Monday, May 22, 2017

Shirley Bassey

Shirley Veronica Bassey was born in 1937, in Tiger Bay, Cardiff. Her father was a Nigerian seaman and her mother came from Yorkshire. Tiger Bay was tough neighborhood and Shirley was the youngest of seven children. At age two her mother was left a single parent. The 15 year old Shirley started work in a packing factory and made extra money singing in the local pubs and clubs. From 1953 onwards she appeared in reviews but when she fell pregnant aged 16 she gave up performing. Shirley’s talent had been recognised and in 1955, booking agent, Michael Sullivan took her under his wing. She moved to London and was signed for Philips Records. "Burn My Candle" was released in 1956 and despite suggestive lyrics the single sold well, as did the sequel "Banana Boat Song", which peaked at number 8 on the UK singles chart.

In 1958, Shirley recorded for American producer Mitch Miller on the Columbia label, and the single "If I Had A Needle And Thread"/"Tonight My Heart She Is Crying" was moderately successful.

Meantime back in the UK Shirley recorded “Hands across the sea” which did less well but the b side "As I Love You" took hold and eventually the record reached Number 1 in the charts.

Because it was a sleeper the subsequent single was released called, "Kiss Me, Honey Honey, Kiss Me". both records shared the number three position in the charts.

Shirley was a star and although success in the US had so far eluded her an allegiance with Nelson Riddle in 1962 increased her prestige. During the early 60s she became a headline act and appeared in both New York and Las Vegas. Once she was chosen to record the theme tune of the new James Bond film, Goldfinger, her pathway to superstardom was assured.

Shirley became an International success and signed for United Artists label. In 1970 Shirley released the album "Something", with a single of the same name. It was a cover version of the original Beatles song and became a classic.

A year later she recorded the title theme for "Diamonds Are Forever", and completed her hat trick of Bond songs with Moonraker in 1979.

Shirley had now established herself as an international cabaret star with her album selling millions of copies. In 1981 she retired to Switzerland but continued to perform and toured throughout Europe and the United States. Her recordings were less frequent but all the more appreciated by her fans. Like many artists of her calibre, she enjoyed collaborating with others and found herself back in the charts in 1997. This time it was collaboration with Propellerheads and the single was "History Repeating."

Like Tom Jones, Shirley Bassey was introduced to a new generation of fans. A year later, Dame Shirley Bassey toured the UK to sell out audiences. Shirley Bassey’s career has spanned four decades during which she had thirty-one hits, making her Britain's most successful female chart artist of all time.

Worth a listen:
Banana Boat Song (1957)
Kiss Me, Honey Honey, Kiss Me (1958)
As I Love You (1959)
As Long As He Needs Me (1960)
Climb Ev'ry Mountain (1961)
What Now My Love (1962)
I (Who Have Nothing)(1963)
Goldfinger (1964)
Big Spender (1967)
Something (1970)
Diamonds Are Forever (1972)
Disco La Passione (1996) (Duet with Chris Rea)
History Repeating (1997)

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Gary Glitter

Paul Francis Gadd was a war baby and born in 1944 in Banbury, Oxfordshire. From his mid-teens he sang rock standards and gentle ballads appearing in the 2 I's in Soho, the Laconda and Safari Clubs, London. Robert Hartford Davis (a film producer), discovered him and financed a recording session for Decca label under the stage name Paul Raven, he released his first single, "Alone in the Night" in 1960.

A year later and under new management (Vic Billings) he was signed by Parlophone with Sir George Martin as his producer. Gary recorded two singles, "Walk on By" and "Tower of Strength," but neither sold well.

He continued to get work including warm-up for Ready Steady Go! (ATV). Paul Raven joined the Mike Leander Show Band in 1965 but the group fell apart and Paul formed his own band, called Boston International. The group found regular work gigging around the UK and Germany and when not performing, Paul Raven became a record producer working with several artists including The Poets.

Now 25 Gary was still keen to pursue a recording career and released several singles in 1969. "Musical Man", "Goodbye Seattle" and a version of George Harrison's "Here Comes The Sun," all had modest success.

Then he changed his name to Gary Glitter in 1971 just as glam rock hit full swing and things started to happen. In the studio they recorded a fifteen-minute jam which was edited to a pair of three-minute singles which Mike Leander called " Rock and Roll (part one and two) " and released as a double sided single. It was a sleeper and took about six months before it made its full impact. "Rock and Roll (Part One)", was a hit in France, where as the rest of the world seemed to prefer “Rock and Roll, Part Two and ran high in the US and UK charts.”Rock and Roll" proved no fluke and became a popular sports anthem in North America.

Between 1972 and 1975 Gary Glitter and the Glitter Band had twelve top ten consecutive singles in the UK and a worthy king of glitter keeping all other gliterista at bay including Sweet, Slade and T. Rex. Gary’s stage performances were excellent entertainment and the singer owned a reported thirty glitter suits and fifty pairs of his trademark silver platform boots.

Despite this success in the UK, he and the band were unable to crack the US market and hence did not have the earning potential of Rod Stewart or Elton John. When Glam Rock fell to the ravages of Punk music, Gary retired in 1976. Privately he became depressed battled with alcohol and became bankrupt. Gary had influenced many Punk and post Punk bands including Human League. When his record company cut a dance medley of his greatest hits, All That Glitters, it charted in 1981 and Gary started to make his comeback playing college and club venues and various guest spots and collaborations.

Chart successes followed with “Dance Me Up" and one of the most popular Christmas records of all time "Another Rock N' Roll Christmas".

For the next decade Gary Glitter was an in-demand live performer. Keen to keep himself solvent he had several business interests including music and record label and a successful Snack Bar in the west end of London. All fared well at first but eventually folded. In 1999, Paul Gadd was convicted on child pornography charges in the UK, and was afterwards listed as a sex offender. The King of Glam’s reputation was greatly tarnished, and though he continued releasing new music, Gary Glitter’s popularity declined sharply. His debauched and depraved behaviour eventually caught up with him and he is now incarcerated on Her Majesty’s Prison .

The Glitter Band enjoyed several best sellers in the mid 70s away from their lead singer.

Worth a listen:
Rock and Roll (Parts I and II) (1972)
I Didn't Know I Loved You (Til I Saw You Rock 'n' Roll) (1972)
Do You Wanna Touch Me? (Oh Yeah) (1973)
I'm the Leader of the Gang (I Am) (1973)
Hello, Hello, I'm Back Again (1973)
I Love You Love Me Love (1973)
Remember Me This Way (1974)
Always Yours (1974)
Oh Yes! You're Beautiful (1974)
Doing Alright with the Boys (1975)
You Belong To Me (1976)
A Little Boogie Woogie in the Back of Mind (1977)
Another Rock N' Roll Christmas (1984)

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Tommy Steele

Tommy Hicks was born in 1936 into a working class family in Bermondsey, London. When he was 15 he joined the merchant navy, and travelled the world on the Cunard line. He learned to play the guitar when he had a brief illness and began singing and performing for his fellow merchant seamen when he discovered he had a natural talent to entertain. Tommy took every opportunity to listen to as much music as he could whenever he was ashore in the United States. He saw Presley in concert and when he was back in England performed in American air force bases during his shore leave. Tommy became a member of Sons of the Saddle, led by a Canadian called Jack Fallon. In 1956 Tommy met two songwriter/performers, Lionel Bart (Oliver) and Mike Pratt (Randall and Hopkirk) and because all three shared the same interests in the new rock’n’roll movement they formed the Cavemen. Steele co-wrote many of his early songs with Lionel Bart and Mike Pratt, but he used the pseudonym of Jimmy Bennett from 1958 onwards. When leave allowed, Tommy Hicks (now playing guitar and banjo) and The Cavemen played in coffee bars in London's Soho.

The 2 I’s Coffee Bar was the premier venue where Tommy and the Cavemen appeared. Occasionally he did a solo spot as well as jam with Wally Whyton’s Viper Skiffle Group. When impresario Larry Parnes was made aware of Tommy Hicks he reckoned the boy from Bermondsey to be UKs answer to Elvis Presley. Hicks was signed and relaunched as Tommy Steele. Clever promotion of his new client had record companies come looking to sign Tommy Steel and Decca Records signed the young talent. Sir George Martin passed on option to sign Tommy Steele and signed the Vipers Skiffle Group instead.

Tommy and Cavemen’s first single was called "Rock With the Caveman," and was an original composition.

Playing as a session man was Ronnie “Steelman” Scott (saxophone) and the single made the lower rungs of the UK charts. Tommy and the Cavemen went on a tour of the UK and were greeted by hoards of screaming fans. Their second single, "Doomsday Rock,” failed to chart, but for their third release they chose to do a cover version of Melvin Endsley's "Singing The Blues" which got to number 1 in the UK and displaced the more famous Guy Mitchell version from the top of the charts.

By early 1957, Steele had made his first screen appearance, in a small role as a singer in the thriller Kill Me Tomorrow, directed by Hammer Films alumnus Terence Fisher. Tommy was a natural and enjoyed making films.

The Tommy Steele Story (1957) was a potted biopic and The Duke Wore Jeans (1957) was released in the same year.

Tommy The Toreador (1959) was a musical comedy and gave Tommy another hit record with Little White Bull (1959).

More movies followed with Light Up The Sky (1959), It's All Happening (1962), Half A Sixpence (1966), The Happiest Millionaire (1966), Finigan's Rainbow (1968), Where’s Jack (1969), The Yeoman of the Guard (1978), and Quincy’s Quest (1979).

By 1959 Tommy Steele career as a rocker was over and the new order of Cliff and the Shadows had firmly taken hold in the UK. Cliff Richard ironically starred in Expresso Bongo (1959), a film based on a satirical play that had been inspired by Tommy Steele's rise to fame.

In 1960 he toured Australia which reunited him with the Steelmen (Tommy’s backing group after the Cavemen). He also worked with a 15-piece backing band led by Harry Robinson (aka Lord Rockingham). His natural cheeky persuasion had made him an ideal Buttons in Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella (1958) at the London Coliseum and he followed this success with his portrayal of Tony Lumpkin in She Stoops To Conquer at the Old Vic. He excelled in the stage production of Half A Sixpence (1963), and took the play from London to Broadway. Tommy returned to the West End in 1969 starring in the pantomime, Dick Whittington at the London Palladium. Tommy was back at the London Palladium in 1974 with Hans Andersen which he co-writer and eventually director. In 1979 Tommy had the longest running one man show in London entitled, An Evening With Tommy Steele and it ran for 455 performances.

Tommy also toured this show in Europe and Australia. Now firmly established as a West End actor and director he appeared in another London long running success, Singin' In The Rain (1983). Later he took that show on the road and had a record breaking season in Japan. In 1991 he toured with Some Like It Hot, the stage version of the Jack Lemmon and Marilyn Monroe film. Another one man show, What a Show, ran form 1993-1996 in the West End. In 2003, he toured as Ebenezer Scrooge in a production of Scrooge: The Musical. In the early 1980s Tommy Steele wrote and published a novel entitled The Final Run. The fiction was about World War II and the evacuation of Dunkirk. He also became a writer of children's novel, entitled Quincy's Quest, about a reject toy trying to save himself and his fellow rejects in the basement of a toy store from the furnace the day after Christmas. This was turned into a film in 1979, which Tommy played Quincy and Mel Martin playing Quincy's girlfriend doll, Rebecca.

Tommy was also a talented artist and sculptor. He has three major works on public display; Bermondsey Boy at the Rotherhithe Civic Centre; two rugby players at Twickenham Stadium; and by far the most well known, Eleanor Rigby which was given to the City of Liverpool as a tribute to the Beatles.

Worth a listen:

Tommy Steele and the Cavemen
Rock With The Caveman (1956)
Singin' the Blues" (1956)
Butterfingers (1957)
A Handful Of Songs (1957)
Nairobi (1958)
Little White Bull(1959)
What A Mouth (1960)
Flash Bang Wallop (What a picture) (1963)
Half a sixpence (1965)

Lord Rockingham
Hoots Mon (1958)

Friday, May 19, 2017

Dr. Hook & The Medicine Show

Dr Hook was formed in 1968 when Dennis Locorriere (singer/songwriter) joined George Cummings’s band called the Chocolate Papers. The band played in Union City, NJ and was made up of Ray Sawyer (singer), George Cummings (lead and steel guitars), Billy Francis (keyboards), and Popeye Phillips (drums). John "Jay" David later replaced Popeye Phillips when he left the band. George came up with the name when he was put off the stop by a club owner who wanted to know the band’s name. On stage Ray Sawyer had a distinctive look and wore a cowboy hat and eye patch to hide injuries from a serious car accident in 1967. George was reminded of Captain Hook and christened the band, Dr. Hook & The Medicine Show. The Medicine Show was more than likely a tongue in cheek reference to recreational drugs. Dr Hook and the Medicine Show worked the roughest bars in the Union City area, and out of necessity sang country music to their red neck audiences. Meantime they made some demo discs for recording companies. After Ron Haffkine heard Denis Locorriere's voice, he was keen to match the group with singer song writer Shel Siverstein. Silverstein had been a folk singer turned humorist, cartoonist (Playboy), and children's author who also wrote Johnny Cash's hit "A Boy Named Sue."

Recognising the group’s potential with Shel Sileverstien writing their material he became the group's manager and producer, signing them to record "Last Morning" for the film soundtrack of Who Is Harry Kellerman and Why Is He Saying Those Terrible Things About Me?

Now recording artists for CBS, the band worked on their first album called Dr. Hook & the Medicine Show. The single "Sylvia's Mother," was a parody of teen-heartbreak weepers which flopped initially but gradually took on at radio stations and eventually gave the band their first million-seller and hit the Top Five in the summer of 1972.

Jance Garfat (bassist) and Rik Elswit (lead guitar) join the group soon after. Sloppy Seconds was their second album and again featured Silverstein’s compositions. The hit single was "The Cover of Rolling Stone."

Not surprisingly the band did eventually get themselves caricatured on to the front cover of the magazine in 1973.

The illustration was done by Gerry Gersten. Despite success Jay David left in 1973 and was replaced by John Wolters. 1974 was a barren year and the band filed for bankruptcy mainly to get out of their contract with CBS. In 1975 the group now called Dr Hook signed for Capitol Records and released Bankrupt album which featured more group originals and not just Silverstein’s works. A cover of Sam Cooke's "Only Sixteen" was an out an out hit and the group was back on top.

A Little Bit More album was recorded in Nashville, Tennessee, which was now the group's new home base. Despite the commercial success of album and single George Cummings left the line-up mid-way through the recording of the album. The single from Makin' Love And Music (1977) was a cover of The Rooftop Singers “Walk Right In,” and sold well in the US and UK.

In 1978, they repeated the success with Shel Silverstein's More Like The Movies, from the A Little Bit More, and Sharing The Night Together, taken from the Pleasure And Pain album.

By 1979, Dr Hook was established as disco-tinged ballad singers but Ray Sawyer’s dissatisfaction with the direction of the band was growing. Sexy Eyes proved to be the last major hit single for Dr. Hook.

During their peak years, Dr Hook was a fantastic live act always full of surreal banter, jokes, and funny impressions between the music. Their repertoire was immense and sang rock, country and ballads effortlessly in their endeavour to entertain. In 1980 Rik was forced to leave the band due to illness. Rik's place was taken over by Bob 'Willard' Henke, who remained within the ranks for some time after Elswit's return. Two years later Ray Sawyer left to pursue a solo career. Dennis Locorriere carried on with the band, doing sell out tours of the U.K and Australia. Other lineup changes took place and the group switched labels but with little success, so finally they called it a day in 1985. Dennis Locorriere continued write songs in Nashville and worked as a session and touring vocalist, backing Randy Travis in 1989 as well as a one-man show at Lincoln Center, "The Devil and Billy Markham", written by Shel Silverstein. Dennis eventually relocated to England and has released three solo albums, Out of the Dark (2000), One of the Lucky Ones (2005) and Post Cool (2010).

Ray Sawyer continues to tour under the name Dr. Hook with Ray Sawyer, and licenses the name from Dennis Locorriere, who owns all rights. Drummer John Wolters died of cancer in 1997.

Worth a listen:
Sylvia's Mother (1972)
Carry Me, Carrie (1972)
Quennof the Silver Dollar (1972)
The Cover Of The 'Rolling Stone' (1972)
Millionaire (1975)
Only Sixteen (1976)
A Little Bit More (1978)
Sharing the Night Together (1978)
When You're in Love With a Woman (1978)
Sexy Eyes (1980)

Marianne Faithful
Ballad Of Lucy Jordan

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Barry White (1944 - 2003)

Barry Eugene Carter was born in 1944 in Galveston, Texas. Shortly after the family moved to a South Los Angeles neighborhood which was a high crime zone. His mother encouraged him with music and he taught himself to play piano. Barry made his recording debut at the tender age of 11, playing piano on Jesse Belvin's "Goodnight My Love."

His first record was when he was 16. and the song was called “Little Girl” by the Upfronts.

Young Barry could not help but hang out with local kids and got himself into trouble, by aged 17, had served time for stealing. Determined not to follow a life of crime he threw himself into music on release. He worked for various independent labels as an A&R man but Barry was also a talented song writer, soon making money writing for other artists including the Bobby Fuller Four (1966) and The Banana Splits. In 1963 Barry arranged Bob and Earl’s "Harlem Shuffle" for Bob & Earl, which became a hit in the UK in 1969.

Love Unlimited was a girl group similar to The Supremes and Barry provided male backup vocals with his velvety deep bass. Always keen on production he wrote, arranged, produced and sang backup on "Walking in the Rain (With The One I Love).”

When the single was released it charted in the Top 20. Eventually Barry was encouraged to take the lead vocals, to which he reluctantly agreed. Barry’s first album, I've Got So Much To Give (1973), included the hit "I'm Gonna Love Ya Just a Little More, Baby."

The Man with the velvet voice was backed by the Love Unlimited Orchestra, and the slickly produced soul songs signaled the beginning of the disco era. Barry’s studio band included guitarists Ray Parker, Jr., bassist Nathan East, Wah Wah Watson, David T. Walker, Dean Parks, Don Peake, bassist Wilton Felder of the Crusaders, Lee Ritenour, drummer Ed Greene, percussionist Gary Coleman, and later keyboardist Rahn Coleman. The Love Unlimited Orchestra was determined to record instrumentals, many thought this would be a disaster but “Love’s Theme” went straight into the pop charts on release silencing Barry’s critics.

Throughout the seventies Barry White could not go wrong but by the '80s, his recording career had waned. In the 90s he did undergo a revival, thanks in part to appearances on the TV shows Ally McBeal and (his voice) in The Simpsons (Whacking Day). He was also offered the voice of South Park’s Chef, (indeed the part had been written for him), but his Christian beliefs conflicted with the program’s irreverent humor. So he refused. Barry stayed active touring and appearing on other artists' records including Quincy Jones' "The Secret Garden (The Seduction Suite)," Regina Belle, and rap star Big Daddy Kane's "All of Me."

Barry suffered a stroke in 2003 which forced him to retire from public life. Chronic high blood pressure and renal failure eventually took their tool and Barry died in 2003, aged 58.

Worth a listen:
I'm Gonna Love You Just a Little More Baby (1973)
Never, Never Gonna Give You Up (1974)
Can't Get Enough of Your Love, Babe (1974)
You're the First, the Last, My Everything (1975)
What Am I Gonna Do With You (1975)
I'll Do For You Anything You Want Me To (1975)
Let the Music Play (1976)
You See The Trouble With Me (1976)
It's Ecstasy When You Lay Down Next To Me (1977)
Just the Way You Are (1978)
Your Sweetness is My Weakness (1978)
Change (1982)
Sho' You Right (1987)
Practice What You Preach (1994)

Love Unlimited
Walking in the Rain (With The One I Love) (1972)
It May Be Winter Outside (But In My Heart It's Spring) (1973)
I Belong To You (1975)

Love Unlimited Orchestra
Love's Theme (1974)
Rhapsody In White (1974)
Satin Soul (1975)
My Sweet Summer Suite (1976)
Theme From King Kong (1977)
Welcome Aboard (1981)

Bob and Earl
Harlem Shuffle (1963)


Wednesday, May 17, 2017

The Four Tops

The Four Tops came from Detroit and started as a high school band called The Four Aims (1954). The lineup was lead singer, Levi Stubbs (Jackie Wilson‘s cousin), Abdul "Duke" Fakir, Renaldo "Obie" Benson, and Lawrence Payton and signed to Chess Records in 1956. To avoid confusion with The Ames Brothers, the group changed their name to Four Tops. Lead singer Levi Stubbs was a baritone whilst most other groups were fronted by a tenor and this gave them an instantly recognisable sound but recording success eluded them, and despite several record company changes, nothing came. Meantime the group toured frequently and built up a polished stage presence and proved very popular on the supper club circuit. Berry Gordy, Jr. encouraged the Four Tops top sign for Motown Records in 1963. At first they recorded jazz standards for the Workshop Label (subsidiary of Motown Records) and provided backup vocals for other artists. When song writers Holland-Dozier-Holland came up with an instrumental track they decided for fun to craft a pop song for the Four Tops. The end result was "Baby I Need Your Loving" which was released in 1964 and reached #11 in the US.

The next two singles were less successful for the group but when they released their version of "I Can't Help Myself (Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch)", in 1965, it went to number 1.

More hits were to follow including, "It's the Same Old Song", "Something About You", "Shake Me, Wake Me (When It's Over)", and "Loving You is Sweeter Than Ever".

Holland-Dozier-Holland wrote most of Levi Stubbs' vocals in the tenor range and near the top of the range, to get a sense of urgency in his gospel preacher-inspired leads. The Andantes (female backup singers) featured on many of their songs to add a high end to counterbalance the low-voiced harmony of The Four Tops.

The Funk Brothers were in support and together their works represented the epitome of the Motown Sound.

The group had their biggest success in 1966 with "Reach Out I'll Be There,” followed by "Standing in the Shadows of Love, “ and "Bernadette.” By 1967 The Four Tops were the most successful male Motown act in the United Kingdom (in the United States, they were second to The Temptations).

Changes in popular music tastes found the group experiment and more hits followed with their version of Tim Hardin's "If I Were A Carpenter" and Left Banke's "Walk Away RenĂ©e.” These were the last hits produced by Holland-Dozier-Holland, who left Motown in 1967.

In 1972, when Motown moved to Los Angeles the Four Tops decided to stay in Detroit and signed for ABC-Dunhill. "Keeper of the Castle,” "Ain't No Woman (Like the One I've Got)", "Sweet Understanding Love", "Midnight Flower", and "One Chain Don't Make No Prison" were all R&B Top Ten hits.

By 1976, the hits had dried up and the Four Tops were without a record contract. They signed with Casablanca Records and "When She Was My Girl," was a #1 R&B hit in 1981.

The Four Tops returned to Motown Records briefly in the mid 80s and continued to work in the fields of television and motion pictures. They continued to enjoy live performances until Laurence Payton died in 1997 and Levi Stubbs, Obie Benson, and Duke Fakir toured as a trio called The Tops, in 1998 they recruited former Temptation Theo Peoples to join the act to restore the group to a quartet. By the turn of the century, Stubbs was becoming ill from cancer (died 2008), and Ronnie McNair was recruited to fill in the Laurence Payton position, with Peoples stepping into Stubbs' shoes as the lead singer of the Four Tops while Payton's son Roquel replaced an ill Obie Benson, who later died in 2005.

Worth a listen:
Baby I need your loving (1964)
I can't help myself (1965)
Its the same old song (1965)
Loving you is sweeter than ever (1966)
(Written by Stevie Wonder)
Reach out I'll be there (1966)
Standing in the shadows of love (1967)
Bernadette (1967)
Seven rooms of gloom (1967)
Walk away Rennee (1968)
If I was a carpenter (1968)
A simple game (1971)
Keeper of the castle (1972) ,
Ain't no woman (1973)
Loco In Acapulco (1988)

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Dean Martin (1917 - 1995)

Dino Crocetti was born in 1917 in Steubenville, Ohio to Italian immigrants. His father was a barber and mother, a good cook. Dino was the second son and the family spoke Italian until he went to school. Consequently Dino was picked on at school and soon learned to fight. He left school as soon as he could and started working in the local steel mills. Dino was a keen boxer (“Kid Crocet.” Pronounced kro-shey), and won almost all of his bouts but the prize money was poor. As he progressed through his early working life, Dino was brought into contact with the mafia underworld and delivered bootleg liquor before working as a croupier in a local speakeasy. He called himself Deno Martini (after the Opera tenor, Nino Martini), he made a lot of club contacts which would come in useful later. His first start came when he sang with the Ernie McKay Orchestra, then in the early 1940s, he joined the Sammy Watkins Band. Now with his boxer’s nose remodeled, he dropped Martini for Martin, and was crooning to the joy of club audiences in New York. The mellow voiced baritone was influenced by Harry Mills of the Mills Brothers and Bing Crosby. He continued to perfect his singing style on the night club circuit until he was eventually drafted into the United States Army. He served stateside for a year (1944-45) but because of a hernia, was classified 4-F, and discharged. By 1946, Dean was back on the club circuit and met Frank Sinatra (Riobomba) and comic Jerry Lewis (Glass Hat Club in New York) among many other up and coming celebrities. He made his first record “Which way did my heart go?” (1946) and had a screen test by MGM, but nothing came from either opportunity.

More by chance than planning he and Jerry Lewis formed an on stage partnership initially dubbed “The Monkey and the Organ Grinder." Their wildly improvisational comedy soon made them a popular club act and in 1949 they had their own radio show. In the same year they made their film debut, My Friend Irma, and a sequel came a year later, My Friend Irma Goes West.

By the early 50s Martin and Lewis were the hottest act in America but both pace and the pressure took its toll. The act broke up in 1956. In 1953, Dean had scored a huge worldwide hit with "That's Amore,” but his critics felt he would amount to nothing with Jerry Lewis.

He won critical acclaim after appearing in the movie, The Young Lions (1958). The same year NBC ran The Dean Martin Show which was broadcast in colour and to complete his hat trick, Dino recorded “Volare” which was a runaway success.

By the mid-'60s, Dean was a top movie, recording, and nightclub attraction. During the sixties Dean was an active member of the Rat Pack. The original Holmby Hills Rat Pack had been started in the 1950s by Humphrey Bogart. Membership included. Pack Master – Frank Sinatra; First Vice President Judy Garland; Den Mother Lauren Bacall Rat in charge of Public Relations Humphrey Bogart; Recording secretary and treasurer Swifty Lazar; Historian Nathaniel Benchley: and Rats - David Niven, Katharine Hepburn, Spencer Tracy, George Cukor, Michael Romanoff and James Van Heusen. As the decade passed a new set of members including Dean were introduced to the close nit community of celebrities. The 60s Rat Pack featured a line up including: Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Peter Lawford and Joey Bishop. Contrary to the popular myth the 60s Rat Pack had female participants (Rat Pack Mascots), including Shirley MacLaine, Angie Dickinson, and Juliet Prowse.

The Pack made four films which Dean featured in all four: Ocean's Eleven (1960), Sergeants 3 (1962), 4 for Texas (1963), and Robin and the Seven Hoods (1964).

Throughout the 60s the Rat Pack performed in Las Vegas, Nevada and was instrumental in the rise of Las Vegas as a popular entertainment destination.

In 1965, he launched his weekly NBC comedy-variety series. The loose format of the show prompted comedic, quick-witted improvisation which made the show all the more popular.

Dean developed his on screen persona and carefully crafted his ‘menefreghista’ attitude, always appearing on screen and stage smoking and with a drink never far from his hand.

Privately the man was, of course, quite different from his public persona. His albums continued to sell well throughout the seventies but stopped his studio work in 1974 and only started to record again in 1983. His last starring role was in 1975 and the movie Mr. Ricco. Deno then limited his live performances to Las Vegas and Atlantic City.

In 1987 the news of his son’s death completely devastated Dean Martin, who became more and more reclusive. It was widely reported, though never confirmed, that Martin was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease in 1991 but Dean died of respiratory failure on Christmas Day, 1995.

Worth a listen:
Which way did my heart go? (1946)
That's Amore (1953)
Sway (1954)
Young and foolish (1954)
Under the bridges of Paris (1954)
Relax-ay-voo (duet Line Renaud)(1955)
In Napoli (1955)
Immorata (1955)
Memories Are Made Of This (1955)
Return to me (1958)
Volare (Nel Blu Dipinto Diblu) (1958)
C’est si bon (1962)
Sam’s Song (duet Sammy Davis Jnr) (1962)
Everybody Loves Somebody (1964)