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”.
On the back, Sinatra sings and swings “Moments in the Moonlight”.
Updated on August 19, 2016.