I bought my first record in 1964 and like most of my friends at school, it was The Beatles. Over the next two years, I added to my collection as pocket money allowed, learning the hard way that an EP (Extended Play) was different from a regular 45, to the extent that it cost 10 shillings and sixpence, rather than the standard 6/8. Within a couple of years, I had records by Billy J. Kramer, the Dave Clark Five, Louis Armstrong and of course, more Beatles, but I was intrigued by a singer that my mother had idolised since she was 16. His name was Bing Crosby. One Christmas, I bought a copy of him singing “Silent Night” for her as a Christmas present, and my life changed.

 

I didn’t know then, but Bing Crosby was the world’s first multimedia superstar, with a career that ran from 1926 to 1977. During that time, he made over 2000 records (more than any other artiste), had 368 US chart entries (Frank Sinatra had 209, Elvis Presley 149 and the Beatles 68), and recorded the best-ever selling single, “White Christmas”. He also scored the most number hits, 38, as compared to 24 by the Beatles and 18 by Elvis. He also starred in over 80 films, won the Oscar for Best Actor in 1944 and is the only star to have been the top box-office draw for five consecutive years (1944-48). He died in 1977 at the age of 74. I met him in his dressing room at the London Palladium six days before his death and you can read more about that meeting elsewhere on this site.

 

Not long after I started buying Bing Crosby records, I discovered the voice of Michael Holliday. I vaguely remembered his record of “The Story Of My Life” from my early childhood but I soon became fascinated by the life - and death - of the man known as “Britain’s Bing Crosby”. When eventually I got around to writing my first book, Mike was the natural subject.

 

Mike wasn’t the only disciple of Bing Crosby. Nick Tosches his biography of Dean Martin, wrote about the way Bing invented the art of microphone singing in the late 1920s. “No singer who came after Crosby”, he wrote, “would ever approach a microphone or a song without passing through his shadow”. It was certainly true of Dean Martin, Perry Como, Frank Sinatra and even the balladeering side of Elvis.

 

When I looked for a second book subject, Perry Como was a natural choice. His professional career lasted over 60 years, he sold more records in the Fifties than anybody apart from Elvis and he single-handedly developed the art of popular singing on the medium of television. Incredibly, there had been no previous biography of him.

 

My third book was also a singer closely associated with Crosby, Rosemary Clooney. They performed together for over 20 years. Clooney - the aunt of an even more famous George - was a Fifties pop singer who fell on hard times and bounced back as one of the great interpreters of American popular songs, finding a home amongst some of the finest jazz accompanists of the late 20th Century.

 

As well as my books, I have written various articles and radio features, done some broadcasting, produced some CDs but through it all, my records remain my first love. Read on…..!

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