“Frankie-Boy” is what Lester Young called Frank Sinatra — when, in the last years of his life, Lester would sit in his room, playing Sinatra records endlessly. But this post is not about Lester (even though yesterday was his birthday).  No, it is about Frankie-Boy.

What follows is a generous offering from Bob Merrill, trumpeter and singer — who also happens to have had Joe Bushkin as a father-in-law . . . thus stories as part of the family lineage.

And this photograph, never before seen.

Frank Sinatra

And here’s the story.  Stories, actually, from Bob:

I found a bunch of snapshots in Joe Bushkin’s closet, this among them.  Joe casually informed me that they were photographed by Buddy Rich, and somehow Joe wound up with them.  He never got around to returning them, no surprise there.

It seems a bunch of guys from the Dorsey band were taking the boat to a gig at the Catalina Island Casino Ballroom for a gig.  Some had new-fangled cameras, as Frank is seen with one here.  Akin to a “selfie,” except it was a “Buddy.”

It reminds me of a great story Joey used to tell regarding Frank’s annoyance that Buddy was playing too loud behind his vocals.  This was at a time when the bobby-soxers were going wild to the point that Dorsey started skipping the first-chorus trombone statement of the melody before Frank’s vocal, electing to begin with Sinatra, to the delight of the fans.

One night, Frank was so incensed by Buddy’s loudness, he confronted him backstage after the show.  Suddenly, switchblades were drawn, and Joe and other band members intervened to break up the scuffle.  Tommy Dorsey ran in and yelled to his drummer and vocalist, “If anything happens to those uniforms, I’m going to dock your pay!”  Priceless, if you ask me.

Thank you, Bob!  (Bob has a new CD coming out . . . and you’ll hear more about that here, soon.)

For the moment, a little Frankie-Boy from the Dorsey period:

May your happiness increase!


  1. Michael P. Zirpolo

    Wonderful stuff Michael.

    Buddy Rich met Joe Bushkin in the Bunny Berigan band in 1938. I wonder if Bob Merrill has any other photos or other things that origniate when those two were making wonderful music together in the Berigan band. Joe Bushkin was a fount of colorful stories about Berigan for many decades. Rich always spoke of BB with near-reverence, and he was not a reverent man.

    The 1940 TD/FS recording of “Polka Dots and Moonbeams” spots a very tasty tenor sax solo by Babe Russin.

  2. Don "Zoot" Conner

    Thanks for the memories,Michael and the anecdote was priceless.Loved all the chiclettes,but Ava stood out,I think she was the prettiest girl who ever lived.

  3. Don "Zoot" Conner

    Just clicked over to your 2008 blog on Jonathan Schwartz: terrific stuff.I go back to his many years on WNEW-another of my national treasures.

  4. Tony Ferrigno

    Thanks for the anecdote! I know a lot of people are familiar with the story that Buddy was so mad at Frank around this same period, that Buddy threw a full pitcher of water at Frank’s head backstage at the Paramount Theatre. I don’t know how Buddy and Frank avoided killing each other in their Dorsey days!

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