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  • Carroll Coates

Song Story – "London by Night", 1957 Billy May Arrangement

Updated: Sep 8

The second time Frank Sinatra recorded “London By Night” was at Capitol Records, Studio A, at Hollywood and Vine in Los Angeles. Sinatra sent word via Sam Weiss, my musical mentor, inviting me to the session. Sam was also my music publisher, back then before I formed my own publishing company, Micana Music, which allowed me to be both the writer and publisher of my work.


I may have been about to have my song recorded by Frank Sinatra, but I wasn’t making a living with my music yet. I was working as a gas station attendant at a Union 76 in nearby Beverley Hills. When Sam pointed out I would probably be at work that day, Sinatra responded, “So have him come in his uniform.”


Being invited to a Sinatra recording session was a coveted privilege and many of the other guests knew each other. Fe


w, however, knew me — and my work outfit caused some very surprised looks from the other folks there. I’d had enough presence of mind, though, to leave my Union 76 cap back at the station!


In addition to producer Voyle Gilmore and his staff in the control room, the studio itself was packed with about forty other onlookers, plus a complete 45-piece orchestra, with chairs, musical instruments, music stands, microphones, and cables snaking across the floor. There was a palpable tension, along with a low murmur in the room, as everyone waited for Sinatra to arrive so they could judge what kind of mood he was in that day. An anxious quiet fell as soon as he walked in. Sinatra was smiling and seemed to be in a good mood. Immediately you could feel the anxiety level drop and a more relaxed atmosphere take its place.


Sinatra spotted me and


said, “Come here, kid… Sit here and don’t make a sound.” He always called me “kid”, even many years later when my beard was decidedly gray. Surprising everyone, he had pulled up a chair next to him at the microphone — to have someone so close to him while he was recording was quite remarkable, let alone a guy in a Union 76 uniform. Sinatra then looked around the room and said, “OK, let’s make a record,” causing a flurry of activity as the musicians took their seats, fine-tuned their instruments, and adjusted their music stands.


The folks on the sidelines were left wondering, “Who is this person?” as very few were aware that I had written one of the songs about to be recorded. I stayed in that chair, quiet as the proverbial church mouse, through the entire four-song recording session. Sinatra was obviously in good spirits, joking around. He looked at me while singing a particularly long note in “April In Paris”, holding his stomach and pretending to be out of breath but finishing the phrase with perfect timing and to


ne.


Then I heard my song recorded with Sinatra singing and Billy May conducting a full orchestra. I was so overwhelmed with how beautiful it sounded, I almost burst into tears – almost, as I dared not make a sound so close to the microphone. This recording of “London By Night” was released in 1957 by Capitol Records as part of Frank Sinatra’s milestone album “Come Fly With Me”.




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