Dino, Desi & Billy were the vocal trio of Dino Martin, Desi Arnaz Jr. and Billy Hinsche. Martin, who died in 1987 when his Air National Guard jet crashed, was the son of Dean Martin; Arnaz is the son of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz. Hinsche told the story of the group and this song to Forgotten Hits
: Dino Martin and I were longtime best friends and classmates in grammar school (Good Shepherd of Beverly Hills) and started out as a duo - just me and Dino, following the lead of Chad & Jeremy and Peter & Gordon, and both of us just playing 6 string acoustic guitars.
It wasn't long before we realized that having a drummer would be a good idea and we should "go electric" and proceed as a trio. We knew that Desi Arnaz, Jr. (in a younger class) could play drums and so we asked him if he wanted to start a group with us - we asked him during a lunch break out by the basketball court. He was happy to accept the role as our drummer (his older sister, Lucie Arnaz, was our classmate).
We played at local neighborhood parties and made $20 a show. I remember thinking - how do we split this equally?
Our rehearsals began at Lucille Ball's outside playroom and eventually moved to Dean Martin's large den, that had a small riser for a stage. Over time, we got better and better as musicians and singers. Jeanne Martin (Dean's wife) picked up the phone one day, called Frank Sinatra and told him that he had to hear us play - she thought we were really good. We auditioned for Mr. Sinatra as he and Dean listened to us perform a few songs in the bar area of the Martin home - perfect, right? There they sat - old blue eyes and old red eyes!
After the audition, Mr. Sinatra walked over and asked if we would like a contract on his label, Reprise. Of course, we gladly accepted his kind and generous offer. We were shocked to learn that we wouldn't be playing on our first recording session but would have professional studio musicians record the tracks instead of us. This hurt our feelings, as we thought we were good enough to record for ourselves but didn't realize how things worked in the LA recording scene even though, apparently, it was commonplace, as we know today. I remember that Jerry Cole played guitar on our first two sides but I don't recall who the other musicians were. On subsequent recordings it shouldn't surprise anyone that the Wrecking Crew played on our sessions though, over time, Dino, Desi and I recorded and were incorporated more and more onto our tracks.
I don't think most people know that the first song we released was a dud, sold nothing and went nowhere ("Since You Broke My Heart" / "We Know"). I wanted us to record "Since You Broke My Heart" after I heard it on a Searchers' LP. I didn't realize at the time that it was written by the Everly Brothers - no wonder I liked it so much. The B side, "We Know," was pitched to us as having been "turned down by the Beatles," so we eagerly agreed to record it, since anything that even came close to being a Beatles' song was good enough for us. Even though we performed "Since You Broke My Heart" on the Hollywood Palace TV Show on November 28, 1964 (Tony Martin hosted and the broadcast was in black & white), it got little airplay.
In 1965 (I was 14 years old), our Producer and A&R man, Jimmy Bowen, brought in a young country gentleman named Lee Hazlewood to try his hand at producing us and it yielded our first and biggest hit, "I'm a Fool" / "So Many Ways". If I'm not mistaken, it went Top 20. Earl Palmer played drums and James Burton played guitar on "I'm a Fool". If I had to guess, I believe that Ray Pohlman played bass, though it *might* have been Carol Kaye
- sorry for the lapse in memory. But give me a break - after all, it's been 45 years !@#$%
It opened the doors for us to tour with the Beach Boys, Paul Revere & the Raiders, Sam the Sham & the Pharaohs, and many tours of our own in both the US and Canada. Over the next four years we recorded four albums for Reprise and had six songs that charted on the Billboard / Cash Box Hot 100.
As a result of the success of "I'm a Fool" (written by Red West - yes, THAT Red West & Shindig regular Joey Cooper), we appeared in countless articles and pictorials in Gloria Stavers' 16 Magazine
, Tiger Beat
, etc., and did all the relevant television shows of the day including Shindig
, Sam Riddle's 9th Street West
, the Lloyd Thaxton show
, Where the Action Is
, the Joey Bishop show
, the Mike Douglas show
, the Dean Martin show
and Sammy Davis Jr.'s Thanksgiving Day Special for kids. We even made appearances on the Hollywood Squares and the Dating Game.
But the TV appearance that was the most important and memorable was the Ed Sullivan show. It was the first color broadcast of the Ed Sullivan show and we did it at the CBS studios on Beverly Blvd. / Fairfax in LA - not in the studio in NY, so it was historical on several levels. We were also in the Matt Helm (Dean Martin) spy spoof flick "Murderer's Row" wherein we performed Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart's composition of "If You're Thinkin' What I'm Thinkin'" - one of our charted hits. You can still see our RC Cola TV commercial on YouTube and filmed at the Hollywood Bowl
But getting back to the main topic - I found out many years later that Red West had based 'I'm a Fool" on Elvis Presley's "Don't Be Cruel
". The titles even rhyme! When you compare the two songs you can see the similarities, especially lyrically in the first verse of each song:
"Don't Be Cruel" (Otis Blackwell / Elvis Presley)You know I can be found
Sitting home all alone
If you can't come around
At least please telephone
Don't be cruel
To a heart that's true
"I'm a Fool" (Red West / Joey Cooper)You know where I can be found
(Dontcha' know) I'll be waiting by the telephone, girl
While you're out running around, yeah
I'm sitting home all alone
I'm a fool, just a silly fool
To be in love with you
I think it is very cool that Dino, Desi & Billy had this connection, albeit minimal, to Elvis.