Bob Anderson: The Dean of Impressionists Dean Martin once said about Bob Anderson, "Bob does me better than I do me!"
It's even more than the fact that People magazine dubbed him "America's greatest singing impressionist." To be or not to be was never the question for Anderson - while others dreamed of being recording stars, Anderson actually became them - from Frank to Dean, Sammy, Tony Bennett, Mel Torme, Steve Lawrence, Tom Jones, Jack Jones, Engelbert Humperdinck and an incredible host of others. No one had ever impersonated these vocal giants before -- when Anderson began his career back in the 70's, there were no singing impressionists. Rich Little, David Frye, Fred Travalena, and Babe Pier were on the scene but their impressions focused on politicians, actors and other "talking" personalities. Jim Bailey was doing vocal impressions, but only of specific female artists such as Barbra Streisand and Judy Garland... and in full drag.
They keynote for Anderson was that he possessed a wonderful voice of his own. Always a fan of the best music, the top singers and the kinds of songs that became classics, standards and award-winners, Anderson has been influenced by the great artists who had made their mark on the world of music. He had no time for the songs that disappeared into oblivion after a few short weeks on the Rock 'n Roll charts. As a young boy, he would listen over and over and over again to the sounds of Sinatra, Davis, Bennett and the others in that genre and would sing along with their records.
Subconsciously, their vocal sounds became imbedded in Anderson's brain; little did he know at the time that one day, with his natural gift for mimicry, he would be able to reproduce those voices in an uncanny manner. Nor did he know that he would have the chance to know all these artists and be able to observe them firsthand so that he could gain the most important element to his future act - the ability to reproduce their authentic personalities, which he had observed up close and personally. And never in his wildest dreams did he expect that he would grow up to become the very first singing impressionist and the only one to ever be endorsed publicly by all these great stars on national TV.
Anderson actually began his career signing in local piano bars and supper clubs in Detroit, where he was born and raised. Upon visiting Las Vegas in 1973 to check the town out, he walked over to the Sahara Hotel where Nancy Sinatra was appearing in the main showroom. Opening the showroom doors, he discovered that Nancy was rehearsing for the show. He sat down in a booth in the back of the room, in the dark. He quietly watched the goings-on.
And then fate stepped in.
The Everly Brothers, who were to open for Sinatra, got into a fight. After three hours of rehearsal, they split up their act and left, leaving Nancy looking for an opening act. "One of the Everlys used to sing her duets such as 'Something Stupid' and 'Jackson' with her", Bob recalls, "and everyone was freaked out. They were going to change the whole show. So I walked up to the stage and told them that I was a singer from Detroit and could do those songs. Everybody laughed, but Billy Strange, Nancy's conductor, who had been Elvis' arranger, said, 'Give the kid a mic; we open in a few hours.' I ended up opening that night and Nancy took me to a shop on Maryland Parkway and bought me a tuxedo. My first time in Las Vegas, my first casino, and my name was on the marquee that evening."
After that, Nancy took the 22 year old Anderson on tour with her all over Nevada. Then in 1974, she brought the young singer on "The Merv Griffin Show" with her. Anderson sang "If" and his performance was caught by Paul Anka. Anka then called Bob and told him that he wanted to introduce him again on "The Merv Griffin Show" and that he had composed a song he wanted Bob to sing. So Anderson went on the show again a few weeks later.