Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Frank Sinatra, Jr. Kidnapping

Dorsey Gig

Young Sinatra did not follow sister Nancy to University High. Instead, he was sent away to boarding school, spending three isolated junior high years near Phoenix before settling in at the Desert Sun School, in the San Jacinto Mountain town of Idyllwild, California, an hour's drive from Frank, Sr.'s home in Palm Springs.

Sinatra, Jr., an accomplished pianist and budding composer, enrolled at UCLA to study music, but a real-world education beckoned.

Young Sinatra's first gig, in 1962, was at a Phoenix club owned by the family of a boarding school buddy. He spent the summer of 1963 working with an orchestra at Disneyland.

Elvis Presley and rock 'n' roll had hastened the demise of Big Band music. A few of the old dance bands were limping along as nostalgia acts, including the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra — even though the famed bandleader had died in 1956.

Album Cover: Frank Sr. and Tommy Dorsey
Album Cover: Frank Sr. and Tommy

Sinatra, Jr. was invited to join the Dorsey band — no doubted aided by the unseen hand of his father.

He made his debut in April 1963 at the Royal Box nightclub, in the Americana Hotel in New York. His father sat beaming in the audience with restaurateur Toots Shor and actor Jackie Gleason, as Sinatra, Jr. sang "I'll Never Smile Again," the ballad that was Sinatra, Sr.'s first hit with the Dorsey band.

Junior sang in a baritone that had the same warmth of his father's singing voice. And if he lacked the perfect phrasing, story-telling ability and stage presence of his dad, who didn't?

Young Sinatra won praise from patrons and critics. As the New York Times put it, "He scored a hit as a singer and showman."

With the Sinatra name providing new momentum, the Dorsey band was booked for a 36-week tour, including the three weeks at Harrah's near Tahoe.

Junior put his college education on hold for the tour. It was a business decision. And Sinatra's business plan jibed perfectly with Barry Keenan's.

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