By Jonathan Farrell
This past summer, Richmond District resident Perry D’Andrea got the surprise of his life when he won the Frank Sinatra singing contest held in Sinatra’s home town of Hoboken, New Jersey.
D’Andrea took up the challenge to sing only the music of Sinatra’s songs five years ago.
“I always thought Sinatra was cool,” D’Andrea said. “Even as a kid, before my voice changed, I would sing and practice Sinatra songs.
“But only when I was alone,” he admitted.
Originally from Toccoa, Georgia, a town of less than 10,000 people, D’Andrea was more into jazz, rock and roll and playing the trumpet in his high school band. He credits his dad for his initial love of Sinatra’s music.
“My dad was a dentist,” D’Andrea said. “It was emphasized I go to college, which I did. But I think it was my dad’s interest in music, especially the Big Band Era that had an influence, as my dad always wanted to be a part of it.”
“I always thought Sinatra reminded me of my dad,” D’Andrea said. “Only, Sinatra was more gregarious, and that sense of style that made Sinatra so cool.”
One of the first indications that D’Andrea realized he might be on to something was when he sang the familiar song, “All The Way,” to his parents one night at the dinner table.
“Jaws dropped! I was just as startled at what came out of my mouth as my parents were,” said D’Andrea. “And that’s after my voice had changed,” he added.
D’Andrea continued with the high school band, playing trumpet and enjoying jazz and rock ‘n’ roll. He considers himself blessed to have been trained by band instructor Archie Sharretts. The instruction and leadership by Sharretts made an impact on D’Andrea, as Sharretts led the high school band to a championship competition in 1972.
“I learned so much from Dr. Sharretts, I still rely upon that training in my Sinatra music today,” D’Andrea said.
He explained how he ended up on the west coast.
“In college, I was drawn to science. That’s what brought me to San Francisco the first time, back in the 1980s.”
D’Andrea was part of a two-year curricular program at UCSF Medical Center. But the emerging music scene that blossomed in the 1980s with the B-52s, REM and the like, in Athens, Georgia, pulled at him to return to the South.
“Going back to Georgia, I formed a couple of bands, which also helped me like a cornerstone. I had a great time then,” he said.
The turning point was when D’Andrea’s father urged him to follow his talent in music and to go ahead and pursue being a Sinatra singer.
“I had moved back to San Francisco by that time in the 1990s,” he said. “I would sing for fun.”
D’Andrea made the decision in 2016 to dedicate a considerable amount of time and effort to becoming a dedicated Sinatra singer. Martuni’s Piano Bar on Valencia Street was the turning point for him. A friend had invited him to go and then pushed him to the open mic.
“Perry was worried that I wouldn’t know the Sinatra song he wanted to sing,” Martuni’s pianist Joseph Magdalena III, said. “Perry sang ‘Witchcraft’ very well. And it’s known and one of Sinatra’s favorites. We have been friends ever since.
“I am originally from Hoboken, New Jersey and I grew up on Sinatra songs, especially with my dad being a musician,” Magdalena said, recognizing the shared Italian heritage, between the two of them,.
Very pleased with D’Andrea’s win at the annual singing competition this past summer, Magdalena said, “I was so surprised when Perry won, because there’s a lot of competition at that contest. We are very proud of Perry, especially within the local music scene community here in San Francisco and at Martuni’s.”
D’Andrea’s next performance is at Fiddlers Green pub in Millbrae on Oct. 22. For more information, call Fiddlers Green at 650-697-3419. Learn more about D’Andrea by searching Perry Sings Sinatra on LinkedIn and YouTube. Also, information and announcements of all of D’Andrea’s events are at facebook.com/perrysingssinatra. No Facebook membership or login required.