Spokanes Favorite Son
Harry Lillis "Bing" Crosby, Jr. (1903-1977) was among the most popular recording artists and actors of the 20th Century, having sold over 500 million recordings since the 1930s. His rendition of the classic “White Christmas” remains one of the most enduring holiday songs of all time.
Crosby also made a highly successful series of films during the Golden Age of postwar Hollywood, including the silver screen version of White Christmas and the popular Road To... films with fellow screen legend and longtime friend Bob Hope.
While being one of the brightest stars in Tinsel Town history, Bing Crosby actually had his beginnings in the Pacific Northwest. Three years after his birth in Tacoma Bing moved with his family to Spokane Washington, the city that he considered home throughout his life. The Crosbys settled in the Logan neighborhood, which at the time was given the nickname “Little Vatican” due to the large number of Roman Catholics living near the Jesuit-founded Gonzaga University.
Crosby graduated from Gonzaga Preparatory School (then known as Gonzaga High School) in North Spokane and attended Gonzaga University, but left before finishing a degree when his music career began to take off in 1923.
In 1925, Bing packed up a Ford Model T and moved to Los Angeles, a trip that took three weeks. He was soon noticed by influential members of the LA jazz scene and got his first major gig in 1926 at the Tivoli Theater. In 1931, he cut his first solo record “I Surrender Dear”, and his musical stardom began.
Crosby never forgot his Spokane roots, and in 1937 returned to his hometown for the first time since leaving over a decade before. Gonzaga University awarded Bing with an honorary doctorate, and he received the key to the city.
A string of popular musical films throughout the 1940s and 50s solidified his status as one of the most popular actors of all time. Frequent appearances on variety television shows and Christmas specials, and even his own sitcom in 1964 further added to his mega-stardom.
After a hugely successful career, Bing Crosby passed away in Spain while playing golf, one of his favorite pastimes. In 2006, Spokane's longtime performing arts venue, The Met, changed its name to The Bing Crosby Theater in honor of the city's most famous resident.
written by:John Spracklen