Crosby and Armstrong “Has Jazz”

Air Date: October 13, 1957

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Bing Crosby and Louis Armstrong appearing in “The Edsel Show” on CBS TV on October 13, 1957.

Today, it is hard to understand the impact that this classic TV show, tragically named “The Edsel Show,” had on America. The show aired on Sunday, October 13, 1957, on CBS, in the time slot usually reserved for the Ed Sullivan Show. Had the show not tied itself to a product name that would become synonymous with marketing failure, it may have been more rightly remembered as a turning point in classic television history.

On September 4, 1957, The Ford Motor Company introduced the public to the Edsel. In its opening days, the vehicle generated more showroom traffic than any other vehicle to date. To promote its product nationwide, Ford sponsored this classic network television show starring the biggest names in entertainment at the time. The show was hosted by Bing Crosby and featured Frank Sinatra, Rosemary Clooney, Louis Armstrong and included a “surprise” visit by Bob Hope.

The show, of course, was a tremendous hit. Television was just starting to be America’s dominant form of entertainment, supplanting film and radio, and the show’s stars were America’s best-know celebrities. Over 50 million American’s tuned-in. Given the population of the US at the time, this is roughly proportional to the average audience for the 2020 Superbowl.

However, the real historic significance of the show lies in the use of technology. The show was performed live and broadcast to most of the U.S. At the encouragement of Bing Crosby, CBS videotaped the program for rebroadcast on the west coast, the first time such a technique had been tried. Until then, shows that needed to be rebroadcast were filmed directly from studio monitors and the film was used for the broadcast. This was the first time that a direct-to-tape rebroadcast was tried. The video tape technology greatly improved the video and audio quality, and became the standard practice of the industry.

The classic video clip shown above pairs Crosby and Louis Armstrong and was the opening number of the show, “Now You Has Jazz.” Crosby and Armstrong had previously performed the song in the film, High Society. The Cole Porter tune was written to showcase Armstrong and his band, as well as Crosby’s voice. In many ways, the opening of the show is Crosby’s payback for his on-film gaffe in High Society where he incorrectly introduces members of the band, mixing up names, even greeting some by the wrong name.

In this classic TV performance, Crosby opens the song, then carefully and correctly walks through his introductions of the band members,  Edmond Hall on clarinetTrummy Young on tromboneBilly Kyle on pianoSquire Gersh on double bass, and Barrett Deems on drums. Each band member is given a moment on national TV and seems to enjoy the opportunity. Armstrong joins Crosby on vocals and trumpet, and the two superb entertainers carry the song to its end.

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