When you think of Frank Sinatra’s wingmen…

…undoubtably Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr come to mind. They don’t call it the Rat Pack for nothing and to be sure Dean and Sam were close friends that entertained along side Frank probably more than anyone. Those guys were as much social accompaniment as wingmen in the performing sense.

So… Matt Monro and Jack Jones?

Matt Monro

That said, for some reason I’ve always considered Matt Monro and Jack Jones as vocal standards wingmen for Frank. Back about 20 years ago when I was rediscovering the Rat Pack and their contemporaries, for some reason I just couldn’t escape associating Matt and Jack with Frank — outliers in that they didn’t show up on stage together but they shared the spotlight on a global level from the late 50’s on through to the 80’s.

Jack Jones

Perhaps it’s not fair … Monro and Jones both had (have in the case of Jack Jones) their own distinctive styles and unique paths to success. But they (along side many, many others) definitely leveraged Frank Sinatra’s massive success and the “raising all boats” effect Frank had on the pop music and motion picture industries – particularly during the 50’s and 60’s … the heyday for both Jones and Monro.

Jack and Matt have enormous catalogs with each of these guys pumping out 20+ albums. I will not attempt a deep dive on them here (hey, I just received the new “Sinatra: Best of the Best” deluxe box and need to dive into it!) … rather I’ll throw out a couple of compilation albums that are great starts if you’re game for some Wingman exploration!

The extraordinary Matt Monro…

Matt’s distinctive vocal style actually got him some bad press back in the day —  as one of the early supposed “Sinatra wannabes”. In fact he was often chided as England’s version of Frank Sinatra. All I know is the guy could sing … and sing great! His career was shortened by liver cancer at age 54 but Monro left us after delivering some of the absolute classic versions of the standards.

Start withThe Best of Matt Monro and The Greatest – Matt Monro albums and taste songs like “Softly as I Leave You”, “Real Live Girl”, “My Kind of Girl”, “I’ll Take Romance”, “Laura”, When Sunny Get’s Blue” … the more you dig into Matt’s catalog the more you’ll be amazed by how much of the American Songbook Monro lays claim to — on equal footing with the big guns on many, many numbers.

A Voice Built for the Movies…

Back in the ’60s and 70’s Matt Monro cornered the market on motion picture soundtrack numbers and theme songs. Best known for  the Bond classic “From Russia with Love” and “Born Free” Monro actually recorded a metric buttload of movie songs.

Check out Matt at the Movies (Import) where he lays out 64 (sixty four!) songs from motion pics — it’s amazing to listen to him sing song after song from classic movies … “Charade”, “Days of Wine and Roses”, “Sunrise Sunset”(Fiddler on the Roof), “Alone Am I” (Tomorrow Never Comes), “As Long As She Needs Me” (Oliver) …. did I mention there are 64!

In 1977 Matt did a very cool number that became sort of an insider hit with the performers of the day called “If I never Sing Another Song” …it ended up being very poignant. Sadly, Matt left us young (I can say this because I’m 54 … 54 IS young damn it!). Matt’s voice was aging quite nicely and I can’t help wondering what another 10 or so performing years might have brought.

There’s no guessing with the next guy because Jack Jones is still performing at 73!

Jack Jones … Love Songs, smooth and pure (if not politically correct!)

With signature songs like “Wives and Lovers” (number 3 in my Six Strangest Standards post) and “Lollipops and Roses” Jack Jones was a ’60s man, man!

Even though Jack pushed out north of 20 albums, sadly many of his original standards work is now out of print or import double-album remakes and the like. The good news is that he has a wonderful Jack Jones: Greatest Hits album that is aptly named as it carves out much of his best known titles.

In addition to the aforementioned women’s liberation busting numbers, the Jones anchors “Real Live Girl” (Jack and Matt actually crossed over each others catalogs regularly and it’s fun to argue who “owns” some of these numbers), “And I Love Her”, “Lady”, “Call Me Irresponsible” and — please, no argument —  the absolute best version of “Impossible Dream” from Man of La Mancha … sorry, there are scores of good versions of “Impossible Dream” from many great artists, but Jack Jones owns this number … outright!

Jack’s still rock’n the house…

Where Matt left us too young, at 73 Jack continues to perform. I’ve caught a few of his recent performances on the web and … well, it’s great to see him out there and the adoring crowd. It’s not fair and I know it’s my failing (not Jack’s), but I tend to steer clear of artists deep into the autumn/winter of their career … I just prefer to remember Jack crooning the standards in his prime. Hell, I like to remember ME in my prime!

In Jack’s case he also took some interesting genre diversions in the second half of his career … not unlike Bobby Darin’s sorties into folk music. I truly love knowing Jack is still with us and “out there” plying his hits to appreciative crowds, but the song mix and his current vocals don’t line up with the Jack Jones standards legacy in my strange and furtive world view. It’s the same with late career recordings from Sinatra … I just don’t want to remember them that way … with the odd exception of Rosemary Clooney! For some reason I enjoy the way Rose tweaked her vocal stylings as she aged … strange, eh?

ANYWAY … If you know and love Franks’s Wing-buddies then great. If you haven’t dug into Jack Jones and Matt Monro… then grab that shovel and start digging!

(BTW, If you’re hooked up with Spotify, check out my Wingman playlist here.)

 

 

Share
  • Jim

    that’s a nice vintage shot of a Neumann U87 in that first photo. I imagine it was an odd choice for microphone when that picture was taken as the previous standard was the U47. The U47 was part of the magic of those 50’s and 60’s recordings where a singer would stand back and the mic capture so much ambient… ahhhhh.

    • Anonymous

      Ah yes … the old Neumann U87 …. 😉