Thursday, January 17, 2013

THE HOBOKEN FOUR AND THE BIRTH OF SINATRA

Frank Sinatra Hoboken Four 1935
Many people just discovering the Frank Sinatra sound think his career began in the 1940s when he sang with the big bands. While he gained his big break singing with Harry James and later Tommy Dorsey, Sinatra started out back in 1935. So how did it all start? How did Francis Albert Sinatra became the legendary jazz and swing figure of 20th century? No doubt it all started with the Hoboken Four, or formerly known as the Three Flashes.

It was the year 1935, when Sinatra was 19. There was a local music group in Hoboken, New Jersey. The name of the group was “The Three Flashes” and the members of the group were named as Jimmy Petrozelli (1909-1981), Pat Principe and Fred Tamburro (1913-1987).
 
Frank had discovered that music meant a lot to him, and he could be nothing but a singer. He had always adored Bing Crosby and talked about how amazing Bing’s voice was. He had a picture of Crosby in his room, and he always said “I’m gonna be better than Crosby!” Well, we surely know now he was not joking.

The Three Flashes was performing at a place called “Rustic Cabin” with Harold Arlen and his orchestra. Frank knew that to be a great singer, he had to start in some way. Frank wanted to be a member of the group, and asked them if he could join. The answer he got was, “We will think about it”, definitely not the answer he expected. Actually Frank was to be very useful to them, because the group had no car and had to use bus or even sometimes cab to go to the places where they were to perform, and Frank Sinatra with his Chrysler was whom they needed.

Frank Sinatra’s mother, Dolly Sinatra, was a very powerful person on Hoboken. He told his mom that he wanted to join the group more than anything. Dolly spoke to Fred Tamburro’s family, and Frank was in.

Fred Tamburro later said: “We took him along for one simple reason: Frankie-boy had a car. He used to chauffeur us around.”

And Jimmy Petrozelli said: “Dolly was a big wheel in Hoboken. She kept throwing her weight around, and we finally took him.”

Those years, Major Edward Bowes’s “Original Amateur Hour” was very popular on the radio. It was a contest where singers were performing to be the winner and famous. Major Bowes (1874–1946) wanted the Three Flashes on his show, and when the flashes said they had a new member, Bowes really liked it.

Major Bowes decided to name them as “The Hoboken Four”, and on September 8th, they were on stage! They had white suits and black ties on them and were going to sing “Shine”, Sinatra doing Bing Crosby’s part.


Major Bowes introduced them as “singing and dancing fools” and when someone offstage asked why he said so, Bowes replied: “I don’t know. I guess because they are so happy.”

Fred Tamburro introduced himself, James and Pat, but he ignored Sinatra. When Bowes asked “What about that one”, Fred said “Oh, he never worked a day in his life.”

The Hoboken Four won the contest that night. Bowes said: “They walked right into the hearts of their audience.”

The prize was a 6-month contract to perform on stage and on radio and they were earning a lot more than before. But things were not going well for Frank Sinatra. He was the center of attention, and the other members did not like that at all.

Petrozelli said: “He got so good after just a couple of months on the tour.”

In mid-December, after 3 months they started the tour, Frank quit as he could not stand the touring schedule anymore. Also for a person wanting to be better than Bing Crosby, the group was not doing much. Sinatra knew he deserved more, and returned back to Hoboken. The Hoboken Four broke up shortly after they finished the tour. Only Sinatra was going to make it as a singer, and the rest is history...



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1 comment:

  1. You people KEEP leaving out some information! My name is Vinny Amatucci, and Jimmy Petrozelli (Jimmy Skelly as he was called) was my grandfather. The Three Flashes, Jimmy Petrozelli (aka Jimmy Skelly), Patty Principe (aka Patty Prince) and Freddy Tamburro (aka Freddy Tamby), would stand outside of my grandfather's ice cream shop and sing harmonies. They did small gigs and were very popular in Hoboken and at the Rustic Cabin on Rt 9w, which is now a gas station (there is a plaque there to show where the Rustic Cabin was).Yes, Dolly was very powerful in Hoboken. She was a nurse and would frequently help the people of Hoboken. When the Three Flashes saw Frank, they weren't very impressed. It was at the request of Dolly that Frank join the Three Flashes. They only took him because he did have a vehicle and could drive them to gigs. On Sept 6th, 1935, they auditioned for Major Bowes,the most popular radio program at the time. They received 40,000 call-in votes from across the United States (Major Bowes was heard all over the country) which were UNHEARD of at that time. He was so blown away by them that he offered them a six month contract to tour and go up against other groups. What they DIDN'T mention is that they were SO GOOD, the other bands would not go up against them. They had to constantly change the name of the group so they could go up against other groups in other states. Those pics you see of the Hoboken Four is of them on tour. My mother has an ORIGINAL 78 of them on Major Bowes. The album is almost 84 years old. You can hear them sing and hoof it (dance) on the album. During the tour, Frank was becoming increasingly popular among the young women which caused a rift between him and the other two guys in the group (Freddy Tamby and Patty Prince) who would beat him up because of their jealousy. My father was already engaged to my grandmother at the time, despite rumors he also beat on Frank Sinatra. But that was an outright LIE, since he was so laid back as a person and wasn't looking for young women. After three months, Frank had had enough and quit the band, going back to Hoboken to play at the Rustic Cabin, while the other three disbanded the group and went on with their separate lives. My grandafather worked on the docks when he returned, attempting suicide in 1980, unsuccessfully, and finally died in 1981, when I was stationed in Germany in the Army.

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