Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Dino, Desi, & Billy--I'm A Fool (1965)

     Nepotism in the arts has always been a fact of life. The idea being that if Mom or Dad had the talent, then Junior must have some too. Today we have more than a few examples of the family trade being passed along. At least to my ears however, because of the current conditions in the music industry, you still have to have the goods talent-wise, just your good (musical) name won't be enough.
     The first of these didn't come from the rock era, but rather the pop era of an earlier generation. Dean Paul Martin, the son of singer Dean Martin. Desi Arnez Jr. not only had a popular musician/actor father, but his mother was the predominate actress on television. They both went to school with Billy Hinsche, and seeing the Beatles for the first time encouraged them to work together as a group.
      Dean Martin had a recording contract with Reprise which was owned by friend Frank Sinatra, and through that connection an audition was set up with the boys (who were all under 16 at the time). They were signed and their first single was the most popular. "I'm a Fool" came out in the summer of 1965 and reached #17 on the charts. There has been an argument that the boys, while not bad, had been signed and taken energy and money away from the company which would have been better used for other artists.
     The trio wasn't bad, and yes, you can easily argue that most groups wouldn't have got a sit down audition with "The Chairman of the Board" (figuratively and literally). On the other hand, the trio did have two top 40 hits, and opened for the likes of The Beach Boys, The Mamas and Papas, and Paul Revere & the Raiders, so it wasn't a bad gamble for Reprise records either.
     The group stayed together until 1968, as they all began to mature and choose different directions for their lives. Martin wanted to do a lot of things, he was a professional tennis player, was an avid pilot reaching the rank of Captain in the Air National Guard by 1981, and acted on the big and small screen. He died in 1987 in a jet crash in the California mountains. Desi found a spot on his mom's show (Here's Lucy) in 1970 and has spent the rest of his career as an actor and in production. Billy was the only one to remain in music as he became a part of the Beach Boys band in 1974 after graduating from UCLA.


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