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Johnny P: 'More People Than You Might Think' Know Standards

Ben Briseno
Johnny Panzarella

To listen to Johnny P and the Wise Guys is to be transported back in time to smoke-filled rooms at the casinos of old in the 1960s. Vocalist Johnny Panzarella has been fronting his band since 2007. Growing up in New York, Panzarella was turned on to singers like Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, and Dean Martin. “It was all around the house, and it rubs off on you. It sticks with you. I always latched on to jazz-oriented music and the standards.”

Despite some of the songs being nearly 100 years old, Panzarella says younger audiences know the tunes he sings.

“I think a big reason for that is because of a cat by the name of Michael Bublé. He's very popular and he's a heck of a talent, and I love the guy. I think he's doing great things keeping the standards alive. A lot of kids come out to see us and they love the Bublé stuff, [and] they love the swing bands from like the late ‘90s the Cherry Poppin’ Daddies, Squirrel Nut Zippers, all those type of bands. So a lot of younger people have been exposed to it. More people than you might think.”

What's Johnny P's favorite Sinatra album?

"There's this album from the ‘50s on the Capitol Records label, called 'Where Are You?' and it's one of my favorite albums from Frank," Panzarella says. "It features great arrangements by this cat by the name of Gordon Jenkins. He's got these beautiful string parts and it's all these gorgeous saloon songs, just really beautiful ballads. Nobody sang the ballads like Sinatra did." 

Listen to Texas Public Radio this Saturday night at 7:00 to this week’s Live At Jazz, TX and hear classics like “Basin Street Blues,” “Angel Eyes,” original tunes “Farewell To Love,” and Johnny P’s humorous asides between the numbers.  You can also check out the show on demand in the audio player below.

Nathan has been with TPR since 1995, when he began working on classical music station KPAC 88.3 FM, as host of “Tuesday Night at the Opera.” He soon learned the ropes on KSTX 89.1 FM, and volunteered to work practically any shift that came his way, on either station. He worked in nearly every capacity on the radio before moving into Community Engagement, Marketing, and Digital Media. His reporting and criticism has been honored by the Houston Press Club and Texas Associated Press.