Tommy Sands was a popular singer and actor in the late 50's. His biggest hit song reached as high as number two on the pop charts.
Tommy Adrian Sands -- his real name -- was born in Chicago in 1937. His mother was a singer who performed in Art Kassel's band. Growing up he enjoyed music, particularly country music. In 1944 his mother gave him a guitar for Christmas. They moved to Houston, and Tommy spent some time there as a disc jockey as early as age 12. In 1951 he cut his first record and by the following year he had attracted the attention of entrepreneur Colonel Tom Parker, who signed young Tommy to a contract with RCA records. For the next few years he recorded some songs that had little impact.
1957 was a breakthrough year for Tommy Sands. Early that year he was given the title role in a televison play called The Singing Idol. He had what would prove to be his biggest hit ever with Teen-Age Crush from that show; it went to number two and made him a very popular figure. In April, while still a teenager, he was featured on the televison show This Is Your Life. He signed with Capitol and continued to record songs; his cover of Faron Young's 1953 country hit Goin' Steady began to climb the charts. Tommy Sands, star of The Singing Idol, had become a singing idol.
Meanwhile Colonel Parker had signed another singing sensation who had become prominent nationally in 1956, Elvis Presley. Comparisons between Presley and Sands were inevitable. Both had been managed by Parker, both burst on the scene in grand style, and both went to Hollywood to make movies. For Sands, his first film was a starring vehicle for him titled Sing Boy Sing. He had trained as an actor when he was in school, and did an admirable job in his first film. His recording of the song from that film by the same title would become his third and last top forty tune.
He began to concentrate more on films, appearing in Mardi Gras with Pat Boone and a forgettable film, Love In A Goldfish Bowl. In 1960 he starred in Disney's remake of the Victor Herbert operetta Babes In Toyland, along with popular singer/actress Annette Funicello, and he married pop-sensation-to-be Nancy Sinatra. Tommy also continued with his recording career. Other film roles came along, including The Longest Day, Ensign Pulver and None But The Brave.
Tommy Sands and Nancy Sinatra were divorced in 1965 and her father, Frank Sinatra, was not inclined to help Sands with his singing career. Sands did another film, The Violent Ones and eventually went into semi-retirement, moving to Hawaii. He opened a nightclub and had a clothing business for a while. He also found time to appear in several episodes of the popular television program Hawaii Five-O.
In later years Tommy Sands made an appearance at a rock-and-roll festival in England in 1990 and ten years later he was featured in the television special Hollywood Rocks The Movies.
Tommy Sands' name does not come up often when there are discussions of the early days of rock-and-roll, and his old songs receive very little play time on oldies radio stations. But that does not diminish the fact that he did a serviceable job with his acting career, drew comparisons to his contemporary Elvis Presley, and was very popular and a prominent figure in the early days of rock-and-roll.
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