Frank Sinatra hated rock and roll when it first emerged in the mid-1950s. In a 1957 article for the French magazine Western World, he called it "the most brutal, ugly, degenerate, vicious form of expression it has been my displeasure to hear."
"It fosters almost totally negative and destructive reactions in young people," Sinatra added. "It smells phony and false. It is sung, played and written for the most part by cretinous goons and by means of its almost imbecilic reiterations and sly, lewd—in plain fact, dirty—lyrics ... it manages to be the martial music of every sideburned delinquent on the face of the earth."
Rock and rollers haven't necessarily held a grudge against the Chairman, though. The members of Las Vegas-based punk band Franks and Deans, for example, have listened to Old Blue Eyes and his Rat Pack buddies for most of their lives.
"These songs have always been pushed down our throats by everybody—our grandparents, music teachers," said bassist-vocalist Rob DeTie.
Still, DeTie's love for the songs made famous by Sinatra and his associates inspired him to form the band.
"Obviously, Me First [and the Gimme Gimmes] and other bands that have done punk rock covers have inspired it," he said. "But I was just sitting back and was like, 'Man, this stuff needs to be brought back to life.'"
So far, DeTie and his bandmates have succeeded at that goal. Franks and Deans' debut album, How Did You All Get in My Room? (Squidhat Records, 2015), balances raucousness and reverence as it reinvents such Rat Pack chestnuts as "Ain't That a Kick in the Head," "The Lady is a Tramp" and "Mr. Bojangles." The group has become a fixture of the Vegas rock scene, hosting the Franks and Deans Weenie Roast at the Double Down Saloon the first Wednesday of every month and opening for acts like Jello Biafra, The Toasters and The Reverend Horton Heat.
Franks and Deans will play Friday, June 3, and Saturday, June 4, at Tom Grainey's. Both shows will feature performances by local burlesque dancers as well as Vegas-based dancer Nickole Muse.
Franks and Deans' current lineup includes two musicians with strong ties to Boise. Guitarist-vocalist Jordan Hoss led the local punk band Switch Hitter in the early- to mid-2000s. Ryan Sampson, who also sings and plays guitar, fronted the local ska-punk band The PirkQlaters around the same time.
The newest recruit to the band, Sampson joined in 2014 after getting a phone call from Hoss. When his friend explained the concept of the band, he wondered, "How has nobody even thought of this?"
"We get that a lot from other local bands around here," Sampson said. "Everybody's just mad because they didn't come up with it first."
That last remark might be slightly tongue-in-cheek: When Sampson talked to Boise Weekly, he stressed the supportiveness of the Vegas music scene.
"It's no secret that I was trying to get out [of Boise] for a long time," he said. "I kept moving somewhere and moving back, moving somewhere and moving back. And I don't know, man—this place is hopping. If there's a local show, you're gonna have a crowd. It's the damnedest thing that I'm not used to. ... And all the local bands show up for the other local bands. It's one big family."
When Vegas concert-goers check out the Franks and Deans Weenie Roast, they get something memorable.
"It is the dancing girls," Sampson said, "but there's magicians, there's comedians. We had a midget onstage; he took his shirt off and people were stapling dollars to him. It gets chaotic. Punk rock Ed Sullivan Show."
There's more to Franks and Deans than sensationalism, though. The band will often play four-hour sets and can spend months working on arrangements for different songs. According to Sampson and DeTie, their version of "Luck Be a Lady" proved especially hard to figure out.
"They were working on that before I even came down," Sampson said. "We tried everything—flamenco guitar, you name it. And Hoss actually locked himself in the music room and somehow connected Madness's 'Night Boat to Cairo,' 'Luck Be a Lady' and 'Ghost Town' by The Specials."
The band's repertoire keeps growing, too.
"Originally, it was just Rat Pack songs," Sampson said. "And then we started throwing Bobby Darin in there. Now, it's just crooners in general—like, still within that '40s to early-'60s music of Vegas. ... We're gonna have almost 60 songs in our arsenal."
Working on so many covers doesn't leave the band's members much time for writing original songs. DeTie doesn't mind, though.
"I still do a little bit of writing myself, but Franks is my main focus," he said.
Sampson felt the same way.
"Basically, what we're trying to do is take the old Great American Songbook and make it 'listenable' for the younger people," he said. "And it's fucking working."