Monday, January 26, 2015


Joyce Anne Rankin, a waitress at Jasper Park Lodge, and Irving Berlin had something in common: both wrote a song that was sung by American crooner Bing Crosby.

The difference is that millions of people have heard Crosby sing Berlin’s White Christmas.

Only people attending a JPL staff dance heard Crosby sing Rankin’s Jasper Blues. And he probably sang it just that one time.

The talented, 21-year-old Rankin, dubbed “Stevie” by her friends, proved her ability as a composer in the summer of 1948 when she wrote Jasper Blues for the annual staff musical production at the lodge. The song conjured visions of lofty snow-capped peaks, shimmering blue-green lakes, and turbulent rivers.

It received favourable comment from Crosby, who sang it in 1950, while a guest at the lodge. “I really don’t know much about music,” Rankin told the Journal, “but I like to write words. I wrote the words to Jasper Blues, thought up a tune, and got another lodge employee to write down the music.

“It’s hard to say exactly what inspired the song,” she continued. “They just needed something for the campfire scene in the show, so I wrote it.”

The words of the song described the way she felt about Jasper.

Rankin was in Edmonton on her way back home to Toronto after a motor trip to California and a summer’s work at Jasper.

She had worked three summers at JPL but having completed her English degree at the University of Toronto that spring, she didn’t expect to be back the following year.

Rankin had never written any other songs, but was credited for many parodies of popular songs, mostly written for staff shows at Jasper.

On returning home, she planned to take the song to a Toronto music publishing firm and have it published.

It appears that never happened. Joyce Anne Rankin and Jasper Blues, as arranged by Alan C. E. McKinlay, are listed in the Catalog of Copyright Entries 1949 Unpublished Music...


Monday, January 19, 2015


EDMONTON - American actor and crooner Bing Crosby won the 18th annual Totem Pole Golf Tournament at Jasper Park Lodge with a storybook final shot.

His caddy won too: four new suits.

During an early round of golf, “Der Bingle” (Crosby’s nickname), scored a birdie three on a tough par-four 18th hole and told Bruce McPhail of Ottawa, his caddy who was working at the lodge, that he would buy him a suit of clothes as a present.

“Every time I get a birdie on the 18th, it’s a new suit for you, Bruce,” he said
A week before the tournament, in a practice round with Dr. G. Bigelow of Victoria, Dave Herron of Pittsburgh, and Jasper greenskeeper Bill Brinksworth, Crosby put his second into the trap at the 18th. He blasted the ball into the cup for a birdie, but was on the hook for a second suit of clothes.

Days later, in his match with Matt Berry of Vancouver, he laid his second shot stiff in front of a large gallery and sank the putt for a 69.

“It’s swell to break 70 on this course, but that’s four suits of clothes for the kid since we started,” Crosby smiled.

On the final day of the tournament, the 44-year-old star was pitted against two-time tournament champion Gordon Verley of Victoria and scored a one-up win in a 36-hole duel that was the most bitterly fought in the history of the event.

“The manner of Crosby’s winning will long be remembered by those comprising the large gallery,” wrote the Journal’s Stan Moher.

Crosby was a regular guest at JPL starting with the filming of The Emperor’s Waltz in 1946 and 1947, with Jasper standing in for Austria.

Crosby also did some big game hunting when he stayed at the Rocky Mountain resort. A video on YouTube shows Crosby hunting mountain sheep with locals and shooting a ram.
Crosby Cabin on the JPL grounds is named in his honour.

The entertainer died in 1977 at 74. He had a heart attack after playing 18 holes on a course near Madrid, Spain...


Monday, January 12, 2015


From Steve Hoffman's message board...

My wife and I watched the recent American Masters on Bing Crosby, and we both enjoyed it very much. But we remarked to one another that we must have been among the youngest people watching the show (we are both in their 40s). We're not particular Crosby fans, but we certainly know his work. (While we are both pretty hip for middle-aged people, we are more aware of early and mid-20th century pop culture than are most Gen X-ers -- we watch a lot of TCM).

I found myself wondering about the relative stature today of Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra. (Christmas music is the one exception, where Bing still rules). I doubted any of my friends would identify as a Crosby fan, while I'm sure plenty of them like Sinatra. There's a Sirius XM channel devoted to Sinatra, but I can't imagine one for Crosby. I checked Facebook, and my suspicions were confirmed: 4 million Facebookers "like" Sinatra, and only 200,000 "like" Crosby. Why this disparity among the two most popular singers of their era?

Being a social scientist, I came up with a few hypotheses. Let me know what you think:

1. The most obvious -- Sinatra is a more contemporary figure, one who is within the living memory of most adults. He was born in 1915 and died in 1998, while Crosby was born in 1903 and died in 1977. Crosby's last non-Christmas hits were in the late 1950s, while Sinatra's Duets albums came out during the Clinton Administration. Even Crosby devotees would admit their icon did his best work early on, while Sinatra reached his artistic peak in the 1950s and 1960s.

2. Sinatra seems to have been a more active figure in his later years, often milking his "icon" status for all it was worth -- "My Way," "New York, New York," the arena concerts, the Reagan connection, "Duets." It was not his best work, but Baby Boomers and Gen-X-ers certainly knew he was around. I don't think Crosby was nearly as visible in the 1960s and 1970s as Sinatra would be later -- my impression is that his public presence was mostly orange juice commercials and the occasional variety show. I wasn't around then, so I could be wrong. One of the few Crosby moments known to younger people -- the Christmas duet with David Bowie -- was exactly the sort of "aging icon" moment Sinatra performed all the time.

3. Sinatra is a more "usable" figure than Crosby. He's seen as having been sexy and cool, while Crosby isn't. Every few years brings a Michael Buble or Harry Connick Jr., who patterns himself after Ol' Blue Eyes. Sinatra's "Rat Pack" lifestyle may have mostly kitsch appeal these days, but that's better than no appeal at all. Even Sinatra's records seem louder and brassier -- more "modern" -- than Crosby's.

4. Sinatra simply produced more work of a lasting quality. While he was no singer-songwriter, he pioneered the album-length statement, and he was known for his emotional interpretations of lyrics. Crosby was a fine interpreter as well, but he also became known for grinding out work of indifferent quality. Neither man was a great actor, but "From Here to Eternity" and "The Manchurian Candidate" outweigh the "Road" pictures.

Any thoughts?

Monday, January 5, 2015


Many movie goers these days consider the movie musical to be nothing more than fluff and fantasy. Most people in real life do not break out in song. That is true, but for moviegoers of the 1930s and 1940s the movie musical was an escape. It was an escape from the pain of poverty during the Great Depression, and it was an escape from the horrors of World War II. Of all the stars during that era, it was Bing Crosby that introduced the most standards. He was the voice of the times.

Bing started out as a singer with the Rhythm Boys in Paul Whiteman’s Orchestra, and then he moved on to making a series of film shorts for Mack Sennett. Those shorts were corny and really were only used to spotlight Bing’s singing, but it got him more popular exposure. Not only did he become a star on radio, but he was also signed to a long term contract with Paramount Studios. He would remain at the studio for almost 25 years.

The first movie Bing made for the studio was The Big Broadcast in 1932. The film was basically a spotlight of the popular radio stars of the day with a light plotline in between the songs. Crosby got to introduce some great songs like “Dinah”, “Please”, and the underrated torch song “Here Lies Love”. Bing basically played himself, and he did not really stretch his acting chops in this film. My favorite role in the movie was Bing’s friend, played by comedian Stuart Erwin. The movie catapulted Bing to movie stardom, and he followed it up with a more forgettable movie – 1933’s College Humor. The film was not bad, but even a young 30 year old Bing could not pass for a college student. He did get to sing the great song “Learn To Croon”, which became Bing’s unofficial anthem in those early years. More flimsy films followed in the 1930s, but he introduced a great standard in each of them. In She Loves Me Not (1934), Bing introduced “Love In Bloom”, in Here In My Heart (1935), Bing sang “June In January”, and in Two For Tonight (1935) Bing introduced “Without A Word Of Warning”.

Going back to Bing’s third movie in 1933, he was loaned to MGM Studios for the splashy musical Going Hollywood. It would be one of the best of the earlier Bing films. He was reunited with Stuart Erwin, his love interest was the older Marion Davies, and he got to sing some wonderful Nacio Herb Brown and Arthur Freed tunes like: “Temptation”, “Our Big Love Scene”, and “Beautiful Girl”. Bing would not return to the studio until 1956, and it was the first of only four movies Bing made for the studio. With Bing Crosby being such a big and rising star, I am really surprised Paramount Studios loaned him out in the 1930s as much as they did.

The movie roles remained forgettable until Bing was loaned out again to Columbia Studios in 1936. For the movie Pennies From Heaven, Bing had his most dramatic role yet as an ex-convict who “adopted” a young child of another convict. It was still not Citizen Kane, but Bing had a lot more to do in this movie than just sing and play a crooner. He also introduced the title song, and a few other great songs like “So Do I”, and “Let’s Call A Heart A Heart”. When Bing went back to Paramount though, he went back to the flimsy musicals, which were quite popular with movie audiences.

Fast forwarding to 1939, Bing made a favorite movie of mine to end the decade. He played real life songwriter and kid show producer Gus Edwards in the movie “biography” The Star Maker. Bing sang some vintage songs, even vintage for 1939, like “School Days” and “I Wonder Who’s Kissing Her Now”, while he got to sing the new song “Still The Bluebirds Sing”. The film was another example that Bing was feeling more sure of himself as an actor and could play roles other than a carefree crooner. By making movies like Pennies From Heaven and The Star Maker, Bing was paving the way for meatier roles in the 1940s and even roles that would recognized by the Academy Awards. Bing never could have imagined that back when he was making movies playing a 30 year old college co-ed…