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Bing - The Recording Pioneer

What October 1 means to recorded music history

The holiday season really starts at our house with the first showing of Holiday Inn and White Christmas.

These two classics both star the ultimate crooner, Bing Crosby. It is my love of the music that makes these movies special, and without Bing, they just wouldn't have been the same.

I think this is evident in the fact that "White Christmas" (the version sung by Bing) is still the number one selling single of all time.

I also know it is the holiday season because my family groans in protest at what they know to be the first of a few viewings between Thanksgiving and New Years.

Bing's Impact on Recorded Music

Bing Crosby plays a key role in recorded music history as well. If there were a holiday for the recorded music, my top vote would go to October 1.

October 1st marks the day that Bing the audio/video pioneer, entrepreneur, and angel investor first broadcast his popular radio show via a recording.

Bing had investments in real estate, mines, oil wells, cattle ranches, race horses, music publishing, baseball teams, and television. His ownership in Minute Maid Orange Juice alone made millions.

He took a significant amount of money and invested in radio, television, and recording technologies.

How the Recording Happened

By 1947 tape recorders were finally able to capture and playback in "broadcast" quality.

Bing saw the huge potential in the ability to "time-shift" programming on the radio as well as rebroadcast shows that were especially well received.

Engineer Jack Mullin demonstrated his groundbreaking Magnetophone recorder at MGM and Bing Crosby's technical director was in the audience. NBC refused to allow Bing to broadcast shows from recordings, so Bing moved to ABC with Philco sponsoring him and he brought with him Mullin's Magnetophones to tape his new shows, with the first broadcast on this day, Oct. 1, in 1947.

Bing went on to invest $50,000 (a huge amount at the time) into a fledgling six-person startup called Ampex.

Ampex went on to take over the world of audio recording. One of the first units was given to Les Paul, who used it to invent multitrack recording, and until the wide adoption of digital recording, the majority of the world's music was recorded on Ampex machines, or machines that utilized technology created by Ampex.

Four years later, in 1951, again in October, Bing Crosby helped launch the first Video Tape Recorders for recording TV shows and Ampex went on to launch B&W and Color video tape recorders, with the lower cost of recording enabling the world to enjoy the rerun.

Bing also contributed investment (along with Frank Sinatra) and equipment to start United Western Recorders in Los Angeles.

Initially the new home for Frank and Bing recordings, Western went on to be the studio of choice for many artists from the 1960s through to today.

Just some of the artists who have recorded there include Ray Charles, The Beach Boys, The Mamas & The Papas, The Grass Roots, Blondie, Elvis Presley, Bobby Vee, The 5th Dimension, The Righteous Brothers, Barbra Streisand, Petula Clark, Ella Fitzgerald, Whitney Houston, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., The Rolling Stones, Elton John, Tom Petty, R.E.M., k.d. lang, Madonna, Rod Stewart, Glen Campbell, Eric Clapton and Bonnie Raitt.

So, October 1st marks a landmark in recording.

We have Bing Crosby, and the money from the song "White Christmas" and the movies it was in, to thank for the real "birth" of one of the largest influences on music and television.

Would someone else have come along and done it? Absolutely, but it is hard to imagine someone as influential as Bing Crosby was at that time, being willing to invest their time, money, and career on fledgling technology that goes on to change the world.

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