Bobby Cole

Oneonta fan’s labor of love puts “Sinatra’s favorite saloon singer’ back in the spotlight

Omnivore Recordings has reissued this 1967 gem from jazz pianist and singer Bobby Cole

Oneonta resident Marie Hegeman was looking for a song appropriate for a Valentine’s Day 2014 Facebook posting to her husband, Tom, and remembered a song called “The Lady’s In Love With You” she knew would fit the bill. She tracked down the song and its performance on YouTube – a clip from a February 1964 episode of “The Judy Garland Show” – performed by Bobby Cole and his trio.

“I posted it and spent the rest of the day watching it,” she said. “I’d sneak off during work to watch it again. It’s amazing.”

As music fans do when suddenly obsessed with an artist new to them, she dug as deeply as possible to find more from Mr. Cole and his trio – but his catalog of recorded music was small. He nonetheless was a favorite among some of music’s greatest names – he was musical arranger for CBS-TV’s “The Judy Garland Show” and musical director on her last tour in 1967. And no less an authority on the subject than Frank Sinatra proclaimed Bobby Cole his “favorite saloon singer” during Mr. Cole’s residency at Jilly’s in New York City.

Ms. Hegeman left glowing comments on line about the video, vivid and sincere enough to attract the attention of the late Mr. Cole’s Florida-based daughter, Stephanie Edmonds. The two began exchanging e-mail messages and, as the friendship developed, so, too, did a handful of other ideas. They formed the Upper East Side Jazz Company in 2021 to preserve and promote Bobby Cole’s work and, in December, found a home for two dozen of his recordings.

The lovingly remastered collection of his 1967 album “A Point of View” was released in April on Omnivore Recordings, a national record label that has earned industry-wide success and respect for its attention to great, but not necessarily often heard, music. “If you’re hungry for inspiration and adventuresome in your musical taste, we invite you to dive in,” says Omnivore’s website.

Of Mr. Cole’s album, Omnivore says this: “A Point of View made waves in the boroughs, was raved about in Billboard and Cash Box, and then disappeared – but became a coveted prize by those who experienced it. Artists including Freddy Cole (Nat’s brother), Nancy Sinatra, and Tom Jones all covered material from it.” Grammy-winner Cheryl Pawelski produced the album for release.

The nationwide re-emergence of this recording from an artist who, as one critic noted, is “the epitome of what a jazz pianist should be” began with Marie Hegeman’s musical archaeology dig.

“For the past eight years, I’ve been gathering what I could from YouTube and other websites,” she said. As her on-line collection grew and correspondence with Ms. Edmonds continued, she and her husband, Oneonta attorney Tom Hegeman, began working with Ms. Edmonds to unravel intellectual property laws and secure the rights to Mr. Cole’s catalog of work. After a German record producer contacted the Hegemans to discuss licensing to include selections from Mr. Cole’s career on a multi-artist compilation, Mrs. Hegeman called Ms. Edmonds.

“I said, hey, why don’t we license your dad’s work,” she said. The long process led to a publishing company picking up the catalog and offering it to different labels. Omnivore extended the offer that has led to the re-release of “A Point of View” on compact disc and streaming services; a two-disc vinyl issue is on its way in November 2022.

“This is totally a labor of love,” Mrs. Hegeman said. “Tracking down Bobby Cole music became my hobby. He’s so insanely talented. I just wanted to figure out a way to get it out there for everyone to hear.”

For Stephanie Edmonds, hearing her father’s work brings mixed emotions.

“I can get a little too close to it emotionally,” she said. “Hearing it can be difficult. There have been times when I’ve wanted to protect him and hide his music, but then I see it everywhere on line and I know that it brings people joy.”

“We’re both protecting your dad’s work,” Marie Hegeman adds.

“I’m incredibly grateful to Marie,” Ms. Edmonds said. “Her dedication to my dad’s music is amazing, she’s honored it so beautifully. She worked so hard to restore the rights to me and bring his music back to the world.”

There are more Bobby Cole recordings  that may eventually see the light of day – projects that Ms. Edmonds said move into a more autobiographical vein and featured his later-in-life ‘Joe Cocker / Louis Armstrong’ kind of raspy voice rather than the saloon-song tones from his days as Frank Sinatra’s favorite.

“A Point of View” isn’t Oneonta’s only connection to Mr. Cole’s work – he was the first to record Oneonta native Jerry Jeff Walker’s calling card, “Mr. Bojangles.” As luck would have it, though, Jerry Jeff released his own version of the record just one week after Mr. Cole.

The Oneonta link continues; Mrs. Hegeman regularly updates the Bobby Cole Facebook page @bobbycolesinatra with audio and video clips, and there’s a Spotify file including all of his original works. It’s a fascinating trip through outstanding music that deserves the larger audience she envisioned from that first view of the YouTube clip all those years ago.


2 thoughts on “Bobby Cole

  1. Sara Xavier

    Marie introduced me to Bobby Cole’s music almost 4 years ago and I thoroughly enjoy every note. I love that his music if reaching so many new people. Yay Marie and Stephanie for sharing Bobby’s music and legacy.

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