There are Sinatra mysteries and there are Sinatra mysteries; for decades, it was not known what the circumstances were behind his first studio recording, the 1939 “Our Love.” (That disc has still not been legally issued, and probably never will be until The Sinatra Estate realizes its historical importance and works with the owners. I actually wrote a longish article explaining in detail how and why “Our Love” was made, and this has also has yet to be published.)
For years, I have had a bootleg copy of Sinatra doing “The Lady Is A Tramp,” with special lyrics by Sammy Cahn. They did this frequently, when Sinatra would entertain at a corporate event, most famously for the head of NBC, General Robert Sarnoff. But on this occasion, Sammy wrote lyrics for Sinatra to sing pertaining to Mrs. Ringo Starr (real name: Starkey), the wife of the drummer for the pop group, The Beatles. Not being much of a Beatles fan (at least not since I turned 10), I never thought much about it. I also assumed that this was done in the ‘80s, when Starr was married to the famous beauty and “James Bond girl” Barbara Bach. If I had really been curious, I could have asked Sammy Cahn himself.
A few days ago, Jimmy Eigo (email@example.com) alerted me to a website containing all sorts of recorded oddities from the rock era, and I highly recommend it – it’s
It turns out that the record was made in 1968, for Starr’s then-wife Maureen. Mr. Milstein informs us that it was commissioned by Apple Executive Peter Brown. He convinced Sammy to do the rewrite (not that Sammy ever required much convincing for these tasks) and Sammy talked Sinatra into singing it at a special session. Again, this was very rare; Sinatra only did things like this for very close personal friends and / or captains of industry or politics with whom he was involved on some level (most famously, the well-known JFK campaign record of “High Hopes,” again with special lyrics by Sammy).
Equally interesting, The Maureen Starkey version of “The Lady Is A Tramp” was pressed as Apple single #1 (more details are on the Milstein page) – but only one copy was made, and presumably that’s the one that was given to Maureen Starkey (now deceased). The master was supposedly destroyed, but copies have circulated on tapes and bootleg CDs.
Thus Frank Sinatra was the first artist to record for Apple Records. Coincidentally, the first artist to record for Reprise Records – Sinatra’s own label – was not Sinatra himself, but the tenor sax great Ben Webster. Webster’s album “The Warm Moods” was taped several months before “Ring-A-Ding-Ding,” Sinatra’s own first Reprise album. (Of course, “The Warm Moods” may have been produced independently and sold to Sinatra – or it could have been recorded directly for Reprise.)
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