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Crooner Dean Martin – Reminiscing With the King of Cool – The Timeless Music of Dean Martin
Everybody Loves Somebody sometime, and that somebody is none other than legendary crooner Dean Martin. With cigarette in hand and a lady by his side, the King of Cool served up his sensual love songs to the world for over four decades.
Dino Paul Crocetti, the son of Italian immigrant parents, made his way to the top by rolling with the punches, literally. Ridiculed by classmates for his broken English and dropping out of Steubenville High School at age 15, young Dino made his way into show business by taking some pretty hard knocks. Boxing as a welterweight with the self-dubbed title of “Kid Crochet,” Dino acquired a little cash, a broken nose, a split lip and broken knuckles during his boxing hay day. Among his many other early means of livelihood, he bootlegged, dealt blackjack for an illegal casino and was a speakeasy croupier.
Musically influenced by Harry Mills of the Mills Brothers, Dino adopted that same suave crooner singing style. He teamed up with bandleader Sammy Watkins who convinced the young singer to change his name to Dean Martin.
A pleasant voice and his natural charm won Martin some pretty handsome nightclub gigs. However he didn’t enjoy the fanatical magnetic draw that crooners like Bing Crosby or Frank Sinatra experienced right out of the shoot.
His first real break came in 1946 at the Glass Hat Club in New York City when he met a young comedian named Jerry Lewis. The two became good friends and began to combine forces. This pairing would catapult Martin to an almost overnight celebrity status. The duo was a comedic-singing act with most of the top-billing going to Lewis. Martin served as the straight man of the twosome. Although the two embarked on a quick ride to stardom that included a nightclub-booking schedule at all the top clubs across the nation along with record and film contracts, Martin was growing restless with the second-billing reviews and eventually the two had a falling out. Martin and Lewis parted ways and dissolved their relationship both personally and professionally in 1956. The duo reconciled in a surprise public appearance in 1976 during the Jerry Lewis Muscular Dystrophy Telethon.
A solo career for Martin didn’t come easy. His crooner style singing was not being as well received with the new rock & roll genre catching on across the country. Struggling to find his unique niche, he concentrated more on his acting than his singing. In 1957 Martin made a smart decision. Though taking a deep dip in pay, he signed on to star in the film The Young Lions alongside headliners Marlon Brando and Montgomery Clift. This was the catalyst that afforded Martin his comeback, only this time, on his own. The film was a box-office success and Dean Martin was on his way. With big screen recognition, he now had the luxury to cultivate his singing career. Perfecting his style and his vocal technique, the King of Cool was now more comfortable to sing duets with mentors such as Frank Sinatra and Perry Como.
The rebellious Italian speaking youth from Steubenville, Ohio was now in the big leagues. Dean Martin would almost always insure a big box-office draw with his name attached to a film and when his name appeared on a Las Vegas marquee, the house was sure to be packed.
Teaming up with fellow crooner pals Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr., Martin was one of the original members of the famed Rat Pack. They themselves didn’t refer to each other as the Rat Pack however, but rather tagged their group “The Summit” or “The Clan” instead.
Through the 1960’s and the first part of the 1970’s, Martin enjoyed great success in television with The Dean Martin Show, a variety series that featured many top stars of that day. His easy tongue in cheek format was an audience favorite but sometimes a point of contention with his producers. Martin did best with adlib and didn’t like following a rigid script, which would make crewmembers a bit uncomfortable at times. Later Martin hosted a celebrity roast show that featured big name stars such as Bob Hope, Jimmy Stewart, and Lucille Ball.
Dino had found his own voice and went on to have legendary hits, like; Memories Are Made of This, That’s Amore, and Everybody Loves Somebody. His songs are still heard in movies, television shows and commercials today. Martin’s songs are downloaded on ITunes by a whole new generation of song lovers.
Dean’s image as a lazy drunk with a continuous smoke in his hand became his signature public persona. Although never disputed by Martin, there has been much speculation that the drinking was in part, an act and a media-hyped up perception. Unfortunately the heavy smoking was very real and in 1993 Martin was diagnosed with Lung Cancer.
His personal life included three marriages and seven children. Martin’s son, Dean Paul (Dino) died in a plane crash in 1987. The tragedy took its toll on the entertainer and subsequently began the decline of his career. His last public appearance was in December of 1990 celebrating Frank Sinatra’s 75th birthday. Dean Martin died on Christmas Day 1995 in Beverly Hills, California from acute respiratory failure. He was 78 years old.
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