We continue with Frank Sinatra.
1935–40: Start of career, work with Harry James and Tommy Dorsey
Sinatra got his first break in 1935 when his mother persuaded a local singing group, The Three Flashes, to let him join. With Sinatra, the group became known as the Hoboken Four, and they sufficiently impressed Edward Bowes. After appearing on his show, Major Bowes Amateur Hour, they attracted 40,000 votes and won the first prize – a six-month contract to perform on stage and radio across the United States.
Sinatra left the Hoboken Four and returned home in late 1935. His mother secured him a job as a singing waiter and MC at the Rustic Cabin in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, for which he was paid $15 a week.
On March 18, 1939, Sinatra made a demo recording of a song called “Our Love”, with the Frank Mane band. The record has “Frank Sinatra” signed on the front. The bandleader kept the original record in a safe for nearly 60 years.[page needed] In June, Harry James hired Sinatra on a one-year contract of $75 a week. It was with the James band that Sinatra released his first commercial record “From the Bottom of My Heart” in July 1939— US Brunswick No. 8443 and UK Columbia #DB2150.[page needed]
Fewer than 8,000 copies of “From the Bottom of My Heart” (Brunswick No. 8443) were sold, making the record a very rare find that is sought after by record collectors worldwide. Sinatra released ten commercial tracks with James through 1939, including “All or Nothing At All” which had weak sales on its initial release, but then sold millions of copies when re-released by Columbia at the height of Sinatra’s popularity a few years later.
In November 1939, in a meeting at the Palmer House in Chicago, Sinatra was asked by bandleader Tommy Dorsey to join his band as a replacement for Jack Leonard (the vocalist, not to be confused the comedian Jack E. Leonard), who had recently left to launch a solo career. This meeting was a turning point in Sinatra’s career. By signing with Dorsey’s band, one of the hottest at the time, he greatly increased his visibility with the American public. Though Sinatra was still under contract with James, James recognized the opportunity Dorsey offered and graciously released Sinatra from his contract. Sinatra recognized his debt to James throughout his life and upon hearing of James’ death in 1983, stated: “he [James] is the one that made it all possible.”[page needed]
On January 26, 1940, Sinatra made his first public appearance with the Dorsey band at the Coronado Theater in Rockford, Illinois.[page needed] In his first year with Dorsey, Sinatra released more than forty songs, with “I’ll Never Smile Again” topping the charts for twelve weeks beginning in mid-July.:91
Sinatra’s relationship with Tommy Dorsey was troubled, because of their contract, which awarded Dorsey one-third of Sinatra’s lifetime earnings in the entertainment industry. In January 1942, Sinatra recorded his first solo sessions without the Dorsey band (but with Dorsey’s arranger Axel Stordahl and with Dorsey’s approval). These sessions were released commercially on the Bluebird label. Sinatra left the Dorsey band in late 1942 in an incident that started rumors of Sinatra’s involvement with the Mafia. A story appeared in the Hearst newspapers that mobster Sam Giancana coerced Dorsey to let Sinatra out of his contract for a few thousand dollars, and was fictionalized in the book and movie The Godfather. According to Nancy Sinatra’s biography, the Hearst rumors were started because of Frank’s Democratic politics. In fact, the contract was bought out by MCA founder Jules C. Stein for $75,000.