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Written by Marie Spada Bing Crosby: The Man Behind the Star

Harry Lillis “Bing” Crosby, Jr. was one of the best-selling recording artists of the 20th century. Crosby’s popularity dubbed him the “most admired man alive” in 1948, and his singing style paved the way for later legends such as Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin. The cool crooner was a maverick in the recording industry, and The Bing Crosby Foundation was responsible for many innovations in American broadcasting history such as the laugh track, which is still widely used in sitcoms today. As one of the few celebrities to have three stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, Crosby won an Academy Award in 1944. He was also the first Grammy Global Achievement Award recipient in 1963 (which today is the Lifetime Achievement Award).

After attending several Vaudeville shows upon leaving law school, Crosby began working backstage for Al Jolson and then playing for Al Jinker in his band, The Musicaladers. When the band heard him sing, they quickly took him off of the drums and put him on the mic. In 1925, Jinker and Crosby drove an old, beat-down truck to LA to take their chances auditioning, and within one year, they were set to tour with Paul Whiteman’s band. Crosby’s popularity soared, and soon he was booking deals with CBS and Paramount Pictures.

One year later, Crosby took over NBC’s variety show, Kraft Music Hall, and completely revived the dying program. He warmed hearts all over America and became a shining light to Americans during The Great Depression. During WWII, Crosby toured at home and abroad, and had 50 million listeners on his radio show. In 1944, he was dubbed by those in the military as “the most morale-boosting individual during the war.” Crosby continued his success and moved on to ABC, began an annual Christmas program and produced toe-tapping hits well into the 1960s.

As time passed, he began to spend more time on the golf course and at the racetracks (he founded the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club in 1937 with his good friend, Pat O’Brien). Crosby also wrote the lyrics to the Del Mar anthem, “Where the Turf Meets the Surf, ” which is still played at Del Mar today. On August 12, 1938, Crosby and his friend Lindsay Howard raced their horse, Ligaroti, against the world-famous Seabiscuit at Del Mar in front of an audience of over 20, 000 people. The star-studded crowd included a few notable people from Crosby’s list of friends, such as Clark Gable and Carole Lombard. Though his horse lost in a close race, the event and his promotional efforts created a great deal of buzz about the happenings at Del Mar, and the fun has yet to stop.