Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Bob Crosby and the Bobcats 'Way Back When

I just saw and heard Bob Crosby and the Bobcats on a PBS show about singers from the past. They were doing "Big Noise From Winnetka," which immediately took me back in memory to the Blackhawk Restaurant/Nightclub in downtown Chicago in 1936 or '37. I was a student at the University of Chicago then, and another student, Grant Adams, took me to the Blackhawk along with some others, to hear Bob Crosby and the band. Grant was absolutely nuts about the Bobcats, and as soon as I heard them, I was too. They sounded great and were wonderful to dance to as well.

Grant got so involved in the music he clapped his hands and whistled through his teeth in accompaniment. I wondered what the musicians thought about it, but at least they could tell he was an ardent fan. Not only did he clap and whistle the first time I was there, but kept on whenever I went there with him again after that first time.

Later, when I heard the Bobcat's record, "Big Noise from Winnetka," on the radio, I knew it had to be about Grant. The record started with whistling that sounded exacly like him, and he actually was from Winnetka, a suburb north of Chicago on the "North Shore."

I don't know for sure when the song was written, but I think it was about 1938. Of course I immediately bought a copy, and played it over and over. It was a 78-speed record in a paper slip-cover with advertizing on it, which was standard for that time. I think Bobby Haggart, the bass player, did the whistling as he played, Ray Bauduc was on the drums, and Bob Zurke was playing the piano. I can no longer remember who the other musicians were.

Going down to the Blackhawk to hear Bob Crosby and the Bobcats was one of the highlights of my college life. I loved that music! And I went to hear it whenever the opportunity arose. Fortunately I knew several people who were also crazy about the Bobcats Dixieland take on music. We listened and danced and had a wonderful time. It was definitely happy, upbeat music.

I loved Benny Goodman, Tommy Dorsey, Glenn Miller, Duke Ellington, Count Basie, and lots of others I can't think of at the moment, but Bob Crosby and the Bobcats have always held a special place in my musical heart, and they still do.