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An Interview with James Morgan: Keeping Sinatra Alive

Jan 16, 2013 by

 

Frank Sinatra

Frank Sinatra

Michael F. Shaughnessy –

1) James, you have a wonderful act where you try to keep the songs, music, and persona of Frank Sinatra alive…When did you first start to sing Sinatra?

Thank you, Mike.

I started singing Sinatra professionally in 1998.

Sinatra has always been in the group of great singers that I grew up with, and would try to sing.

The Timbre of my voice and my Vocal Approach was similar to Sinatra’s;…..in that : He was good at Singing Softly with easy access to Volume.,….mixing the two seamlessly.

2) Now, in general, what is the audience reaction to your singing the songs of the “Chairman of the Board”?

A lot of times, people just don’t think that I am singing.

But, some folks that go back through the years with my performances, greatly appreciate it.

3) Let’s start with his early work and move on from there—what are some of the earliest Frank Sinatra songs, and why did you choose those particular songs?

His first “Hit” was with the Pied Pipers, with : “I’ll Never Smile Again”; but, the arrangement that I currently sing doesn’t have the “Girls” voices added.

And, of course his first, big, Solo hit was “All or Nothing at ALL”. (He hit that big, high note at the end……and, actually never had another big song with such a similar high ending.)

4) Now, his most recent songs- Strangers in the Night, My Way, It Was A Very Good Year–why do you sing these and what makes them timeless classics?

Everyone Loves “Strangers in the Night”, Mike. (From a singer’s outlook,…it’s no Herculean task to perform,….I mean, with no big, high notes, etc.) A member of the Belleair Country Club recently told me of a story about how the Pope spoke of Sinatra,…..and “His Most Popular Song” being : “Strangers in the Night”.

The same thing goes for “It Was a Very Good Year”, about it being not too difficult to sing. I vividly remember this being “One of the earliest “Music -“Videos”-” It was shown on TV!!!,….with Sinatra singing with the Nelson Riddle Orchestra!!!

And, of course, “My Way” is tops for some folks.

Those songs,…..and several more,…..are the “Peoples’ Choices”. THAT is why he kept them in his line up for all of his shows. (..even if he didn’t like some of those songs that greatly…)

I mean,….look at most of his shows. They would end with those Fan Favorites,…..like “Strangers in the Night”, “New York, New York”, “That’s Life”, and “My Way”.

His daughter, Nancy, wrote in her book that he loathed to sing “New York New York”, (and some others). But,…hey…he did them; for his “People”.

He preferred to sing the Sad, Saloon Songs. And, he was great at that!!! Those were the really “Singing with Soul” songs!!!…..not with the Operatic, or Broadway, Virtuoso, Skills….but, really “Feeling and Living the Song”.

5) James, I have to alert your future audiences that not only do you do a dynamite Sinatra- but you simply nail some of his contemporaries- Tell us about the songs of Louis Armstrong, and why you chose those songs?

Thanks, Mike.

Louis Armstrong was such a Great character!!! He just Beams Nostalgia!!! And, when you saw him perform,….He just Beamed!!!

Dizzy Gillespie once told a neat story about Louis Armstrong.

Once, Dizzy was in Louis’ high rise apartment,….and, he went to the fridge and opened the door to take a peek at it’s contents. He was stumped to see only 2 items,….(I think it was a boiled egg and half of a pickle). Dizzy turned to him and said : “Man,…you ought to be having Filet Mignon every night, and just look at your empty fridge!!!” Louis just laughingly shrugged it off,….as you can just hear him, and see him,…..with his marvelous, humble “Awh Shucks” attitude!!!

That song “What a Wonderful World” chose me, actually….I didn’t choose it, exactly.

For years, people have requested that song, understandably. And, I always turned them down,…..being afraid of it, vocally. (It’s very hard to get the sound out of the throat)

One time I worked on it, and presented it to a crowd one night;…..and it went so badly,….that I never tried it again for years.

Then, one year I picked it back up again, determined to try at least once more. It went fairly well, so I continued to try to perfect it. (The same thing happened with my attempt at Ray Charles’ “Georgia on My Mind”)

6) Jim, you also sneak a little ” Stevie Wonder ” into the mix, blowing your audience away- are there any other R & B or rock and roll legends you do ?

I used to do a whole lot of songs and artist that I haven’t featured in years. Stevie Wonder, the Beatles, Elton John, Billy Joel, etc., and a whole lot of Movie songs. I just got away from doing that, for different reasons. One reason, is because I wanted to focus more so, and specialize. I felt that I needed to separate myself from the normal, “Cover” singer.

I am going to try to feature more famous artists, hopefully soon.

7) One of Sinatra’s greatest contemporaries was Dean Martin- once described by Playboy as ” the coolest man alive “. What songs of Dean Martin do you do and what kinds of requests do you get?

Dino was, and is, the King of Cool!!!

One neat story about Dean is told in Nancy Sinatra’s book. She mentioned that Dean Martin was the only one who could manage to “escape” from Frank Sinatra’s room,…in the wee hours of the morning.

Anyone who partied in Sinatra’s room simply remained there until the bitter end of “the night”, through until sunrise, and beyond.

Dean would always manage it though. (He mostly used the “going to the little boys room” excuse, and found the door, sneaky-ly.)

Currently, I only do 3 Dean Martin songs…..’That’s Amore”, “Ain’t That a Kick in the Head”, and “You’re Nobody Till Somebody Loves You”.

Most people request “Everybody Loves Somebody Sometime”, his signature song. (I really need to add that song)

8) I have to confess- I have heard you sing, and I can’t recall anyone else doing “My Way” so perfectly and holding those later notes for so long- have you had formal training in voice, and how do you rehearse and prepare to hit those high notes and hold them for so long?

Thank you, Mike.

As with the other Sinatra songs,…I just try to be as close to him as I can.

I did eventually add my own version of the ending, holding the note. Sometimes it’s really powerful, and gets a lot of applause from the audience. (Sometimes it is not as magical,…and sometimes doesn’t work perfectly.) (Actually, the night that you saw me perform was one of those times when it wasn’t as golden as I need it to be. But, you are nice to comment positively on it.)

Yes, I did do the formal voice training in college.

I grew up singing, in all styles,….from Church, to singing with the Radio, (including Rock and Roll, etc.), and High School Musicals, etc..

One thing that comes to mind about Sinatra,…..is : that he learned about Long Phrasing, and Breath Control from Tommy Dorsey. That helped generate Sinatra’s Style, and made him special.

Oddly,…..what comes to my mind,…when I think about my ability to hold notes really long,….is a story that I forget, and don’t remember often.

Here is that story :

When I was very young,…probably around 12 years old,……my brother and a friend of ours went to the Country Club to go swimming in a brand new, Olympic Size Pool that they just built.

Well,…..our friend was interested in getting certified as a Scuba Diver,…and he was really into learning everything about it. So, he was learning how to train his lungs for holding his breath under water. He taught us how to hyperventilate, to push the lungs to their full capacity.

So,…..after a while, we started to try to swim under water the length of the pool.

We all swam the entire length underwater,…and we were proud of it.

Then,….we tried to go the length, and, then return to make it one lap, there and back.

We all swam the entire length there and back,…and we were proud of it.

Then,…..I was determined to swim there, and back, and then there again!!! (I knew that if I got into trouble, they would be there to help me; so I gave it a try)

Wow!!!…..I did it!!! Swimming the entire length of an Olympic size pool,…..swimming there and back, and then there again, (3 lengths),….. That was really something!!!

However, unfortunately, I never pursued swimming as a sport. That’s too bad.

Oh, well…

9) Now, I understand that you also arrange, compose and transpose music- tell us about your other skills and interests….

Thanks for your interest.

Yes, Mike, I do write music.

I have many original songs with me singing at the piano. Some are piano pieces, without words.

The styles vary,…having flavors of Classical, Pop, Jazz, etc..

10) Do you have a web site so that other lovers of jazz, and the music of the 40’s 50’s and 60’s can find out more about you and get you booked for a gig?

www.MorganSingsSinatra.com has some Audio and Video of my Sinatra, and Variety Act.

It also has one of my Original Songs called “Lighthouse”, in the watch videos section. Here is a link to some of my Youtube Videos: http://www.youtube.com/user/jamesmorgansings/videos

Here is link to my Agent Friendly Website :

http://bookastar.com/Sinatra_Tribbute_Comedy_Variety_Act It has several Audio Samples of Sinatra songs.

Hopefully, as I continue my Original Songs venture, I will get demos made, and set up a website.

11) What have I neglected to ask?

Well, one thing, that comes to mind that you may not be aware of,…is that I am an Artist.

I used to work for TV and Cable channels, doing computer graphics, and animations.

I have always been an artist, doing illustrations, both realistic and fantasy….and Cartoons.

However, being a singer for over 15 years,…I have neglected that part of my talents, unfortunately.

So,….maybe you, or someone that you know,…..might be interested in seeing my portfolio.

Anyway, thank you, Mike. You are nice. And, I greatly appreciate your interest and encouragement!!!

Thanks again…

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