Bing Crosby’s British Rival Met A Tragic End   6 comments

When legendary crooner Bing Crosby was first rising to stardom in the 1930s, he wasn’t the only guy vying for the adoration of music fans. In fact, one of his contemporaries was a British singer who was often compared to him. But even though Al Bowlly had a world of talent and seemed to have a big career ahead of him, he would meet a violent death just a few years later.

Born in Mozambique and raised in British South Africa, Albert Allick Bowlly (who had way too many L’s in his name) was of Lebanese and Greek descent. By the time he made his way to London in the late 1920s, the footloose crooner had already logged several years as a band singer in Asia and had even appeared in Berlin.

Within a few years Bowlly was one of the most popular singers around, and when he came to America his success continued. Appearing with  good orchestras like those of Lew Stone and Ray Noble, he was an incredibly prolific recording artist, making hundreds of records (many of which are still available). He had his own radio show for a while and even appeared in a few movies — including The Big Broadcast Of 1936, which also featured Crosby.

It seemed like he was everywhere for a while, but as World War II began to take shape in Europe he found himself spending more and more time in England, cheering up Londoners by appearing on stage and on the radio. Unfortunately he died in a German bombing raid in 1941, but he is still revered in Great Britain. A few years back he was even the subject of a musical named Melancholy Baby, the title of one of his biggest hits.

Al Bowlly – “Blue Moon”

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6 responses to “Bing Crosby’s British Rival Met A Tragic End

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  1. Also, Richard Thompson did a really nice tribute with his song “Al Bowlly’s in Heaven”.

  2. Thanks for the info, Peter. I love Richard Thompson — his “1952 Vincent Black Lightning” is one of my favorites.

  3. Can’t say I ever heard him sing. But to learn about him is good. They always made fun of Fred Astaire head and hands. Mr. Bowly wasn;t any better and those eye browes. Wow. But I did enjoyu his singing just as I dearley love Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers dancing.

  4. Yeah, the singing style in those days was a little different. 🙂

  5. I Like him a lot. He really had his own style. I may have one 78rpm in my collection but I guess he is rather easy to find in England. – – – I find rather disturbing in somes places to read about the way he died, saying he was stupid to go back and get killed by a bomb (it seems he decided to go back to get something). I feel that in those days, there was so many air raids that after a while, people must have felt a bit used to it and maybe not as careful as should be…

    Ravel in Montreal, Quebec, Canada
  6. I would imagine that folks in that time and place lived with a sort of fatalism.

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