were welcome relief and entertainment for troops who were shortly going to be shipped overseas to a rather uncertain future.

His broadcasts of this period are peppered with appeals to his audience to join in the war effort. He also introduced and explained many of the government's new rationing plans to those on the "home front." The success of many of these programs was often directly attributable to Bing's promotion of them. The erroneous announcement one night of a minimum age requirement resulted in several thousand under-age volunteers having to be turned away the very next day. Bing was also a strong promoter of the various war bond drives via his radio program, several movie shorts he made, and through personal appearances like his tour with the Hollywood Victory Caravan. In mid-1944, Bing journeyed to Europe to entertain troops in the front lines and the shows he did for them remain treasured memories.

One of Bing's less publicized activities was the recording done for use by military personnel at home and abroad. These 12-inch 78 rpms were made under the auspices of the War Department's Special Services Division, and all of the great singers and orchestras of the day, including Bing, contributed their talents free of charge to this government-sponsored recording program. After the war these innocent platters were given the death sentence. Judging by the small number that still exist today, the government's efforts to demolish them were about 95 percent successful. The survivors, however, appear to have faced a fate worse than death. There seems to be no such thing as a mint or even near-mint condition one, although I'm sure they must have started out that way. Those remaining suffered untold abuse during the war and all succeeding years and are cracked, warped, scratched, and scarred generally to the point of inaudibility. But, because they contain so much non-commercial material, they are a valuable part of many, many record collections world-wide.

Most of Bing's V-Disc recordings were taken directly from radio broadcast or rehearsal transcriptions and edited to fit on these discs. There are some notable exceptions, though, such as Bing's vocals with the Tommy Dorsey and Paul Weston orchestras and the Sing-A-Long medleys. These appear to have been made at special recording sessions and hence are original material available from no other source. Listen to them and see why Bing Crosby was the fighting men's favorite and their number one requested vocalist -- as he was for virtually everyone the world over during the wartime 1940's.

Introduction by WAYNE MARTIN, former editor of Bingang, Club Crosby:

When I was about 15 years old, my cousin was discharged from the Navy and came home with a brand-new Philco phonograph (one of those with a drawer where you put the record you wanted to play) and a stack of records he had accumulated during his service years. Among these records was a small stack of V-Discs, including one or two with Bing Crosby. I was not allowed to touch the V-Discs, as he considered them to be "keepsakes" from the War. He said he had "liberated" them, and that he would get in trouble if anybody knew he had them.

Apparently a lot of G.I.s had the same idea. Because of the original agreements with the musicians' union, the V-Discs were condemned to destruction once the project was over, but some of the unsecured ones were "lifted" by the servicemen and slipped into their duffel bags. These stolen or otherwise suspiciously-obtained discs now sit on the shelves of collectors around the world. More than eight million of these records were pressed. Only a very small percentage of these pressings still exists.

During the summer of 1998, Collectors Choice Music announced reissues of these discs by several musicians of the war era. The way had been cleared for this in 1995, when the restrictions on the discs were lifted. Among the artists chosen for reissue was Bing Crosby, and his fans were eager to hear these long-sought-after recordings. The resulting 4-CD set is a disappointment in several ways. Most of the tracks sound about as good as could be expected, considering the battered condition in which most of these old records are commonly found. However, at least as far as Bing is concerned, the collection is not complete. His versions of "Easter Parade" with Al Jolson and "It's a Long Way to Tipperary" with Dinah Shore are among the missing items. Worse, there is absolutely no discographical information supplied with the set. It seems that at the very least the original Army/Navy record numbers could have been supplied, but apparently even this simple information was considered to be too much trouble. The set originally sold for nearly fifty dollars (price since reduced), and we could have expected more in the way of liner notes than was provided. Besides that, the set is rather cheaply put together.

There are other faults in this set. When I first listened to the CD's, I was struck by the fact that some of the songs sounded more like studio recordings than broadcast transcriptions. This was especially true of "Please," which to my ears sounded exactly like the old Brunswick recording. There were other problems having to do with timing and other questions in my mind. In an effort to get someone else's input, I asked Steve Lewis to place the entire discography on his "Bing Crosby Museum" internet site. It worked! Along came Lionel Pairpoint, who was making an exhaustive (and probably exhausting) study of the CD's, comparing them to the actual V-Discs and to broadcast transcriptions which he had at hand. Malcolm Macfarlane of the International Crosby Circle informed me of Lionel's work that was in progress and suggested that we run a corrected discography in Bing, the I.C.C.'s newsletter, along with Lionel's comments. This was done in the Spring 1999 issue. At least a dozen songs have been proved to be from other sources rather than V-Discs. Five are substitutions of commercial masters for the V-disc version, and the others involve substitution of other radio versions for the originals. Lionel's corrections have now been added to the internet discography and the printed copies which Club Crosby distributes.

At least we have most of Bing's V-Discs in usable form on the CD set, and we have provided the discographical information here. In Club Crosby's original study we turned to two sources: The Road to Bing Crosby: V-Disc Discography and Richard S. Sears' book, V-Discs: A History and Discography. The former is silent as to its authorship, but is a supplement to The Road to Bing Crosby, a 4-volume work by Richard Harding, Fred Reynolds, Bob Roberts and Derek Parkes. The latter was published in 1980 by Greenwood Press. Not all questions have been resolved, and readers are invited to send in corrections or additions. Now, at least, you can find out the source of most of these V-disc selections.

CROSBY V-DISCOGRAPHY compiled by Wayne Martin

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