Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music



(b Dino Crocetti, 7 June '17, Steubenville OH; d 25 Dec. '95. Some sources say birth date was 17 June). Singer, actor, TV host. Worked as coal miner, boxer, etc; decided to sing instead; his baritone was uniquely likeable, and in Atlantic City '46 he teamed with comic Jerry Lewis: they made 16 films '49-56, showed affection for earlier comedy by recycling gags such as the Marx Brothers peanut vendor scene on TV's Colegate Comedy Hour. Martin later said that the two most important things that ever happened to him were meeting Lewis and leaving him: the comedy had taught him to act. When they split up many thought that Martin would flop while Lewis remained a star, but Lewis's films turned self-indulgent, while Martin's laid-back flair for spoofing himself made him a hit on TV '65-74. Over 30 more films included some with Frank Sinatra's 'rat pack', of which he was a charter member; his best dramatic roles included The Young Lions (with Marlon Brando and Montgomery Clift), Some Came Running (with Sinatra and Shirley MacLaine) and Rio Bravo (with John Wayne), all '58-9; he also made Sons Of Katie Elder '65 with Wayne and walked through spoof private eye films as Matt Helm.

Of 34 Hot 100 entries '50-69 in the pop charts, more than half made the top 40; from a '49 gig at Ciro's in Hollywood he was backed for a decade by alto-saxist/bandleader Dick Stabile (b 29 May '09, Newark NJ) incl. such hits as top five 'That's Amore' '53, from film The Caddy, and one of his most charming, a two-sided hit 'Sway'/'Money Burns A Hole In My Pocket' '54, the former a Mexican song ('Quien Sera'), the latter written by Bob Hilliard/Jule Styne for the film Living It Up. 'Memories Are Made Of This' '55 was written by the Easy Riders (see Terry Gilkyson), who backed him on the record. 'Return To Me' '58 (co-written by Carmen Lombardo) was no. 4; another hit was 'Volare' '58: there were five hit versions, of which Domenico Modugno's was the biggest (d 6 Aug. '94 in Italy aged 66): no. 1 for five weeks until it drove everybody nuts.

Martin moved to Sinatra's Reprise label from Capitol and had a no. 1 with 'Everybody Loves Somebody' '64 (recorded by Sinatra '47 and '57); it became his theme. He had 24 chart LPs '62-72; he later recorded for WB. His easy-going persona made him far more successful than Sinatra on TV; on one occasion Sinatra complained that Martin was getting all the laughs in their Las Vegas routine, so they changed roles and the act fell flat: Martin had the comic timing. His son Dino had pop hits on Reprise '65-8 in a group Dino, Desi and Billy, with Desi Arnaz's son and schoolmate Billy Hinsche; Dino was killed '87 when his National Guard jet crashed and Dean never really got over it. He walked off his last tour with Sinatra '88 and soon stopped performing; heavy drinking had been part of the act but became a hobby. His second wife Jeanne (of three) remained a close friend. Nick Toches's biography Dino: Living High In The Dirty Business Of Dreams '92 was criticized for being too subjective, but Toches is that kind of writer, and always interesting; Martin Scorsese planned a film concentrating on the rat pack. Memories Are Made Of This '97 on Bear Family was an eight-CD set of complete '46-55 recordings.