The Paul Leslie Hour Episode #55 – George Benson

George Benson is a household name. His abilities as a guitarist and vocalist safely ensure his place as a legend in the world of pop, jazz and R&B. A ten time Grammy award-winner, George Benson’s career has been a prolific one: 36 studio albums, and 5 live albums. Some of his songs are perpetually on the radio years and years after being recorded. From instrumental compositions like “Breezin'” to pop songs like “Turn Your Love Around,” or his live cover of “On Broadway,” one thing is certain, the music of George Benson seems to radiate from his heart.

Stay tuned for after the interview for an in studio sampling of PERRIER ® , the sparkling natural mineral water with co-sampler Jason Burge!

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The Paul Leslie Hour Episode #53 – Sammy Nestico

Sammy Nestico is a composer and arranger who has worked with the most legendary artists in music. Loras Schissel of the Library of Congress said “Sammy Nestico and his music are a national treasure.” Involved in all aspects of the music industry, he’s most known as a composer and arranger, although he is also a conductor and has recorded albums under the banner of “The Sammy Nestico Orchestra.” Nestico has arranged and/or conducted albums for the likes of Frank Sinatra, Phil Collins, Barbra Streisand, Bing Crosby, Natalie Cole,  Ronnie Milsap, Pia Zadora, Sarah Vaughan, and so many others.  Although not as known for his songwriting, he has collaborated with Johnny Mercer, Stan Freberg, Bobby Troupe and Steve Allen. For 14 years he was the composer/arranger for the Count Basie Orchestra.

Sammy Nestico told his life story in his autobiography The Gift of Music. Recorded the day before his 94th birthday, we hope you will listen in! There is more to learn about than just music. Join us as we celebrate a venerable legend in music – Mr. Sammy Nestico.

The Paul Leslie Hour Episode #46 – Pia Zadora

There’s never been a story like the Pia Zadora story. Her stage career began at age 7. She’s been featured in major motion pictures, received numerous awards and has won over many people with her music. A performing and recording artist of several genres, Pia Zadora’s life has intersected with the likes of Frank Sinatra, Don Rickles, Jermaine Jackson and many others. On the cusp of releasing her latest album of standards from the American Songbook, we were honored to sit down and get to know this beloved artist.

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The Paul Leslie Hour Episode #41 – Frank Sinatra, Jr.

Frank Sinatra, Jr. was born on January 10, 1944. Music was definitely in Frank Sinatra, Jr.’s blood.  Like his legendary father, Frank Sinatra, Mr. Sinatra was a singer, performer and recording artist.

You will find Frank Sinatra, Jr. was a wealth of information, a very interesting and passionate man as well as a lover of the Great American Songbook, those songs written in the early half of the 20th century.  You could describe Frank Sinatra, Jr. as knowledgeable, honest and passionate.

Despite the fame of the Sinatra family name, Frank Sinatra, Jr. called himself a “homespun boy at heart,” and described himself as follows:  “Frank Sinatra, Jr. today is an old man who tells people that he was never famous he just has a famous name, and as it happens the only thing that justified his life is that he practiced what he believed.”

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The Paul Leslie Hour Episode #31 – Susan Birkenhead

Susan Birkenhead is one of the most in-demand theatre lyricists. She made her Broadway debut as a contributor to Working in 1978. Her songwriting has been featured in many productions both on and off Broadway, including Jelly’s Last Jam, Triumph of Love, High Society, Hats!, Radio Girl and most recently The Secret Life of Bees. Susan Birkenhead has written with some of the best composers including Charles Strouse, David Foster, Jule Styne and others. In fact, with Styne, Birkenhead wrote two songs recorded by Frank Sinatra.

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The Paul Leslie Hour Episode #28 – Tony Oppedisano

Tony Oppedisano’s background and passion is in music. One of Frank Sinatra’s close friends and his road manager, Oppedisano could play the guitar, bass and piano as well as sing. This foundation is one of the reasons Tony bonded with one of the greatest singers in the world, Frank Sinatra. His friendship and professional experience with Sinatra segued into his work managing the comic legend (and Sinatra friend) Don Rickles.

Frank Sinatra was born on December 12, 1915 in Hoboken, New Jersey. Join us as we celebrate the 102nd birthday of the greatest American singer, here on The Paul Leslie Hour.

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The Manchurian Candidate

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Most known as a singer, not everyone is aware of the magnitude Frank Sinatra had as an actor.  I recall my interview with Charles Pignone, the Senior Vice President of Frank Sinatra Enterprises.  Pignone told me that if Sinatra had never had the singing career, but only made movies he would have been a tremendous success.

As someone interested in hypnosis who has been self-hypnotized as well as hypnotized by others, the film The Manchurian Candidate has been mentioned in conversation a few times.  Recently, I saw it for the first time.  It did not disappoint.

A black and white film, The Manchurian Candidate  is a suspense thriller about the son of a very powerful, elite political family who have taken control of his mind.  It’s a very complicated plot and the sudden ending is something I couldn’t have predicted.  It stars such legends as Laurence Harvey, Janet Leigh, Angela Lansbury, James Gregory and Henry Silva.

I’ll confess I didn’t immediately recognize Silva, who played the role of the Chinese secret agent Chunjin.  I came to learn he’ll be celebrating his 89th birthday in a few days and has had a prolific career, mostly portraying gangsters.  He’s got a very unique look and has portrayed characters of a diverse number of ethnicities.  Silva caught my attention and I enjoyed researching him.

Henry Silva

You’ll remember Silva as one of the crooks in the classic Ocean’s 11 starring Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., and Peter Lawford.  In 1977, he worked with Sinatra again in Contract on Cherry Street, which my friend the singer & actor Robert Davi also acted in.  Henry Silva also provided the voice for the villain “Bane” in Batman: The Animated Series, which I thought was an impeccable series.  He ended his acting career in 2001 with the remake of Ocean’s 11.

The Manchurian Candidate is a terrific film that will make you realize why Sinatra was so fond of the storyline.  Furthermore, it’s a great introduction to the thespian side of Sinatra.  His presence on the screen is undeniable.  I got my copy on DVD from NetFlix.

Tom Dreesen: Stand-Up Comedian

Tom Dreesen is a man who has found the recipe for good health and happiness.  His prescription is that you do it 10 times a day.  He wants you to laugh.  


Like the song popularized by his friend the late Frank Sinatra, Tom Dreesen “took a few blows,” but he definitely “lived a life that’s full.”   
In this interview Tom shares his story with us, and it is an inspiring one.  

Sinatra called himself “a saloon singer” and his friend Tom Dreesen “a saloon comedian.”  Dreesen has made over 500 national television appearances, including many on The Late Show with David Letterman.  A friend of Dave’s, Tom Dreesen has even hosted the show in Dave’s absence.  A stand-up comedian, emcee, motivational speaker, and sometimes actor, he still considers himself a neighborhood guy.  

 

Gino Vannelli: Singer, Songwriter, Composer, Performer

GINO VANNELLI remains one of the most prolific recording artists in modern music.  Starting with his 1973 debut album “Crazy Life” and continuing all the way through the 2014 “Live in LA,” Gino Vannelli’s signature sound has included elements of everything from soul to soft rock.  His album “Canto” featured elements of classical, contemporary, pop, Celtic and Flamenco influences with songs sung in Italian, English, French and Spanish.

Vannelli is a philosophical man who seems to pursue the creative process with no restraint.  Join us as we meet the artist named Gino Vannelli.

Ervin Drake: Songwriter

April 3, 1919 – January 15, 2015

Ervin Drake could be considered one of the greatest songwriters of The American Songbook.  He joined us for a candid interview and his wife Edith shared her perspective as well.  Some of the Standards Ervin Drake wrote include “I Believe” and “It Was a Very Good Year.”  He also wrote English lyrics to the song “Tico-Tico” and “Quando, Quando.”  The songs of Ervin Drake have been recorded Some of the most celebrated singers and musicians of our time have recorded Ervin Drake’s songs including Frank Sinatra, Billie Holiday, Barbra Streisand, Elvis Presley, Frankie Laine, Duke Ellington, Steve Lawrence, Diana Ross, the Kingston Trio, and Perry Como…just to name a few.  Ervin Drake is also a visual artist and has also worked as a television producer.  He also worked with such legendary acts as Jackie Gleason and Milton Berle.  He was the President of the American Guild of Authors and Composers for many years and was a recognized person in New York’s theatre and cabaret scene.