Gary James' Interview With
Deana Martin

Singing comes easy to Deana Martin, as well it should! You could almost say it runs in the family. She made her television debut on her father's TV show The Dean Martin Show. She signed a recording contract with Reprise Records, appeared on TV shows like Joey Bishop, Merv Griffin, and Mike Douglas. She played Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas and the Whiskey A Go Go on the Hollywood Strip. She even appeared on a Monkees TV episode, "Some Like It Lukewarm". We are talking about Deana Martin. Deana has just released a new CD, her fourth studio album, titled "Destination Moon". Deana spoke with us about the CD, her father, her years growing up, and a star-studded cast of famous family friends.

Q - You did on this CD what Natalie Cole did some years back on her CD. That is, you got to sing with your father years after he passed. Is that eerie to record something like that?

A - That's a very good question. It was quite something. It was overwhelming. It wasn't eerie. It's been a long enough time, and by the way it was the same person, Al Schmidt, who did Natalie's (CD) at Capitol and he did mine also with Dean and Deana. So, I was in very good hands with Al Schmidt. Actually, my husband found the original handwritten Nelson Riddle arrangement that my Dad used. We went into the recording studio with fabulous musicians. We recorded it at The Sound Factory, what is called Criteria in Miami.

Q - Eric Clapton and The Bee Gees recorded there.

A - Yes. There are so many Platinum and Gold albums up on the wall there, it's amazing. It's a wonderful place to be. So, we recorded it there with the savviest musicians. Then, went back to Capitol and I'm listening through my headphones and I'm holding the actual chart that my Dad had held that Nelson Riddle wrote for him, handwritten. It says "Dean" on top. I'm hearing his voice through the headphones and I'm looking at his sheet music and I couldn't even sing for a moment. It was shocking and it was overwhelming. So, it was "Cut. Let's try this again." (Laughs). I did it a couple of times. But he felt so close to me right there. He really and truly did. After, when they played it back, I was absolutely astounded at how similar our voices were. It's kind of the timbre, but our breathing and phrasing was so similar and that's when it really kind of hit me then. Gosh, that sounds really good together! (Laughs).

Q - Did you ever sing around the house with your father?

A - I actually sang with him on his TV show many times. So that wasn't the first time I sang with him, but it was the first recording that I did. And he was always so generous. Everybody loved to sing with Dad, because he was just so nice and sweet and down to earth. He always made you feel comfortable. So, it wasn't a scary thing. Of course, a young girl would be nervous to be on the TV show with Dad, but he made you feel comfortable. So, it was just kind of a wonderful, overpowering experience for me. But now that I hear it back, it's just so beautiful to me.

Q - You have an advantage over most people who would record a CD like this. You know the people whose songs you're singing, didn't you? You knew Nat King Cole, didn't you?

A - Yes.

Q - And Frank Sinatra and Bobby Darin.

A - That's right. Uncle Frank (laughs). Yes, I did. They were in our living room, and Rosemary Clooney and Peggy Lee. For me to sing "I Love Being Here With You", I hear her. I knew her. She was so wonderful, Rosemary Clooney. I remember Christmas's past where we would sit around and sing Christmas carols together. It was quite an exceptional life. For me, I lived these songs. I grew up on the songs. It's just a part of me. I know how to interpret them. It's in my DNA. It's there and I love it.

Q - You don't write your own material, do you?

A - No. I've written a couple. I haven't recorded them yet, but we will.

Q - If someone brought you a song in the style of Lady Gaga or Taylor Swift or Carrie Underwood, could you sing that type of material? I realize it's three different styles.

A - It's three different styles, but I could, because I've trained. My first record was a Country 'n' Western song, Lee Hazelwood. I recorded that at Reprise with Lee. He had just finished "Boots" with Nancy (Sinatra). I recorded a song he wrote. It was called "Girl Of The Month Club". So, I had a nice little Country hit with that. I went to Nashville. So, Country was there for me. Then of course as I became a teenager and into my 20s, it was rock 'n roll. If you're a good singer and you have a little bit of soul, I think for me, I could sing some of those songs. I prefer these. (Laughs). I love this music, but on this new album, "Destination Moon", there's a few new songs, one in particular which I adore, "Where Did You Learn To Love Like That?", that L. Russell Brown wrote. He's a great guy. He wrote tons and tons of songs. When he sent that to me, and I had never heard that, it was just so beautiful and I said, "You know what? I think we have to record this." I think it just turned out great. It's a wonderful song to sing 'live' and I do like that and the audiences have really been responding to it.

Q - You played The Whiskey A Go Go at one point, didn't you?

A - Yes, I did. That's when I had my band. It was in the '60s, '66, '67. My band was called the Chromium Plated Streamlined Baby. We did cover songs of rock 'n roll and I traveled around with the band. That was quite something, playing at The Whiskey.

Q - That band's name was quite a mouthful!

A - I know, it was the '60s, Gary. (Laughs).

Q - The Whiskey was a hangout for people like Jim Morrison. Did he ever see you?

A - He wasn't there that night. I remember Cher being there and of course Davy Jones, but he came with me. He was my date. It was wild and crazy. There was a lot going on, but what a fun time it was. I was young, but it was The Whiskey A Go Go, so I was thrilled. This was in the days of The Mamas And The Papas. We all wore Nehru jackets. It was a fun time for me.

Q - Again, you probably knew those people. You got to meet and greet 'em.

A - Right. I got to meet and greet 'em. And of course I was at the recordings of The Byrds when they were doing "Turn, Turn, Turn" and "Hey Mr. Tambourine Man". In fact, Buffalo Springfield played for my 18th birthday party. They were my band. (Laughs).

Q - Wow!

A - I know. It was quite something. It was quite a life.

Q - Didn't you meet The Beatles in 1964 at a Capitol Records reception in Los Angeles?

A - Yes, we did. In fact, I have a fabulous picture of me with The Beatles, which is very exciting. I believe it was Jay Livingston at his house in Brentwood. It was a fund raiser. The Beatles were all there sitting on their little stools. We came up and met them and had our photos taken with them. Ringo came over to the house. Those were the days when everybody knew each other and it was exciting, especially for young girls. I was 16 years old and what was actually really exciting for us was my Dad's a record, "Everybody Loves Somebody", knocked The Beatles out of first place at that time in 1964. That was kind of a shocker for everyone.

Q - Did your father like rock 'n roll? Did he like Elvis?

A - He liked Elvis and Elvis worshiped my dad. He just thought he was really amazing. My dad was supercool. He wasn't intimidated by people or things that happened. When he did knock The Beatles out of first place, he was very proud of it. He sent telegrams to Elvis and to Frank Sinatra saying "I did it! I knocked 'em out of first place!" He was proud.

Q - As well he should be.

A - Yes.

Q - It must be frustrating for you to always be asked about your father. And I know, I've done the same, but I've tried not to over ask. It's like always being asked about your high school days.

A - (laughs). Here's the thing with that and that is something that will always happen: First of all, I accept that of course because he was unbelievable. He is a classic, Dean Martin. Everybody loved him. So, no matter where I go or what I do, it's a badge of honor for me also. He was so loved. We can never take that away from him. What's wonderful for me is when people come to my show and after the show I go out and meet them and sign CD's or autographs and they come up and say, it used to be, "I'm your Dad's biggest fan." Now they come up and say, "I loved your show. You were great. And I loved your Dad." Of course I honor my father with a lot of the songs that I do and talk about him and stories about him and that will always be and hopefully that will never change. I want his memory and his incredible songs and body of work to live on forever, and mine also. So, it's not a problem for me at all. It's a thrill. It's an honor, especially because he was so wonderful. If he had not been so wonderful, then maybe I wouldn't want people saying things to me all the time. (Laughs). But he deserves all the acclaim he gets.

Q - He never seemed to give interviews. I don't know if that's because he didn't like the press or what he thought.

A - He was pretty quiet. He told me, "Deana, I work so that I can pay for you kids and play golf." He was laid back and easy. What you saw, that nice, funny guy, was what he was. If he wasn't working he would get up very early every morning and play golf and he was home every night for dinner and that's the way he was. He was a quiet person. He was private. He didn't need to have a lot of people around him. He didn't need to have press and give interviews. It just wasn't his style.

Q - Did you attend private schools?

A - First of all Beverly Hills Catholic School up until the eighth grade. Then I went to Beverly Hills High School and then to Rexford and then off to college in England. Beverly Hills High School was quite something.

Q - Was Beverly Hills High School public or private?

A - It's a public school.

Q - Did anyone ever say are you the daughter of...?

A - Oh, of course everybody knew. I mean Deana Martin. (Laughs). It's not like I was Claudia Martin or something. And it's every day, they always make the association.

Q - Who's writing the songs of today that will become the standards of tomorrow?

A - L. Russell Brown. He writes fabulous music. One of the songs on the new CD is "Read Between The Line" by Joseph Baldassare and I think it's a beautiful tune that could stand up right there with all of the classic songs. But there are wonderful writers. I love Billy Joel of course. Not to say that Taylor Swift's songs aren't going to last forever, but that's her genre and it's amazing that this young girl who is so talented, who writes all of her songs, is a great role model and that's wonderful. But I think there are beautiful songs coming out all the time.

Q - Do you watch shows like American Idol and The Voice and The X Factor?

A - When I watch The Voice and The X Factor, all these people that are on it are amazing. Their voices are absolutely amazing. People weren't singing like that years ago. It's a phenomenon. Those voices these young people have are great. Hopefully they will continue on and pay their dues. I'm watching them and maybe it's their first audition. They have never even sung in front of an audience before and they have this incredible, God-given gift that the people turn their chairs around and all of a sudden they are superstars. They are number one on iTunes every week and hopefully they will be able to sustain it and learn the craft so they can go out there and do the shows because this is a tough business.

Q - Did you ever want to do something outside of show business?

A - No. It's always been that for me. I think it's in my DNA. I was fortunate enough to have ballet lessons, tap lessons, piano lessons, singing lessons. So it was just part of me. Something that I always wanted to do. Then years ago I put out a fitness video. I wanted to keep fit, but for me personally, acting and singing is pretty much what I love to do.

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