Vincent Falcone Interview
In May of 1998, one of the greatest singers of the Twentieth Century, Frank
Sinatra passed away.
In tribute to Frank Sinatra, we thought it would be fitting to offer up remembrances
of the singer by some of the people who either knew or worked with him.
Vincent Falcone is one such person.
Mr. Falcone is a pianist from Syracuse, New York who went on to become Frank
Sinatra’s Musical Conductor.
He chronicles his experiences with Frank Sinatra in the book “Frankly:
Just between Us, My Life Conducting Frank Sinatra’s Music” (Hal
Leonard – Book Publishers).
Q – Mr. Falcone, were you a fan of Frank Sinatra
before you started working for him?
A – Yes I was, of course. But, I was more of a fan of jazz artists.
As I grew older naturally I became more and more familiar with his style and
his work and more and more of a fan.
Q – What did you think of him when you met him?
A – By the time I met him it was a sensational thing for me to have
the opportunity to play for him and meet him.
Q – How about the first time you met him?
A – I knew he was a big star. I knew he was a great artist. He was
also very, very courteous, and also very nice to me. The first time I actually
met him and spoke to him was at a rehearsal at Caesar’s Palace. It may
have even been the first time I played for him, or may be the first one or
two times that I played for him. I knew that he was going to be appearing in
Syracuse. My mother and father were still living in Syracuse at the time. And
so, when we took a break from rehearsal I called him and said, ‘Mr. Sinatra,
may I talk to you’? He turned around and said, ‘Shoot’! That
was his favorite expression. I explained to him my mom and dad were in Syracuse
and tried to get tickets to his concert, but couldn’t because it was
sold out. I said is there any chance I can get them to see you. He said, ‘Stay
here’. He went into the dressing room and 2 minutes later his valet came
out of the dressing room and said, ‘Are you Vinnie Falcone’? I
said, ‘Yes’ He said, ‘Well, you got four tickets to the show
in Syracuse’. That’s the kind of graciousness he always exhibited
towards me. He and I became I would say good friends. He became very much a
father figure and a teacher to me. He was always very kind to me and very considerate
and very encouraging and very supportive of me.
Q – Would I be correct in stating that the New
York State Fair in Syracuse, was the only State Fair Frank Sinatra ever played?
A – I can’t say for sure. The only reason he did it was because
he was a friend of Hugh Carey who was running for governor. That was the reason
we came there. No, I take that back. We did a show at the Carrier Dome for
Hugh Carey. Why did we do the State Fair? Oh-----I know. It was a political
favor, and it was for the governor. He was in the audience that evening. It
was a personal favor to the governor of New York. That was my first trip back
to Syracuse, after I left Syracuse, and I come back with Frank Sinatra. (Laughs).
Not a bad deal.
Q – You probably remember walking around the fairgrounds
years before that.
A – I used to work for Clark Music Co. I used to sell pianos as you
know. Clark Music Co. used to have a booth at the Fair every year. So, I was
out there every year.
Q – In the Center of Progress Building?
A – Could be. I don’t remember. More than likely you’re
Q – Why do you think you got the job as Sinatra’s
Musical Conductor? Was it your personality? You had no previous experience
doing that kind of thing.
A – It’s not that I didn’t have any experience; I had never
had any experience with an act like him. He was looking for a change in his
music directorship. I replaced Bill Miller who was a dear friend, and a wonderful
musician who just passed away a month ago. What he told me later was that he
wanted somebody with more of a contemporary feel towards music. He heard me
play for him, but also, when he would come in the day before he would open,
sometimes unbeknownst to me he would see me conducting for other acts. I would
maybe be the conductor for the opening act of the show that preceded him. He
got to see me work a few times. He thought I had what he wanted. And so what
he did was, initially he hired me to go with him just as a pianist. I would
just play piano and Bill Miller was still conducting the orchestra. About a
year after that he decided I had enough experience to take over, so he turned
it over to me.
Q – Page 76, “The first time I met Micky Rudin, who was Frank
Sinatra’s Manager; I held out my hand to him and said what a pleasure
it was to meet him.” He ignored my hand and said, ‘I don’t
shake hands with musicians’.
A – That’s true.
Q – Frank Sinatra needed a manager? Who did this fella think he was?
That’s a terrible insult. I would’ve complained to Sinatra about
A – First of all, every act needs a manager. You can’t do your
own negotiating. Rudin was also an attorney. He was Mr. Sinatra’s attorney.
Micky was a tough guy. Not too many people liked him. He was a brilliant manager.
He made Mr. Sinatra a great deal of money. As I understand it, although I have
no personal proof, they were not really personal friends, but, Mr. Sinatra
told me he made him a great deal of money, with his ability to book him and
find these very high paying venues. Micky wanted to keep his distance. Now
that I’m older and I think I understand more than I did in those days,
I think Micky wanted to keep his distance from people like me because if he
had to deal with me on any basis, he didn’t want friendship to get in
the way of being able to do business with someone and I think that was his
modus operandi. I didn’t have to say anything to Mr. Sinatra because
Mr. Sinatra’s secretary was privy to that conversation so, I’m
sure it got back to him one way or another.
Q – I guess you never got to shake his hand.
A – Oh, yes, as I got more involved in the program. I became more of
an acquaintance. We were never friends of course. We never hung out together.
I was at functions later in my career where Micky was there, and we got along.
He was a much different person than he was when I first met him.
Q – Page 68, “Every once in awhile he would tell me stories about
when he worked for the ‘boys’ because they used to own all the
clubs. He was often accused of knowing the mob. He told me in his early years
of performing it was impossible to be in show business and not know some of
the mob because for the most part they controlled the nightclubs. But, he certainly
did not want to be identified with the mob”. Sadly, many of these t.v.
news magazine shows, or I should say showbiz magazine shows make that connection.
Did he ever talk about any famous gangsters he knew?
A – No. I don’t care what people say. Most people don’t
know what they’re talking about. You know how many people were close
personal friends of Mr. Sinatra after he died? I’m talking about people
in show business who he never wanted to be around and all of a sudden they’re
his close, personal friend. I’ve come to find out that you can believe
nothing of what you hear and half of what you see. Most of the famous show-business
people of our era have become friends and acquaintances of mine and I’ve
been able to talk to them. I’ve worked for most of them as you can see
in the book, the Tony Bennett’s, the Andy Williams. They all tell me
the same thing-----the mob owned the clubs. If you worked for them, you got
to know them. That’s the way it was. But, you weren’t part of the
organization. To the best of my knowledge, Mr. Sinatra never had anything to
do with the mob. He knew them of course. They knew him. He had to deal with
them, because of their ownership of the clubs. But, that’s as far as
it went. To my knowledge. He lived 60 years before I met him. I don’t
know all there is to know. I don’t think anybody knows all there is to
know. From my experience, I never was privy to any dealings or what have you
with anybody in the Underworld.
Q – Where were you when you heard the news that
Frank Sinatra had passed away?
A – I was home, here is Las Vegas. I knew it was eminent. Of course,
I was invited to the funeral and paid my respects to him.
Q – What keeps you busy these days?
A – I’m now Music Director for a number of different people-----Steve
Lawrence and Eydie Gorme, Robert Goulet, Joe Piscopo. I just went to Malaysia
with Connie Francis, and did a concert with her. I work with a lot of different
people. I’ve been with Jack Jones, Tony Bennett, Andy Williams, The McGuire
Sisters; it’s all in the book. I continue to do that and want to continue
to do that until I can’t get out of a chair anymore.
© Gary James All Rights Reserved