There are some amazing parallels between Michael aka Sonny Averona Jr. and his father Sonny Averona Sr. For one, even though he’s an internationally known crooner, Sonny Jr. still runs the same auto shop on 61st street in Philadelphia that his father started a half century ago. In fact some of the biggest names in show business still come to Sonny’s Auto for custom cars.
But for countless fans of Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin, Sonny Averona Jr. is their chance to still see some of the greatest music ever recorded. Likewise, Sonny Jr. is a living connection to one of the best singing voices the city of Philadelphia has ever produced.
25 years ago, his father, Sonny Sr. was an auto salvage guy from Philly who thanks to his talent found himself on the brink of stardom. In fact, he brought his unique take on the Sinatra sound around the world including to Russia.
The entertainment editor of the New York Times soon caught on and did a feature just as the auto parts man from Philly was poised for a one in a million shot to fame. Sadly, just as his moment in the sun was upon him, Sonny Averona Sr. suddenly passed away.
They say the oak sleeps in the acorn and so the silver living in the passing of Sonny Sr. was that his son Sonny Jr. had already been passed the musical torch. Before his untimely passing, Mr. Averona had heard Sonny Jr. singing along to Sinatra in the car. He then challenged young Michael to come up on stage with him during a performance at the Taj in Atlantic City. Sonny Jr. shook his head. But that wasn’t the answer his proud dad wanted to hear and soon a trembling Sonny Jr. took to the stage and belted out “Come Fly with Me”. One standing ovation later a musical legacy had been passed down.
That was over 20 years ago. Today, fans of Sinatra and Dean Martin can still see a Philadelphia singing legend perform. Sonny Averona Jr. and his partner in musical crime John Cipprone aka Johnny Bones still perform around the country. The pair have performed accompanied by full orchestra including locally with the Warminster Symphony Orchestra. This summer they are booked from Chicago to Florida.
Their show opens with a tribute to Frank Sinatra, a man Sonny Jr. met and knew well. Their performance also includes what they like to describe as “reflections of Martin & Lewis” which routinely leaves show goers both stunned and in stitches.
Sonny Averona Jr. says that one of the highlights of his career was performing with Philly boxing legend Joe Frazier. The two famously did a duet of “My Way” that included brother Bobby Averona on drums. Incredibly, Mr. Frazier’s world famous boxing gym also doubled as a rehearsal studio for the Averona’s and Joe Frazier and the Knockouts.
If you think this story sounds like a Hollywood script you’d be right. Stars like Joe Piscopo have come to town to talk about the possibility of doing the Sonny Averona life story. Recently, Sonny Jr. was introduced to Chaz Palminteri through Sounds of Sinatra legend Sid Mark. Palminteri had also expressed interested in the Averona story. Sonny Jr. is also in talks with PBS about a documentary and a book is in the works.
Sonny Averona Jr. and Johnny Bones can be seen performing locally this September at the Italian Festivals in Wildwood and Mercer NJ.
One thing’s for sure, at these shows, and that is fans of great music will get the chance to see a Philadelphia living legacy hit the stage.