Tag Archives: Sammy Davis Jr

Rocks In The Attic #796: Sammy Davis Jr. – ‘At The Cocoanut Grove’ (1963)

RITA#796Excuse me… are you reading “Yes I Can”? By Sammy Davis Jr.? You know what the title of that book should be? “Yes, I Can If Frank Sinatra Says It’s OK”. ‘Cause Frank calls the shots for all of those guys. Did you get to the part yet where uh… Sammy is coming out of the Copa… it’s about 3 o’clock in the morning and, uh, he sees Frank? Frank’s walking down Broadway by himself…

I finally got around to reading the book Tommy Pischedda spotted in 1982’s This Is Spinal Tap, an old beat-up copy I found in a second-hand bookstore. Tommy’s right: Sammy does owe a lot of his success to Frank’s guidance, but it’s clear from the start that he was supremely talented and worthy of breaking out from the Will Mastin Trio, the cabaret group he toured in with his father, Sammy Davis Sr. and the eponymous Mastin.

Listening to Live At The Cocoanut Grove, Sammy’s a natural mimic, adept at impersonating his favourite singers (even Elvis) as well as using his own voice. Between sings, he drops stand-up worthy one-liners, and you get the impression that the audience are there as much to laugh as they are to be crooned to.

RITA#796aYes I Can was a slog though. After a long, painfully detailed telling of his climb to fame, and the accident that led to him losing an eye – he crashed his car and hit a protuberance on the steering wheel (the accident led to car-makers redesigning dashboards and steering wheels to avoid such hazards) – the second half of the book dealt with his day-to-day activities as a household name in the late ‘50s and early ‘60s. Co-writers (ghost-writers?) Burt and Jane Boyar appeared more and more frequently in the book in its last third, which dealt with Sammy’s inability to control his financial affairs, and I was just happy to finish it.

Maybe those limeys in Spinal Tap didn’t enjoy it either.

Hit: I’ve Got You Under My Skin

Hidden Gem: Hound Dog

RITA#796b

Rocks In The Attic #661: Dean Martin – ‘French Style’ (1962)

RITA#661It is 1962. In the conference room of Reprise Records, Hollywood, California, we find the label’s founder, Frank Sinatra, discussing Reprise’s release schedule with various members of the Rat Pack.

Frank Sinatra: Okay boys, what are we going to put out next for Deano? It’ll need to be something good.

Dean Martin: Let’s just do what we always do, Frank. I can record some numbers with the band. Joe Public will lap it up.

Sinatra: That ain’t gonna cut it, Deano. The kids need something new, something different.

Sammy Davis, Jr: What if he does a country record, Frank?

Martin: Yeah Frank, what about country? I love Country!

Sinatra: No, not classy enough. No record label of mine is going to release hillbilly music.

Peter Lawford: What about rock and roll, Frank? The kids go crazy for that stuff. Look what it did for Elvis!

Martin: Yeah Frank, what about rock and roll? I love rock and roll!

Sinatra: No, not classy enough. Presley’s a degenerate. All it got him was a stint in the army. What’s the point of making records if it’s just going to get you shot.

RITA#661aJoey Bishop: What about the blues, Frank? Joe Public’d freak out for a blues record.

Martin: Yeah Frank, what about the blues? I love the blues!

Sinatra: No, not classy enough. He’s Italian-American; he ain’t no half-blind ni…

Davis, Jr: [clears throat]

Sinatra: …er, I mean, he’s not right for that audience. C’mon, there must be something we’re missing…

The room falls into a hush, as they look to the ceiling for inspiration.

Sinatra: …something new…something different…something with a certain…je nes sais quoi…

Martin: [looks at Sinatra and raises an eyebrow]

Hit: Le Vie En Rose

Hidden Gem: C’est Magnifique