The Rhythm Boys

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
The Rhythm Boys
Mississippi Mud (78 label).jpg
Background information
Origin New York
Genres Popular
Years active 1927-1931
Labels Victor, Columbia Records
Associated acts Bing Crosby, Paul Whiteman

The Rhythm Boys were a male singing trio consisting of Bing Crosby, Harry Barris and Al Rinker. Crosby and Rinker began performing together in 1925 and were recruited by Paul Whiteman in late 1926. Pianist/singer/songwriter Barris joined the team in 1927. They made a number of recordings with the Whiteman Orchestra and released singles in their own right with Barris on piano. They appeared with the Whiteman orchestra in the film King of Jazz (Universal Pictures, 1930), in which they sang "Mississippi Mud", "So the Bluebirds and the Blackbirds Got Together", "A Bench in the Park", and "Happy Feet". They are best remembered for launching Crosby's solo career, one that would make him the greatest song charting act in history and one of the most influential entertainers of the twentieth century.


Bing Crosby, making probably his greatest purchase, bought a pair of drums. Al Rinker's high school band called the Musicaladers (musical aiders) had to let go of their drummer. Somebody told them Bing had a pair of drums and he was pretty good. Rinker met Crosby. They had mixed success and Bing was slowly finding less interest in becoming a lawyer, his original career path.[1] They drove Rinker's Model T to Los Angeles where Rinker's sister, Mildred Bailey, a locally known jazz singer was working. Shortly after their arrival, they landed a gig on the vaudeville circuit, as a vocal act.

Bing and Al Rinker began as a minor part of The Syncopation Idea, a short revue put out by the Fanchon and Marco agency, and it was there that they started to develop as entertainers. They had a lively and individual style and they were particularly popular with college students. After The Syncopation Idea closed, Bing and Al obtained work in the Will Morrissey Music Hall Revue which must have been fascinating if insecure. However, their skills were further honed during their time with Morrissey and when they subsequently had the chance to present their own independent act, they blossomed.[2] Some members of Paul Whiteman's Orchestra, caught their act and recommended them to him. Whiteman hired them in October 1926. While waiting to join Whiteman's Orchestra they made their first record "I've Got the Girl" with Don Clark's Orchestra (a former member of Whiteman's Orchestra) at The Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles (506 South Grand Ave.). Bing and Al then joined the Whiteman Orchestra in Chicago, where they made their first records with Whiteman.[3]

At that time, it was felt that Whiteman needed something different and entertaining to break up the musical selections he was presenting and Crosby and Rinker filled this requirement admirably. After less than a year in full-time show business, they had become part of one of the biggest names in the entertainment world.

Reception and time with Whiteman[edit]

Initial successes with Whiteman were followed by disaster when they reached New York as they could not be heard in the large Paramount Theater. For a while Whiteman must have thought of letting them go. Possibly Bing might have been retained as Whiteman was already using him as a solo performer on record, but the prospects for Rinker must have been bleak. However, the addition of Harry Barris made all the difference to the act and Paul Whiteman's Rhythm Boys were born. The additional voice meant that the boys could be heard more easily in the large New York theaters and they quickly became a real success.[4] The trio sang in three part harmony with both Rinker and Barris playing piano. Barris wrote a song called "Mississippi Mud" which became a hit with the Whiteman Orchestra and featured Bix Beiderbecke on cornet.[3]

A year touring with Whiteman provided valuable experience and then they were sent out on tour alone. Much has been written about the escapades of the three men during this period and clearly they were living life to the full. Despite all of this, Bing was continuing to develop and when the Rhythm Boys rejoined the Whiteman troupe in 1929, he had matured considerably as a performer. He was constantly in demand as a solo artist on record and radio. An offer to go out on his own was, however, refused by Bing and he stayed faithful to the Rhythm Boys.[5]

The famous trip to Hollywood in mid-1929 aboard the Whiteman Old Gold Special followed and Bing started to become noticed in Hollywood. Early screen tests were unsuccessful but the Rhythm Boys carved out a reputation as they starred at the Montmartre Cafe for several weeks. The delays in filming King of Jazz led Whiteman and the Rhythm Boys to return to the east coast for a while, but then they all returned to California at the end of October 1929 to finally begin filming. Around this time, Bing was jailed following a car crash as he had been drinking and he lost a solo spot in King of Jazz to John Boles. The Rhythm Boys did however have a couple of featured spots in the film and Bing also sang over the opening titles.[6]

Last performances and break-up[edit]

After completing filming, Whiteman took his troupe up the West Coast to Seattle prior to returning east for the New York premiere of King of Jazz. However, the lure of his girlfriend, Dixie, and of the sunshine in California proved too strong for Bing, so he and the Rhythm Boys left Whiteman in Portland, Oregon in April 1930, and returned to Los Angeles. (A year or two later, Whiteman formed another group called Paul Whiteman's Rhythm Boys which had Ray Kulz, Jimmy Noel and George MacDonald as the vocalists. They were soon augmented by the deeper voice of Al Dary and this enhanced group also recorded "Mississippi Mud" (Victor 36199) which caused confusion among collectors.)[7]

Although some books indicate that the original Rhythm Boys act then went into the Montmartre, there may be confusion with their earlier appearance there in 1929. They did appear on local radio and sing for film sound tracks, but it was not until they went into the Cocoanut Grove at the Ambassador Hotel in July 1930 “that the action picked up a little,” to quote Bing. Singing with the Gus Arnheim Orchestra, Bing’s solos began to steal the show, while the Rhythm Boys act gradually became redundant.[8] They recorded one song, Them There Eyes, with Arnheim's Orchestra for RCA Victor in November 1930.[9] They appeared in the 1931 film Confessions of a Co-Ed where they sang Ya Got Love and Crosby sang Out of Nowhere. Radio broadcasts over station KNX from the Cocoanut Grove made Bing famous on the West Coast, but his drinking problems and risky behaviors caused him to start missing performances and his pay was docked. They failed turn up for their scheduled appearance at the Cocoanut Grove on Saturday, May 16, 1931 and it became clear that they had walked out on their contract. They stated that their six-month contract had expired but they did not know or had forgotten that a nine-month option existed. Apparently a more lucrative contract was in prospect at the Roosevelt Hotel.[10] Crosby described what happened in his book "Call Me Lucky".

"Toward the end of our engagement at the Grove we didn’t take our responsibilities seriously enough to suit Abe Frank. Frank was running the Cocoanut Grove and The Ambassador Hotel. But the Grove was his pet. He was an elderly, serious sort who disliked anything that disrupted the even tenor of the nightly routine at the Grove. When people were supposed to appear, he expected them to be on deck. So, when I failed to get back for the Tuesday-night show once too often, he docked my wages. Of course Abe was within his rights legalistically speaking, but I thought he was pretty small about it, so I quit. I was encouraged in this defiance by an offer from Mack Sennett to make a series of movie shorts for him. I had made one for him already, and working in pictures looked like easy money to me. I made a couple more shorts at Sennett’s, then Abe Frank plastered a union ban on me, “for failure to fulfill the standard musician’s contract.” After that, union musicians weren’t allowed to work with me."[11]

Al Rinker commented on the situation too. "By that time the drive was gone from the Rhythm Boys. We were each developing different interests. Harry was writing songs. Bing was playing golf. I was becoming interested in the production end of the business. We felt the Rhythm Boys was a stage in our lives and now it was over.[12]

And so the Rhythm Boys broke up and went their separate ways. However, Bing's solo career took off after the break-up and the union ban was lifted. Crosby went on to become the biggest entertainer of the twentieth century.[3]


  1. Side By Side (April 29, 1927)
  2. Magnolia (May 24, 1927)
  3. Mississippi Mud / I Left My Sugar Standing in the Rain (June 20, 1927) (the first time the trio were billed as Paul Whiteman's Rhythm Boys)
  4. Sweet Li'l / Ain't She Sweet (June 20, 1927)
  5. The Five Step (August 16, 1927)
  6. It Won't Be Long Now (August 20, 1927)
  7. That's Grandma (November 11, 1927)
  8. Miss Annabelle Lee (November 17, 1927)
  9. From Monday On (January 12, 1928)
  10. What Price Lyrics (March 1, 1928)
  11. Wa Da Da (June 19, 1928)
  12. That's Grandma (June 19, 1928)
  13. My Suppressed Desire (November 10, 1928)
  14. Rhythm King (November 10, 1928)
  15. So the Bluebirds and the Blackbirds Got Together (April 10, 1929)
  16. Louise (April 10, 1929)
  17. Happy Feet (February 10, 1930)
  18. A Bench in the Park (with The Brox Sisters) (March 23, 1930)
  19. I Like to Do Things for You (March 23, 1930)
  20. A Bench in the Park (May 23, 1930)
  21. Three Little Words (August 26, 1930)
  22. Them There Eyes (November 20, 1930)


Harry Barris made regular appearances in Bing's films over the next 13 years. The Rhythm Boys reunited briefly to appear on the Paul Whiteman Presents radio show broadcast on July 4, 1943 when they sang "Mississippi Mud".


Harry Barris was the uncle of television personality and producer Chuck Barris.


  1. ^ Giddins, Gary (2001). A Pocketful of Dreams, the Early Years (1903-40). 
  2. ^ "BING magazine". BING magazine. Retrieved August 21, 2015. 
  3. ^ a b c "Paul Whiteman's Original Rhythm Boys". Retrieved 27 January 2015. 
  4. ^ "BING magazine". BING magazine. Retrieved August 21, 2015. 
  5. ^ "BING magazine". BING magazine. Retrieved August 21, 2015. 
  6. ^ "BING magazine". BING magazine. Retrieved August 21, 2015. 
  7. ^ "BINGANG". BINGANG: 18. October 1982. 
  8. ^ "BING magazine". BING magazine. Retrieved August 21, 2015. 
  9. ^ Notes to The Chronological Bing Crosby Volume 8 1930-31 Jonzo Records JZCD-8.
  10. ^ "BING magazine". BING magazine. Retrieved August 21, 2015. 
  11. ^ Crosby, Bing (1953). Call Me Lucky (Da Capo 1993 ed.). Simon and Schuster. p. 105. ISBN 0-306-80504-9. 
  12. ^ Zwisohn, Laurence J. (1978). Bing Crosby - A Lifetime of Music. Los Angeles: Palm Tree Library. p. 12. 

External links[edit]