The Story of Frank Sinatra Jr

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 and music 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. 

With a name like Frank Sinatra Jr, it might seem that entering the family business was a no brainer. 

However, being the son of one of the most famous jazz singers and personalities of the twentieth century did not necessarily open the doors quite as easily as expected…

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, 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 demanded a ransom of $240,000, and Frank Jr was released just two days later when his father paid the money demanded by the kidnappers.

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.

This must have been a most worrying time for the Sinatra family, and Frank Snr 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.

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, Sinatra Jr was determined to continue to pursue his chosen career.

Paying his dues

Having a famous father did not always prove to be an advantage, but Frank 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.

Frank Sintra Jr Albums

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.

Although his final album, Sinatra Jr would carry on acting and singing for another ten years, and he died whilst on tour in Florida on 16th March 2016.

Whilst no one will match up to the great man himself (as this list of most famous Frank Sinatra songs will attest!) listening to the younger singers’ music (which has racked up more than 300,000 monthly listeners on Spotify at the time of writing) gives a fascinating insight into the Sinatra style.  

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