I have to apologize. It’s been a really long time since my last post and I’ve been feeling guilty about that. Here, I’ll make it up to you with a really special song!
Tommy Sands was born Thomas Adrian Sands on 27 August 1937 in Chicago, Illinois. His mother, Grace, was a big-band singer and his father, Ben, played the piano. While he was still a child, the family moved to Shreveport, Louisiana. Tommy began playing guitar when he was eight years old and, within a year, was featured twice a week on a local radio station. As a young teenager, he moved to Houston, Texas where he attended Lamar High School. Shortly afterward, he and two friends, Jimmy Lee Durden and Billy Reno, formed a band called The Junior Cowboys. Together they made a lot of personal appearances, performing on radio and at county fairs. Colonel Tom Parker heard about Tommy and signed him to RCA Records when he was just 15 years old.
In January 1957, at age 20, Tommy, who was no longer a stranger to show business, became an overnight sensation after he appeared on an episode of the Kraft Television Theater called The Singin’ Idol. His performance on the show, capitalizing on the enormous success of Elvis Presley at the time, made that broadcast one of the most most popular programs in the history of television. The song he sang on that show, Teen Age Crush written by Joe Allison, was rushed into distribution on Capitol Records and shot quickly up the charts, reaching #2 on Billboard’s Hot 100 and #1 on Cashbox. His instant success was followed by an invitation to sing on the Academy Awards show, and then a starring role in a 1958 musical film, Sing Boy Sing, essentially reprising his role from the Kraft television episode. He also appeared on Tennessee Ernie Ford’s television show, then began making a string of movies in Hollywood. He can be seen in epic war movie, The Longest Day, from 1961. He plays a Marine Second Lieutenant in 1965’s None But The Brave.
Tommy also appeared in several television shows. Watch for him on retro TV in an episode of Laramie called Trapped with Claude Akins, an episode of Wagon Train called The Gus Morgan Story with Peter Falk, an episode of Combat called More Than A Soldier alongside Vic Morrow, twice in the NBC drama called Mr. Novak, and on an episode of the original Hawaii Five-O called No Blue Skies starring Jack Lord.
In 1960, Tommy married Nancy Sinatra, but the two were divorced just five years later. This led to his being ‘blacklisted’ in the industry by Nancy’s famous father! He later married his current wife, Sheila. Together they had just one daughter, Jessica, who was born on 18 July 1978.
This song, however, was not a chart hit for Tommy, at least in the United States. It did, however, climb to #22 on 1050 CHUM in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. It’s a fun song that could be considered an autobiography of sorts, even though it was written by John D Loudermilk, himself a prolific songwriter and singer. This song even features The Jordanaires on backing vocals, the same guys who were backing Elvis Presley at the time!
Here’s Jimmy’s Song by Tommy Sands on Capitol 4660 from 1962:
I promise to get more gems like this up on this blog in the coming weeks. In the meantime, keep listening to MusicMaster Oldies, where you’ll hear over 100,000 songs from the 1950’s and 1960’s, along with many surprises. If you like what you hear, tell all your friends. If you don’t, please tell me!