I have a friend! I’ve known him ever since he first stepped out on the stage of the Sahara Hotel (the original) as the opening act for a young lady by the name of Nancy Sinatra in 1973. Some say you can’t create magic, but Bob Anderson has proved otherwise. His ‘tribute’ to Frank Sinatra is not just a tribute, it is more than that, much more than that. It is a musical masterpiece, a phenomenal work of musical theatre, dedicated to mastering Sinatra’s voice, look and persona.
But how in the heck did a Vietnam veteran with long shaggy hair, get so lucky to meet the right guy that particular afternoon at a bar end up on that stage in 1973? But a little bit first about Bob. The guy is a throwback to the old days of vaudeville. Do any of you remember Al Jolson? I do! Jolson was a major star on Broadway and eventually radio. What he was also well known for was what happened after his Broadway or even his touring shows. Every night after the curtain came down he would walk out in front and begin to take requests from the audience. Of course, the orchestra knew they were going to get a bonus from the “Iron Throated Singer” if they stayed. Well, gang, Bob is just like Jolson. After most of his shows here in Las Vegas you may find him at the Italian American Club over on Sahara Blvd., sitting in the audience listening to someone like Jerry Tiffe, another wonderful throwback singer going back years with this writer also. Well, what happens, Tiffe will invite him up for a celebrity song and away Bob goes. Jerry takes a chair in the audience, and pretty soon he’s doing his whole show (almost) for the appreciative audience. He doesn’t stop until the band says “Hey, Bob, we need a break…”
And what has the man with a few hundred singing impressions been doing during this virus thing? Well he’s working from home (like all of use) re-vamping his show award winning show, “FRANK, The Man, The Music” which was scheduled for Broadway last April. Well you know how that went. So as a favor to my friend, because I asked him, I am going to run a short version of Bob Anderson’s amazing career, so here it is in all its glory. Hope you enjoy reading it? Bob is working very close with his producers to open his show on Frank Sinatra’s birthday, Dec.12, on the “Great White Way–Broadway.”
Anderson is the only artist performing today with the complete technical skills to take on a theatrical production of this order. Like His subject, Anderson’s jazz-oriented sense of time is flawless, and his diction and intonation are perfect. After watching Anderson perform, Frank Sinatra, turned to the audience and pronounced, “This kid’s got a hell of an act!” Tony Bennett once said , “He does me really well, doesn’t he? He does everybody well, that’s his gift. His vocals, gestures, and characteristics of the artist are absolutely accurate.”
Impressive as these accolades may be, there’s more to it than meets the eye when it comes to why this talented entertainer has been named “The World’s Greatest Singing Impressionist.” While others dreamed of being recording stars, Anderson actually became them. No one had ever impersonated these vocal giants before. When Anderson began his career back in the 70’s, there were no singing impressionists. Rich Little, David Frye, Fred Travalena, were on the scene, but they focused only on politicians, actors and “talking” personalities. The difference for Anderson was that he was a highly acclaimed singer in his own right. As a young boy, he would listen over and over and over again to the sounds of Sinatra, Sammy Davis, Bennett, and the others in that genre and would sing along with their records.
Subconsciously, their vocal sounds became embedded in Anderson’s brain; little did he know at the time that one day, he would be able to reproduce those voices in an uncanny manner and gain the ability to reproduce their authentic personalities. And never in his wildest dreams did he expect that he would grow up to become their good friends and be endorsed publicly by all these great stars. Anderson’s story reads like a Hollywood script. He began his career singing in local piano bars and supper clubs in Detroit, where he was born and raised. In 1973, after returning from Vietnam, a 21-year-old Anderson decides to take a trip out west. After three days of driving and sleeping in his old VW Beetle, Anderson finds himself on the Vegas strip in front of the Sahara Hotel & Casino, a place that would change his life instantly and forever. Anderson pulls into the Casino for a drink and while sitting at the bar, he strikes up a conversation with Mark Tan, a writer and critic for the Hollywood Reporter.
Tan invites Anderson into the Conga Room to watch Nancy Sinatra rehearse and then fate stepped in. During that opening night rehearsal, The Everly Brothers, who were booked to perform and sing with Nancy Sinatra, got into an argument with each other and walked off stage. Nancy Sinatra was without an opening act, and everyone was in a panic. Anderson tells Tan that he’s a singer and spontaneously walks up to the stage (he has guts believe me still) and says, “Hey, I’m a singer; I can do whatever you need.”
Everyone laughed and Billy Strange, Nancy’s conductor, and Elvis’, shouts, “Give the kid a mic, this might be funny.” Forty-five minutes later Bob was in the limo with Nancy Sinatra going to get fitted for a suit for his opening night show. That afternoon, Anderson watched as his name was put on the marquee. Anderson’s performance that night was a show stopper. The audience response was overwhelming! Subsequently, Nancy brought Anderson along with her during an appearance on The Merv Griffin Show. Griffin was extremely impressed with Anderson and months later, after seeing him perform at the Ye Little Club in Beverly Hills, he asked Anderson if he would like to attend his 50th birthday celebration, an evening that would change the direction of Anderson’s career, if not his life.
It was at Griffin’s party, attended by many Hollywood elite, where Anderson started singing and imitating the voices of well-known vocalists. The crowd loved it! Cary Grant was sitting on the floor by the piano saying, “This is really amazing, I have never seen anything like this!” Aware that he was looking at a unique talent, Griffin turned to Anderson and said, We’ve found your act. You’re going to be “The Singing Impressionist.”
Within one week after that party in the Hollywood Hills, Griffin personally wrote an act for Anderson and headlined him on his television show as “The Singing Impressionist.” By 1977, the road to stardom was unstoppable for Anderson. He made 100 talk show appearances over a period of seven years, from 1979-86, which was unprecedented at the time. Also unprecedented was the fact that he appeared on the top-rated “Tonight Show” twice in just four days. After the Carson appearances, he got a two-week gig at the “Top of the Dunes” that turned into 10 years of entertaining the Super Stars of The Las Vegas Strip who would pack his 2:00 a.m. performance to watch Anderson do them. Bob has worked in more lounges and main rooms then just about anyone in Las Vegas. He is a 3-time “Las Vegas Entertainer of the Year” award winning artist and is a member of “The Casino Legends Hall of Fame” and “The Las Vegas Entertainment Hall of Fame.”
Anderson wrote and starred in the award-winning show, “FRANK The Man The Music” and was on tour with Live Nation and was heading to Broadway under the General Management of Multi-Tony Award Winning Producer, Eva Price, when the virus struck. The production headlined at the prestigious Palazzo Theater in Las Vegas for a year where celebrities, journalists, late night talk show hosts, fans, and aficionados from New York to San Francisco with exuberant curiosity, saw Anderson slip into Sinatra’s skin night after night with an ease that belies the long hours and hard work it took to accomplish such a feat. Within weeks, the show became, the talk of the town and the must-see show. Bob Anderson was voted “Best Headliner” and “Best Live Performance,” and the production was voted “Best Live Show!”
The reviews are something like this:
There is in my heart and Bobs, one other friend who will be missed on that stage, and that is Vince Falcone, who was not only “The Mans” conductor for nearly 10 years, but furnished many of the original charts and conducted for Anderson (for many years) on Opening night in Las Vegas. He passed-away on March 24, 2017 from a battle with cancer. His son, Danny who plays trumpet for numerous stars on the Strip could very well be in the orchestra that night when Bob opens on Broadway. What a night that will be gang. And, you can bet your ass that I will be there along with a few of his loyal Vegas friends.
It’s been a long trip from that drink at the bar in Las Vegas—but what a lucky drink it was!