BATTLE OF THE BANDS: “Big Noise From Winnetka”

BATTLE OF THE BANDS! (BOTB Top Photo)

When I was in high school, I lived in Northfield, Illinois, the suburb next to the town of Winnetka (we had the same ZIP code, in fact). WNTH, our school’s radio station (you could get it if you lived close by and the wind was blowing in your direction), called itself “The Big Noise From Winnetka!” A few years later, I learned they had taken that name from a song, the subject of today’s Battle of the Bands.

The Bob Crosby Orchestra (Bob was Bing’s younger brother, and the orchestra was featured in “Holiday Inn” and probably a few other of Bing’s movies) was playing a gig at the Blackhawk Theater in Chicago one evening in 1938, and the band was late getting back from break. Bassist Bob Haggart and drummer Ray Bauduc started jamming around while they were waiting, and the song was the result. Later, Haggart arranged the song for the orchestra, and later Crosby and Gil Rodin wrote lyrics for it.

CONTESTANT #1: THE BOBCATS

The Bobcats were a small group within the Crosby Orchestra, of which Haggart and Bauduc were members. They recorded the song first. Here’s their version.

CONTESTANT #2: THE BOB CROSBY ORCHESTRA AND SINGERS

This is a version with the full Bob Crosby Orchestra and Singers, probably recorded sometime around 1940.

CONTESTANT #3: BETTE MIDLER

Bette Midler recorded the song for her 1979 album Thighs and Whispers. It was released as a single and reached #98 on the US Dance chart.

TIME FOR A VOTE…

The song has been recorded a number of times (by Cal Tjader, Eddy Mitchell, Gene Krupa, and others) and is a favorite among high school and college jazz bands (although, curiously, not by my alma mater). I wish I could feature all the other versions recorded, but then you’d be sitting here for hours. So, of these three versions, which did you like better? Let me know in the comments. I’ll announce the winner a week from today, April 8.

Once you finish voting in this battle, how about checking out some of the others? The A to Z Challenge starts today, so not all of them will be holding battles, and unfortunately I don’t have direct links for all of them, so you might have to scroll a little bit, but I’m sure they have some great tunes for you to check out.

Tossing It Out
Far Away Series
StMcC Presents Battle of the Bands
Your Daily Dose
Mike’s Ramblings
Curious as a Cathy
DC Relief – Battle of the Bands
This Belle Rocks
Book Lover
Alex J. Cavanaugh

14 thoughts on “BATTLE OF THE BANDS: “Big Noise From Winnetka”

  1. I don’t dislike Bette Midler (at all) and I thought might vote for her here, but no.

    I like The Bobcats, but when you added the full orchestra… wow. It kept the best aspects of The Bobcats version and added in some well-done vocals and a blazing horn (and a few other instruments:). Just super! So, give my vote to the orchestra!

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  2. John,
    Hey, nice battle! haven’t heard this song in quite a while.

    Contestant # 1 – I wanted more than the two instruments!
    Contestant # 3 – Too much in the Disco sound, though I did enjoy parts of it.

    CONTESTANT #2: THE BOB CROSBY ORCHESTRA AND SINGERS gets my vote.
    This is the version I’ve always enjoyed most, and could listen to many times over. Reminds me of my Grandfather’s 78’s, and all that 1940s stuff of his!

    Enjoyed your “A” day post!

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  3. POSTSCRIPT:
    I also meant to mention that it’s amazing how often that has happened. A couple band members (whether Jazz or Rock or Country, Bluegrass) get together and start jamming during some downtime or while the rest of band “takes five”, and the musicians, just fooling around, come up with some new song that gets recorded… and sometimes even becomes a big hit.

    I’ve heard this sort of story SO MANY TIMES. Pretty cool how songs seem to almost write themselves once in awhile.

    ~ D-FensDogG

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  4. I knew who Bob Crosby was, and I had heard his Orchestra as well as The Bobcats. What I DIDN’T KNOW is that they were both recording at the same time. I had always assumed that The Bobcats were just a small Jazz combo that Bob had put together either before or after his years conducting his Orchestra.

    Tough choice, John! I loved The Bobcats’ version and the showmanship (with Ray doing his best Gene Krupa), but then the second one, with the full Orchestra, contains the heart of The Bobcats’ version (with the bass and drum soloing) but adds some trumpet and big band sounds.

    I guess I’ll vote for The Bob Crosby Orchestra version, but I would have been pleased as spiked punch to have voted for just the bass and drum version by members of The Bobcats, too.

    The Bette Midler version was never in the running for me. I find her kind of hideous and her singing to be derivative of a lot of other Blues and Jazz singers who came before her.

    ~ D-FensDogG
    ‘Loyal American Underground’

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  5. Who would have ever though ‘Winnetka’ would, should, or could be part of a song title and lyrics. (I’m originally from Chicago.)

    I like the sound of the Bob Crosby Band and singers, although the other versions were also enjoyable and interesting.

    Give my vote to Bing’s brother and his band.

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    1. Where in Chicago? I lived in Rogers Park until sophomore year of high school, moved to Northfield until third year of college, lived in the dorm at Loyola (Rogers Park again) until I graduated, then lived in Back of the Yards on the South Side after I got married for almost ten years until moving to the Atlanta area.

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  6. This is a song that does well without the words. And the lyrics are kind of dumb anyway. That eliminates the last two versions for me. The Midler disco version has some interesting parts but it’s far too busy for me. The Bob Crosby version is nice and clean and well arranged, but it’s also a bit hokey. Good when it gets to the drum and bass part, but I could do without the rest.

    I like the simplicity and high energy of the Bobcats’ version. Definitely that’s where my vote goes. Bobcats–they cook!

    Arlee Bird
    A to Z Challenge Co-host
    Tossing It Out

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  7. My vote goes to the Bobcats. I liked the second version, too, but the first one was just so much FUN. The Bobcats’ version made me smile and want to get up and dance around my office (which I refrained from doing). 🙂

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  8. Had no idea Bing had a brother Bob. My day is done, lol You know how they say you’re suppose to learn 1 new a day, well since I did …the rest of day is a breeze. This would be a good B post for you with all the B’s. Was trying to figure out where your A was? Enjoyed it never the less. Happy Day 1

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    1. I’ve got the posts for A to Z set to post at 9 AM Eastern time. I didn’t want to chance releasing both of these at once for fear of confusing WordPress, so I sent the Battle post an hour earlier. The post for A is out there now, but you probably knew that…

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