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Crooner Tony Martelli brings back memories at Taylor Community Center«»
SINGER TONY MARTELLI performed before an appreciative audience at the Taylor Community's Woodside Building in Laconia on Friday afternoon. He sang tunes associated with the great singers of the pre-rock era—Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Nat King Cole, Tony Bennett, and Bobby Darin. (JIM CLARK/CITIZEN)By JIM CLARK

LACONIA — Crooner Tony Martelli found his perfect audience on Friday — senior citizens at the Taylor Community's Woodside Building — those who remember the heyday of Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Nat King Cole, Tony Bennett and Bobby Darin.

Martelli sang the songs associated with Ol' Blue Eyes, Dino, the "King," Tony, Bobby and others during an afternoon performance.  He sang on Thursday and Friday night in the Blue Bistro Room at the Naswa Resort, 1086 Weirs Blvd., and performed there again on Saturday starting at 6 p.m.

Although he's worked in the past with a full orchestra and with small combos, Martelli performed before the Taylor Community audience with just a small sound system and a music box containing instrumentals.

Martelli seemed to be just off the plane from Las Vegas, and looked dapper in a black suit, white shirt and tieless. He delivered banter and some good-natured risque jokes between numbers, just like Frank, Dino and Sammy Davis Jr. used to do on the Vegas strip.

Martelli has been a resident of Delay Beach, Fla. for the past 11 years, and has performed at clubs all across south Florida, including those inPalm Beach and Boca Raton. He is a devotee of the two leading members of the "Rat Pack"—The Chairman of the Board, Frank Sinatra, and the Ultimate Laid Back Cool Cat, Dean Martin.

Martelli is a native of Boston's Back Bay section, and his identification with famous Italian singers started early.  However, he began singing professionally only about nine years ago. 

His world changed when, on a dare, a friend asked him to sing at a party. From there, a new career was born. In addition to the south Florida club circuit, Martelli has performed on cruise ships in Barcelona, Spain, in Brazil and South Korea.

However, Martelli's background is nothing like his heroes Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin. As a young man, he joined the U.S. Navy and was eventually assigned to duty relating to nuclear weapons security. He also served as a SWAT team member on ships charged with quick reaction response in the event of an emergency.

After retiring from the Navy, he became a bodyguard and was trained by Executive Security International. His instructors included former Secret Service agents and bomb experts. He then worked security for Liberty Mutual Insurance Corp.

Martelli was Mitt Romney's driver during the 2012 presidential campaign, and also in the early 1990s, he was on the security detail for presidential candidates Bill Clinton and Ross Perot.

A few years ago, Martelli auditioned for the hit TV show "America's Got Talent."  He impressed the talent coordinators who were screening applicants, and almost got a slot on the program. However, Howard Stern, radio's bad boy and a committed rock 'n roll fan, had just joined the cast of judges. Stern nixed Martelli's appearance because he didn't want the music of Sinatra and Martin on the program.  

Among the numbers that Martelli performed during his Taylor Community Centerappearance were songs associated with Sinatra — "Come Fly With Me," "Come Dance With Me" and "Cheek to Cheek."  From the Nat King Cole songbook, Martelli sang "Unforgettable" and "L-O-V-E."

He also did a Dean Martin impression from the Sands Hotel in Vegas, circa 1963.  Sinatra used to call Martin "drunky Dean," and Martelli has the Martin style and stage manner down-pat.  He did Dino's takes on "When You're Drinkin' (Smilin')," "The Gentleman (Lady) Is A Tramp" and "That's Amore."

Martelli also sang numbers associated with the late Bobby Darin and the ageless Tony Bennett, who will be celebrating his 90th birthday this month and still performs and sells out concerts wherever he goes.

Martelli also sang "You Belong To Me," a number he identified with the doo-wop group The Duprees, and Dean Martin.  Both covered the song, and the tune has been recorded by some 75 singers over the years. However, a woman in the audience politely pointed out that the original hit was recorded by Jo Stafford in 1952, which went to number one. "You Belong To Me" was Stafford's biggest hit.

Most people are aware of Elvis Presley impersonators and those singers who do Elvis tribute shows.  Not as many are aware of vocalists who perform the Sinatra songbook live in concert and do shows in tribute to the heyday of the Las Vegas "Rat Pack." Martelli is one of these performers.  

If you're in the age bracket in which the names of Sinatra, Martin, Cole, Bennett and Darin mean nothing to you, ask your parents or grandparents about them. These singers were among the giants of the pre-rock era, and their music lives on.

Tony Martelli