A lost ‘never released’ Bing Crosby recording has been traced to Whittington.
A sheaf of signed personal correspondence has confirmed the US legend’s connection with the village.
It is also known that Bing’s British pen-pal was given an old magnetic tape recording of one of his songs.
Examples of Crosby’s unpublished work are believed to be stored in several collections around the world.
But the Whittington tape is thought to be unique in being the only one ever on which the star lets rip with some choice language.
The ‘Phoenix’s source says the pipe-smoking bass-baritone was upset with an error on the recording and left no room for doubt about his feelings while the microphone was still on.
He is then claimed to have told his English friend, “here, have it”, and given it away in annoyance.
Tape at risk
It is hoped the recording can be recovered and restored. Because of the tape’s metal content there is a danger it may have been damaged by corrosion.
It has added importance as an historical artefact because of the key role Crosby played in the development of tape as a broadcast medium.
He was involved in a fierce clash with America’s NBC network, which tried to resist his use of pre-recorded material in his radio shows.
In 1947, the star began using German made 6.5mm ferric-oxide-coated tape that could record 20 minutes per reel of high-quality sound.
By using tape, I could do a thirty-five or forty-minute show, then edit it down to the twenty-six or twenty-seven minutes the program ran.
In that way, we could take out jokes, gags, or situations that didn’t play well and finish with only the prime meat of the show; the solid stuff that played big.
It gave us a chance to first try a recording of the songs in the afternoon without an audience, then another one in front of a studio audience.
We’d dub the one that came off best into the final transcription. It gave us a chance to ad lib as much as we wanted, knowing that excess ad libbing could be sliced from the final product.
If I made a mistake in singing a song or in the script, I could have some fun with it, then retain any of the fun that sounded amusing.
It is also claimed that he liked pre-recording shows because he could then do four or five in a week. That left him the rest of the month for golf.
Bing Crosby’s letters
The Whittington tape is known to have been stored with some of Bing’s personal correspondence.
The insight the written material offers into the star’s private life gives it a significant value on the international memorabilia market.
A single Crosby autograph on plain paper can fetch around $500. Signed non-personal letters can change hands for up to $800.
His personal exchanges with friends can fetch significantly more.
One sad loss from the Whittington collection has been the singer’s own pipe, which he gave to his pen-pal.
He presented it during one of his trips to Britain and it had been kept safely for many years.
But it seems it was thrown away before it was realised how valuable it might be both as an artefact and as an extraordinarily expensive pipe.
Bing’s pipes were as much part of his persona as his autograph.
Several manufacturers claim to sell ‘Bing Crosby’s favourite pipes’. But the only man who could truly make that claim was Edward Koplin Snr.
From his business, Ed’s Pipe Shop, in Santa Monica, he served customers including Cary Grant, Clark Gable, Jayne Mansfield and Marylyn Munroe – Norma Jean did not smoke, she just liked stopping off for a chat with Ed.
Whittington’s Crosby pipe would have come from the shop where Koplin first created and hand-crafted the now famous long-stemmed design for the Hollywood legend.
Lucky number seven
Ed Koplin died at his Los Angeles home in 2007, at the age of 97, having smoked a pipe every day of his adult life.
His famous acting and crooning client passed away in 1977.
When asked what his lucky number was, Bing, the most successful recording artist of the 20th Century, said: “Seven, I guess.
“When I used to say I was lucky my mother became very indignant. She used to say, ‘luck indeed! It was my prayers!’.”
The ‘Phoenix’ has contacted sound engineering experts who have agreed to work on restoring the Whittington tape recording, if it can be recovered.