News Column

Joel Ginn's 'Singing Bing' both educational and entertaining

July 22, 2013

YellowBrix

July 22--SNOW HILL -- When I attend any musical performance involving a member of Kenneth Ginn's family, I know the music will be done well. What I had not expected at "Singing Bing" Saturday evening was the wealth of information about Bing Crosby squeezed nearly unobtrusively between songs.

I left the Greene Central High School's music auditorium impressed by the depth of Joel's knowledge about Crosby and reminded of the extent of Bing's repertoire.

My earliest recollection of the Tacoma, Wash., native whose given name was Harry Lillis Crosby, was not his most famous song "White Christmas," but a song I first sang in fifth grade chorus.

Some of you with snow on the roof might remember the song "Swinging on a Star," a particularly fitting tune to teach a bunch of school kids. Some musical lessons include: "By the way, if you hate to go to school, you may grow up to be a mule," and "If you don't care a feather or a fig [about neatness and manners], you may grow up to be a pig."

Another truth life has affirmed is that "all the monkeys aren't in the zoo. Every day you see quite a few. So you see, it's all up to you ... you could be better than you are -- you could be swinging on a star."

Although Crosby's mother wanted him to become a priest, nothing outside of music appealed to him. He even went to law school, dropping out just two months before graduation. Instead of hearing confessions or litigating cases, he sang songs during a career that spanned more than half a century. He performed music from jazz to pop songs to crooner melodies.

Joel's show helped me understand how Bing Crosby set a style and standard for musical performance that influenced generations of performers.

As Joel, backed by The Carolina Jazz and Blues Collaboration and some Greene Central Alumni Association members, sang song after song, I often thought, "I had forgotten that Bing Crosby sang that song."

Saturday's show featured "Cool, Cool, Cool of the Evening," "Pennies from Heaven," "True Love," "You Must Have Been a Beautiful Baby," "Jeepers, Creepers, Where'd You Get Them Peepers," "Stardust," and "Faraway Places" -- to name but a few.

Saturday's show also demonstrated how many "cowboy" songs Bing performed. Joel put together a mini-set of Western songs that included "I'm an Old Cowhand," "San Fernado Valley," "Pistol Packing Mama," and "Feuding, Fussing and A-Fighting." During one of his radio shows Bing dedicated "Don't Fence Me In" to a unit of Patton's Third Army. He had met the men on one of his tours during the war.

Bing's musical life seemed governed by the words of one of his best known songs: "You've got to accentuate the positive, / Eliminate the negative, / And latch on to the affirmative. / Don't mess with Mister In-Between."

David "Satchmo" Pate deserves a special mention. Joel brought him on stage to perform "Mack the Knife." Pate both blew his trumpet and sang Louis Armstrong style. Joel and David combined their talents at the show's finale with "When You're Smiling."

Another show-stopping moment was when Joe Sizemore on trumpet, Ledford Wilson on trombone, Dennis McGaughy on clarinet, and Garth Haas on sax combined for a rollicking version of "Won't You Come Home, Bill Bailey," a 1902 tune that predated Crosby by about a year.

Joel dedicated his moving performance of the Irish tune "Danny Boy" to the memory of his brother Keith, who passed away in October. In fact, proceeds from the show support the Keith Ginn Memorial Band Uniform Fund.

A special thanks to the Greene County Music Alumni Association and Heritage Productions for bringing Joel and his musical compatriots together.

You gave us all the opportunity to "accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative, and latch on to the affirmative" Saturday evening.

Mike Parker is a columnist for The Free Press. You can reach him at mparker16@suddenlink.net or in care of this newspaper.

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(c)2013 The Free Press (Kinston, N.C.)

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