Bob Crosby rose to fame in the 1930s as a suave, swinging bandleader — and kid brother to that more famous Crosby, Bing.
Best known as the easygoing front man for Bob Crosby's Bobcats, a rollicking octet that was the cornerstone of a larger Dixieland band, Crosby sought during his career to distinguish himself from his older brother. While Bing Crosby made a fortune crooning, for example, Bob rarely sang and once described himself in self-deprecating humor as "the only guy in the business who made it without talent."
Crosby was the youngest of seven children. By the time he graduated from Gonzaga University intent upon a show business career, Bing was already a well-known entertainer. Bob went directly from college to the Anson Weeks orchestra in the early 1930s, and within a year booking agent Tommy Rockwell got him a spot in a new band being organized around the Dorsey brothers. But the experience was painful.
"Those opening nights are burned in my mind like a nightmare," Crosby said in an interview. "I didn't sing a single note, just sat at a table. The beginning of the third night, Tommy Dorsey came over to me and in his very tender way said, 'Look, this is the best band in the whole world and you ain't the best Crosby singer.' "
After a grueling year that reached its nadir when a Baltimore theater billed him as "Bing Crosby's Brother, Bob," the younger Crosby struck out on his own, fronting a group that was being formed from the remnants of the defunct Ben Pollack band.