Pianist and bandleader Bob Zurke is best remembered for his association with Bob Crosby's orchestra. Hard-drinking and undisciplined, Zurke played with various outfits in New York, Philadelphia, and his native Detroit during the late 1920s and early 1930s. In late 1928 he cut two sides with female bandleader Thelma Terry. In January 1937 he joined Bob Crosby, replacing Joe Sullivan, who had been hospitalized with tuberculosis.
Zurke was very popular and well respected by jazz fans and musicians alike for his piano work. In 1939 he won Downbeat magazine's poll for best piano player. In the summer of 1939 he organized his own band. With only average arrangements and a poor rhythm section, the band went nowhere and broke up the following spring.
Zurke spent a brief period in jail due to alimony problems and continued to work as a pianist, first in Chicago, then moving to Detroit, then to St. Paul, and finally to Los Angeles, where he performed at the Hangover Club from August 1942 until his death in 1944. He collapsed while in the club and was taken to Los Angeles General Hospital where he died 24 hours later, only 32 years of age.