Bing Crosby’s Christmas Song Connection to Albany Law School

Alumni of Albany Law School include judges, business executives, governors and President William McKinley.

And then there’s Bing Crosby – well, in a way.

The legendary singer didn’t attend the country’s oldest independent law school, but one of Crosby’s most famous songs, “I’ll Be Home For Christmas,” has a crooning connection to law school. of 80 New Scotland Ave.

Crosby’s holiday classic – performed by Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole, Elvis Presley, Kelly Clarkson and many more – was designed by Albany Law School graduate James Kimball Gannon.

Nine years before “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” became an international hit, Gannon, known as “Kim”, graduated from Albany Law School. The former student of 1934 would go on to become a major songwriter and lyricist of some 200 popular songs and work with the biggest names of the time. Gannon was also nominated for three Oscars. He even worked as a lawyer for a few years.

But the connection between Gannon and, by extension, his famous song with Albany Law School was virtually unknown until the school’s Government and Law Center, which has a large archive of old newspaper clippings, tweeted at this. topic last week. The news quickly sparked interest, Ben Meyers, associate director of law school communications and marketing, told Law Beat.

He said school staff found a profile of Gannon on June 9, 1933 in The Saratogian newspaper, as well as a 1933 yearbook with information about Gannon.

“Albany Law School is incredibly proud of Mr. Gannon and his contribution to the holiday season,” Meyers told Law Beat. “His words have brought so much comfort and joy to so many over the decades that we are honored to be a part of his journey and success.”

The 1933 newspaper article stated that Gannon’s parents lived in London and, in their older years, had spent summers at Ballston Spa. Born in Brooklyn, Gannon grew up in New Jersey, but had family roots in the capital region. His family had come to Brooklyn and New Jersey from Fort Ann in Washington County. Gannon spent his summers at Ballston Spa.

In 1920, the future songwriter graduated from the New York Military Academy in Cornwall-on-Hudson. Four years later, Gannon graduated from St. Lawrence University in Canton, where he met his wife, Norma. Gannon wrote the school song alma mater. Gannon first worked in the credit department of Seaboard Bank in New York City, then moved to Greenwich, Washington County, where he worked as a director at New York Power and Light Corp.

But Gannon’s dream at the time was to be a lawyer, which led him to Albany Law School in 1930. Gannon joined the Psi Upsilon fraternity in school and played sports such as hockey and baseball.

In the 1933 Albany Law School yearbook, The Verdict, Gannon’s profile reads:

“The singing advisor. WGY shows at night and from the smoking room between classes. Writes most of his own songs and probably most of the fake fan mail he shows us. Give ‘Kim’ time and he’ll set all the laws to music. Member of the Back Row Brief Snatching Club. Every afternoon he returns to Ballston and runs a law firm and in the evening is a devoted husband. Known on radio as “Johnny Albright” but known to us as one of the most popular men of ’33. And that turkey, ‘Kim?’

Gannon, who was married, had his own radio show on WGY-AM (the station still there today) under the nickname “Johnny Albright”.
While in law school, Gannon also worked in the credit department at Bradstreet and Dunn.

In 1934, Gannon passed the state bar exam. He practiced law for five years at Ballston Spa, but had a different career path than in the legal world, according to the 1933 article and Albany Law School.

In 1939, Gannon released his first song, “For Tonight”. Three years later, Gannon wrote “Moonlight Cocktail”, which was recorded by the Glenn Miller Orchestra. For 10 weeks, it was the best-selling record in the country. Gannon began racking up dozens of songwriting credits for movie songs in the 1950s and 1960s.

Gannon’s greatest song, of course, would come in 1943 with “I’ll Be Home for Christmas”. Crosby sang Gannon’s lyrics to the music of Walter Kent, who like Gannon had attended St. Lawrence University.

“From what I understood, Kim Gannon had the melody running through his head and how it should sound. He suggested the melody and the composer filled in the harmony,” said Culver Tefft, a friend. from Gannon, to the Post-Star in Glens Falls. at the time, according to the law school’s own article on Gannon.

During World War II, “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” was more popular than Crosby’s holiday classic, “White Christmas”. It was the most requested song at the U.SO. shows in Europe and the Pacific, according to the Library of Congress, said Albany Law.

In 1974, Gannon died in Lake Worth, Florida at the age of 73. His widow, Norma Allen Gannon, died in 2000. According to Albany Law School, “I’ll Be Home For Christmas in 2014 was the American Society of Composers, Authors and the 10th most played holiday song in the world. century by Publisher.

“Christmas is celebration in the title, but the message of reaching loved ones at home and celebrating each other is universal,
Meyers told Law Beat. “We can all accept this. It is certainly a grateful time of year and, while we have lost track of it, we are grateful to have rediscovered its connection to law school.”

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Nancy I. Romero