The history of the British arm of the International Club Crosby
It was 1950. The Labour party had just won a general election with a 5 seat majority, Sir Harry Lauder died and record fans listened to their music on 78s. Customs officers seized smuggled nylon stockings with a black market value of £80,000, petrol rationing ended in May and the English football team lost 1 - 0 to the USA in the World Cup in Brazil. But more important matters were afoot, the British Bing Club was launched in March 1950.
There had been UK based Bing clubs before and in fact Film Weekly of January 18, 1935 gave the following details:
Admirers of Bing Crosby may join the International Club in his support. This club is recognised by Mr Crosby and offers facilities for outdoor sports. Details may be obtained from G. E. Marshall, 32 Glenwood Road, Hounslow, Middlesex.
What happened to this club (and the outdoor sports!) has been lost in the mists of time and the British Bing Club launched in 1950 was originally the brainchild of several Crosby admirers.
The Early Years
Arthur Allen and Jean Rainey became the first two co-presidents and they received the blessing of Bing and some practical help from Larry Crosby. The co-presidents were keenly supported by Leslie Gaylor (Publicity Officer), Colin Pugh (record reviewer) plus Dot Hardiman as secretary. The club's first magazine entitled Crosbyana was issued in the summer of 1950.
Amongst the first members were the following, several of whom are still members today:-
Jean Rainey - John Fahy - Geoff Milne - Bert Morton
In 1951 Reg Davis took over as Editor from Art Allen and by 1952 the joint editors of the magazine were Reg Davis and Geoff Milne. Ralph Harding was contributing all manner of articles, some under pseudonyms, because of a shortage of material. Membership stood at 110 by the end of 1952.
Spring 1953 brought a surprise to the members as they discovered that their club was now called The Crosby Society as it was felt that the club's initials of BBC might cause confusion with another organisation. Art Allen returned as editor and the magazine was called Crosby Post. In 1954, financial problems had almost put the club out of existence but it was relaunched in November 1954 as The British Crosby Society and its magazine remained as Crosby Post. The Active Co-Presidents were Dorothy Hardiman and Jean Rainey with Frank Murphy's name starting to come to the fore. Frank had joined the club in December 1950 and went on to hold every position in the club.
The Murphy Era
By May 1955 Frank was Vice-President and to give an example of his enthusiasm, he organised a raffle by post to raise funds for the club. Tickets were 1/- each and the first prize was a private issue Bing LP. By 1957 Frank was Active Co-President with Dorothy Hardiman and the club had acquired an Irish branch whose secretary was Johnny Hopkins. Bill Taylor was the ‘Discologist’ and Stan White was the ‘General Affairs Officer’. Publicity Officer was Ted Laker and the American Correspondent was Pat Sullivan. In 1957 the dream of a complete discography of Bing's records was launched by the club for the first time and this was to be the now much sought after 'The Road to Bing Crosby' in which Derek Parkes, Fred Reynolds, Bob Roberts, Reg Davis, Geoff Milne, Charles Cowdry, Leslie Gaylor, Les Phythian and Ralph Harding played major parts.
Frank ran what was very much a ‘fan club’ where negative comment was almost unheard of and this produced divisions as the years went by. But Frank’s tremendous energy and enthusiasm ensured a reasonably successful club and membership rose to around 200. By 1960, the magazine was being issued every two months with Frank and Tony Carpenter sharing the editorial duties. In April 1961 Cecil Westrope took over as Editor whilst Frank was President and Discologist. Cecil was however to resign a year later and Frank took over as Editor again.
There was a major shock in the September 1965 edition of Crosby Post as Frank announced that he would be resigning from the British Crosby Society to form a new club called the International Crosby Circle. Ralph Harding was to be the new Editor of Crosby Post. The ICC was to run separately from the British Crosby Society and to have a team of correspondents in as many countries as possible. However this started off an almighty row which went on for many months until the various parties made it up. The outcome was that the British Crosby Society was ‘enfolded’ into the ICC and a separate and ultimately very successful magazine called The Crosby Collector was published by Ralph Harding for the next six years. Frank continued as Editor of the club magazine which he christened BING magazine.
In those days, the magazine was typed out on stencils which were then duplicated. Frank had many talents but typing and spelling were not amongst them and there were many hilarious typos which were highlighted in a superb article by Fred Reynolds called 'To Frid from Frunk' which we have reprinted on several occasions, the last time being in BING #145. Frank remained in the Editor's chair until 1971 when he was succeeded by John Bassett. John brought his expertise as a printer to the layout of the magazine and he played a major part in the discographies produced in the 1970s. He worked closely during this period with the club's secretary, Reg Bristo, who eventually took over as Editor in 1975.
Reg had firm opinions on most subjects but his enthusiasm leapt from the pages of the magazine. He was Editor from 1975 to 1989 and he presided over the exciting years of 1975 to 1977 when Bing was so active. Whilst Les Gaylor and Bert Bishop contributed to the magazine in handsome measure, Reg wrote most of the rest of the contents. He duplicated the magazine (which was published at quarterly intervals), posted it, acted as Secretary and Treasurer as well as issuing club cassettes to raise funds. Looking back now, it is difficult to know how he did it. Membership increased dramatically in the first few years he was in the chair because of Bing's higher profile and for the first time, the club managed to have its details put on Bing's LPs. Reg was described in an excellent appreciation by Fred Reynolds in BING #94 which included the words:
“His editorial policy, if undefined, has been consistent and forceful and no one could deny its individual tone with a style that opted for quantity and a comfortable prejudice.”
We all knew where we stood with Reg and what he stood for. He carried the weight of the club for almost twenty years until ill health caused him to hand over the reins in 1989. It was Michael Crampton who hurried down to South Wales to help get BING #92 issued and we all read of Reg's resignation. He was to be dead before the end of the year.
The Management Team
BING #92 reached us in late summer 1989 and the way forward was discussed at the Leeds meeting on October 1st. Michael Crampton drew five of us together for a separate meeting and the ‘famous five’ were Ken Crossland, Michael Crampton, John Joyce, Keith Parkinson and me. We all agreed that no one person could take over from Reg and the only solution was to share out the jobs and bring in others to help us. Ken Crossland became Editor, I was his Assistant, John Joyce was to be publisher / distributor and Michael became Secretary / Treasurer. Support was to be obtained from Keith Parkinson, Lionel Pairpoint, Leslie Gaylor, Derek Parkes, Fred Reynolds and Ron Bosley. Slowly we started to put it all together and in our first edition, BING #93 published in December 1989, Ken Crossland laid down some guiding principles which we still follow to this day. They were (and are):
1. The magazine is intended to cater for all who enjoy Bing - from the collector to the connoisseur to the critic to the casual fan.
2. The pages of the magazine will be open to anyone with something to contribute to the memory and reputation of Bing.
3. The magazine will not be given over to criticising other singers and other types of music. We would not wish it to be done to ‘us’ and we will not therefore do it to ‘them’.
4. The magazine is yours. Other than in the Editorial column, you will not find a commentary by the editor running through the journal. Nor indeed will you find the editor writing the journal for you. You must subscribe and support by giving us your views, your articles and anything else you can offer.
Bert Bishop, Wig Wiggins and David Currington soon joined the team. Ken Crossland handed over the Editor’s role to me in 1993 but sadly John Joyce and Derek Parkes died some years later. It was John Joyce who set us up with a proper printer so that a glossy magazine could be produced. Initially it was 32 pages and it has gradually grown ever since. Jim Reilly played an increasingly large part in the club's activities as the years went by until he stepped down in 2003.
Membership too has expanded particularly in the USA where Wig has done a tremendous job of pulling new members in to the club. In turn this led to our merger with the American Club Crosby in 2003. Club Crosby is recognised as the oldest fan club for a solo artist in the world by the Guinness Book of World Records and we are delighted to have joined with them. We have come a long way since 1950. It would not have been possible without a tremendous amount of hard work from so many members over so many years. To all of them we send our heartfelt thanks.