Frank Sinatra Jr. to sing in Turlock

When his father was alive, Frank Sinatra Jr. wouldn't have dreamed of performing his songs.

But since Ol' Blue Eyes died in 1998, Junior has been paying tribute to his dad by singing them all over the country. He is performing his show, "Sinatra Sings Sinatra," at Turlock Community Theatre on Saturday.

Frank Sinatra Jr., 66, does it reluctantly, and only because of popular demand.

"I don't believe that it can be done effectively," he said in a phone interview from his Los Angeles home. "There is no one who made music the way Frank Sinatra did. He wrote the book on all of it."

With a career spanning more than 50 years, the senior Sinatra was one of the most famous pop singers of all time and recorded hits like "Strangers in the Night," "New York, New York" and "I've Got You Under My Skin."

Well before Elvis, he made young girls faint with his romantic style. He was also a huge movie star, scoring an Oscar win for best supporting actor in "From Here to Eternity."

He remains an icon to this day, with his music still featured on movies and in TV. Just this month, "American Idol" devoted an episode to his work, and Sinatra Jr.'s sisters Nancy and Tina appeared on the show.

"I'm very flattered that they regarded the Sinatra music," said Sinatra Jr., adding that he couldn't appear because he was working.

Sinatra Jr. has a long career in his own right. He started singing professionally in the early 1960s and appeared on TV or on stage opposite such great entertainers as Dean Martin, Jack Benny, Red Skelton, Johnny Carson and Merv Griffin.

More recently, he appeared in a cameo as himself on "The Sopranos" and has done voice work on the cartoon series "The Family Guy." He loves the latter show's irreverent humor.

"The people who write that show are certifiable," he said.

Sinatra Jr. is more than qualified to perform his father's work because he once served as his musical director and conductor, helping to choose music and rehearse the orchestra. He began the job in 1988.

"It was a very demanding relationship in the sense that I was suddenly put into a very responsible position," he said. "Being his music director was not easy. He wanted things to be just so. All the best people are very detail oriented, which, as far as I'm concerned, is the way it should be."

It was during those days that Sinatra Jr. got to know his father the best. In his childhood, the Chairman of the Board was a remote figure.

"He was living his career at the time when I was growing up," Sinatra Jr. said. "He was very much in demand. He was making two, sometimes three movies a year. Plus he was doing his touring, his recording, everything else. He was busy during the years."

Sinatra Jr. said his father was more concerned with putting out good work than he ever was about his fame.

"He ignored it," he said. "As far as he was concerned, he did what he knew how to do. He was constantly trying to improve himself."

Sinatra Jr. isn't sure yet what specific music he will perform in Turlock, but said he will mix up Sinatra hits with jazz favorites by other artists. He is bringing eight jazz musicians with him. An accomplished vocalist, Sinatra Jr. sounds enough like his father to more than satisfy fans of Ol' Blue Eyes. He also will tell stories about the history of his father's songs. He probably won't have time to dispel the many misconceptions people have about his dad.

"When you get into a situation where the legend of a famous person becomes more prominent than the person himself, then you end up with the legend and you lose the person," he said. "There will always be, with such a thought in mind, exaggerations, misquotes, out-and-out falsehoods and things. That's just the way it is."

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