1943

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Stardust – Frank Sinatra

By | 2017-06-10T00:19:34+00:00 October 8th, 2012|Categories: Songs|Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Stardust, originally “Star Dust”, was firstly a song composed by Hoagy Carmichael in the year 1927. Two years later, in 1929, Mitchell Parish wrote the lyrics for Stardust. It is certainly a standard and was sung and recorded by many artists of jazz-swing era, including Frank Sinatra. Stardust was not just “one” of the songs that Sinatra sang, but a sentimental ballad Sinatra performed almost in perfection.

Stardust Frank Sinatra

Frank Sinatra first sang Stardust when he was in the band of Harry James. In fact, the very first song Frank sang with Harry James’ orchestra was Stardust. Jack Palmer, a trumpeter of Harry James said: “Just before the second show, Harry came out and introduced him as the new singer with the band. Frank then joined us at the next date we had, which I believe was in New Haven, Connecticut. I’ll never forget how Harry introduced him to the audience. He said, “Ladies and Gentlemen, this is our new vocalist, and we don’t have any arrangements for him as yet. Frank, do you think we can scare something up for you to sing?” Sinatra called out “Stardust,” which is not the easiest song to sing. Frank gave us the key and the piano and rhythm section began, and we just tried to get some background to hold it all together.

A version of Stardust can be found in Frank Sinatra and Harry James Complete Recordings. Compared to later versions, this Stardust version has a noticeable faster tempo.

Stardust had its part in Jo Stafford’s memories as well. Jo Stafford says: “We knew we were going to have a boy singer, but we didn’t know anything about him. We didn’t even meet him before the first show. Out came this rather frail looking young man with a whole bunch of hair. I just thought, hmm kinda thin. But he sang no more than a few bars of “Stardust” and a great hush fell over the theatre. Nobody had ever sounded like that before.”

Herb Sanford, Tommy Dorsey’s radio producer (after hearing Sinatra singing Stardust): “Boy, this is something else.”

Apparently, Sinatra sang Stardust to impress people after joining both Harry James’ and Tommy Dorsey’s orchestra.

In 1940, 11th of November, Frank Sinatra recorded Stardust with Tommy Dorsey Orchestra, and showed us how Stardust should be performed; slower tempo, and a slow start of “Some-times-I-Won-der-Why-I-Spend The-lonely-Nights”. In this version, Sinatra starts to sing with “The Pied Pipers”, and just in the middle of “Nights”, Pied Pipers stop, and Frank Sinatra completes the word “Nights” in an amazing way, with a brilliant voice. The “You were in my arms” part is also quite notable. Stardust is one of the leading successful songs of Tommy Dorsey era of Frank Sinatra, and was a big hit in the year 1941.

“The 1940 “Stardust” is strictly the “Smile Again” layout applied to another tune. And most effectively too, judging by its effect on Buddy Rich, who was hardly the band’s sensitivity specialist. Rich, who prided himself on being hyper masculine and downright ant sentimental, later confided to friend Mel Torme that Sinatra’s rendition of “Stardust” had him hiding his face so that no one would catch a glimpse of his tears.” (SINATRA! The Song Is You by Will Friedwald)

A famous Stardust version of Sinatra is from 1943, performed in “Your Hit Parade”. It was presented by Lucky Strike, and the video of it is available.

Frank Sinatra recorded Stardust again in his album “Sinatra and Strings” in 1962 under Reprise Records. Don Costa arranged and conducted the song this time, yet this time Sinatra sang only the verse of the song. (And now the purple dusk of twilight time…) Only the verse itself with a beautiful string section is enough, as the recording shows us.
“Costa penned an elaborate introduction, proving he wasn’t averse to writing a verse to a verse for the Voice. This intro was a key reason why Sinatra guitarist Tony Mattola cited “Stardust” as his favorite Sinatra performance. “Don sets it up like almost a tone poem in the beginning,” he said, “and it could stand by itself as a classical piece.” Then Frank just sings this lovely verse, and then Don ends it, as he does in the beginning. Whoever thought of that idea-whether it was Frank or Don or whoever-it’s completely original and absolutely beautiful.” (SINATRA! The Song Is You by Will Friedwald)

Stardust would never be a choice for Sinatra’s concerts, but the brilliant versions from 1940’s are definitely more than enough.

Frank Sinatra and Tommy Dorsey Band

By | 2017-06-10T00:19:39+00:00 June 3rd, 2011|Categories: Articles|Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

“See the singer guy? One day I’ll be sitting where he’s sitting.” That is what Frank Sinatra told his wife Nancy, when they went to see Tommy Dorsey’s band in 1937.

In my post about Frank Sinatra and Harry James I had mentioned that in Chicago, Frank Sinatra was offered to be the vocal of Tommy Dorsey’s band, and left the band of Harry James in January 1940. But unlike the times he worked with Harry James, now he wasn’t the only vocal in the band. There were four other people, also known as “Pied Pipers”: Chucky Lowry, Billy Wilson, John Huddleston and Jo Stafford. In February 1, they recorded “The Sky Fell Down” and “Too Romantic”.

Tommy Dorsey

“I was almost entirely unfamiliar with him. In fact I never laid eyes on him until he actually walked on stage for the first time. We were sitting on the stage when Dorsey introduced him. And he came on and sang “Stardust” and it was quite an experience. You knew after eight bars that you were hearing something just absolutely new and unique” says Jo Stafford about Frank Sinatra.

It is widely accepted that Frank Sinatra learned a lot from Tommy Dorsey, especially the technique of breathing. Frank was watching Tommy Dorsey playing the trombone and trying to figure out the way he was breathing. Later he discovered that Tommy had a sneak pinhole in the corner of his mouth which he was covering with his trombone and decided to use this technique while singing. He ran and swam a lot to improve his breathing and finally was able to make it. He could take a breath without breaking the note.

Frank Sinatra Tommy Dorsey Orchestra

Another thing Sinatra learned from Tommy Dorsey was focusing on the words. Dorsey told Frank “All that matters to Bing Crosby is the words, and that’s the only thing that should matter to you.” Maybe this is why he sings the “saloon songs” perfectly, like “Angel Eyes” or “One For My Baby”.

The first real hit of Frank Sinatra with Tommy Dorsey orchestra was “I’ll never smile again”, on 23 May 1940. This was also the first recording Frank did with Pied Pipers. In July the song hit No 1 on the charts and stayed there for 12 weeks. He recorded this song in 1959 and 1965 as well, in his albums “When No One Cares” and “A Man and His Music”. On January 1941 they recorded 2 very nice songs, “Stardust” and “Oh Look at Me Now”.

It was the year 1941 when Sinatra became a lot more and more popular. Girls were crazy about him and people were coming to performances to see Frank Sinatra now. He wasn’t just a vocal of Tommy Dorsey anymore, he was Frank Sinatra. And he was quite aware of this fact too. Sooner or later he was going to quit, just like the former vocal of the band did. Those years, it was the band leaders that were popular and known in the bands, and though he was very popular and making $400 a week, still he was in the shadow of Tommy and this was not for him since he had to achieve more. Being in a band was only a step on the way of being the greatest ever.

Frank Sinatra Tommy Dorsey Band Stage

In January 1942, Sinatra made his first step and recorded these songs with an orchestra conducted by Axel Stordahl, no Tommy Dorsey this time.

Night and Day
The Lamp Lighters Serenade
The Song Is You
The Night We Called A Day

Frank Sinatra: “When I went to leave, Tommy made it impossible. I remember that it was in the month of September, in Washington, Dc. I went into the dressing room and told Tommy that I wanted to leave the orchestra and he kind of smiled. What for? He said. You know you are doing great with the band we got a lot of arrangements for you. I said I understand that but I justto go out on my own. He said, I don’t think so. I said okay, but I’m going to leave. He said, you’ve got a contract. I said, I had a contract with Harry but Harry took the contract and tore it up and wished me luck. And I added, I’ll give you one year’s notice. This time next year I’m leaving.”

In 1942, Frank wanted to leave the band again but still the same obstacle, the contract Sinatra later named as “a ratty piece of paper.” In the contract, it was stated that if Frank Sinatra left the band, he would pay %43 of all the money he would earn throughout his career, to Tommy Dorsey and his agent. Dorsey first didn’t want to let Frank go. So Frank hired few lawyers and asked some friends to help him about this issue. Harry Jaffe threatened Tommy Dorsey about not broadcasting him on NBC.  After a while Tommy was persuaded and he accepted to take $75000.

Frank Sinatra: “Anyhow, that’s how I got out of Dorsey contract. No gangster called anyone. Sonofabitch, I’ve been with that thing for so many years..”

But this is not what Tommy Dorsey said, according to the book “Sinatra: The Life”. “Three guys from New York City by way of Boston and New Jersey approached me and said they would like to buy Sinatra’s contract. I said “Like hell you will”. And they pulled out a gun and said, “You wanna sign the contract?” And I did.” And before Tommy Dorsey died in 1956, he again said “I was visited by Willie Moretti and a couple of his boys. Willie fingered a gun and told me he was glad to hear that I was letting Frank out of my deal. I took the hint.”

In August 1943, Tommy Dorsey gave Sinatra his best wishes by saying “I hope you fall on your ass!” (not on the radio), and Frank finally owned himself.

When I think of Frank Sinatra’s years with Tommy Dorsey, I say thank god he was in that band. His voice was simply fascinating and he performed many nice songs. We can’t name the months of Sinatra with Harry James as rich, since they didn’t release many songs and we don’t have many recorded radio broadcasts survived till now. But Frank Sinatra and Tommy Dorsey recorded lots of beautiful songs like “The Sky Fell Down, Too Romantic, I’ll Be Seeing You, Say It, Polka Dots and Moonbeams, Fools Rush In, April Played the Fiddle, Imagination, I’ll Never Smile Again, Stardust, Oh Look At Me Now, Without a Song, I Think of You, The Song Is You” and many others.

If you would like to listen more songs of Frank Sinatra with Tommy Dorsey, you should definitely check “Frank Sinatra Tommy Dorsey Complete”, which consists of 5 CD’s. Lots of beautiful songs there…

Frank Sinatra at Paramount Theater

By | 2017-06-10T00:19:39+00:00 June 3rd, 2011|Categories: Articles|Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Frank Sinatra at Paramount Theater, how did it start?

After leaving Tommy Dorsey and his orchestra on September 1942, Frank Sinatra started looking for jobs as a singer at various places. He wasn’t a member of a band anymore, he was on his own. For two months, he had not been able to find a serious place. Many band vocals that left couldn’t make it, and Sinatra was to be one of them. Things were just like the times before he joined Harry James’ band. But in December 1942, things changed.

Frank Sinatra Young, Early 1940s

In December, the phone in Frank Sinatra’s house rang. It was Bob Weitman, the director of the famous Paramount Theater.

Bob Weitman: What are you doing in the New Year’s Eve?
Frank Sinatra: Not a thing. I can’t even get booked anywhere. I can’t find anywhere to work.
Bob Weitman: I’d like you to open at the joint.
Frank Sinatra: You mean on New Year’s Eve?
Bob Weitman: That’s right.
This was of course very surprising for him, considering that he couldn’t find a place even for a regular day. And now, he was to perform at Paramount Theater!

Frank Sinatra Fans at Paramount Theater, Manhattan

That night, when he was on stage after Benny Goodman in Paramount Theater, suddenly people started to yell and scream. People were like crazy. Jack Benny remembers that day as “I introduced Sinatra and I thought the goddamned building was going to cave in. I never heard such a commotion with people running down to the stage, screaming and nearly knocking me off the ramp. All this for a fellow I never heard of.”

Frank Sinatra Bobby Soxers Paramount Theater

Frank Sinatra: “The sound that greeted me was absolutely deafening. It was a tremendous roar. Five thousand kids, stamping, yelling, screaming, applauding. I was scared stiff. I couldn’t move a muscle. Benny Goodman froze, too. He was so scared he turned around, looked at the audience, and said, “What the hell was that?”

That night was so good that Paramount Theater extended his show first to a month, then to two months. And it was not like some regular show. They used to do 6-7 shows a day. One Saturday, Frank Sinatra did eleven shows, starting at 8:10 am and finishing at 2:30 am next day.

With the help of his press agent George Evans, “The Voice” was born.
After Paramount Theatre, he performed at Riobamba on 57th Street. Needless to say, the club was full every time he sang there. After leaving Riobamba, he returned to Paramount Theatre for another month and also sang at some concerts symphony orchestras.

Frank Sinatra Paramount Theater Bobby Soxers

Nick Sevano: This time, they threw more than roses. They threw their panties and their brassieres. They were nuts, absolutely nuts. (When Sinatra returned to Paramount Theater)

But that wasn’t all of course. He took part in some movies and radio broadcasts. He had a role in the move “Higher and Higher” and “Anchors Aweigh”. And he was also on radio every Saturday, on “Your Hit Parade”, with the Lucky Strike Orchestra.

Frank Sinatra Lucky Strike Your Hit Parade

On June 7 1943, he was going to sing in the studio of Columbia Records for the very first time, and his years known as “Columbia Years” was to start, slowly bringing an end to the big band era…