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| 11 November 2016 | Reply

There are interviews that I look forward to from the minute they are scheduled. Sometimes, it’s because it is a performer I have been a fan of.  Other times, it’s because of the buzz around a certain project or tour.  And then there are those special moments… you know, when you get to catch up with a friend that you haven’t spoken to in a while.  Getting the phone call from Deana Martin always falls into that final category.  Don’t get me wrong, I love Deana’s music.  The recent release of her latest collection, Swing Street, is as good a reason as any to speak with her.  Most important, it’s just fun to catch up with Deana and see what is going on with my friend…


 Toddstar: Deana, thank you so much for taking time out for us, it’s getting to be an annual thing, which is very pleasant for me.

Deana: It’s great. Wild and crazy times going on, and I’m just leaving tomorrow, so I’m packing again. Gosh, it’s been so much fun with this beautiful album. Thank you for that fabulous review, it was great. I’m looking forward to our discussion.

Toddstar: I always look forward to it. You broke the ice, so to speak, so let’s start with Swing Street. This disc, again, like I said in my review, which you mentioned. Destination Moon is always a go-to for me. I just love that disc. I love it from top to bottom. This album kind of built on that but also took you in a different direction. Was that something you set in motion when you started all the pre-production for Swing Street?

Deana: As a different direction, it’s not so much a different direction. I have had my wish list of songs that I wanted to sing. About 200 of them. So narrowing it down, because I’m going to make many more albums. I’m going to be recording many more albums in my life. I’m not done yet. As far as the choice of the songs, when we went to sit down with Patrick Williams, whom I ‘ve wanted to work with him for a long time, To go to his office and see all of his awards, the Grammys, the Gold Albums, the Tony awards, the Academy awards, all of that, a Pulitzer prize. I’m sitting there in his office, and I’m thinking, “Okay, now I have a chance to really do something a little different, a little, stretching myself.” He had five songs that I talked to him about. I had gone through all the songs that I wanted to record, and then of course my handsome husband John, he said, “Pat now, do you have something for Deana that you think Deana should do?” He said “As a matter of fact I do.”  Now mind you, we had already gone through all 200 songs, gotten it down to 15, and this changed the whole ball game. He played me some of these songs, and I said, “Oh my gosh. This is exactly the way I want to go.” When you first asked me that question, did I want to change the direction? Yes, I did want to change the direction, a little. Staying in the same vein that I had been, the Great American Songbook. Talking to Patrick, when he pulled out these five songs: “I’ve Been Around,” “52nd & Broadway”, “I Know What You Are,” “Good Things Grow.” They were so fabulous, and he’s such a great writer, arranger. He has such a great attitude and energy, that he just made me happy. I said, “You know what, these are going to be great songs. This is going to be a great session, at Capital Studios.” It’s just perfect. I have to say, listening to his songs, kind of took me in a whole different direction, of songs that I hadn’t been thinking of before.

Toddstar: On that note, were there any songs, in the original 15 you had hand-picked, are there songs now on the album that, other than the originals that Patrick brought to the table, are there songs that made the disc, or that, building on what you just said, you said “Now I’ve got to do this one instead of a different song.” Were there any songs that kind of crept up and said nope, this is going on?

Deana: Yes. There are songs like, “The Summer Wind”. I wanted to that; I have a great arrangement of that. I’m trying to think, it’s been so long. I don’t have my list with me right now. We had narrowed it down. I wanted to do “I Won’t Dance”, because I have a great arrangement for that. “Summer Wind”, “I Won’t Dance”, I was still kind of in my Frank Sinatra mode. I had just come off doing about a year of… It was the centennial for Uncle Frank. I had done quite a few shows singing the songs. Of course, “I Won’t Dance” was written by my godfather, Jimmy McHugh, so I wanted to do that one. Then of course, “The Summer Wind” is just so beautiful to me, I just love that song. So songs that I will be putting on the next album. Those songs that we took off this album will be on the next album. The next album is called “Deana sings Dino.” Because in 2017, that would be my dad’s centennial. He was born June 7, 1917. We’re planning a lot of things for 2017 for him.

Toddstar: That’s what I love about you. You have forged your own path, Deana, you’ve done your own thing, but you still keep your foot kind of in your heritage. Especially when it comes to your father. How important is that gut instinct you have to make sure you’re always tied to that legacy?


Deana:  I’ll tell you there are a couple things, probably the main thing is, I meet new people every day, and I am Deana Martin. So when people meet me, I say “Hi, I’m Deana Martin”, they go, “Any relation?” It’s there every day. Every day people know who Dean Martin was. He was such a remarkable entertainer and person that I’ve never heard anything bad about Dean Martin. Everybody loved him. He put a smile on their face. For me, to be able to carry that on is very, very special. It means so much to me. It’s just part of my entire life. Yes, I’m doing “Tennessee Whiskey”, and I’m doing other songs. Course, the “Tennessee Whiskey” kind of goes along with Dean Martin, they said that he was a drinker.  That’s a funny thing. Of course, Uncle Frank loved Jack Daniels. That was his thing. For me to be able to keep my father’s legacy alive and to stay with that Great American Songbook is so important to me. Because of what he means to the world. He was an unbelievable. You can’t get much bigger than Dean Martin or Frank Sinatra. For me, I carry him with me; I learned from him, I learned from all the greats. It’s part of my DNA. It’s right there. I will always continue to carry on his name, his style of singing. I always try and have a smile on my face. I can see and hear his smile when he sings and performs. That’s something that has stuck with me all my life, and it will continue do. I think it’s very, very important to honor your father. After a show, when I go out to sign autographs and meet people, they come up to me and they say, “Great show. I was your dad’s biggest fan.” That will always be with me and I treasure that.

 Toddstar: That’s something to treasure, that’s for sure.

Deana: Yes it is. He was so great. My gosh.

Toddstar: I want to talk about a couple projects that are directly tied to him in a second. Again, Swing Street is something that’s going to stick with me. This is a disc that you really kind of branched out in my mind. To hear your version of “Georgia On My Mind” or as you mentioned “Tennessee Whiskey”. With the version that came out in the past year or two with Chris Stapleton and everything, it really kind of brought it back. You put your own spin on it. It floored me from the minute I heard it, and I can’t stop listening to that. That and then “New York State of Mind.”

Deana: Aren’t those wonderful? Those two arrangements were by Chris Walden. I had Patrick Williams, he did almost all of the arrangements, but Chris Walden did “New York State of Mind,” he did quite a few on them. It was his arrangements that made them so fabulous. I think he’s an incredible, young conductor/arranger. He has such a style of his own. He is amazing, and fun to work with of course. I loved the arrangement of “Tennessee Whiskey”, and the horns and the guitar. When I went in to record it, it just hit me. It was perfect. Of course, “New York State of Mind” is amazing to me.

Toddstar: In the review I mentioned this, but what are the odds you’re going to be able to sit down with Billy Joel and sing this. I think the two of you would just knock this one out of the park, so to speak.

Deana: You know it’s funny that you said that. I will plan on doing that. Right after I recorded “New York State of Mind”, we were at Capitol Records, Lou Simon, who is the musical director at Siriusly Sinatra. John sent it to him, sent the recording that we just did. It hadn’t been mastered; it hadn’t been mixed, really. Lou was having lunch with Billy Joel that afternoon that afternoon, I think, at Patsy’s Restaurant in New York. John said, “You’re having lunch with Billy Joel? I’ve gotta send you this. Deana just recorded ‘New York State of Mind’.” When I found out I thought, oh my God, I can’t believe he sent it to him. Without it being mixed or mastered. He loved it. The tie-in is amazing, that he went that day, that Lou Simon, who wrote the beautiful liner notes, had lunch with Billy Joel and was talking about “New York State of Mind.”  It’s one of my favorite songs of all times, of all time.

Dean Martin with daughter Deana at a recording session August 1966 ©1978 Ed Thrasher

©1978 Ed Thrasher

Toddstar: Another fun track on this was “Bellissima.” You were kind of able to tweak your own feel and groove into what is literally a classic. What was that like for you, to be able to reinterpret a classic, from your own perspective?

Deana: I built on that song, “Bellissima.” The first time I heard it, I said “This is it, I love this song, and I’m going to sing it.” But the lyrics weren’t right, they weren’t exactly right. I could just see, all of a sudden, it just came to me, singing Dean’s “Volare”, it just touched me in a way… I get up on stage, and that’s my closing number. Of course I always sing, “Everybody Loves Somebody” at the end of the show, but “Bellissima” leaves everybody up and happy, and it’s a great tune. For me to be able to make it my own, and to sing it, to have Dean Martin in it, Dean’s “Volare”, it’s such a special moment for me. We were going to call the album Bellissima. Bellissima of course, means gorgeous. My husband wanted it to be Bellissima, and he’s a great producer. At that point, I thought, I love this song, but I already have an album out that’s Volare. I don’t know if I want to have two Italian-sounding recordings. I don’t want to confuse people and think that I’m going to be doing all Italian songs or anything like that. We then came up with “I’ve Been Around”. I thought what great song that is. I have been around the music business a long time, in lots of different genres. We thought that, but then all of a sudden when we heard “52nd & Broadway”, how it came out, we said no, wait a minute; this album is Swing Street all the way.

Toddstar: That’s awesome. I think the title perfectly captured the vibe of the disc from start to finish. Getting into other things, Deana. You’ve been working on trying to pull together a movie for a long time regarding your book about your dad. Any progress on that, since the last time we spoke?

Deana: We do have progress, in fact some new people who are very interested in it. We have been so busy for these past few years, and I am in no rush to have it done. It has to be right. It has to be respectful and something that I will be proud of. I’m not in any hurry to get it done, there’s no pressure for me to have it out, really by 2017. We’re working on a documentary right now. We do have progress, were talking with some more people. Of course, Joe Mantegna is still dying to do it. I can’t talk about the new people that have been contacting us. We’re looking at writers. Bonnie would do it respectfully, she would be great. She’s just been so busy lately. I’m trying to figure out just the right way to go with that fabulous book, with the respect and the dignity that Dean Martin deserves.

Toddstar: Well you talk about the dignity and respect that Dean deserves. He’s part of, you refer to The American Songbook. He’s just part of pop culture, whether it’s from 1960s to 2010s, he’s still there. Do you think that is because of the way he handled himself? We’ve talked about this before, his private life he really tried to keep private. Do you think that is why he is still so integrated into music and life?

Deana: I think that he was such an incredible entertainer, and I believe yes, that is one of the reasons. He kept himself private. He was charming, he was funny, he was classic, he had great style, he always looked great. He respected people; he treated people the way he wanted to treated. He was a star of nightclubs; it was movies, top recording start. Nightclubs. He was in every part of the entertainment business. But he did it with such style and class. I think that’s what has kept him alive, and that everybody loved him. I know people said that they would have felt comfortable to walk up to him and say, “Hi, Mr. Martin, I’ve your biggest fan, I adore you.” He would be gracious and kind to them. This is not what a lot of other people would do. He always was that. He was class personified.

Toddstar: That’s a perfect quote to encapsulate how I envision your father. Your father is one of those guys, I always think back, I love his older music, and I love his whole catalogue. He’s one of those guys, like you said, because he did keep his life so private, I always wonder what his Twitter feed would have been like.


Deana: Wouldn’t that be something? Dad was so… there was something about him, and you can’t put your finger on it. He let everything kind of roll off his back. It was all okay. If you want to do that, that’s fine. I never saw him get mad. He was the Italian father. He had this whole thing, this is it. He would never say anything until he had it up to here, and then that was it. That’s who he was. Dad was so cute. We, as the children of Dean Martin, growing up in that house, where he was the father. He was the father figure, this is my house, you live by my rules, if not, there’s the door. I said “Dad, you know, I’m nine.” We were always joking. All of the children were respectful; all of us were good kids. There was never an argument at home. It was his word and that was it. We never wanted to disappoint him. He always asked us, please don’t embarrass me. Always be kind, treat people the way you want to be treated. Go and do your work, don’t give anybody a hard time. That’s how we were brought up, is to respect people and to be good human beings. That’s what we learned from him. That’s how we conduct our lives. All of us. You never heard of the Martin kids getting in trouble. We were good kids, with respect, and trying not to embarrass our dad.

Toddstar: Deana, I see dates slowly being trickled to the website. I’m still begging and praying for the day you’re going to throw up in the Detroit area, possibly at Andiamo’s, or something. We need you back up here.

Deana: We will be coming back there definitely in 2017. It’s almost here now. I’m going to be, let’s see, where am I going to be? On December 1st, I’m going to be cooking Pasta e fagioli on Fox and Friends. So you’ll have to tune into that. I will be making my Grandma Angela’s Pasta e fagioli recipe on that. The next day, actually, on the fourth, I’ll be playing at the Count Basie Theater up in Red Bank, New Jersey. Then it’s off to New York, excuse me, I will be in New York. Then it’s off to Las Vegas to do a show at the Smith Center, the 16th and 17th. Then off to Columbus, Ohio, for a New Year’s Eve party. John is working on dates. We’ve just been so overwhelmed with this fabulous Swing Street CD coming out, doing all the PR for that and shows. Oh, I’m off to LA next week, also, to do another TV show and lots of interviews. So we’re a little bit crazy.  John is, not a little bit crazy, we’re all pretty crazy, and working on dates. We’ve just been overwhelmed with everything that’s been going on. And the documentary that we’re making for my dad. We’ve already interviewed Bob Newhart, Florence Henderson, Norman Lear, Steve Tyrell, Lee Hale from “The Dean Martin Show,” Angie Dickenson. It’s going to be a spectacular documentary. That’s what he deserves. So talking to all of these people, and hearing what they had to say about Dad. The influences that he had on their life, the impact that he had. It will be nice to hear what they have to say.

Toddstar: I’m sure that will be amazing.

Deana: Yes, it will be.

Toddstar: Can’t wait until we get more information, and make sure everybody knows about that. You mentioned the New Year’s Eve concert, which is huge. I mean who wouldn’t want to ring in the New Year with Deana Martin?

Deana:  Yes, that will be so much fun. Yes. I haven’t done New Years in a couple years. Because I wanted to be able to have a glass of champagne before midnight. It’s funny, I don’t know how people could possibly drink before a show. Or drink during a show. That’s not something that my dad did, but that was the gimmick. Of course, I have my martini glass on the piano, so I make jokes like that. I had not done a New Year’s Eve party for a couple years, because I was just tired, to tell you the truth. I wanted to enjoy New Years, and that whole thing. Now they came to me and they said “Come on, Deana, you’ve got to do that?” I said, “Well of course, let’s go do it.” I love the orchestra; I love Rick Brunetto’s orchestra. We’ve done quite a few shows together. I have my fabulous Rick Krive, who’s probably one of the best musical directors, greatest piano players I have ever been with. When I hear him on this album, well he’s been on all my albums anyway. Just to hear him playing “Quando, Quando, Quando”, it is absolutely gorgeous. That is his arrangement. It’s absolutely gorgeous. In my show, when I sit down on the piano bench with him and sing “Quando, Quando, Quando”, it’s just heaven for me.


 Toddstar: I can only imagine. I know you’re busy Deana, but before I cut you loose, I just want to ask, because I was a little heartbroken when did see the track list for Swing Street, I’m still waiting for your cover of “Go, Go, Go, Go.”

Deana: We will do that. I’ll tell you what – you should send me a nice little list of the songs that you would like. We have so much energy, we want to record all of these songs. We will do it. Between John and myself and my A-team now at capitol Records, it was such a joy to go in and record in Studio A, where my dad did, and so many greats were there. To have these musicians, and Patrick, and Al Schmidt and Steve Genewick in the booth. All of those musicians, and these great arrangements, and the great conductors. It was such a joyful experience for me. I’d walk in, and the musicians are all laughing and joking. But they were very serious about their work. Just on the sizzle reel, to hear Patrick say, “These are the most phenomenal musicians ever.” That they did, in between takes, they would go over their music. Patrick said, he didn’t have to do a thing, all he had to do was go “One, two three four!” The musicians would just play these incredible arrangements to perfection. It was swinging, but it was fun. It was a delight to be able to be with them. We did all of this in just a couple days. We did two; we would do four-hour session. You’ve got your unions and everything. So getting all of those songs in and it did sound so amazing. I’m thrilled. We are going to be recording many more albums, and I would love to have some suggestions from you. I respect your opinion.

Toddstar: It’s one of those songs, I’ve always loved it, and I’ve always thought your voice would do something special.

Deana: I’ve already written that down.

Toddstar: Again, I know you’re busy. You threw the term out there, ‘joyful experience’. That perfectly describes my annual discussion with you, Deana. Thank you again, so much, for taking time out for me. I so appreciate it. Thank you for giving me a joyful experience in the beginning of my day.

Deana: Thank you, I enjoyed every minute of it. Always do. Keep plugging, and thank you again for that beautiful, beautiful review. It’s absolutely perfect.

Toddstar: I wouldn’t have written it if it wasn’t true.

Deana: I know that. All right my dear, you have a great time until I see you again.





Category: Interviews

About the Author ()

ToddStar - that's me... just a rocking accountant who had dreams of being a rock star. I get to do the next best thing to rocking the globe - I get to take pictures of the lucky ones that do. I love to shoot all genres of music and different types of performers. If it is related to music, I love to photograph it. I get to shoot and hang with not only some of my friends and idols, but some of the coolest people around today.

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