Videotape Recording Invented at the Bing Crosby Building on the Sunset Strip

Bing Crosby (in hat) confers with recording engineers

In 1936 Bing Crosby was one of the most successful entertainers in America. He was known as “crooner,” a specialist is slow, melodic love songs, and his tours across the country played to sold-out crowds. He had more hit records than the Beatles would accrue 30 years later. He also appeared in some of the most popular movies of the day and had recently signed with NBC to host the weekly Kraft Music Hall.

The Bing Crosby Building on the Sunset Strip then and now

In October that year he began construction on his headquarters building on the Sunset Strip. For the next ten years the building housed Crosby’s management office which was overseen by his brother Everett Crosby as well as Crosby’s talent agency, General Amusement Corp., that handled his bookings and his fan mail. Over time Crosby brought the management of all his businesses in into the building, including oil wells, Minute Maid Orange Juice, horse racing, and the pro-am golf tournament.

The weekly radio show created a challenge in scheduling his tours. Sound recording was in its infancy in those days. Magnetic tape recording had been invented in German during the Nazi regime, so it was unavailable in the United States until after World War II. Crosby got involved in the development of tape recording to enable him to record his shows for broadcast and then go on tour. He established his Electronic Division at the Crosby Building in 1946. Within a year engineers in the division had perfected audiotape recording, and on Oct. 1, 1947, Bing Crosby’s radio show became the first program to be aired from tape.

When Crosby moved to weekly television in 1951 he was faced with the same challenge in scheduling his tours. He approached this problem as he had audio recording – by charging his engineers with the task of developing a video recorder. Working with the Ampex company, the Crosby laboratory first presented their videotape recorder in early 1952 – the first ever invented.

It took several years to perfect the quality, culminating in 1955 with a demonstration of high-quality color video recording. In 1956 Ampex produced the first commercial recorder, which was quickly established as the industry standard. In 1957 Crosby’s Electronics Division was transferred to the 3M corporation.

Bing Crosby continued to operate his businesses from the building until his death in 1977. In 2018 the California Historical Resources Commission voted unanimously to nominate the Bing Crosby Building for listing on the National Register of Historic Places.