But I am continuing the History In Pictures this month, as I said focusing on Frank Sinatra since his birthday falls on December 12. He would have been 92 this year. This first installment I'm focusing on Young Sinatra, how he got his feet wet in show business. Instead of typing it on my own, I'm letting Frank speak for himself. The following passage was taken from his hugely successful "Frank Sinatra Live at the Sands" album from 1966 - one of his last performances at the Sands partly due to Howard Hughes' acquisition of the hotel and dislike for Sinatra, his old school approach and supposed Mob ties. But we'll get into that in a few days.
I'm a Sagittarian; I was born on December 12, 1915, and I was born a very skinny kid. A little kid, skinny. So skinny my eyes were single file. Between those two and my belly button my old man thought I was a clarinet... And I was born in this tenement house in, uh, Hoboken, New Jersey, and it was a walk up - 8 floors. And it was one of those places - No they're gonna have elevators in 1915! Otis wasn't even born yet I think when I had this house! And we never knew when we were going to have any lights, any food, any heat of any type. Mice running around... Funny part of it is my folks were very wealthy, they just hated me, that's all! They gave me the loyalty test immediately! And eventually I managed to fight my way through the qualms and charmers of life and I got to grow up to be 16 or so, and I was about to get ready to get out of high school about a few months before, my father was called in to the school by the Principal for about the 700th time and he said to my Dad "Here's the diploma, get him out!" That's what he do say. Get him out.
I must explain to you that when we walked out and sat on the steps of the high school, my father said to me and I first must explain that my Father is a Rutger graduate and he majored in English. And he said to me "What da Hell isa madder wit you?! Whatsa madder, you don't wanna learn nuthin?" He was great with English, he spoke beautifully! He also had an ear like this, a chungamere. That was my mother who gave him that from yellin' at him all the time. So he said to me, see he knew I wanted to get into show business and he gave me the alternative as all parents did in those days; "You wanna be a bum in show business or you wanna get a real job?" So I figured "'what the heck? He's my dad, I love him and I'll go along with his ideas' so he got me a job. Do you know what a thrill it is to get a hernia for $62.50 a week? Lifting crates of 600 pounds with another little guy with a hand truck?
Well, he got me another job at a ship yard, Todd's Ship Yards, and I was a rivet catcher in the hold of the ship. But the guy throwing them was a real jagad, he was a cock-eye, like this. He couldn't hit a bull in the fannie with a bag of rice, this bum. And I cleaned that up!
Well, no sense in trying to explain it, it hurried my career into show business, I quit right away. Gave in my union button with the pig cap and leather jacket and I walked out right away. That's exactly what I had! And I packed my little straw case and went to New York and that was it. Even bummed a ride on a fairy. You're not listening too well, folks. Anyway I got a job, I got together a quartet, see. And we were called the Hoboken Four, and in those days there was a very big radio program on called Major Bowes. Major Edward Bowes. Now Ted Mack today in televison is a spin off of the original radio show, cause he used to work for Bowes. And Bowes used to come on the air and say "The wheel of fortune spins, round and round she goes. Where she stops, nobody knows." That was the dullest opening I ever heard on any radio show. Wait a minute, now!
He was a pompous bum with bulbous nose, he used to drink Green River, he was a big drunk this guy! I don't know if you ever heard of Green River but it takes the paint off your deck if you got a boat. 59 cents a gallon, baby! Anyway, we were a big hit on the show, the Hoboken Four, and he kept bringing us back but he had to change the name since it was a legitimate amateur show. Except it wasn't. So he brought us back as the 'Newark Nightingales', 'The T-Neck T-Tones', 'The Sycaucaous Cockamamies.' Touching name, isn't it? 'The Bayonne Backalas' was the one that killed me."
The sheet from one of the Major Bowes broadcasts, with information on Frank and the Hoboken Four.
Major Edward Bowes is in the middle, Frank is on the far right.
Again, as I've always said. Feel free to contribute anything that you'd like. I suspect there will be a bit more participation since this subject is so near and dear to everyone's hearts. Next time, we'll be taking a look at his work with Tommy Dorsey, where Frank learned to hone his breathing and began to create the unmistakable Sinatra Sound.
*The quoted section is transcribed from Frank Sinatra's monologue on his Frank Sinatra Live at the Sands album. Some audience jokes were left out intentionally. I apologize for any spelling or grammatical errors. I was medicated on Darvocet when I transcribed it.
Keep swingin' kids!