By Ed Karvoski Jr., Culture Editor
Peabody – When singer George Lyons of Peabody began performing in the mid-1970s, his vocal style was frequently compared to the crooning of Frank Sinatra. Since the entertainment legend passed away in 1998, Lyons has kept Sinatra’s memories and music alive on New England stages.
He immediately became a fan in the 1950s when hearing Sinatra tunes on a car radio.
“I loved the richness of his voice, singing upbeat songs with great orchestrations,” Lyons recalled. “I thought he sounded hip – although I didn’t even know what ‘hip’ meant then.”
His admiration grew when he attended Sinatra concerts nationwide including New York City’s Carnegie Hall and the Providence Civic Center in Rhode Island. As the most memorable, he cites the first time seeing his idol’s in-person performance Oct. 2, 1974, at the original Boston Garden.
“Frank’s version of ‘My Way’ that night is included in ‘The Main Event’ LP of his nationally-televised concert at Madison Square Garden on Oct 13, 1974,” Lyons noted. “Sinatra exuded an electricity that was felt all over the venue. He was unique; there will never be a successor.”
During that time in the 1970s, Lyons sang with the Al Vega Trio. They performed on the 1976 WCVB-TV Channel 5 special “Christmas in New England,” set at the Endicott Estate in Dedham with the late Dusty Springfield and Rod McKuen. In the 1980s, he partnered with singer-pianist Cyndia Shook. Among the duo’s gigs was a yearlong engagement three nights a week at the former Duttons Restaurant in Quincy.
When Sinatra passed away in 1998, Lyons felt it was time for him to pay tribute to his idol onstage. Self-described as “a sound-alike, not a lookalike,” he began working with a talent agency that booked celebrity impersonators.
A tuxedo-clad Lyons performs the impersonation his way. He focuses on Sinatra’s tone – sans a fedora. He theorizes why many Sinatra impersonators accessorize their formal wear.
“They don’t realize that Sinatra never wore a fedora while wearing a tux,” he said. “They don’t have sufficient vocal chops and need props to explain who they’re imitating.”
Among the first jobs the agent booked for Lyons was at Maison Robert, the upscale Boston restaurant housed in the Old City Hall until its closing in 2004. Since 2015, he has performed his Sinatra tribute annually at “The Best Years Expo” at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro. There in 2016, Lyons shared a stage with Florence Henderson the month before she passed away.
“Florence was 82 and looked amazing,” he noted.
In complete contrast, Lyons performed at a Brockton Burger King employee’s retirement party after she worked there 40 years.
“She started working part-time, mother’s hours and then stayed after her kids grew up,” Lyons explained. “She’s supposedly the longest-running burger slinger in BK history. There was a clown, an acrobat, a pony, and me singing ‘My Way.’”
One of his most intimate performance settings was a hotel room on Cape Cod with an audience of two. A granddaughter from Wisconsin hired him to surprise her grandparents with a private Sinatra concert as they celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary.
A potential job prompted Lyons to add other celebrity impersonations to his resume.
“An agent told me somebody wanted a Neil Diamond impersonator,” Lyons relayed. “I had never heard of Neil Diamond.”
Now, he impersonates Diamond along with Tony Bennett, Sammy Davis Jr., Engelbert Humperdinck, Dean Martin, Elvis Presley and others upon request.
“I’ve sung in front of thousands of people at Gillette Stadium and in a hotel room for two,” Lyons said. “My motto is, ‘Have songs, will travel.’”
For more information about Lyons, visit soundslikefrank.com.