Saturday, February 11, 2012
ARTHUR BLOOD AND HIS LOVE OF BING
Because when he puts on a record, tape or CD of the famous artist's work, the 87-year-old feels like "everything is all right with the world".
Arthur first got hooked on Bing's music in 1942 after watching the film Holiday Inn, which featured the all-time-classic White Christmas.
But what started as an interest became a lifelong passion as he set about collecting Crosby memorabilia.
And his memories of Bing and a lifetime spent following him are so extensive, Arthur is not exactly sure when he first joined the International Crosby Circle.
The pensioner, of Osmaston Road, Derby, said: "Bing was born with a unique voice and, as soon as I saw the film and heard it, I just fell in love with it.
"It must have been after that when I became a member but I'm not exactly sure when it was – more years ago than I care to remember, anyway.
"But the most important thing to me now is to try to keep his memory alive.
"He had a fantastic career and, as his fans get older, I get worried this won't happen if we don't make the effort."
The American actor and musician was one of the best-selling recording artists of the 20th century. He enthralled audiences throughout his life, before his death from a heart attack on a golf course, aged 74, in 1977.
Arthur was originally a member of Britain's International Crosby Circle until it amalgamated with America's Club Crosby.
The group is now called the International Club Crosby and is celebrating its 75th anniversary. It has been recognised in the Guinness Book of World Records as the longest running fan club.
Arthur said: "The two clubs joined together a few years ago now because both were struggling for members. We now have about 900 across the world.
"It's a very friendly club and I've not met anyone in it who wasn't a true lady or gentleman. Because of it, I have friends in Ireland, America, Australia and all over."
The hundreds of Bing- related items and memorabilia Arthur has collected over the years are stored in his back bedroom, which he has turned into a shrine.
Among his prized possessions are the tie worn by Bing in the 1936 film Anything Goes and signed photographs and letters from the star.
The latest addition to the collection is a trilby hat which belonged to the singer – which he has vowed will never be sold – and, to keep his memorabilia up to date, he has a Blu-ray DVD of the 1954 film White Christmas.
The room itself is painted blue and many of the photographs, images and records are framed in gold, to acknowledge Crosby's song Where the Blue of the Night Meets the Gold of the Day.
Arthur said: "All the serious fans have a blue and gold room."
And it was in this room to which Arthur, a former page boy at Derby's Hippodrome Theatre, would retreat after coming home from work.
His career began at the Carriage and Wagon Works in 1939, at the age of 14, when he worked as an apprentice wagon repairer.
Arthur joined the RAF about three years later and served as a wireless operator and air gunner in the Second World War.
He then went back to night school and took a course in welding before working his way up to chief foreman at British Rail Engineering.
Arthur said: "When I used to come home, I'd have a meal, then go into my room and just sit and listen to Bing Crosby.
"It would only have to be for half-an-hour or so but, when you listen to him, you feel like everything is all right with the world.
"I've just taken so much pleasure from his life."
Through the help of the fan club, Arthur had plenty of correspondence with Bing over the years but only saw him in person twice.
Both occasions were during concerts at the London Palladium, in 1976 and 1977, just before his death.
Arthur said: "The first time, I was sitting two rows from the front. They showed a film first and then the curtains went up. There was no big announcement.
"He then just strolled on from the wings like he just stepped off the set of High Society, which was the 1956 musical film he starred in.
"He was absolutely immaculate and I just sat there gobsmacked because I couldn't believe I was so close to the person who has always been my idol."
Arthur continues to promote Bing's work wherever he can but said it was getting more difficult as he got older.
He said: "The family have said that the fans have helped to keep Bing's memory alive and they once mentioned my name as someone doing that.
"I'm still in touch with them and I keep in contact with my friends across the world but I don't go to the annual meeting held by the ICC in Leeds any more."
Although Arthur said he considers Bing a man for all seasons, it was no surprise that the star is often referred to as Mr Christmas.
He said: "At that time of year, because of his Christmas radio shows and television specials, that is what he is always referred to.
"And I personally don't think that anyone sings at Christmas with the tenderness, the respect and the charm of Bing.
"No one in the world has done more to perpetuate the magic, the mystique, the reverence or the gaiety of Christmas."
Arthur lives with wife Vera, 84, and the couple have been married for 61 years.
He said: "She listens to Bing as well but it's fair to say she's not as enthusiastic about him as I am."
Arthur said he was starting to notice younger people joining the fan club but stressed his concern that Bing could one day be forgotten.
He said: "We are getting a few young members coming through and his family are also starting to do more, releasing DVDs and unseen radio programmes, so I am hopeful of the future.
"But when they asked the Crosby family why Bing isn't remembered like Frank Sinatra was, they said he was always a private person so they didn't issue CDs like Frank's family did.
"That's why we have to keep working hard to make sure his memory and legacy is perpetuated and he is not the forgotten man."