Mister Boomer was listening to an oldies show last week when his ears were hit with a real blast from the past: a song by Dino, Desi and Billy. Mister B had pretty much blocked them from his memory. Sure, he did remember hearing the band’s name, and knew a little about who they were, but that was all. So he was surprised to discover a few tidbits about their time in the boomer-era spotlight. See if you remember:
Dino was Dean Paul Martin, the son of Dean Martin. He was elementary school friends with Billy Hinsche, the son of a real estate investor who owned a casino in the Philippines, where Billy was born. The two friends were in their early teens when they formed an acoustic guitar duo to cover songs by Chad & Jeremy and similar groups. When they decided to add a drummer and go electric, they heard that the brother of a classmate, Luci Arnaz, played drums. Desi Arnaz, son of Lucy and Desi, became their drummer, and Dino, Desi and Billy was formed in 1964.
The boys practiced at Lucille Ball’s house and began playing birthday parties and small events. When the band moved their practices to Dean’s house, his mother Jeanette would listen. She thought the boys were pretty good, so she called Frank Sinatra and asked him to come and hear them play. Old Blue Eyes did just that. He heard the boys play couple of songs and asked if they were interested in cutting a record. Sinatra had a major interest in Reprise Records at the time, and signed them. The boys were all under the age of 15.
Mr. Sinatra promptly told them they would not be playing their own instruments on their first record. To make a long story short, their initial single failed miserably. For their follow up single in 1965, Sinatra and company hired the Wrecking Crew to play the instruments, the super group of studio musicians who played on dozens of records in the 1960s. Then Lee Hazelwood was hired to produce the record, and Red West and Joey Cooper were enlisted to write a song. The result was, I’m a Fool, their first big hit, reaching the number 17 spot in the Top 100.
After four albums, six of their songs reached the Top 100. As time went on, they played their own instruments. The band split in 1970.
Dean Jr. went on to marry actress Olivia Hussey in 1971. She had become known for her portrayal of Juliet in Franco Zeffirelli’s Romeo and Juliet in 1968. They divorced in 1978, having one son. In 1982, Dino married Olympic skating champ Dorothy Hamill. The marriage lasted two years. As an active member of the California Air National Guard, Dean Martin Jr. was killed in a plane crash in 1987.
Desi Jr., like Dino, appeared in TV shows and movies during and after their stint in the band. From an early age, he was known as a ladies’ man, adopting the womanizing and drinking of his father. He became a father himself at age 15 through his relationship with model Susan Callahan-Howe. Mixing drugs and alcohol, as so many child performers did, landed him in rehab at the age of 25. After a one-year marriage to Linda Purl in 1979, he married Amy Laura Bargiel in 1987. Laura died of cancer in 2015. Currently, he owns the Boulder City Theater in Boulder City, Nevada.
Of the three, only Billy Hinsche continued on in the music industry. He had been writing songs all along, and when his sister Annie married Carl Wilson of The Beach Boys, he found a musical collaborator. Billy toured with The Beach Boys in the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s. He also had touring stints and studio recordings with Carl Wilson, Paul Revere & the Raiders, Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs and others. He co-wrote Lady Love with Brian Wilson, Away with Dennis Wilson and Let’s Build a World with Carl Wilson. Billy is also credited as a backup singer, appearing on many recordings, including Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me by Elton John, Joan Jett’s Good Music and Hat Trick by America, among others.
Who knew? Not Mister Boomer. How about you, boomers? Do you have fond memories of listening to Dino, Desi and Billy?