Win Dino The Essential Dean Martin CD this weekend May 26-27

Win Dino The Essential Dean Martin CD this weekend May 26-27 from KFFB 106.1. Call and register when asked to on the air at 1-800-896-1669 or register on line at

Dino: The Essential Dean Martin

Dean Martin departed this earth in 1995, but the man’s stature as an artist and icon continues to grow. His importance to generations of music fans (not to mention aficionados of masculine cool) now far outstrips his former reputation as the tippler of the Rat Pack¹s tuxedoed triumvirate or Jerry Lewis’ crooning straight man. He was, simply put, a great singer ¬ the warm sensuality of his voice continues to beguile
¬with a winning style and just a touch of mystery.
What’s more, Martin’s commercial power is undiminished, even a full decade after his passing. The man who knocked the Beatles from the top chart position at the height of Beatlemania also scored a Gold record in 2004 with his fastest-selling album ever, Dino: The Essential Dean Martin. His recordings are heard regularly in the hippest movies, TV shows and commercials.
No less an idol than Elvis Presley worshipped Martin and frequently performed his hits. Contemporary music artists are no different. “He was the coolest dude I’d ever seen, period,” recalled Stevie Van Zandt in his Dino liner notes, adding, “He wasn’t just great at everything he did. To me, he was perfect.”

His childhood was anything but. An immigrant barber’s son, Dino Crocetti greeted the world in 1917 in Steubenville, Ohio. He spoke only Italian until age five and quit school at 16. His early autobiography is as gritty as that of any hip-hop star – he delivered bootleg liquor, served as a speakeasy croupier and blackjack dealer, worked in a steel mill and briefly ruled the ring as boxing phenom Kid Crochet.

Winning his share of bouts earned him little apart from a broken nose, but Dino’s speakeasy experience put him in contact with club owners, resulting in his first singing gigs – under yet another moniker: Dino Martini. The stage name wasn’t a booze reference, but rather an attempt to capitalize on the success of Nino Martini, a popular vocalist of the day.

With a fixed nose and a boost from his pals in the nightclub underworld, he became Dean Martin, styling himself after the top male vocalist of the time, Bing Crosby, on Midwest club stages. He later began singing with the Sammy Watkins Band and enjoyed moderate success on the East Coast; in 1943 he joined Frank Sinatra at New York’s Riobamba club. But it would be a little while before his notoriety approached Sinatra’s.

1946 was a banner year for Martin. He released his first single, “Which Way Did My Heart Go?,” and was first paired with comic Jerry Lewis. The two shared a bill at the 500 Club in Atlantic City, but the night they combined their acts into one combo platter of manic, ad lib-heavy comedy and debonair music saw the birth of a phenomenon. In virtually no time they were the hottest ticket around, and they parlayed their onstage success into a string of hit movies and a hugely popular series of TV appearances.

During their decade-long partnership, Martin had such hits as “Memories Are Made of This” (#1, 1955), “That’s Amore” (#2, 1953), “Powder Your Face With Sunshine” (#10, 1949) and “You Belong to Me” (#12, 1952), among others, all for the Capitol label. Yet when their partnership dissolved in 1956, conventional show-biz wisdom predicted that Lewis’ star would continue to ascend and that Martin’s would fizzle.

The singer, however, confounded the skeptics. By the end of the ’50s, he was wowing crowds at his solo shows in Vegas, impressing critics and audiences in a series of dramatic film roles (including The Young Lions and Rio Bravo), scoring on TV with the first of several “Dean Martin Show” specials for NBC, and hitting the charts again with “Return to Me” (#4, 1958) and “Volare” (#12, 1958).

By the early ’60s, Martin’s affiliation with Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis, Jr. and the rest of the fabled Rat Pack supplanted his earlier rep as Lewis’ suave, warbling straight man. He fueled his image as a boozing playboy in onstage antics with his pals and ring-a-ding ensemble films like 1960’s Ocean’s 11, yet Martin later claimed his cocktail-swilling persona was largely a pose. His greatest offstage love was golf, which necessitated retiring early and rising with the sun.

Though he left Capitol in 1961 to sign with Sinatra’s fledgling Reprise label, Martin capped his tenure at his first record company with a bang. 1960 saw the release of two singles, “Ain’t That a Kick in the Head” and “You’re Nobody ’Til Somebody Loves You,” that arguably show him at the height of his powers: playful, romantic and confident.

In 1964, with the Beatles’ “A Hard Day’s Night” perched atop the singles charts, teen girls screaming through their tears at guitar-wielding bands and magazines pondering the British Invasion, Martin reasserted himself with typical aplomb. Promising his son he’d have a #1 song, he proceeded to knock the Fab Four from their dizzying perch with the buttery anthem “Everybody Loves Somebody.” Several other hits, including “The Door Is Still Open to My Heart” (#6, 1964), “I Will” (#10, 1965), “Houston” (#21, 1965) and “Send Me the Pillow You Dream On” (#22, 1965), followed during his years at Reprise.

Though he continued performing throughout the ’60s and into the ’70s, Martin’s visibility was greatest in films (such as the campy Matt Helm spy franchise) and on TV, where he nursed his lush-in-a-tux image with the long-running “Dean Martin Show” and the hugely successful “Dean Martin’s Celebrity Roast” gag fests. By the end of the ’70s, health problems limited his stage performances to the occasional casino show – but he had long since made the transition from superstar to icon.

The death of his son Dean Paul in a 1987 plane crash caused Martin to withdraw still further from public life. He signed on with Sinatra and Davis for a 1988 reunion tour, but left after a few dates. He died of respiratory failure on Christmas Day, 1995; he was 78.

In the years since his passing, Dean Martin’s star has shone ever more brightly. And more than 40 years after knocking the Beatles out of the #1 spot, he continues to enthrall music fans. In fact, his effortless vocalizing has become a modern shorthand for cool, as evidenced by the use of his songs in films like Goodfellas, Casino, Swingers, Out of Sight, L.A. Confidential, A Bronx Tale and Payback, not to mention TV’s “The Sopranos” and “The West Wing” Recent biographies by Martin’s son Ricci and daughter Deana and Jerry Lewis’ highly anticipated Dean and Me: A Love Story have deepened interest in the man behind the song.