Columbia 36886 – Frank Sinatra – 1945

After exhausting some of my best patriotic material on last year’s Fourth of July, I had to deliberate considerably on what I should discuss on this year’s Independence Day.  Although it steps a bit out of Old Time Blues’ usual prewar milieu, I don’t think I could find a more beautifully patriotic record that better captures what it means to be an American than this 1945 Frank Sinatra classic.  This also marks the official debut of my new pre-owned Grado phonograph cartridge (although I’ve updated the audio on some older posts), so the sound should be a little crisper than in the past.

Columbia 36886 was recorded in two sessions, the first around 8:45 PM on August 22, 1945, the second around 9:15 PM on August 27, 1945, both in Hollywood, California.  On the first date, Axel Stordahl conducts an orchestra made up of Uan Rasey, Leonard Mach, and Bruce Hudson on trumpet, Peter Beilman, Elmer Smithers, and Carl Loeffler on trombone, James Stagliano on French horn, Fred Stulce, Heinie Beau, Don Lodice, Harold Lawson, and Leonard Hartman on reeds, Sam Freed Jr., Nicholas Pisani, Peter Ellis, Sol Kindler, Mischa Russell, Gerald Joyce, Samuel Cytron, Howard Halbert, David Frisina, Anthony Perrotti, Walter Edelstein, and William Bloom on violins, David Sterkin, Maurice Perlmutter, and Allan Harshman on viola, Cy Bernard, Jack Sewell, and Arthur Kafton on ‘cello, Ann Mason Stockton on harp, Frank Leithner on piano, Perry Botkin on guitar, Jack Ryan on string bass, and Ray Hagan on drums.  On the second date, the orchestra is largely the same, except Charles Griffard replaces Rasey on trumpet, Jimmy Skiles replaces Beilman on trombone, John Cave replaces Stagliano on horn, Mannie Gershman replaces Stulce on reeds, Olcott Vail, Victor Arno, and George Kast replace Joyce, Halbert, and Bloom on violin, Garry White replaces Harshman on viola, Fred Goerner and Nicholas Ochi-Albi replace Bernard and Kafton on ‘cello, and Lauretta McFarland, Mark McIntyre, and Dave Barbour replace Stockton, Leithner, and Botkin on harp, piano, and guitar, respectively.

In 1945, shortly after the conclusion of the Second World War, the young Frank Sinatra, ever a hit with the bobby soxers, starred in an RKO Radio Pictures short film, written by Albert Maltz and directed by Mervyn LeRoy, titled The House I Live In.  In it, Sinatra, taking five from a recording session, breaks up a fight between a group of schoolboys, who are putting the hurt on a peer for being Jewish.  Frank steps in and teaches the boys a lesson on tolerance, and what it means to be an American, before singing the titular song.  The moving film won an honorary Academy Award and Golden Globe for its excellence, and was in later years inducted into the Library of Congress’ National Film Registry.

With music by Earl Robinson and words by Abel Meeropol (under the pen name Lewis Allan), “The House I Live In” made its debut in 1942 as part of the revue Let Freedom Sing, before it came to star in the film of the same name.  Although it was written by individuals whose politics would only a few years later gain them McCarthy-era ostracism, I can think of few songs so truthfully and patriotically American as “The House I Live In”.  It reflects truly timeless values that are every bit as valid today as they were then.

The House I Live In, recorded August 22, 1945 by Frank Sinatra.

Maintaining the patriotic theme, on the flip, Sinatra is joined by the Ken Lane Singers for a lovely rendition of “America, the Beautiful”.

America, the Beautiful, recorded August 27, 1945 by Frank Sinatra.

Victor 26525 – Tommy Dorsey and his Orchestra – 1940

December 12 marks the monumental occasion of the one-hundredth anniversary of Frank Sinatra’s birth.  For such an occasion, I’d love to post Sinatra’s first record with Harry James’ orchestra.  Unfortunately, I don’t own a copy, so here’s the earliest Sinatra record I do have, this classic swing with Tommy Dorsey’s orchestra in 1940.

Francis Albert Sinatra was born December 12, 1915 in Hoboken, New Jersey, the only son of Italian immigrants.  Sinatra began singing as a child, and idolized Bing Crosby.  In 1935, he joined a local vocal trio called the 3 Flashes, which became known as the Hoboken Four after Sinatra joined.  After a successful performance on Major Bowes’ Amateur Hour, they embarked on a tour of the United States and Canada.  Following that engagement, Sinatra found work as a singing waiter in a New Jersey roadhouse, and he began to perform on WNEW in New York.  In 1939, Sinatra began performing with Harry James’ orchestra, and made his first commercial recordings for Brunswick that year.  Before long, he left James band to replace Jack Leonard as vocalist for Tommy Dorsey’s orchestra.  After great success with Dorsey, by 1942 Sinatra wanted to go solo, and he parted ways unceremoniously with the bandleader.  Rumor has it that Sinatra’s mobster godfather Willie Moretti forced Dorsey to release Sinatra from his binding contract at gunpoint.  After going his way, Sinatra signed with Columbia records while the musicians’ strike and subsequent recording ban was in effect, and his first solo recordings were quite successful.  The rest, as they say, is history, with Sinatra going on to huge success, the Rat Pack days, all with a few slumps in between, for the next five decades or so, until his death in 1998.

Victor 26525 was recorded on February 26, 1940 in New York City, not long after Sinatra joined Dorsey’s orchestra.  The Dorsey orchestra is in fine form , and on these earlier recordings, Sinatra sings a bit higher than he did in his greatest fame, and to my ear, honestly resembles a better Ray Eberle.  Nonetheless, as always, he had a very pleasant voice. In the band are Zeke Zarchy, Ray Linn, and Jimmy Blake on trumpets, Ward Silloway and Lowell Martin on trombones, Johnny Mince on clarinet and alto sax, Les Robinson and Fred Stulce on alto sax, Paul Mason and Babe Russin, on tenor sax, Bob Kitsis on piano, Benny Heller on guitar, Gene Traxler on string bass, and the great Buddy Rich on drums.

First up, Old Blue Eyes croons the Eddie DeLange and Jimmy Van Heusen tune, “Shake Down the Stars”.

Shake Down the Stars, recorded

Shake Down the Stars, recorded February 26, 1940 by Tommy Dorsey and his Orchestra (Vocal refrain by Frank Sinatra).

On the back, Sinatra sings and swings “Moments in the Moonlight”.

Moments in the Moonlight, recorded

Moments in the Moonlight, recorded February 26, 1940 by Tommy Dorsey and his Orchestra (Vocal refrain by Frank Sinatra).

Updated on August 19, 2016.