A weekly show which ran for two seasons during 1933-1935, it was to cement Bing Crosby’s reputation as a radio star. Bing Crosby Entertains was Crosby’s most important radio series to date and it enabled him to fully develop as a rounded radio personality instead of a singer who did not speak.
Bing Crosby’s radio career had taken off with his nightly nation-wide broadcasts from New York in 1931-32 and he moved on to the two nights a week Music That Satisfies show which ran for 13 weeks early in 1933. The nightly shows required him to do separate shows for the East Coast and for the West Coast because of the time difference. That was avoided for the Music That Satisfies series as Crosby broadcast at 9:15 p.m. Eastern which meant that it was heard at 6:15 p.m. in California. By this time, Crosby was making three films a year and undertaking stage appearances. A once-a-week radio show which did not have to be repeated for the West Coast was ideal for him and Woodbury Soap agreed to sponsor such a show on the CBS network.
The show made its bow on Monday, October 16, 1933, at 5:30 p.m. Pacific Time. Musical support came from Lennie Hayton’s orchestra and Ken Niles was the announcer. The guest was eighteen-year-old songstress, Mary Lou Raymond. Bing was paid $1,750 per broadcast for a minimum of 13 weeks plus a figure to be agreed for a further six broadcasts.
The shows opened with Ken Niles saying: “Bing Crosby entertains” followed by a word of welcome from Crosby and an opening song. “After that Niles would deliver a message from Woodbury whose slogan: “For the skin you love to touch,” represented considerable aesthetic improvement for Crosby over coughless cigarettes and saliva-free cigars.” The Woodbury program is significant for it gave Crosby some dialogue for the first time, his personality emerging in light banter with Niles and introductions to his songs. It also began the system of cross-promoting his own work as he featured songs and guest stars from his own films and sang songs he had recorded.
Billboard liked the opening show saying, inter alia: “Selling a product to the women must of necessity use a program of definite appeal to them and in Crosby, Woodbury Soap has chosen wisely. For Bing is in the middle of a brilliant career and the motion picture successes in which he appears add to his strength as a radio draw. Further, he has not been heard too often of late and his performance is better than ever as to both voice and choice of selections.”
There was a dispute between Crosby and the sponsor over what theme tune should be used. Woodbury Soap and its agency, Lennon & Mitchell, considered that the tune ‘Loveliness’ which had always been the theme of the Woodbury programs should continue. Crosby argued that the logical theme for the stanza was “Where the Blue of the Night (Meets the Gold of the Day)“, on the grounds that the song had been identified with him ever since he had been on the air. Eventually Woodbury conceded to the singer. Other problems arose with Dale Winbrow, who had been sent out to the West coast from New York by the Lennon & Mitchell agency to resolve the theme tune argument and supervise the show. Winbrow listened to the program that Crosby and Lennie Hayton had prepared for the next broadcast and was very critical of it. “The flare up that was provoked from Crosby wound up with the warbler and Hayton declaring themselves out of the show. The baritone’s management later prevailed upon him to hold on while the situation was being straightened out with the agency on the New York end.”
Major guest stars during the series were the Mills Brothers (15 appearances) and Kay Thompson & the Three Rhythm Kings (10 times). Carole Lombard guested on the show on April 2, 1934 to promote the Crosby-Lombard film We’re Not Dressing.
The show had a 25.1 rating for the season putting it in 14th. position for evening programs. The highest rated evening program as assessed by the Co-operative Analysis of Broadcasting for the 1933-34 season was the Eddie Cantor show (with a Crossley rating of 50.2) with Rudy Vallée coming in at 39.0.
After the January 8, 1934 show, Lennie Hayton handed over the orchestral support for a few weeks to Gus Arnheim and his Orchestra. In turn, Carol Lofner’s Beverly Wilshire Orchestra took over from Arnheim after the February 26 show and then Jimmy Grier assumed the role on March 26 until the end of the season.
In March 1934, Crosby agreed a further seven weeks’ contract with Woodbury at $2,500 per broadcast. He had been offered $3,000 by Studebaker but this was for a minimum of 13 weeks which did not suit the singer as he wanted to be free for a tour of personal appearances immediately on the expiration of his Paramount Pictures contract at the end of May 1934. It had been Studebaker’s intention to step into the Monday night niche held by Woodbury on CBS and if Crosby had not renewed, Woodbury would have ended the show’s run with the April 9 broadcast. No guest stars appeared after the April 9 broadcast.
The final show of the season was on May 28, 1934.