Dominic “Uncle Junior” Chianese Sings Country — and Old Country

Broadcast Music Incorporated (BMI), the performance rights organization, transformed the spacious sixth-floor balcony into an outdoor Italian restaurant Thursday (Sept. 6) to welcome actor/singer Dominic Chianese to Nashville.

Chianese, who plays the irascible and lethal Uncle Junior in The Sopranos television series, was in town to make his Grand Ole Opry debut Friday and to promote his album, Hits, which was both conceived and recorded in Nashville.

After mingling with guests for an hour, Chianese mounted a small stage to chat and sing a short program of songs, including a few in Italian. He spoke wistfully of growing up in New York City in the 1930s, hearing his grandfather sing to him and listening to an Italian-language radio station. “I got my first love of music from Grandpa Domenico and Gene Autry ,” he said.

Chianese described his invitation to appear on the Opry as “the dream of my life.” Although clearly a fan of traditional country music, Chianese made no pretense of being a closet “country boy.” He poked fun at himself with a song called “Typical New Yorker,” which also appears on his album, along with such other melodically gentle fare as “For the Good Times,” “Santa Lucia,” “Guantanamera,” “Ramona” and “Shady Grove.” Accompanying himself on a gut-string guitar, Chianese closed his performance with “A Fool Such as I,” the ballad first made famous by Hank Snow .

Among the fellow performers who came to cheer Chianese on were David Clayton-Thomas (Blood, Sweat & Tears), Felix Cavaliere (The Rascals), Henry Gross, country singer Donna Ulisse, bluegrass singer Rick Stanley and Mickey Raphael, of Willie Nelson ’s band.

Co-sponsoring the party with BMI were the producers of Chianese’s album, Dub Cornett and John and Dino Elefante.

Edward Morris is a veteran of country music journalism. He lives in Nashville, Tennessee, and is a frequent contributor to