MUSIC CLIP - OSCAR PETERSON, “MOONGLOW”
Welcome to Afterglow, [a show of vocal jazz and popular song from the Great American Songbook], I’m your host, Mark Chilla.
If I were to say the term “Rat Pack,” three names probably come to mind: Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis, Jr. This iconic trio became famous for their wild, often drunken Vegas performances in the 1960s. And while the leader of the pack Frank Sinatra is someone I feature often on this show, this week and next, I’ll be highlighting the work of the other two. Coming up, a closer look at the “King Of Cool,” the laidback comedian in the group, Dean Martin. We’ll highlight his career, and feature some of his iconic recordings along the way.
It’s The Rat Pack: Dean Martin, coming up next on Afterglow
MUSIC - DEAN MARTIN, "MEDLEY: I DON'T CARE IF THE SUN DON'T SHINE/I LOVE VEGAS (PARIS)"
Dean Martin, with one of his tamer live sets from Vegas, believe it or not. That was him live at the Sands Casino in 1963, performing a medley of “I Don't Care If The Sun Don't Shine” and “I Love Paris,” parodied here as “I Love Vegas.”
MUSIC CLIP - WOODY HERMAN, "EVERYBODY LOVES SOMEBODY"
Mark Chilla here on Afterglow. On this show, we’re exploring the work of one of the key members of the so-called “Rat Pack,” Mr. Dean Martin.
Although Frank Sinatra is often thought of as the leader of the Rat Pack, that wasn’t always the case. The first lead was actor Humphrey Bogart. The name was apparently coined by Bogart’s wife Lauren Bacall, and included attendees of his late-night parties in the mid 1950s: fellow Hollywood lushes Sinatra, Judy Garland, David Niven and others. However, Bogart died in 1957, and so did the original Rat Pack.
The new Rat Pack was born, not in Hollywood, not in Las Vegas, but rather in the small Indiana town of Madison. That’s where Sinatra, the newly-minted movie star Dean Martin, and the young actress Shirley MacLaine were filming the movie called Some Came Running in 1958. The drinking culture of the original Rat Pack lived on in this new group.
Later that year, when an original Rat Packer, Judy Garland was putting on a show at the Sands in Las Vegas, Sinatra and his new crew traveled there for moral support. Frank and Dean eventually made their way to the stage (not necessarily with Garland’s permission) and the duo’s boozy comedy and song act was a hit with the audience.
Soon, Sinatra, Martin, and another Vegas headliner Sammy Davis, Jr., were all making similar guest appearances at each others’ gigs, singing songs, telling crude jokes, and putting on a frequently drunken display. This new group dubbed themselves the “Clan, or sometimes the “Summit,” although given their carefree attitude and reckless antics, they soon adopted the old moniker of “Rat Pack.”
Dean Martin already had a well-established career before he started wisecracking on stage with Frank and Sammy in the late 50s and early 60s, which included hit films, celebrated television appearances, and several hit records. Let’s hear two of Dean’s early 1950s hits now.
First, this is Dean Martin in 1952 with the song “You Belong To Me,” on Afterglow
MUSIC - DEAN MARTIN, "YOU BELONG TO ME"
MUSIC - DEAN MARTIN, "SWAY"
Two 1950s singles from Dean Martin. Just now, we heard him in 1954 with “Sway,” a.k.a., the bolero-mambo song “Quien-sera” by Mexican composers Luis Demetrio and Pablo Beltrán Ruiz. And before that in 1952 with the pop standard “You Belong To Me.” Both of those songs were top 20 pop hits.
We’re looking at the life and career of Dean Martin this hour. Martin was born Dino Crochetti to an Italian family in Steubenville, Ohio in 1917. He dropped out of high school and worked various jobs—including as a bootlegger, a blackjack dealer, and a boxer—before turning his attention to singing.
He started singing in night clubs in New York where he met the comedian Jerry Lewis. In 1946, the two decided to pair up as a musical comedy act, à la Bing Crosby and Bob Hope, with Martin acting as the straight man, crooning songs while the zany Lewis made a mockery of the whole affair with slapstick comedy. The duo Martin and Lewis was born, moving from the nightclub, to a radio program, to television appearances, to films. Behind the scenes, Martin and Lewis was more of a rivalry than a partnership, and after a decade the two parted ways.
Let’s hear a few songs that Dean Martin performed in some of those Martin and Lewis films. First up, here is Dean Martin in 1949 with a song from the first Martin and Lewis film My Friend Irma. This is Ray Evans and Jerry Livingston’s “Just For Fun,” on Afterglow.
MUSIC - DEAN MARTIN, "JUST FOR FUN"
MUSIC - DEAN MARTIN, "WITH MY EYES WIDE OPEN I'M DREAMING"
MUSIC - DEAN MARTIN, "YOU AND YOUR BEAUTIFUL EYES"
A handful of Dean Martin songs from some Martin and Lewis comedy films. Just now, we heard Dean Martin in 1950 with “You and Your Beautiful Eyes,” written by Mack David and Jerry Livingston. That was a Capitol single, and the song was also performed by Martin in the 1950 film At War With The Army. Before that, Martin in 1951 with the song “With My Eyes Wide Open I’m Dreaming.” That was written way back in 1934 by Harry Revel and Mack Gordon in 1934, and included in the 1951 Martin and Lewis comedy The Stooge. And starting that set, Martin in 1949 with “Just For Fun,” written again by Jerry Livingston, this time with Ray Evans. That comes from the 1949 Martin and Lewis comedy My Friend Irma.
Many of Dean Martin’s most beloved songs, in fact, originated as a song he sang in a film. For instance, one that you probably know well is the 1953 Harry Warren and Jack Brooks song “That’s Amore.”
MUSIC CLIP - DEAN MARTIN, "THAT'S AMORE"
Today, it’s a song that’s heard in every Italian restaurant across the world, but it was also a song that first appeared in the 1953 Martin and Lewis comedy The Caddy (performed by Dean Martin, in an Italian restaurant in the film…)
More than almost any of his Italian-American singing paisanos, Dean Martin was very comfortable performing authentic Italian (or less authentic Italian-themed) songs. Italian was actually Martin’s first language; he didn’t speak English until he got to grade school. His fondness for novelty also helped him sell these songs better than the more serious and sincere Italian Americans Frank Sinatra or Tony Bennett. He once said while performing live in Vegas, quote, “I hate guys that sing serious.”
Let’s listen to a few Italian songs now. First up, a song he first recorded as a single in 1958, re-recorded here in 1961 for his album Dino: Italian Love Songs. This is Dean Martin with Carmen Lombardo and Danny Di Minno’s song “Return To Me (Ritorna-Me),” on Afterglow.
MUSIC - DEAN MARTIN, "RETURN TO ME (RITORNA-ME)"
MUSIC - DEAN MARTIN, "MAMBO ITALIANO"
Dean Martin in 1955 with Bob Merrill’s Italian-esque novelty song “Mambo Italiano,” and before that in 1961 with the Italian song “Return To Me (Ritorna-Me).”
MUSIC CLIP - RALPH SHARON TRIO, "THAT'S AMORE"
We’ll have more from Dino in just a bit. Stay with us.
I’m Mark Chilla, and you’re listening to Afterglow
MUSIC CLIP - LES BAXTER, "SWAY"
MUSIC CLIP - OSCAR PETERSON TRIO, "VOLARE"
Welcome back to Afterglow, I’m Mark Chilla. We’ve been taking a look at the life and career of Rat Pack member Dean Martin this hour.
In 1956, Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis—after a decade working together as a comedy duo on stage, television, and in 16 films—ended their professional partnership. Jerry’s presence as a comedic actor was beginning to outshine Dean’s presence as a singer, so in order for him to grow, he had to leave. Martin was now pushing 40, and at this point, he began to shift his career as an adult-oriented pop star. And his nonchalant often inebriated stage persona made him an exemplar for the Greatest Generation of how to stay relaxed and look cool doing it.
He continued to have success on the pop charts in the late 1950s, with hits like “Return to Me” and “Volare.” But he also recorded several mature concept albums for Capitol, along the lines of what Frank Sinatra had been doing at the time. In fact, one of those albums, 1958’s Sleep Warm consisting of all songs about dreams, featured an orchestra conducted by Frank Sinatra.
Let’s hear from that album now. This is Dean Martin in 1958 with a song Frank Sinatra also performed, Harry Barris, Ted Koehler and Billy Moll’s “Wrap Your Troubles In Dreams (And Dream Your Troubles Away),” on Afterglow.
MUSIC - DEAN MARTIN, "WRAP YOUR TROUBLES IN DREAMS (AND DREAM YOUR TROUBLES AWAY)"
MUSIC - DEAN MARTIN, “AIN’T THAT A KICK IN THE HEAD”
Dean Martin in 1960 with Jimmy Van Heusen and Sammy Cahn’s tune “Ain’t That A Kick In The Head.” That song was written for the 1960 Rat Pack heist film Ocean’s 11, starring Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra, and Sammy Davis Jr. Martin performs this song in the film, and that recording was also released as a single for Capitol Records. Before that, we heard Dean Martin in 1958 with “Wrap Your Troubles In Dreams (And Dream Your Troubles Away),” from the 1958 Capitol LP Sleep Warm.
When Dean Martin became a member of Frank Sinatra’s Rat Pack in the late 1950s, his musical output started to more closely resemble that of Sinatra’s. For a period of time, Martin became focused on jazz standards and concept albums, featuring swinging arrangements by Nelson Riddle, a model that Sinatra had adopted in the 1950s. Martin was never going to croon a ballad or emote a torch song as well as Sinatra, but his versions of upbeat, swinging tunes rival those of his friend’s.
Let’s hear a few now, both from the marvelous 1960 Capitol album This Time I’m Swingin’ arranged by Nelson Riddle. First, this is Dean Martin with Cole Porter’s “True Love,” on Afterglow.
MUSIC - DEAN MARTIN, "TRUE LOVE"
MUSIC - DEAN MARTIN, "ON THE STREET WHERE YOU LIVE"
Two tracks from Dean Martin’s 1960 Capitol Records LP This Time I’m Swingin’, featuring arrangements by Nelson Riddle. That was the Lerner and Loewe standard “On The Street Where You Live” and the Cole Porter standard “True Love.”
In the early 1960s, when Frank Sinatra left Capitol Records to form his own label called Reprise, Dean Martin was soon to follow. Martin’s time with Reprise was marked with many successes, although not always on songs that you may think. For instance, some of his most successful singles and LPs from the decade were not from American songbook numbers, but rather, country songs, like this novelty from 1967, “Little Old Wine Drinker Me.”
MUSIC CLIP - DEAN MARTIN, "LITTLE OLD WINE DRINKER ME"
…an appropriate song for a notorious boozer like Martin. He even adopted the nickname Dean “Tex” Martin for two fairly successful country albums.
His biggest success from the decade was a recording of a 1947 song called “Everybody Loves Somebody,” by Irving Taylor and Ken Lane.
MUSIC CLIP - DEAN MARTIN, "EVERYBODY LOVES SOMEBODY (SINGLE)"
The song had been around for a while, sung by Frank Sinatra, Peggy Lee, even Martin himself on television a handful of times. This orchestrated version became a bit of a surprise hit for Martin in August of 1964, reaching number one on the pop charts in a summer that was dominated by The Beatles, The Beach Boys and the Supremes. The song had re-entered Martin’s repertoire earlier that year when Ken Lane, the song’s composer, was playing piano on Martin’s Reprise LP Dream With Dean. They cut a version of it with just a small jazz combo for the album, and later recorded the full version with orchestra and choir that we’re all familiar with today. Let me play for you now that original stripped down version.
This is Dean Martin in 1964, with Ken Lane on piano and celeste, Barney Kessel on guitar, Red Mitchell on bass and Irving Cottler on drums with “Everybody Loves Somebody,” on Afterglow.
MUSIC - DEAN MARTIN, "EVERYBODY LOVES SOMEBODY"
Dean Martin in 1964, with his original, stripped down version of “Everybody Loves Somebody,” featuring the song’s composer Ken Lane on piano.
We’ll end this hour like we started it, talking about Dean Martin as a member of the Rat Pack. For a period of time in the late 1950s and early 1960s, Martin, Frank Sinatra, and Sammy Davis, Jr. became cultivated this mystique of Rat Pack, living carefree lives in Las Vegas, hamming it up in night clubs, palling around with mobsters, and appearing as as crooked, yet loveable characters in films like Ocean’s 11 and Robin and the Seven Hoods.
Musically, Frank, Dean, and Sammy were (in many ways) three peas in a pod, all keeping a certain era of swingin’ music alive, as the rest of the musical world was changing around them in the 1960s. However, despite their similarities, it’s fascinating to see just how different they were as performers, especially on the songs where they’re placed in sharp relief, duetting live on stage.
I’ll play for you now a song featuring Frank and Dean. Despite Frank Sinatra’s many celebrated musical gifts, note the way Dean excels where Frank falls short. There’s an effortless calm in Dean’s voice, especially compared to Frank. He feels loose and relaxed, where Frank seems to be putting in the extra effort for a laugh or to demonstrate his vocal strength. Dean is more comfortable improvising. He has an ability to put the listener at ease. And most of all, Dean Martin is funny. All those years working alongside Jerry Lewis gave him excellent comedic timing, in a way that Sinatra never possessed.
Here is Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin live at the Sands in Las Vegas in 1963 with the song “Guys and Dolls,” on Afterglow.
MUSIC - DEAN MARTIN AND FRANK SINATRA, "GUYS AND DOLLS"
Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra, two members of the Rat Pack, clowning around on stage at the Sands Casino in Las Vegas in 1963, performing a song that Sinatra had performed in a 1955 film. That was the title song from the Frank Loesser musical Guys and Dolls.
Next week on the show, we’ll focus the life and career of another Rat Pack member, Mr. Sammy Davis, Jr.
And thanks for tuning in to this Dean Martin edition of Afterglow.
MUSIC CLIP - LES BROWN AND HIS BAND OF RENOWN, "YOU'RE NOBODY 'TIL SOMEBODY LOVES YOU"
Afterglow is part of the educational mission of Indiana University and produced by WFIU Public Radio in beautiful Bloomington, Indiana. The executive producer is John Bailey.
Playlists for this and other Afterglow programs are available on our website. That’s at indianapublicmedia.org/afterglow.
I’m Mark Chilla, and join me next week for our mix of Vocal Jazz and popular song from the Great American Songbook, here on Afterglow