Born into a musical family in Chicago in 1937, Sands began playing the guitar at age eight years-old. Within a year had a job performing twice weekly on a local radio station in Shreveport, Louisiana. When he was 15, Colonel Tom Parker - who discovered Elvis Presley - heard about him and signed him to RCA Records.
His initial records didn't do well, but after appearing in an episode of Kraft Television Theatre, where he played a singer very similar to Elvis Presley, with guitar, bouffant hair, and excitable teenage fans - and sang "Teen-Age Crush" his popularity zoomed. Released as a 45 rpm single, it went to No.3 on the Billboard Hot 100 record chart.
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-----Sands' sudden fame brought an offer to sing at the Academy Awards show and his teen idol looks landed him a motion-picture contract to star in a 1958 musical drama called Sing, Boy, Sing. Sands performed in several films including Mardi Gras (1959), Babes in Toyland (1961), The Longest Day (1962), Ensign Pulver (1964), and None But the Brave (1965). Both his singing and film career faded by the 1970s.
In 1960, he married Nancy Sinatra. They were divorced in 1965.