This year marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of Francis Albert Sinatra in Hoboken, New Jersey. The self-described “premier saloon singer of the 20th century” is the focus of a nationwide retrospective honoring his birthday.
And although Sinatra departed this world almost 17 years ago, sometimes it seems he never left. If you’ve heard Spencer Racca sing, you’ll understand.
The 23-year-old Rayne native doesn’t just channel Sinatra, he lives him. All the time.
Everything Racca uses is from the ’50s, right down to the Murray’s and Royal Crown on his hair.
“They still come in the original tins,” he says.
Today he’s dressed as if he just stepped out of “A White Sport Coat (and a Pink Carnation),” Marty Robbins’ 1957 ode to proms everywhere. Racca’s wearing a soft gray pinstripe jacket, pale yellow shirt with matching pocket handkerchief, white trousers and white patent leather shoes.
“My apartment used to look like the set of ‘I Love Lucy.’ I had the vinyl chairs, everything, including a 1968 TV,” he says. “That’s what I’m comfortable with.”
His style is a combination of Sinatra and Bobby Darin with a splash of Michael Buble. His ultimate goal is Harry Connick.
“It’s a small subset of music,” he says. “The goal is to bring it out and have more guys up there.”
At the age of four, Racca discovered Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis in “At War with the Army,” and found he could imitate Dean Martin as well as Jerry Lewis. There was only one obstacle — he was shy.
“I would do it when my parents weren’t around,” he says, “and then one day they heard me.”
That was the beginning. “I would get new films for good grades,” he says.
There was a down side.
“Being from Rayne, there’s no one like me,” he says. “It’s tough making friends. I feel like I’m from a different time altogether, and all I can do is make the best of it.”
“This,” he adds, “is not my time.”
The music Racca performs ranges from early 20th century to ’80s.
“I’ll listen to other than that, but I don’t have an ear for it,” he says. “I have a connection with that (other) era.”
While the voice is one thing, the mannerisms and gestures are another. Racca says he picked up Sinatra’s body language subconsciously, but practices when a gig comes up.
“In front of a mirror, my parents — I meet people who’ve met Sinatra, and they tell me stories,” he says. “You have to have the whole package.”
With makeup and prosthetics, Racca is a dead ringer for a young Sinatra.
“I like channeling all those old guys,” he says.
Sinatra’s vocal range is easy for him, and he likes both his style and the King of the Rat Pack angle.
According to Racca, there is an extremely good market in New Orleans, Las Vegas and New York for his music style and he believes there could be locally.
“You can listen to something without vulgar language and it’s still meaningful,” he says.
His peers are a tough sell.
“Once they get a feel for it — that era — they appreciate it,” he says.
Racca has recently recorded a cover album for Jaded Records in Atlanta and while he aspires to do his own style one day, the plan right now is to do Old Blue Eyes as long as it lasts. He currently appears weekly at the Petroleum Club in Lafayette and plans to be Vegas-bound in the near future.
“What I really like is a gig that’s all Sinatra,” he says. “I enjoy the suaveness.”