By SUNNY LOCKWOOD
It was in 1952, when Jay Baker was a Sonora High freshman, that the Sinatra bug bit him hard.
The kids all went downtown to Brandi's Ice Cream after school in those days. And on this particular afternoon, Frank Sinatra was singing "Birth of the Blues" on the jukebox.
"I'd heard him for years," said Baker, recalling that birth-of-a-fan moment.
"But it was this one particular song so upbeat and fascinating and I said, 'Wow!'"
Baker bought that record and many others. Through the Elvis years, the Beatle years, the folk and the protest music era of the '60s, he listened, bought and kept works by Frank Sinatra.
Today, his archive of Sinatra records, albums, CDs, videos, books and tapes is impressive. He is considered an authority on the singer, whose extraordinary voice and exquisite performance style raised American pop music to an art form.
Walk into Baker's mountainside home in Arnold at any time and you're likely to hear "Old Blue Eyes" singing in the background.
In the hall closet are 54 Sinatra videos.
"The best all-time video is Sinatra in London in 1961," says the trim, clean-shaven Baker. "He was in his best voice the mature Sinatra voice between 1958 and 1966. His stage presence was awesome."
In the family room, Baker's Sinatra collection fills an entire wall.
"He recorded 83 songs with Tommy Dorsey," the fan noted. "I have all 83."
Baker also has every recording made on the Capitol Records and Reprise labels.
Altogether, he has 235 albums, CDs and tapes of "The Voice."
Among the CDs, Baker proclaims that "Only the Lonely" is the best. Still, he doesn't have a favorite Frank Sinatra song.
"I adore almost everything he did, but a favorite is impossible," he said. "It depends on my mood. 'The Lady is a Tramp' and 'I Get Along Without You Very Well' are great. One of my all time favorites is 'Indian Summer.'"