Keep it Swingin'
Vocalists and Musicians who keep The Rat Pack music alive, share their stories about how the music of Frank, Dean and Sammy influenced them as artists.
Personal stories to follow....
by a variety of Vocalists, Musicians and Performing Artists.
(Excerpts below.. from articles that featured Michael Feinstein, Tony Bennet Michael Bublé and Seth MacFarlane, Josh Groban, Alicia Keys and Bob Dylan.)
As the Ambassador of the Great American Songbook, you have performed the music of Frank Sinatra for live audiences around the world and memorably in your PBS special The Sinatra Project. How did you first learn about the music of Frank Sinatra?
His voice has been with me my entire life. Frank Sinatra's music is iconic and many people consider him to be the single greatest pop singer of the 20th century. I came to his music, as many did, through osmosis. It was always a part of my life. When I was child I would hear his voice on the radio. I'd see him in movies. His records were in my parents' collection. When I was five years old I was aware of the voice of Frank Sinatra.
As I grew older and became a musician and a singer, I gained a true awareness of how he changed the face of American popular music by being the first singer to travel around the world performing what we now call American popular standards or the Great American Songbook. He sang popular songs without apology, around the world at the Sydney Opera House and Buckingham Palace. He granted validity to the music I now sing for my livelihood. His influence in that regard, aside from his vocal art, is incredibly culturally significant.
I was 10 years younger than Frank Sinatra and was one of the original bobby-soxers when he was hitting it so big at the Paramount Theater. He was very much like a mentor and then a brother to me in later years. I remember early in my career I had a dilemma as I was getting my first TV special - it was a summer replacement show for "The Perry Como Show" - and they had no budget so I just had a bare stage and nothing else. I was so worried about how it would turn out.... [Sinatra] gave me the best advice that to this day I have never forgotten: He said it was good that I was nervous because it showed that I cared, and that the audience would sense this and as a result they would root for me, as they would know that I was concerned that they would be entertained and enjoy themselves. To this day, I still get butterflies before I go out onstage, and I remember Frank's words and know that it's when the butterflies don't happen anymore that you really have to be worried.
"He (Sinatra) just knew how to do it. He had very beautiful phrasing," Bennett says of Sinatra. "It was all about singing very, very well-written love songs." Bennett also says he doesn't mind being compared to Sinatra, but he would never try to copy him or any other singer."
Michael Bublé and Seth MacFarlane
Michael Bublé and Seth MacFarlane
Excerpt - Q&A: Michael Bublé and Seth MacFarlane on Frank Sinatra by Mikael Wood, pop music critic for the Los Angeles Times.
How was each of you introduced to his work?
MacFarlane: I came into it in an oddly backward way. I was a big fan of film scores when I was a kid, as well as big-band jazz from the '40s and '50s. But it was really the orchestra I was interested in, the creative mixtures of sounds that could be achieved with an orchestra. And really, during that time - the '40s, '50s and '60s - that was when it was really all happening. I mean, what MGM alone was doing was something that had not been done before or since. I hadn't really sat down and listened to a Frank Sinatra song seriously until I was in college. And what struck me initially were the orchestrations; it was Nelson Riddle, Gordon Jenkins, Billy May. The more I heard, the more I realized there was something very, very special going on in the vocals, something that no one else had done.
Bublé: My grandfather and I, we had a great relationship, and he would sit with me and play these records. I listened to a lot of Bobby Darin as a kid - 7, 8 years old. Dean Martin was a huge one. We're an Italian-Canadian family, you know, so a lot of those great Italian singers - Tony Bennett - were played through the house. The Sinatra that I met first wasn't the "Come Fly With Me" Sinatra. The Sinatra I met was the Sinatra singing with the Pied Pipers - really early, really incredible, beautiful, sweet, young voice. I would go and take songs like "Stardust" and "My Melancholy Baby," these really old recordings, and I would put them on cassette, and when I went to bed, I would listen to them over and over and over and over.
It is Bono who has come closest to defining the appeal of Sinatra to the generations who did not buy his music the first time round but who might possibly have been conceived to it.
Bono and Sinatra recorded a version of "I've Got You Under My Skin" on Frank's 1993 Duets album - a huge commercial success that teamed Sinatra with a string of contemporary vocalists.
A year later, when Bono presented Sinatra with a lifetime achievement award at the Grammys, he tried to explain why even men in earrings and leather trousers love Sinatra.
"Rock'n'roll people love Frank Sinatra because Frank has got what we want," said Bono. "Swagger and attitude. He's big on attitude. Serious attitude, bad attitude. The big bang of pop. The champ who would rather show you his scars than his medals."
Excerpt from Tony Parsons column - Why you never grow out of Frank Sinatra
Josh Groban: Sinatra in Groban's mind was "the ultimate song stylist. He was telling stories with songs. He showed it was OK to let different nuances come through. No one has sounded like him before or since, and that's something every young artist would want to strive for."
Alicia Keys: Who Performed at Sinatra 100 had this to say about the "My Way' crooner in an earlier interview: "Frank Sinatra is an all-timer, the true definition of class and style - He definitely had an impact on contemporary artists well beyond music - from fashion sense to his 'crew,' the Rat Pack."
Excerpts above (Josh/Alicia) from https://www.gigwise.com/photos/104303/frank-sinatra-100th-birthday-11-artists-inspired
Bob Dylan: "Phenomenal Ebbtide by Frank Sinatra never failed to fill me with awe. The lyrics were so mystifying and stupendous. When Frank sang that song, I could hear everything in his voice - death, God, the universe - everything."
Bob Dylan: "Full Moon and Empty Arms." Dylan's February album Shadows in the Night, which included this song, was recorded in homage to Sinatra. "When you start doing these songs," Dylan said in an interview about the album, "Frank's got to be on your mind. Because he is the mountain. That's the mountain you have to climb, even if you only get part of the way there. ... He had this ability to get inside of the song in a sort of a conversational way. Frank sang to you - not at you. I never wanted to be a singer that sings at somebody. I've always wanted to sing to somebody."
Personal Swingin' Stories
Advisory Board Member & Author Darren Grubb shares a story from Comedian Tom Dreesen about a professional lesson he learned from Frank Sinatra.
TOM DREESEN www.tomdreesen.com
Tom Dreesen has made over 500 appearances on national television as a stand-up comedian, including more than 60 appearances on The Tonight Show. For 13 years he toured cross country and opened for Frank Sinatra. (Again Thanks to Advisory Board Member Darren Grubb for asking Tom Dreesen to share this story.)
Frank Sinatra on why he wore tuxedos during a performance:
I once asked Frank why we wore tuxedos every night. He said, "Tommy, if we were going to go do a command performance for the Queen of England, would we wear tuxedos?"
"Yeah, I'm sure we would," I said.
"Okay," he said, beginning the lesson. "Well, that guy in Detroit who works in a factory, and his wife who busts her ass as a waitress, they worked all year long to save enough money to come and see our show. They are as much royalty as the Queen of England to us, and we should honor that. Every night is a command performance. That, Tommy, is why we wear tuxedos."
If the sun exploded and came hurtling toward the earth at a million miles an hour, incinerating everything in sight, Frank would probably look up, defiantly button his tuxedo jacket, and squint. That's just how he was during a show -- and that's why, to this day, I always wear a tuxedo when performing my one-man show.
Excerpt taken from Tom Dreesen's upcoming new memoir about his life and fifty year career in show business: "STILL STANDING... My Journey from Streets and Saloons to the Stage, and Sinatra."
TV EXECUTIVE PRODUCER HARRY BRING
Advisory Board Member Harry Bring shares that his Dad, Band Leader Lou Bring and his orchestra performed with Al Jolson for many years on the Kraft Music Hall Radio Show.
Lou Bring had an office at Capitol Studios, where Harry recalls fond memories of his time spend there. (story t/c)
Frank Sinatra has become synonymous with the iconic Capitol recording studio, as Mr. Sinatra was one of the early vocalists to record there.
Al Jolson and the Lou Bring Orchestra - Kraft Music Hall Radio Program
Vocalist Steven Maglio
Vocalist Steven Maglio www.StevenMaglio.com
Photo above of Steven Maglio singing with Deana Martin
At eight years old, I discovered the Frank Sinatra album, "A Man And His Music." That was the beginning of my Rat Pack addiction. My regular bedtime was 10pm, but I was allowed to stay up until 11pm on Thursdays to watch The Dean Martin Show. Peter Lawford & Joey Bishop were fabulous, but I wanted to sing, so it was Frank, Dean & Sammy that caught my attention.
Since 2004, I've been singing the Sinatra tribute shows at The Carnegie Club in NYC. Two shows every Saturday. Between the shows they play the Rat Pack show from 1965 in St. Louis on the televisions, and I sit and watch it every week. I say, "People come here to see me, but I come here to see them."
Frank sang "to" the women, Dean sang "for" the men, and Sammy sang and danced "to" and "for" the child in everyone. They were strong, sharp, funny, cool, romantic. There will never be a more perfectly matched and balanced cast of talent. They came, they saw, they conquered ..... and then they left us.
Thankfully, they left behind a treasure trove of movies and recordings, but even more, they gave inspiration for others to continue what they started. Sexy is still alive and well as long as we practice Rat Pack Swagger. Thanks Guys.
Entertainer Bob Anderson
ENTERTAINER BOB ANDERSON https://bobanderson.com/
FRANK THE MAN THE MUSIC SHOW
Voted Las Vegas Entertainer of the Year 3 times. Inducted into Casino Legends Hall of Fame and The Las Vegas Entertainment Hall of Fame
One of the greatest evenings in Bob's career was the night Frank and Dean caught his show in Atlantic City.
"I started off with Tony Bennett," Bob recalls, "then Sammy, then Dean, Frank began laughing. They didn't think I'd have the guts to do Sinatra, but I did and he loved it!"
After the show, Frank invited Bob to sit with him and Dean and then spoke the magic words, "This kid's got a hell of an act!"
Bob (in an email to The Rat Pack Music Alliance Founder Karen Morris) about his show FRANK THE MAN THE MUSIC replied:
My objective was to write and perform a show for the younger generation who would leave their high-tech world behind, and travel back to Circa 1970 and see what the entertainment world used to be like, and by doing so.... see the quintessential reenactment of Frank Sinatra, the finest saloon singer who ever lived, performing his show on stage at Caesars Palace in the Circus Maximums showroom.
More from Bob:
"When I started to work on being FRANK, I spent more than a year getting up at 6 am, four days a week practicing two hours a day. When word got out that I was working on this project, I received a number of Sinatra video performances from friends as well as fans that I had never met. I watched every gesture he made and at what point in a song he would make it. The way he cocked his head and pointed his finger, his walk and everything else that makes him who he is. I wanted everything to be as close to reality as I could get it.
The first person I went to when I got the idea, was Vince Falcone, Sinatra's musical director and most trusted musical advisor for years. As a conductor, musical director and accompanist, no one is respected more than Vince Falcone.
As far as the look goes, I commissioned one of Hollywood's top make-up artists, Kazu Tsuji (photo above), to turn me into Frank Sinatra. His work is extraordinary. Kazu provided the make-up and facial reconstruction for Brad Pitt in, "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" and Jim Carry in, "How the Grinch Stole Christmas", the revised others.
Because Kazu's schedule did not allow him to leave Los Angeles for more than two or three days at a time, I was then introduced to Emmy Award Winner, Ron Wild. Ron is a master of his craft and became my make- up artist for almost all of my performances in the show. Both Kazu and Ron told me that they could only go so far when it comes to capturing the exact look of another person in make-up. They got it pretty close."
It takes two hours for the transformation into Frank Sinatra, then Anderson does the rest...the posture, the walk, the smile, the mannerisms and the voice.
Vocalist Henry Prego
Vocalist with the Frank Sinatra Alumni Band www.henrypregoshow.com
The Man Across The River
My name is Henry Prego and I sing the songs of Frank Sinatra.
I'm from New York City. Both my parents were born and raised down on the Lower East Side where they met, got married, and they had me. The lower east side if you don't know it, is a wonderfully diverse section of the city where a lot of the immigrant families from the last century settled after passing through Ellis island. I have many wonderful memories from my childhood growing up there.
One in particular that relates to my show "Henry Prego Sings Frank Sinatra" is of long walks with my grandpa Pete. My grandpa Pete was a retired Merchant Marine Seaman, He loved to walk. He walked everywhere, and sometimes he would take me along on these walks and we would usually head over one block to the East River and proceed south down and through Battery Park (which If you aren't familiar with the city is the most southern tip of Manhattan.) then up along the Hudson River where you can look across and see the state of New Jersey. My Grandpa Pete would always say ''Henry that's the state of New Jersey and that's where Frank Sinatra Lives'' At the age of six I always thought to myself he's just some man he knows. Now, I wasn't the dumbest kid in the world, within a few years I figured out that Frank Sinatra was a very famous person who made music, films, and was on the TV. My mom alway's played A Jolly Christmas with Frank Sinatra on the phonograph every holiday, But honestly it didn't make much of an impression on me at that time, not till quite a few years later when I happened to stumble across an album called Sinatra at the Sands with the Count Basie Orchestra! One of the best live albums ever recorded! That's when my eyes and ears opened wide. That is when I decided I wanted to try to sing this great music. oddly enough I knew a lot of the lyrics to the songs due to my mothers record collection.
There was a small jazz club in Seaford Long Island called Sonny's Place which is where I cut my teeth and I was fortunate enough to meet and be mentored by musicians like Billy Mitchell and Frank Wess from the Count Basie Band who by the way also worked with Sinatra and were on all the Basie recordings. They taught me all about phrasing and how to put a song across and I am indebted to them to this day.
Skipping ahead my wife and I decided we had had enough of New York and we moved to California, to a place called Palm Desert. Don't go there in the summer!!! Anyway, I was a happy guy working as a Big Band singer doing all the big events and tournaments in and around Palm Spring CA as well as singing Jazz with smaller combos. Then one day the phone rings and it's a friend of mine and he's hysterical. ''Henry you need to get up here, get in touch with the producers of this show in Las Vegas GO FOR THE PART OF SINATRA!'' ''What? What show?'' I say. It turns out to be the Rat Pack is back show at the Sahara Hotel, Just getting underway.
I told him NO WAY! First off I'm not an actor, I've never done any acting before. Secondly, and the most terrifying thought to me as a singer, to play the part of SINATRA? pretending, convincing people that I'm FRANK SINATRA? I'd rather throw myself off of a cliff, Head first.
I told my wife about the call, we had a laugh and dropped it. A few days later my wife Debbie; now how can I put this; She's an Italian from New York! calls me over to the mirror and says ''look in the mirror. you've got the blue eyes, you've got the same ears, you already sing all the songs... Then turns and looks me in the face with a determination and says, ''Comb your hair the same way, go up to Las Vegas, smile and take the check!"
Well I did, and I got the job. The show became a big hit and then the producers of another show in London's West End asked me to join their cast and as a result have gone on to travel the world to do and see things I never would have otherwise. Most recently Walt Johnson who was the lead trumpet for Frank Sinatra and Frank Sinatra Jr. asked me to front the newly formed Frank Sinatra Alumni Band. We are currently booking shows throughout the country.
These days I consider myself an Ambassador to the Sinatra Songbook performing the music as it should be heard with the help of the wonderful musicians who have been part of this rich history. As I like to do in my performances, A toast! Here's to the man across the river, thank you Mr. Sinatra for all the wonderful music.
Vocalist Eddie Sessa
Vocalist Eddie Sessa
"When I was just a young man I went with my Uncle and Godfather to see Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin, who were doing concerts together at the original Golden Nugget Casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey. They knew my uncles and we had dinner with them after the show. I was hooked!
Many great singers sang all the same standards, but when Sinatra put his twist on them, magic happened! That's why there are so many entertainers like myself who are doing the music in the style of Sinatra, mimicking his phrasing, enunciation, tone... because simply put, nobody ever came close to doing the songs the way he did.
The same goes for Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr. . It really wasn't just about the music, but the way they presented it. It was the whole vibe. You couldn't help but be mesmerized by them on stage! "
Jazz-Opera Vocalist Rose Kingsley
Vocalist Rose Kingsley
Two of my favorite Sinatra songs are "OLD MAN RIVER" & "THE SOLIlLIQUY" from "CAROUSEL ! Here Frank demonstrates his "operatic" training technique ! (both songs that are usually performed by classically (Opera) trained singers !) Bravo , Maestro Sinatra !!!!!
On another note ............
My Father-in-law , Tony Senerchia, was an amazing Pianist who played for TOMMY DORSEY. He played for Frank , when he performed with Tommy Dorsey at THE MEADOWBROOK, in Cedar Grove , NJ. They became fast friends..My Father in law used to drive Frank after the show to the train that he caught to go home to Hoboken ! When my sister-in-law was married in 1959, Frank Sinatra was one of the Honored Guests !!
Being an International Dramatic Soprano including THE METROPOLITAN OPERA for most of my Life ....... 5 years ago I discovered that God had given me another "Gift " as the critics have "tagged" me ..."OPERA GREAT Turned JAZZ GREAT "! When I debuted at NYC's BIRDLAND, critics called me " The Female Sinatra" ! It's not so much that I sounded like Mr. Sinatra, but it was the way I PHRASE and "Tell A Story" as only Frank could !!!!! One famous Agent told me after hearing me ....... " You are a MABEL MERCER"..who not only had a beautiful voice , but NO ONE Could PHRASE & Tell a Story like she could !! I later found out that it WAS MABEL MERCER who FRANK learned from !!!!!!! No Wonder..!!
Vocalist Zack Alexander
Vocalist Zack Alexander
2016 winner of Hoboken's Sinatra Idol contest
"I'll never forget the first time I heard Frank Sinatra's voice. I was 6 years old at my grandmother's house. She took out her Victrola record player and played a Sinatra 45. The Summer Wind single was the first Sinatra tune I ever heard and that began my addiction to the immortal icon known as Frank Sinatra. Growing up in New Jersey with Italian heritage, it isn't shocking that I was exposed to The Rat Pack at such a young age. Which, ultimately lead to my obsession with the Great American Songbook and other musical talents in the genre.
I was born in October 1995. Dean Martin passed that Christmas and Sinatra passed a few years after that. If I could travel back in time to witness these giants perform I would do it in a heartbeat. Fortunately, I was able to see the great Tony Bennett twice in concert and being able to witness that was a highlight in my young adult life. Frank Sinatra's voice filled the theatre to introduce Tony and you can't get much of a better intro than that. It was magic.
It took me years to realize that I too could croon the songbook. About a decade later, at age 16, I started to really study the style and swagger of Sinatra and The Rat Pack. Their charisma and charm truly captivated audiences. I consumed as much media as possible including taped concerts, television shows, movies, and recorded music. I began to sing along to Sinatra vinyls in front of a mirror, hidden in my bedroom. I was also belted out private concerts in the shower! Eventually, I found the confidence to publicly sing at 18. My family was throwing a 1970s themed summer party and I decided to sing "The Love Boat" theme song recorded by Jack Jones. My family was stunned and told me to audition for the upcoming Sinatra Tribute Gala at the Count Basie Theatre in Red Bank, New Jersey. Lo and Behold, my first public performance was with The Red Bank Jazz Orchestra for Frank Sinatra's Birthday.
Since then I took it upon myself as someone of my generation to preserve the legacy of The Rat Pack and The Great American Songbook because it is exactly that, great American music. I have performed with the Red Bank Jazz Orchestra on a few occasions, once with Deana Martin (Dean Martin's daughter). I am the regular male vocalist with Swingtime Big Band, a 17-piece big band, paying tribute to the greatest music in existence. I am also the 2016 winner of Hoboken's Sinatra Idol contest.
Frank Sinatra has had such an influence on my life that I was able to turn my passion into a career and I take great pride in that. I can only hope and pray that people of my generation and younger folks keep this iconography and music alive, for there will only be one Frank Sinatra. The man may be gone, but the music lives on and it's an honor to pay tribute to such a legend. God Bless."
Vocalist Dave Damiani
Sinatra 100 - Tina Sinatra, David Damiani and Landau Murphy Jr.
Vocalist & Band Leader Dave Damiani
My father took me to see Frank Sinatra's very last professional show (Public Show) in Atlantic City at The Sands in 1995. Little did I know that exactly 20 years later to the date that I would be hosting and producing the Sinatra 100 Show in Los Angeles at The Grove. My band (The No Vacancy Orchestra) backed up me of course, but also George Benson, Jane Monheit, Landau Murphy Jr, and Renee Olstead. I had special guests Tina Sinatra and Johnny Mandel in the audience.
It was the thrill of a lifetime. I grew up just about 30 miles outside of Atlantic City and I had heard about the legacy of "Skinny" D'Amato's 500 Club which hosted the Rat Pack. I had no idea that I was going to grow into a bandleader, singer and producer at the time. I had no idea that I would be influenced so much by the allure of this great music. Since, I have headlined all over the country and have done shows with Joe Piscopo, Bobby Rydell, George Benson, Renee Olstead, Haley Reinhart, Sal "The Voice" Valentinetti, Jane Monheit, Deana Martin, Billy Very, Tierney Sutton, Landau Murphy Jr, Molly Ringwald, Donny Most, Dave Koz, Rick Braun, and so many others.
Thank you for sharing my story and my love for the coolest era ever! The Rat Pack will never be duplicated, but my pals and I are doing our best to keep this great tradition going strong!
Sinatra Tribute Artist Vaughn Suponatime
Singing Sinatra: Nice work if you can get it.
No other singer has had more of an influence on American popular music in the twentieth century than Frank Sinatra. Think about it. Before Elvis and after Elvis, there was Sinatra. Before The Beatles and after The Beatles, there was Sinatra.
I spent my childhood growing up in Brooklyn, New York listening to Frank Sinatra. We were an Italian family living in a Jewish neighborhood, located in an Irish-Catholic parish. Sinatra music was always playing in our house and in our neighbor's houses too.
For the last decade or so, I have had the good fortune to perform a singing tribute to Frank Sinatra with much success. There are a number of reason for this, some of which I can take credit for and some of which I can't. I do bear a physical resemblance to him and my vocal range is the same as his was, but that's just the luck of the draw. There's a lot of homework involved in singing Sinatra.
For instance, you must use his breath control and phrasing or, you're not doing him. This can be challenging because sometimes he will hold a note so long you'd swear he was sitting on an air hose. In "Moonlight in Vermont" he connects the two stanza of lyrics without taking a breath and modulates into another key as he starts the second stanza. Whoa! Somebody call a ranger!
I used to run five miles a day, with earphones on, singing Sinatra at 5 am in the morning in a park when no one was around. I figured if I can hold those notes as long as he did while I was running, there's an outside chance I might be able to hold the note that long while standing still. It's a great way to train for breath control.
Using very little "grace notes" Sinatra will sing the first chorus of a song as written but when he repeats it, he "swings" it, robbing time from one note and giving to another and yet, never ever falling "out of the pocket". His choices are always the most subtle ones and his interpretation of lyrics is sensitive, meaningful and incredibly honest. Giving "subtext" to the lyrics, he interprets the exact feeling the songwriter intended, profoundly touching the heart. I don't think he ever sang a dishonest note.
If you've ever wondered why Frank Sinatra became not just a "star" but a national treasure, listen to a CD box set entitled "Frank Sinatra: A voice in time (19399-1952)". This incredible collection of songs showcases the young Sinatra at the height of his vocal powers. Singing in a light baritone voice, he glides in and out of falsetto effortlessly. The ballads are heart breaking and the swing tunes are a display of impeccable timing and pure fun.
Studying Sinatra's singing is like going to a university where there is no graduation. I still find subtle little techniques he uses on different recordings of the same song he recorded at different venues. The learning never stops. It would be like trying to get a master's degree at traffic school. It can't be done.