Hour Detroit: What are your earliest music memories?
Bob Anderson: My mother’s side of the family were well-known musicians. My uncle Jimmy Stevenson used to be at WXYZ as Soupy Sales’ conductor and piano player, and his son Billy Stevenson was a very well known singer. Everybody could sing in my family. My two sisters, all of my brothers, my mom and dad. I never really thought about getting into show business but I do remember singing along to the record player for hours every day. I would fall asleep at night listening to music. I just fell in love with all of the singers of the Golden Age of music.
How did you transition into impressions?
I’m [performing] with Joan Rivers and Merv Griffin walks into the club and says, “I’m having a party at my house on Saturday, and I’d like you to come.” I go to his house, and I feel so out of place. The biggest stars in the world are there. Merv starts playing the piano and asks me to sing. He played the music of Johnny Mathis, so I started going into Johnny Mathis. I didn’t know I could do that, but the sound of his voice was embedded in my brain. Then he went into Tony Bennett’s music so I did Tony Bennett. To make a long story short — Merv said, “You’re going to be the singing impressionist.” So, I went on [The Merv Griffin Show] and did all these singers. I was the first person to do singing impressions on television.
Why did you eventually decide to focus solely on Sinatra?
Sinatra’s the most difficult person I ever tried to impersonate. There’s nothing to hold onto except quality. I believe he was one of the greatest, if not the greatest, of the 20th century. It was the period he belonged to that gave us Motown. It gave us Smokey Robinson. It gave us Marvin Gaye. Then there was country. Then, it was Elvis Presley, Bobby Darin, Tony Bennett. It was wonderful music. I’m trying to keep that music going.
How did you perfect your impression?
I studied Sinatra. I had a room that I surrounded with mirrors except one wall where I had a big television. At 6 every morning, I would put a tuxedo on and play Sinatra songs and videos. I did it two hours a day, five days a week, for a year.
What makes your Sinatra different from other impressionists?
I’m a singer first who happens to be an impressionist, and I’m an actor. I try to recreate a person. I take on their person, their voice. I went one step further with Sinatra. It’s really a theatrical production. It’s going to go to Broadway. And it’s unlike any other thing in the world when it comes to a Frank Sinatra show.
June 15. $55+. Fox Theatre; 2211 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 800-745-3000; 313presents.com