Today is the birthday of Frank Sinatra (1915-1998). Today we treat NOT of what you might call “the classical Sinatra”, he of the Rat Pack, Nelson Riddle, Ava Gardner, From Here to Eternity, etc etc etc. Rather, of special interest to this blogger is the early days, when he was just getting his start.
Sinatra came along at an interesting time, a transitional one. Bing Crosby, who came just a little bit before, and whose example Sinatra’s early career was closely modeled on, was able to participate in the tail end of vaudeville. But by 1935 when Sinatra got his big break with the Hoboken Four on Major Bowes’ Amateur Hour (a national radio program), vaudeville had morphed into presentation houses, large glitzy venues that doubled as movie places and concert halls, with the occasional vaudeville act mixed in to the variety show/movie hybrid hodgepodge. When the Hoboken Four won the contest on the Amateur Tour, they toured presentation houses all over the country for six months, including New York’s Capitol Theatre, which Bowes managed. After this came a few years of struggle for Sinatra as a singing waiter until he finally got opportunities with a succession of big bands in the late thirties: Frank Mane, Harry James and Tommy Dorsey before he finally went “solo” in 1942…and the “bobby soxer” craze ensued (beginning with his very first date at New York’s Paramount Theatre, another presentation house). And…this is the coolest thing ever: it’s documented:
To find out more about the variety arts past and present, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.