Music connects people in ways that no other medium can. But, unfortunately, there’s no guarantee that it’ll connect you to the good people. Below, you can find some bone-chilling stories about music business celebrities with alleged ties to the mafia, crime bosses, mobsters, and other gangsters.
Sinatra’s father was a Sicilian. That says it all. America in the '30s had more mobsters on the streets than hot dogs. His uncle, Babe Garavante, the Morettis crime family member, was convicted of murder after driving the gateway car from an armed robbery in 1921. It is known for a fact that Sinatra used to spend time with members of the Lucky Luciano family and Al Capone’s bodyguards. Presumably, over the years Sinatra was tied to the Gambino, Genovese, and Colombo families.
The famous singer is supposedly connected to the Bonanno family.
Once he was confronted by Tony Spilotro, a well-known Vegas mob associate, for messing with his girl. Spilotro, allegedly, had slammed Bennett's head on a telephone book, which got the star to ‘turn his life around.’ Bennett's biographer David Evanier wrote in his book that the musician got money from the Al Capone family to help jump-start his career. He maintained ties to organized crime for years. He also reported that the singer eventually expressed his disdain for La Cosa Nostra in a painting called 'The Underground.'
Liza supposedly had a relationship with a Gambino family member, Gianni Russo who was the front man for the mob of Joe Colombo Sr. There are claims that the Gambinos persuaded Francis Ford Coppola to cast Russo as Carlo Rizzi in The Godfather. His ties with the Mafia gave him the opportunity to be the first to talk with the production cast and to threaten movie studios. It looks like Lisa enjoyed the thrill.
Jackie was a savage by nature. When the 19-year-old Wilson dropped by the Fox Theater in Detroit and demanded an audition to replace the Dominoes’ lead singer, the legendary Clyde McPhatter, everyone thought he was crazy. The kid said he was better than McPhatter. He sang a couple of songs and was hired right there on the spot.
Wilson’s longtime manager Nat Tarnopol had extensive Mafia ties. The Brunswick Records was a side-venture for the mob. Shortly after, the musician was professionally controlled by the Mafia and even became a Mafia chieftain. He suffered from alcohol dependency and chronic addiction to amphetamines and cocaine, and the mob used this as a lever to make him their puppet. There is a book that tells the full story of Jackie Wilson called ‘Jackie Wilson: The Man, the Music, the Mob.’
Some time ago, FBI revealed files that accused The Wu-Tang Clan in carjackings, murders, drug dealing and money laundering. FBI also claimed that The Wu-Tang Clan used their record label to launder money.
'The WTC is heavily involved in the sale of drugs, illegal guns, weapons possession, murder, carjacking and other types of violent crime.' The document also referred to the murder of Jerome ‘Boo Boo’ Estrella by an unnamed member of a gang.
After a lengthy investigation and some thrilling court action, the charges were dropped. Even though the story still feels incredibly shady, the clan is now better known for the funky beats, rather than brutal street action.
If there's anything we've learned it's that The Wu-Tang Clan ain't nothing ta fuck wit.
Tommy James wrote a whole book named ‘Me, the Mob, and the Music: One Helluva Ride With Tommy James and the Shondells.’ The book tells about his experience of working with Roulette Records.
Roulette Records president Morris Levy's (he went by ‘Mo’) Mafia ties were well-known throughout the industry. Levy decided he wanted James to sign a contract with his label. When he let the heads of the other companies know this, they backed off. Allmusic described Levi as ‘a notorious crook who swindled artists out of their owed royalties.’
Mo was widely known for falsely taking writing credit to receive royalties—enriching himself at the expense of many of his signed artists, especially black R&B artists.
According to an NBC News report, the Vegas-based performer admitted to being friends with alleged members of the Gambino crime family. Some said that Newtown was a ‘front man’ for the mafia, and possibly even a mob informant for various Government operations. Even the FBI checked in on the shady musician and claimed he was on a ‘hit list.’ When things got out of hand, so he sued NBC News for defamation (and won). Later Newton said to the Las Vegas Sun: ‘It was ridiculous. I'm an Indian boy from Virginia, What do I know about the Mafia?’. Isn’t that exactly what you’d say if you were a mob informant?
Madonna used to date a former Miami club king and mobster, Chris Paciello. Later he was indicted, convicted and sent to prison for ten years for a mafia related murder. He was also famous for ratting out the upper echelon of the Colombo and Bonanno crime families. Reportedly, Madonna’s ex-girlfriend, Ingrid Caseres, accompanied him to mob meetings so it wouldn't be a surprise if she still had some connections with the mafia.
As the new style of music called "jass" appeared, the American audience demonstrated a willingness to pay to hear and dance to it. So the New Orleans gangsters happily made it their business. The first places where jazz was played professionally were the brothels in the Storyville district near the French Quarter that were owned by Sicilian mobsters. In 1917, a teenaged Louis Armstrong received his first wages for playing the trumpet at a tavern owned by Henry Matranga, leader of the Matranga family and one of the most powerful criminals of the early 20th-century. Armstrong and the other black inventors of jazz such as Buddy Bolden, Freddie Keppard, and Joe Oliver also received their first pay from George Delsa, manager of Anderson’s Rampart Street café. According to the scholar Jerome Charyn, "There would have been no ‘Jazz Age,’ and very little jazz, without the white gangsters who took black and white jazz musicians under their wing.“
The Four Seasons frontman admits his connections to the Genovese crime family: 'Where I grew up, in New Jersey, there was a lot of organized crime activity. It was a part of life. I don't think anyone who was in the entertainment industry in the ‘60s can say they've never rubbed shoulders with the Mob. They owned every other club you played in. I saw some pretty heavy things back then, and we almost bit the dust a few times. But it was always interesting.'
Sean Combs (P. Diddy)
The mysterious relationship of The Black Mafia Family (BMF) and Puffy Combs, is a 21st Century spin on the Sinatra Mafioso story. The only difference is that his connections were brought up by a trial of the landmark BMF case broke up the biggest urban narcotics conspiracy in American history. From a review of court records, it’s clear that Puffy’s connections to the BMF empire were far from limited. Darryl "Poppa" Taylor, the first cousin of the rapper, according to his testimony, was introduced to the Terry Flenory (founder of BMF) via P. Diddy's head of security Paul Buford.
Presumably, Puffy Combs created his Bad Boy Records with a load of start-up cash provided by Big Meech and Terry Flenory. The two brothers eventually transitioned out of the drug game into the music game, turning their BMF brand into a rap label. Needless to say, Puffy was the one throwing them a label launch party.
Even though Tupac Shakur died at 25, he spent a significant chunk of his life dealing with the African-American Mafia and the law. In February of 1995, he was sentenced to prison for the charge of sexually assaulting a woman. He was found guilty. A day before the court he was shot five times and survived.
Some say that Tupac was shot because of some dealings with the ‘Black Mafia.’ Rumors say that the shady people he had business with were from the Bad Boy records. They demanded that Tupac sign on to Bad Boy records since Bad Boy at that time wasn't on the scene and needed an artist like Tupac. He refused, that’s why he was supposed to die that night. But he survived and entered prison in February 1995 and was released 11 months later.
However, the artist was shot again (this time fatally) in a drive-by shooting in Las Vegas, Nevada on September 7, 1996. In the 2015 documentary 'Murder Rap', which discusses both Shakur's and The Notorious B.I.G. murders, former LAPD Detective Greg Kading, officially confirmed that Orlando Anderson (a member of the South Side Crips gang) shot and killed Shakur.
Do you know any thrilling stories about the Mafia ties to the music business? Share them in the comment section below!