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  • Writer's pictureCarroll Coates

Song Story – “No One Ever Tells You”

Updated: Jul 13, 2020

When music publisher Sam Weiss gave a copy of “No One Ever Tells You” to Frank Sinatra, it meant a sleepless night for arranger Nelson Riddle. Looking over the song, Sinatra announced, “I’ll record it tomorrow”. The ink was barely dry on Nelson’s arrangement when the orchestral parts arrived at the studio. Luckily, Sinatra was still running through the third song in the planned four-song session. My song was the fourth to be recorded.

Before Sinatra sang each song, he had Nelson Riddle and the orchestra run through the musical arrangements while he followed the vocal lead sheet. After the third song had been played for him to review this way, Sinatra paused briefly, then using two fingers, he lifted that lead sheet from the music stand, turned, let it drop to the floor, and said “Next”. My heart went out to that other writer, wherever he was, who thought his song was being recorded by the iconic vocalist of our time.

And my next thought was “I hope that doesn’t happen to mine!”

I was standing in the studio between Sam and Hank Sanicola, Sinatra’s manager. As Sinatra started rehearsing the song, I suddenly thought of a better word for one spot in the lyric. I whispered my thought to Sam, who dismissed it with a “Too late now.”

At that moment, I realized this would become the standard version of the song. If I didn’t change it right then and there, it would be “cast in stone”. So I broke away from the quiet group on the sidelines and walked over to Sinatra at the microphone, causing a gasp from all the onlookers – to dare to approach Sinatra when he was at the microphone was absolutely unheard of, let alone by this new guy at the session.

As I approached him, Sinatra gave me his famous “blue-eyed ray” stare. But after a pause, he said, kindly, “Yeah kid, what is it? I told him about my improved wording. Checking the copy on the music stand, he replied, “Yeah, you’re right, it’s better,” and made the penciled change right there. I headed back to my spot with the group, leaving lots of very curious people wondering what had just happened.

Sinatra then proceeded to start – and stop – singing the song more than a dozen times. Remembering what had just happened to the earlier third song, I started to get worried and asked Hank Sanicola what was wrong — “Doesn’t he like the song?” Quickly, Hank reassured me that his boss was just trying to “crack his voice” to get the right mood for my bluesy tune.

So Sinatra recorded the classic version of “No One Ever Tells You” that day and went on to release it in his 1956 album “A Swinging Affair” — plus as a single “so the kid would make more money”.

What a gas!

Photo of Frank Sinatra's Album a swingin' affair!

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