This week, Ira Sternberg spoke with Frank Sinatra Jr.
Frank Sinatra Jr. will be performing in “Sinatra Sings Sinatra – The Centennial Celebration” in Reynolds Hall at the Smith Center, Saturday, June 20 at 7:30 p.m. It’s a one-of-a-kind, multi-media experience that pays tribute to the 100th anniversary of the birth and legacy of Frank Sinatra in personal stories, photos, videos and songs.
A headliner in his own right, Sinatra Jr. was born in New Jersey, raised in California and educated in the showrooms of Las Vegas and on bandstands around the world. At 21, he made his show business debut as a singer with the Elliott Brothers Band. He later joined the Sam Donahue Orchestra, and then went on to perform in showrooms throughout the United States, Canada, Japan, Brazil and England. Sinatra Jr., a talented songwriter, had three of his songs – “Spice,” “Believe In Me” and “Black Night” – featured on the 1971 album “Spice,” produced by the late Sonny Burke.
In the 1980s, backed by a 17-piece orchestra, Sinatra Jr. opened in downtown Las Vegas and reintroduced the lush big band sound, sparking renewed interest in live music. In the decade that followed, he expanded his band to include 20 musicians and played the lounge at Desert Inn, marking the first time in 20 years that a big band had appeared in a lounge on the famed Las Vegas Strip. By then, Sinatra Jr. had also joined his father’s staff as musical director and conductor, helping to choose the music and conduct the orchestra whenever his father was on stage.
Sinatra Jr. conducted for his father at New York City’s Radio City Music Hall and went on to perform his own show to sell-out audiences at Tavern on the Green and later, Trump Plaza in Atlantic City. His 1996 release of “As I Remember It,” a tribute to Frank Sinatra’s talents and the composers and arrangers, who defined the Sinatra legend, climbed the charts and earned critical acclaim along the way. In his tour that followed, Sinatra Jr. used a 44-piece orchestra and won respect from fans and critics.
“When I was a boy, my father would often bring me to Las Vegas. I saw all the stars perform, and late at night, there would always be a name band playing in a lounge,” he recalled. “I remember listening to Harry James, Count Basie and many other famous bands. It was quite an education. I always try to recapture the spirit of those late night sessions in my own show.”