An extremely popular ballad singer and light comedian with a relaxed and easy style, who developed into an accomplished dramatic actor. After leaving school in the tenth grade, he worked as a shoe-shine boy and a gas station attendant before becoming an 'amateur' welterweight boxer, 'Kid Crochet', earning 10 dollars a fight. When he retired from the boxing arena, he became a croupier at a local casino. His first singing job is said to have been with the Sammy Watkins band in 1941, when he was initially billed as Dino Martini, but the name was soon changed to Dean Martin. His earliest recordings were for the Diamond label, and included 'Which Way Did My Heart Go'/'All Of Me' and 'I Got the Sun In The Morning'/'The Sweetheart Of Sigma Chi'. He also recorded some tracks for the Apollo label, well known for its impressive roster of black talent. The Martin recordings included 'Walkin' My Baby Back Home', 'Oh Marie', 'Santa Lucia', 'Hold Me', 'Memory Lane' and 'Louise'. In 1946, Martin first worked with comedian Jerry Lewis at the 500 Club in Atlantic City. Together they developed an ad-libbing song and comedy act that became very popular on US television and radio in the late 40s. In 1949, they appeared in supporting roles in the film My Friend Irma, and in the sequel, My Friend Irma Goes West, the following year.
The team then starred in another 14 popular comedies, with Martin providing the songs and romantic interest, and Lewis contributing the zany fun. These films included At War With The Army (1950), Jumping Jacks (1952), Sailor, Beware!, The Stooge, Scared Stiff (1953), The Caddy (1953), Living It Up (1951), Pardners (1956) and Hollywood Or Bust (1956). Their parting was somewhat acrimonious, and it was widely felt that Martin would be the one to suffer most from the split. In fact, they both did well. After a shaky start in the comedy movie Ten Thousand Bedrooms (1957), Martin blossomed as a dramatic actor in The Young Lions (1958), Some Came Running (1958), Rio Bravo (1959), Ada (1961), Toys In The Attic (1963), The Sons Of Katie Elder (1965) and Airport (1970). He still retained his comic touch in Who Was That Lady" (1960) and What A Way To Go (1964), but made surprisingly few musicals. The most notable were Bells Are Ringing (1960), with Judy Holliday, and Robin And The 7 Hoods (1964).
Meanwhile, Martin had signed to Capitol Records in 1948, and for the next 10 years had a series of US Top 30 chart entries, including 'That Certain Party' (duet with Jerry Lewis), 'Powder Your Face With Sunshine', 'I'll Always Love You', 'If', 'You Belong To Me', 'Love Me, Love Me', 'That's Amore', 'I'd Cry Like A Baby', 'Sway', 'Money Burns A Hole In My Pocket, 'Memories Are Made Of This' (number 1), 'Innamorata', 'Standing On The Corner', 'Return To Me', 'Angel Baby' and 'Volare' ('Nel Blu Dipinto Di Blu'). Martin's version of 'That's Amore' resurfaced when it was featured in the 1987 hit movie Moonstruck.
Although Martin was still a big attraction on film and in nightclubs, his records found difficulty in making the singles charts during the early part of the 60s. In 1961, Frank Sinatra, who had also been with Capitol Records, started his own Reprise Records. Martin, who was a member of Sinatra's 'Clan', or 'Ratpack', was one of the first recruits to the new label. In 1964, Martin returned to the US singles charts with a bang. His recording of 'Everybody Loves Somebody', produced by Jimmy Bowen, had a commercial country 'feel' to it, and knocked the Beatles' 'A Hard Day's Night' off the top of the chart. Martin's sub sequent Top 30 entries were all in the same vein - records such as 'The Door Is Still Open To My Heart', 'You're Nobody 'Til Somebody Loves You', 'Send Me The Pillow You Dream On', 'Houston', 'In The Chapel In The Moonlight' and 'Little Ole Wine Drinker, Me'. The latter number was a fitting selection for an artist whose stage persona was that of a man more than slightly inebriated. 'Everybody Loves Somebody' became the theme song for The Dean Martin Show on NBC TV which started in 1964, ran for nine seasons and was syndicated worldwide. As well being a showcase for Martin's singing talents, the show gave him the opportunity to display his improvisational skills in comedy. He continued to be a big draw in clubs, especially in Las Vegas, and played the London Palladium in the summer of 1987 to favourable reviews. Later that year, he joined ex-Rat Pack colleagues Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jnr. in the 'Together Again' tour, involving 40 performances in 29 cities, but had to withdraw at an early stage because of a kidney ailment. In the autumn of 1993 it was reported that Martin had lung cancer and he died on Christmas Day 1995.
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