SALEM — If singer Joey Chiarenza had it to do all over again, he might have chosen harmonies over a career as a mechanic.
“I do have some regrets for not pursuing music,” he said. “But everything in life happens for a reason and my time is now.”
The 63-year-old North End native who grew up across from Regina Pizzeria, channels Frank Sinatra. He’ll bring his silky smooth vocals to Frank L. Wiggin Auditorium at Peabody’s City Hall Saturday night. “The Music of Sinatra starring Joey Chiarenza” will feature two dozen Sinatra songs he’s been singing for more than a half century.
“Frank Sinatra has been my passion since I was 7-years-old, I loved his style” he said. “I used to sit in front of the hi-fi, play records, and sing along with Sinatra. My mother just loved it.”
His brother and sister didn’t share his taste in music in the 1960s.
“My sister would be in her bedroom playing The Beatles while my brother cranked the Four Seasons,” he recalled. “But my mother would yell at them to shut off their music saying ‘I want to listen to your brother.’ “
At 18, Chiarenza got the chance to meet his idol. His father brought him to see Sinatra perform at the Boston Garden in 1974.
“My dad had connections to the Garden from the North End and Sinatra’s bodyguard brought us backstage to meet him,” he said.
“He was wearing his tuxedo, but his bow tie was not yet tied. He put his left arm on my shoulder and his right arm around my father’s shoulders. Oh what a night.”
After hearing his Sinatra vocals at a family wedding in 2012, an agent asked him to perform a few songs at Montvale Plaza, the former Stoneham function hall. At 56, it was his first public performance. He sang “New York, New York,” “My Way,” and “Come Fly With Me” in front of a crowded room. He was paid $25.
“I didn’t think anything of it, but three days later, he asked me to do an entire Sinatra show,” he said. ” ‘Are you kidding? No one knows me. No one knows my name,’ I told him, but he took a chance.”
The Sunday matinee show featured 26 of Old Blue Eyes’ songs.
“There were more than 300 people in attendance and the reaction was phenomenal,” he recalled. “They did not want me to get off the stage, they wanted me to keep going.”
Since then, he played more than two dozen shows including gigs at Angelica’s Restaurant & Functions in Middleton and Lombardo’s in Randolph.
If his audition goes well next month on America’s Got Talent, the NBC show of undiscovered talent, we could be seeing a lot more of him.