The world of entertainment is full of brothers, sisters, sons & daughters of iconic musicians, but perhaps none with a name as recognisable as Frank Sinatra Jr.
In this article we take a look at the life, music – and the famous kidnapping incident – of an artist who had the unenviable task of matching Ol’ Blue Eyes step by step, with a career as a singer, performer and actor.
Back in 2014, working full time as a booking agent, I attended the UK’s Cheltenham Jazz Festival with an artist of mine.
On the same bill was a certain Frank Sinatra Jr who, it turned out, looked and sounded quite a lot like his father – not to mention the same way with the ladies, telling my client “if you sing half as pretty as your picture you’ll be a star soon!”
I didn’t know much about him, but revisiting his story for this biography of Frank Sinatra Jr shows that, whilst entering the family business might have been a no-brainer, being the son of one of the most famous jazz singers and personalities of the 20th century didn’t open the doors quite as easily as you might expect…
Francis Wayne Sinatra was born on 10th January 1944, to Frank and Nancy Sinatra.
The middle of three children, he had an elder sister Nancy, who would also become a singer, and a younger sister Tina who would have a successful career as a television producer and businesswoman.
The young Sinatra Jr always held ambitions of following in his father’s footsteps and pursuing a career as a singer-songwriter, despite seeing him infrequently in his formative years due to the senior Sinatra’s busy schedule as a performer or working in films.
The Kidnapping of Frank Sinatra Jr
On 8th December 1963, aged just 19 years old, Frank Sinatra Jr was kidnapped while staying at Harrah’s Lake Tahoe, a hotel and casino in Nevada.
The kidnappers, Johnny Irwin, Joe Amsler and Barry Keenan, kept him for two days until his father paid their ransom of $240,000.
Allegedly, Sinatra Sr had offered $1 million for his son’s safe return but this had strangely been ignored by Amsler, Irwin and Keenan who were captured shortly afterwards and given to lengthy prison sentences.
It must have been a worrying time for the Sinatra family, and Frank senior in particular who was away making the film, Robin and the 7 Hoods, with fellow members of the Rat Pack, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., and Bing Crosby.
In fact, the event impacted him to such an extent that after his death more than 30 years later, Sinatra snr. was allegedly buried with a dollar’s worth of dimes, harking back to the kidnapping when the perpetrators insisted all negotiations be carried out by payphone.
The kidnaping also occurred only a matter of weeks after the assassination of his close friend and the US President John F Kennedy on 22nd November.
Undeterred by the events, Frank Sinatra Jr’s career plans remained unchanged.
Frank Sinatra Jr: TV, Film & Stage
Having a famous father was not a surefire way to fame and success, but it did undoubtedly open some doors…
Frank Sinatra Jr spent time learning the business with Duke Ellington and was the vocalist with Sam Donahue’s band, performing regularly in clubs and venues.
In fact, just five years later, and still only twenty-four, he had played in more than thirty countries, and most of the states in America.
As well as performing as a singer (including some of his father’s hit songs) often as the opening act for high profile artists, Sinatra Jr was also regularly seen on television.
He was a guest on The Smother Brothers Comedy Hour on the CBS Network, and also covered for Dean Martin’s show with a replacement programme for ten weeks with his sister Nancy.
Like the elder Sinatra, acting would be an important part of Frank Jr’s career, appearing in the 1966 musical film A Man Called Adam, alongside Sammy Davis Jr and various other film and television shows including Adam-12, Codename Zebra and Hollywood Homicide.
In the late nineties he was even offered a part in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, the part of a fictional character Vic Fontaine.
Although a fan of the show Sinatra declined, and the role was taken by James Darren who portrayed Fontaine in series six and seven of the show.
He did, however, continue to make cameos in the years to following; most notably Frank Sinatra Jr played himself in an episode of The Sopranos (2000) and three episodes of Family Guy between 2006-2016.
The Frank Sinatra Jr Discography
As a recording artist in his own right, Frank Sinatra Jr was arguably never as successful as his sister Nancy, and would always be destined to remain in his father’s shadow.
As he once said, “having a famous father means that in order to prove yourself, you have to work three times harder than the guy off the street”.
Recording some nine albums under his own name, his last release was in 2006 with the album That Face. Alongside fellow jazz vocalist Steve Tyrell, they performed a set of Great American Songbook standards with arrangements by Nelson Riddle and Dan Costa.
1965: Young Love For Sale
1963: The Sinatra Family Wish You a Merry Christmas
1972: His Way!
1977: It’s Alright
1983: Pat Longo’s Super Big Band featuring Frank Sinatra Jr.
1991: Pat Longo’s Super Big Band featuring Frank Sinatra Jr.
1996: As I Remember It
2006: That Face!
Frank Sintra Jr (1944 -2016)
Frank Sinatra Jr would carry on acting and singing for another ten years after the release of his final album, passing away whilst on tour in Florida on 16th March 2016.
He died with a reported net worth of $50 million, most of which reportedly left to his son Michael Francis.
Family Guy creator (and well-known jazz fan) Seth MacFarlane was just one well-known figure to post a tribute, saying:
“Frank Sinatra, Jr. was a friend to Family Guy, and a friend to me. I’m saddened at his passing, but grateful to have known him. RIP, Frank.”
Whilst no one will match up to the great man himself (as this list of most famous Frank Sinatra songs will attest!) listening to Frank Sinatra Jr sing gives a fascinating insight into the Sinatra style.