Spotlight on … Bob Crosby

Bob Crosby's Bob-Cats
Bob Crosby’s Bob-Cats

On of Bing Crosby’s brothers, Bob Crosby was singer for the big band, the Bob Crosby Orchestra, and the smaller trad version – Bob Crosby’s Bob-Cats, whose lineups at various times included Yank Lawson, Billy Butterfield, Charlie Spivak, Muggsy Spanier, Irving Fazola, Nappy Lamare, Ward Silloway, Warren Smith, Joe Sullivan, Bob Zurke, Jess Stacy, Bob Haggart, Walt Yoder, Jack Sperling and Ray Bauduc. These bands were founded as a cooperative, but Bob Crosby was chosen as front-man for his movie-star looks, his personality, and, of course, his name.

Their music was, in a word, spectacular.

When I started collecting and DJing, while I quickly fell in love with their music there were only a few Bob Crosby albums easily available, and the quality was generally pretty poor. This is beginning to change – while the quality can still be pretty variable, there’s a great deal more music available now, and the list is growing all the time.

I’ve put together a small selection of great danceable tracks – some of these are tracks that I use often, some are tracks that I’d love to use more – but they are all very very danceable.

Rag Mop

Cheerful and happy, around 160BPM, with very much a trad jazz vibe – this is one that I probably overplay. Very accessible, and one of my staples.

Smokey Mary

This is one that I do not overplay. It’s fast – over 270BPM, so opportunities to let rip with it are rare, but it’s an amazing Balboa track. There is an annoyingly undanceable drum solo at the end, but I’ve done some judicious editing on my DJing version to make it useable. DJs take note – listen to your music all the way through before using it….

Grand Terrace Rhythm

Low tempo, chunky, awesome. A nice slow start, builds in energy throughout, and fun fun fun.

Catalina Jump

There’s a slightly melancholic air to this one – but there’s a lot to love about it. It was, however, one of my formative Balboa DJing experiences – picture, if you will, the Balboa room at a high-level event, filled with great Balboa dancers… and I put this track on, thinking it would make a good Balboa track. Wrong. Every single couple in the room, without exception, switched to Lindy Hop and started swinging out. At least they kept dancing. And the head DJ wasn’t around, so I got away with it. Kind of.

Swingin’ on Nothin’

Another low-tempo affair – the most played version of this tends to be Tommy Dorsey’s one, but I love this one – it swings like mad, and has a great rough and raw feel to it.

Digga Digga Doo

A high-tempo classic to finish up on – again with that slightly rough and raw feel – but an amazing take, which makes for an incredible Balboa track.

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