Tommy Sands (American singer)

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Tommy Sands
Tommy Sands 1957.JPG
Tommy Sands in 1957
Background information
Birth name Thomas Adrian Sands
Born (1937-08-27) August 27, 1937 (age 80)
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
Genres Country, Countrypolitan, Rockabilly, pop music
Occupation(s) Singer, Actor
Instruments Vocals, Guitar
Years active 1949-present
Labels RCA, Capitol, Buena Vista, Vista, ABC, Liberty, Imperial, Superscope

Thomas Adrian "Tommy" Sands (born August 27, 1937[1]) is an American pop music singer and actor. Working in show business as early as 1949, Sands became an overnight sensation and instant teen idol when he appeared on Kraft Television Theater in January 1957 as "The Singin' Idol". The song from the show, "Teen Age Crush", reached #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #1 on Cashbox.[2]

Early life[edit]

Sands was born into a musical family in Chicago, Illinois; his father, Ben, was a pianist, and his mother, Grace, a big-band singer.[1][3] He moved with the family to Shreveport, Louisiana. He began playing the guitar at eight and within a year had a job performing twice weekly on a local radio station. At the beginning of his teen years, he moved to Houston, Texas, where he attended Lamar High School and joined a band with "Jimmie Lee Durden and the Junior Cowboys", consisting of Sands, Durden, and Billy Reno. They performed on radio, at county fairs, and did personal appearances.[1] He was only 15 when Colonel Tom Parker heard about him and signed him to RCA Records.


Sands's initial recordings achieved little in the way of sales but in early 1957 he was given the opportunity to star in an episode of Kraft Television Theatre. He played the part of a singer who was very similar to Elvis Presley, with guitar, pompadour hair, and excitable teenage fans. On the show, his song presentation of a Joe Allison composition called "Teen-Age Crush" went over big with the young audience and, released as a single by Capitol Records, it went to #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 record chart and #1 on the Cashbox chart.[1] It became a gold record. His track, "The Old Oaken Bucket", peaked at #25 on the UK Singles Chart in 1960.[4]

His sudden fame brought an offer to sing at the Academy Awards show and his teen idol looks landed him a motion-picture contract to star in a 1958 musical drama called Sing, Boy, Sing, the feature film version of "The Singin' Idol". About this time, he also appeared on an episode of The Ford Show, Starring Tennessee Ernie Ford. His pioneering contribution to the genre has been recognized by the Rockabilly Hall of Fame. In 1961 he and Annette Funicello sang the Sherman Brothers' title song from the Walt Disney release of The Parent Trap. During the 1960s Sands served in the U.S. Air Force Reserves.


Sands played a youngster struggling with growing up and becoming a man on an episode of Zane Grey Theatre titled "The Promise". The episode aired on November 8, 1957.[5] Sands performed in several films including Sing, Boy, Sing, the feature film version of "The Singin' Idol" (1958), Mardi Gras (1958),[1] Babes in Toyland (1961), The Longest Day (1962), Ensign Pulver (1964), and None but the Brave (1965), playing a Marine Second Lieutenant and directed by Frank Sinatra, but both his singing and film career had faded by the 1970s. He does still make sporadic public appearances as a singer.

Sands appeared in the 1960 episode of Wagon Train - "The Larry Hanify Story".

On May 14, 1963, Sands appeared, along with Claude Akins and Jim Davis, in "Trapped", one of the last episodes of NBC's Laramie western series.[6] In the story line, series character Slim Sherman (John Smith) finds an injured kidnap victim in the woods, portrayed by Mona Freeman. Dennis Holmes, as series regular Mike Williams, rides away to seek help, but the kidnappers reclaim the hostage. Slim pursues the kidnappers but is mistaken as a third kidnapper by the girl's father, played by Barton MacLane. Sands plays the girl's boyfriend, who had been ordered by her father to stop seeing her.[7]

Later in 1963, Sands joined Peter Falk in "The Gus Morgan Story" on ABC's Wagon Train. They appear as brothers who disagree on the route for a railroad that Gus, played by Falk, is building through snow-covered mountains. Sands, as Ethan Morgan, accidentally shoots wagonmaster Chris Hale, played by John McIntire, while the brothers are in the mountains looking at route options. Gus makes the decision to leave Hale behind, even choking him and believing that Hale is dead. Ethan has been overcome with oxygen deprivation and needs Gus's assistance to reach safety down the mountain. Unbeknownst to the Morgans, Hale crawls down the mountain through snow determined to obtain revenge against Gus. In time though Hale comes to understand the difficult choice made by Morgan, and the brothers reconcile their own differences. This episode is remembered for its examination of how far a man will persist amid adversity to preserve his own life and his brother's.[8]

In 1965, Sands guest starred playing the role as Private Carey on the television series Combat! starring Vic Morrow in Season 3, Episode 19 "More Than A Soldier" "Out of ammo, Saunders is holed up with terrified young Private Carey ('Tommy Sands' ): a pacifistic draftee who can't bring himself to fire on their pursuer, a relentless German sergeant."[9]

Sands appeared twice on the NBC education drama, Mr. Novak, starring James Franciscus in the title role. He had a guest role in the 1968 episode No Blue Skies and the 1975 episode Hit Gun for Sale of Jack Lord's police drama, Hawaii Five-O.

Personal life[edit]

Nancy Sinatra and Tommy Sands, 1962

Tommy Sands and singer Nancy Sinatra married in 1960 and divorced in 1965.[10] His career had declined significantly by 1965, triggering speculation that Frank Sinatra had him "blacklisted" in the entertainment industry after their divorce.[11] Such reports were denied by both Sands and Sinatra.[12] In 1974, Sands married Sheila Wallace, a secretary, in Honolulu, where he had relocated in an attempt to revive his career.[13]



Year Film Role
1958 Sing, Boy, Sing Virgil Walker
1958 Mardi Gras Barry Denton
1961 Love in a Goldfish Bowl Gordon Slide
1961 Babes in Toyland Tom Piper
1962 The Longest Day U.S. Army Ranger
1964 Ensign Pulver John X. Bruno
1965 None but the Brave 2nd Lt. Blair
1967 The Violent Ones Mike Marain


Year Series Role
1957 The Singin' Idol as himself
1957 The Ford Show, Starring Tennessee Ernie Ford[14] as himself
1960 The Larry Hanify Story, as Larry Hanify[15]
1964 Slattery's People Jed Haskell
1964 Kraft Suspense Theatre Eddie Riccio
1965 Bonanza (episode, The Debt) Wiley Kane
1965 Combat! Private Carey
1968 Hawaii Five-O Joey Rand


U.S. singles discography[edit]

  • Teenage Crush / Hep Dee Hootie (Cutie Wootie) - Capitol 1957 (U.S. #2, 2 wks.; #10 R&B;[16] Cashbox #1)
  • My Love Song / Ring-A-Ding-Ding - Capitol 1957
  • Goin' Steady / Ring My Phone - Capitol 1957
  • Sing Boy Sing / Crazy 'Cause I Love You - Capitol 1957
  • After The Senior Prom / Big Date - Capitol 1958
  • I'll Be Seeing You / That's The Way I Am - Capitol 1959
  • The Old Oaken Bucket / These Are The Things You Are - Capitol 1960
  • A Young Man's Fancy / Connie - Capitol 1963

U.S. LP discography[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e Murrells, Joseph (1978). The Book of Golden Discs (2nd ed.). London: Barrie and Jenkins Ltd. p. 95/6. ISBN 0-214-20512-6. 
  2. ^ Tommy Sands at the RAB Hall of Fame
  3. ^ [1]
  4. ^ Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 481. ISBN 1-904994-10-5. 
  5. ^ IMDb
  6. ^ "Laramie: "Trapped", May 14, 1963". Internet Movie Data Base. Retrieved September 23, 2012. 
  7. ^ "Laramie: "Trapped", May 14, 1963". Retrieved September 23, 2012. 
  8. ^ "Wagon Train: "The Gus Morgan Story"". Retrieved October 7, 2012. 
  9. ^ "Combat!: "More Than A Soldier", January 26, 1965". Internet Movie Data Base. 
  10. ^ McKay, Mary-Jane (25 February 2005). "Nancy Sinatra Walking Back to Fame". CBS News. Retrieved 22 May 2015. 
  11. ^ "Sands, the boy next door, comes home". Chicago Tribune. August 12, 1977. p. 9. 
  12. ^ Starkey, Ed (2008). My Life, My Way: Frank 'Ol Blue Eyes' Sinatra. Bloomington, Indiana: AuthorHouse. p. 157. 
  13. ^ The Citizen Advertiser, Auburn, NY, April 16, 1974. Retrieved July 20, 2015.
  14. ^ The Tennessee Ernie Ford Show at IMDb
  15. ^ Wagon Train at IMDb
  16. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2004). Top R&B/Hip-Hop Singles: 1942-2004. Record Research. p. 511. 

External links[edit]