Keeping up with the Joneses at The Apex, Bury St Edmunds

Jack Jones

Jack Jones - Credit: Archant

He is the epitome of style and is so cool that it is surprising that you can’t see his breath condensing. Event’s Martin Hutchinson is of course referring to Jack Jones - best known to British audiences as the man who sang the theme to The Love Boat - who is on his way round the UK as part of his celebration of Frank Sinatra’s 100th Birthday.

Jack Jones

Jack Jones - Credit: Archant

Now aged 78, Jack looks elegant and much younger than his years and is still enthusiastic about his performing. He was born into a showbiz family. His mother was the 1930s’ actress Irene Hervey and his father was the singer-actor Allan Jones who appeared in a number of films with The Marx Brothers and had a big hit with the song Donkey Serenade - recorded on the night Jack was born.

He studied drama at the University High School in Los Angeles and at the same time received singing lessons from teachers especially chosen by his father. Also a talented athlete, he gave this up to devote more time to a serious study of the arts.

“I just didn’t have the time,” Jack tells me. “I had to rehearse so I had to make a choice. I think I made the right one.”

He got the singing bug after one of his friends invited her father to sing at the school. His friend was called Nancy and her father was called Frank – Frank Sinatra.

Years later Sinatra was to say Jack was “one of the major singers of our time”. High praise indeed. Judy Garland called him “the best jazz singer in the world”.

When you get praise like that it has to mean something.

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“To hear things like that is wonderful,” he says. “It meant the people I admired, those who had worked hard to get where they were, were appreciating what I was trying to do.”

Speaking of Garland jogs his memory.

“The thing with those people was if they wanted to see you they gave you their undivided attention. I remember when Judy Garland came to see me at The Coconut Grove. She didn’t take her eyes from my performance the whole time and she wouldn’t speak to anyone.”

After a short stint in his father’s show, Jack went out on his own when he was 19 doing odd jobs to support himself.

In the early 1960s he recorded the song Lollipops and Roses which earned him the first of two Grammy Awards for best pop male vocal performance. The second was for Wives and Lovers.

Jack developed an appreciation for well-constructed songs with emotional appeal and soon settled nicely into the easy listening niche and his career went from strength to strength.

“I went into that type of music because that’s all there was when I was starting out. Rock and roll was just coming in and what I was doing was the music of the day.”

Jack has recorded 50 albums and had more than 30 hit singles in America. In 1989 he was honoured with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, close to where his father’s star is located. Yet despite all his top class recordings, Jack can’t name a favourite song.

“To be honest, favourites come and go. It’s hard to nail one song down.”

As part of his celebrations of Sinatra’s centenary, he has recorded the new CD Seriously Frank. It features Jack with a 22-piece orchestra singing more than a dozen Sinatra songs. Recording the album was a labour of love.

“Absolutely, I worked a long time on it,” he says. “We had the finest arranger around today in Patrick Williams and having Dave Grusin play piano on it was just great.”

But what is it about Sinatra that makes him stand out to Jack?

“It was his sense of rhythm and his understanding of the words and emotions. He was able to convey the full meaning of the songs. He was the first of the pop-jazz swingers.”

And he came close to singing with him?

“Yes, I came very close,” he laughs. “It was at one of his golf tournaments in one of his ‘retirements’ and I was sat on his table at the dinner afterwards. There were quite a few of us there; Andy Williams and Vic Damone were there. Anyway, I sang to him and then handed him the microphone.”

Jack pauses to laugh again, adding: “He just said ‘get that thing away from me’.”

In his career, which stretches nearly 60 years, Jack says there have been many highlights.

“Winning the Grammy Awards, playing the London Palladium and doing two Royal Command Performances. Also I think singing the theme to The Love Boat. The cast and I are all still great friends and I’ve just returned from a reunion with them all.”

The Sinatra show has been well-received so far.

“We’ve only done it in Los Angeles and the reaction’s been wonderful. I do have my other show in Las Vegas with a trio which is ever-evolving, but the British tour will be the full orchestra.

“I won’t be just doing the Sinatra songs in the UK, it’ll also have my hits and Grammy stuff, plus having the orchestra there will be fantastic. It’s gonna be fun,” he concludes with a twinkle in his eye.

Jack Jones and his Orchestra will be appearing at The Apex, Bury St Edmunds, 7.30pm on Sunday, January 31.