#TBT – This Throwback Thursday post goes WAY back: This article originally appeared in the April 1941 issue of the AFM Local 47 Overture!
DR. CROSBY AND MAESTRO BURNS NOW MEMBERS OF LOCAL 47
Members of Local 47 take a great deal of pleasure in welcoming two of the finest gentlemen they know into their Association: Bing Crosby and Bob Burns.
Bing Crosby, the world’s greatest singer of popular songs, is the latest addition to the growing ranks of Local No. 47, A. F. of M. We are particularly proud to welcome him as a Brother Musician for he is truly just that to the rank and file musician with whom he comes in contact. Always kind and considerate of “the boys,” he is the first to suggest “Take five!” The possessor of a great sense of humor, he is forever ready with the latest funny story, or a gesture of friendliness to one of the lads, which serves to ease the tension, natural in working with great artists.
Musicians in Orchestra Featured
Bing’s latest evidence of good faith and friendship for the musician is to be heard on his radio program—The Kraft Music Hall—heard locally over KFI on Thursday night from 6 to 7 p.m. For years it has been the policy to feature the finest concert artists obtainable on this program. One day, Bing in a discussion with John Scott Trotter, his personally selected and most capable Orchestra Leader and Arranger, together with the producers of the program, the J. Walter Thompson Co., formulated the policy now in force. Bing said, “Why shouldn’t we give our own boys a chance? On alternate weeks with the concert artists, musicians of the John Scott Trotter Orchestra will be featured.”
Perry Botkin, guitarist with Trotter, was singled out for the initial spot. He was given the same billing—the same amount of dialogue—the same kind consideration, together with additional remuneration, (extra dough to youse guys), as was given many regular concert artists. He reaction from the public was most favorable, and pianist Chas. Ka Vere was next. Then followed cornetist Andy Secrest, each receiving the plaudits of the radio audience. All this the result of Brother Bing’s interest in our local boys. Saxophonist Jack Mayhew and violinist Sam Freed have been told to stand by for their turn at the mike in the near future.
Insists On Large Orchestras
Bing has always insisted on large orchestras for his accompaniments, making most of his phonograph record using the entire Trotter organization of nineteen men, as well as insisting on thirty or more men on most on his studio recordings. WELCOME BING!
Yes, Bob Burns is a member of our Association. No, the bazooka is not listed as his most important musical instrument. Bob plays piano and guitar.
Bazooka Made on Rush Order
“I was back in Kansas not long ago,” related Burns during a recent visit to headquarters, “an’ when we were there they had some doin’s that were bigger than the Van Buren Fair. Had a speaker’s stand an’ everythin’. I wasn’t expectin’ such a big affair, an’ didn’t have my bazooka along. So they had to go a plumber’s shop in Independence, an’ make a bazooka, an’, by gum, it sounded better’n the one I always used.”
Time Magazine Gives New Slant
“Time,” the weekly news magazine, had this to say back in 1939: “Most noteworthy achievement of Robin Burns up to this time is the invention and mastering of the bazooka, a homemade horn composed of two gas pipes and a whiskey funnel, which General Pershing once borrowed and tried to play in a Paris restaurant.”
Aunt Doody and Grandpa Snazzy
On the air and in print, the Burns character is that of a cracker-barrel philosopher, whose favorite characters are his Aunt Doody and Grandpa Snazzy. In real life, Cracker Barrel Burns is a regular fellow. He has never gone “Hollywood.” He drives a Ford and amuses himself with astronomy.
Listed in America’s Who’s Who
The well known “Who’s Who in America” reads: “Bob Burns, actor, born Van Buren, Ark., Oct. 2, 1896; son of William Robert and Emma (Needham) Burns; student University of Arkansas…. Began professional career on vaudeville stage 1911; now identified with motion pictures and radio programs; columnist for Esquire Features, Inc. Served as Sergeant United States Marine Corps….”
Musicians Request Flight of Bee
Now that maestro Burns is a member of Local 47, 7000 musicians near and far are a goin’ to sorta sit an’ wait for Bob to buzz-out the tune, “Flight of the Bumble Bee.”
Speakin’ of this tune, there was a fellow own in Texas who tried to set the words of Longfellow’s “Hiawatha” to this piece. He did it all right but no one had the never to sing it. He did a lot of funny things. He even went so far as to make a bet with the boys in the Local that he could play a trombone solo in a telephone booth. It went pretty well because during one of the fast passages he busted the coin box and three dollars and fifty-five cents worth of nickels rolled out of the phone.
Musicians Work with Crosby and Burns
All kiddin’ aside, a great many of our musicians have worked with Crosby and Burns on radio programs as well as in the movies. One every occasion the musicians left the job with a whale of a lot of good humor and a warm appreciation for having met a couple of swell “fellows.”
(View a pdf of the original Overture article here)