Ron McCroby

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Ron McCroby was a master of the rarely practiced art of jazz whistling, blessed with amazingly sure intonation and technical control that allowed him to mimic bebop players' lines with a clarity that…
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Ron McCroby was a master of the rarely practiced art of jazz whistling, blessed with amazingly sure intonation and technical control that allowed him to mimic bebop players' lines with a clarity that made it sound as though he were playing a piccolo. In fact, McCroby delighted in describing his "instrument" as a "puccolo" (a conflation of "piccolo" and "pucker"). He was born in 1934 and grew up in Morgantown, WV, where he played clarinet in the high-school marching band. It was there that he made his musical whistling debut, filling in the piccolo part in "Stars and Stripes Forever" when the regular player was out sick. McCroby studied music at West Virginia University, but subsequently got married and moved to Cincinnati to pursue advertising as his vocation. In his spare time, he performed locally as a clarinetist with various large and small jazz groups, sometimes doubling on flute or saxophone. Eventually, he became the advertising director for the Little Tykes toy company, and also moved into cartoon voice-over work, portraying a whistling penguin on Scooby-Doo.

Ron McCroby Plays Puccolo
McCroby made his television debut as a jazz whistler on a Cleveland morning show in 1981. Word spread quickly about his astonishing skill (and not inconsiderable novelty appeal), leading to his banner year of 1982. McCroby performed on The Merv Griffin Show and made the first of five appearances on The Tonight Show With Johnny Carson; he also performed at that year's Monterey Jazz Festival, with a repertoire that ranged from "Body and Soul" and "Blue Rondo a la Turk" to Vivaldi to the Andy Griffith theme. If that weren't enough, McCroby also recorded his first album, Ron McCroby Plays Puccolo, for Concord Jazz, with a backing quartet featuring flutist Sam Most, pianist Bill Mays, bassist Bob Magnusson, and drummer Jeff Hamilton. A second Concord album, The Other Whistler, appeared in 1984. McCroby also continued his voice-over work for several ad campaigns, most prominently as Tenderheart Bear for the greeting-card toy spinoff The Care Bears, as well as a Winnie the Pooh video game. He retired in 1999, and in 2001 he traveled to the Netherlands and cut an album with the Hans Mantel Trio, titled Twolips From Holland. On August 5, 2002, McCroby passed away at his Aurora, OH, home from an apparent heart attack.