1. The Background
Frank Sinatra discovered Jack Daniel’s one sleepless night in the early 1940s. “It’s been the oil to my engine ever since,” he later said. He famously praised “anything that gets you through the night, be it prayer, tranquilizers or Jack Daniel’s.” Frank always kept a bottle nearby, offstage, and he was buried with a flask of JD in his casket.
In her autobiography, Judith Campbell Exner—the moll who was mistress to both John F. Kennedy and the head of the Chicago mob—recalled a day spent with Sinatra. He “acknowledged the comings and goings of an endless string of visitors, growled at flunkies, drank martinis, ate lunch, drank Jack Daniel’s, ate hors d’oeuvres, drank Jack Daniel’s, ate dinner, and drank more Jack Daniel’s.”
By the mid-1960s, Sinatra could drink a fifth of Jack Daniel’s and still go on stage.
Like any respectable Sinatra aficionado, I’ve imbibed my share of Tennessee’s trademark sour mash whiskey. And as the author of a new book titled “Sinatra’s Century,” I had extra incentive to try the latest ultra-premium Jack Daniel’s bottle, sent to me by my editor at The Wall Street Journal. Called, by coincidence, Sinatra Century, the limited-edition 100-proof whiskey was aged in 100 “alligator-charred” oak barrels (so called for their scaly interior surface, the deepest of all the chars used to impart flavor and color to the liquor). It hit shelves in October, in plenty of time for toasts to Frank Sinatra on his 100th birthday, December 12, 2015.
I wrote my book because I’ve loved the singer’s voice, musical savvy and definitive versions of standards ever since I heard “All the Way” and “Witchcraft” on the radio when I was 8 or 9. Timing it to the centennial, I wrote the book in 100 parts, because Sinatra’s career ran parallel to and threw into relief what Henry Luce called the “American century,” and because the century is the perfect form for a subject with so many facets.