AMERICAN crooner Jack, 78, recalls Frank Sinatra – his singing inspiration – and rubbing shoulders with royalty at the Royal Variety Performance.
I’m with the Queen Mother, Liberace and Carol Channing and it was the first of two Royal Variety Performances that I did. But look at my ugly hair!
If I could go back in time and talk to myself, I’d tell me to have more patience
At that time I was appearing at the Palladium for about a month and on the Sunday we did this performance. I had to share a dressing room and it was funny seeing my tuxedo hanging next to what Liberace and Elton John were going to wear.
My outfit was rather subdued next to theirs, as was my performance – Elton went out and did his part with a guy on a unicycle with a cake on his head.
It was wonderful to meet the Queen Mother. She was a sweet woman. We talked very little but she said it was nice to have me there.
I always got on very well with Carol and Liberace. Carol and I have been part of the same charity for many years and she lives nearby, so we see each other all the time.
As a young man, I knew a lot about what it would be like if I were to go into the business because my father was an entertainer who was always travelling. He tried to dissuade me for that reason.
When I was a boy, I was friends with Nancy Sinatra, then one day she brought her father Frank into our high school and he performed for an hour. He inspired me to be a singer. It was his honesty that I loved. As an actor, every song was a characterisation.
It was like a moment out of a movie. Now I have an album called Seriously Frank, and that’s the show I’m doing on tour with a big band. I made my professional debut at 19 years old.
I sang with my father in his act and after that there was no place for me to go. I got jobs in little clubs here and there when I could but otherwise, I worked in a gas station.
I knew I was on my way when I heard my song on a customer’s car radio in the gas station.
It really freaked me out but it was wonderful and I couldn’t tell anyone it was me because they would say, ‘Yeah yeah, sure it is kid.’ It was a lot of fun in those days.
The highlights of my career have been the Grammys, the Royal Variety Performance and singing at the London Palladium, which is my favourite place to work. It’s the way it’s built, the way you feel at one with the audience. It’s a magical place and I think it’s undoubtedly haunted.
So it’s interesting that the guy who wrote The Phantom Of The Opera, Andrew Lloyd Webber, now owns it.
If I could go back in time and talk to myself, I’d tell me to have more patience. A lot of young performers perform out of fear. They think someone is going to do them wrong. There’s a funny term that booking agents came up with for artists who wonder why they didn’t get the job and someone else did.
It’s called ‘howcomeitis’. I’d advise any young person to be patient and not worry about what anyone else is doing.
My children won’t be following in my footsteps. My youngest daughter is 25 and teaches challenged kids in Idaho. She could have been a singer but she decided to follow her passion, and I’m thrilled for her. My eldest daughter is a wonderful cartoonist.
My UK tour starts today. It’s mostly Sinatra songs and I’ll do a few of my own at the end. I know so many faces in the crowd and I know them all by name. They’ve all been so loyal to my career that it brings tears to my eyes.
I have fans in the front two rows that go everywhere to every show. I don’t know they do it because I don’t know how I do it.
Singing is a joy for me and the day I have to retire, there will be a big hole in my life because singing is so important to me. And if it’s important to somebody else, that’s even better.
There’s something about being able to sing. Even if you can’t sing well, keep doing it, because it’s so good for you. It’s a joy. If you’re a singer, you’re only as good as your last song.
And no, I won’t retire too soon. I’m watching Tony Bennett and he’s doing great.”
Jack’s UK tour starts tonight, celebrating 100 years of Frank Sinatra. Visit chimesinternational.co.uk.