Tommy Sands

Tommy Sands
Frank Carroll / NBC Photo


Tommy Sands
Music: East side of the 1500 block of Vine Street
Actor | Singer
Born Aug. 27, 1937 in Chicago, Ill.

Tommy Sands was a natural-born entertainer who began his professional career at age 5 when he sneaked out of the house and successfully auditioned, solo, for a local radio program. At 10, the pop music prodigy boarded a Chicago city bus alone and fast-talked his way into a role on WBKB TV’s "Lady of the Mountain" series.

By 12, Sands was a featured performer on the KWKH Louisiana Hayride radio show, working alongside country stars Hank Williams, Faron Young, Webb Pierce and the Maddox Brothers and Rose, and by 1954, was being represented by famed promoter Col. Tom Parker. That led to a string of appearances with Elvis Presley and a contract with RCA Records, where legendary guitarist-A&R man Chet Atkins personally oversaw all of Sands' sessions.

While Presley became a sensation, Sands made little impact until his riveting 1958 performance as an Elvis-type rock 'n' roll idol in the Kraft Theater television show "The Singing Idol." The top rated drama led to a deal with Capitol Records and his first million-selling hit “Teenage Cutie.” A bona fide overnight rock 'n' roll star on par with Ricky Nelson and Pat Boone, Sands toured the country playing stadiums full of wild-eyed fans, but, after starring in "Sing Boy Sing," a motion picture version of "The Singing Idol," Sands began dividing his time between singing and acting jobs.

He memorably costarred in Disney’s "Babes in Toyland" and joined the sprawling ensemble cast of "The Longest Day." In 1960, he married Nancy Sinatra after a whirlwind romance that dominated teen and gossip magazines. Musically, Sands distanced himself from rock and roll and, like Bobby Darin, developed a more sophisticated nightclub act. After his marriage ended in 1965, Sands, weary from decades of nonstop work, retreated to Hawaii for a well-earned semi-retirement.

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