Mindy Lucas

Deana Martin on singing, her famous father, Dean Martin and what she loves about live audiences

Deana Martin, daughter of Dean Martin, to perform on Hilton Head

Deana Martin, daughter of Dean Martin, belts out the favorites will be performing at The Jazz Corner on Hilton Head Island Oct. 2 and 3, 2015. This video, less than a minute in length, showcases some quick takes from her past performances.
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Deana Martin, daughter of Dean Martin, belts out the favorites will be performing at The Jazz Corner on Hilton Head Island Oct. 2 and 3, 2015. This video, less than a minute in length, showcases some quick takes from her past performances.

Internationally celebrated entertainer Deana Martin, 67, makes a two-night appearance this week at The Jazz Corner on Hilton Head Island. Martin's show mixes jazz and pop classics made famous by her father, Dean Martin, with warm, and often hilarious, personal anecdotes from life with her dad and other members of the "Rat Pack."

The Island Packet and The Beaufort Gazette recently spoke with Martin by phone from Los Angeles.

Here, edited for length, is that conversation:

QUESTION: You are a singer, writer, and best-selling author. Earlier in your career, you were an actress. I even read where you hosted your own weekly radio show. I'm not going to ask you where you find the time or the energy to do all those things but rather what exactly drives you or is it as simple as a love of show business?

ANSWER: It is truly a love of show business, or a love of singing and performing and being up there on stage with a live band. ...

The feeling is just great.

But to continue with the great American song book -- it keeps me energized. Of course I eat right and that helps. (Laughing)

And that I have my handsome husband, John (John Griffeth), all the time. He's my producer, he's the director, he's the manager. ... We get to do everything together and that just keeps it fun. But it's definitely a lot of hard work, but it's worth it.

Q: I understand you have a new album out? What are some of the highlights from that?

A: We have a fabulous up-tempo version of "Strangers in the Night." And I will be performing that one in Philadelphia when we're there with The Philly Pops.

... We have a great arrangement of "Georgia" that's really different. Many, many people have recorded "Georgia." It's one of my favorite songs. My dad recorded it, but it is different. And there will be some surprises, too, but it's going to be great.

Q: You are also one of those rare performers who has a pretty vast repertoire in that you can sing jazz, swing, and all the classic standards from your father's era. What is your favorite style and why?

A: I do love Jazz. The thing about the Great American Songbook is that these timeless classic songs -- they can be done in different tempos and have a different feel. You can jazz them up and do them anyway you want. There's just something about that music that just feels good.

To me if a song is good, it doesn't matter what genre it's in. And so I will sing it because I put my twist on it.

...And for me, it's learning something new. Learning different songs. It keeps you alert. It keeps you on your toes. So for me it's exciting to get up on stage and perform for people ... . I could go to a performing arts center and have a big band and then the next day it could be a big Italian festival with a bigger band so for me it's the traveling around. It keeps your brain going, it keeps you young and keeps you energized.

Q: You frequently honor your father on stage by singing many of his songs. Is this a way for you to continue to connect to your father, or is it just about a love of this music and trying to bring that to new generations or is it a combination of those things?

A: It is a combination of all of these things. I love his music and the people love his music and I am Deana Martin. Dean with an 'A'. (laughing)

So it's something that I feel I am supposed to do and that I love to do. And it does bring back memories for people and we're making new memories for them... .

Everybody knows the words to "That's Amore." So when I start singing that, everybody is singing.

In my show, I have volunteers to come up from the audience to sing back up for "Memories Are Made of This." So I say when I point to you, you just sing "Sweet Sweet. Memories you gave to me." (Singing)

So of course I'm continuing on with his legacy which was so amazing. And Uncle Frank Sinatra and Uncle Sammy Davis Jr. and the people who I grew up with.

Peggy Lee was at our house. Rosemary Clooney, Bobby Darin, Tony Bennett, Andy Williams, so all of these influences that I grew up with are just part of me. They're in my DNA.

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A portrait of Dean and Deana Martin. Submitted photo

Q: If you had to describe what that experience was like -- growing up with such iconic legends around like Sinatra and Davis -- how would you describe that?

A: It was exciting. These people were cool, and they were funny and fun and people wanted to come over to our house. I had girlfriends who would say, 'Can we come over to your house for dinner?' Because it was fun. My family was fun. My dad was hysterical.

I went to school with Desi (Arnaz) Jr. and Lucie (Arnaz) and Tina Sinatra, so we were all in the same boat. But it was a great atmosphere. We'd have Sammy Cahn playing the piano and he would be writing parodies for my dad.

... so a lot of people would come by.

Q: Speaking of which, I understand, "Uncle Frank" actually gave you your first singing lesson. Can you tell that story?

A: Yes, so I said, "Uncle Frank, how do you do it? How do you get that great tone?" And he said, "Well Deana, it's all about the air. I take in a big breath. I push from the diaphragm and I can tell if I'm going to be on key or not before it comes out."

And I said, "Really? Does my dad do that?"

And he said, "No, your father has no idea what he's doing. He's a natural. He just does it, it's just natural for him."

(Laughing)

But I learned a lot from him about phrasing, and I guess how to perform a song, how to interpret a song.

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From left, Deana and Dean Martin and Frank and Tina Sinatra. Submitted photo

Q: Many of these stories can be found in your memoir, "Memories Are Made of This," which I understand is going to be made into a movie soon.

A: We are having a production meeting tomorrow and we will be having a big casting for the person to play Dean and it's going to be quite something.

Hopefully, we will have it out in 2017. That's when my dad would have been 100 years old. He was born June 7, 1917. Right now we're having the big Frank Sinatra year. Sinatra would have been 100 on Dec. 12.

So I'm trying to get all these things out. The documentary, the new album. Our plates are full.

Q: It sounds like you stay busy. Do you ever have any down time?

A: Not really. (Laughing) We're on the road 280 days out of the year. We're going to be concentrating, after I do these shows during this month and next month, on the documentary and then on my album.

Q: Any final thoughts or anything you would you like to say about the upcoming show here at The Jazz Corner?

A: The Jazz Corner is going to be so much fun. I love the audiences there. There will be some new songs and of course there will a lot of old familiar songs. I just want everyone to get ready to get up and sing "Memories are Made of This" and "That's Amore."


IF YOU GO

Deana Martin will be in concert Friday, Oct. 2 and Saturday, Oct. 3, at The Jazz Corner, in The Village at Wexford, 1000 William Hinton Parkway, Hilton Head Island. Doors open at 6 p.m. The Bob Alberti Duo performs at 7:45 p.m. Martin goes on at 9 p.m. Tickets are $50.

For details or reservations call 843-842-8620 or visit www.thejazzcorner.com.

Follow reporter Mindy Lucas at twitter.com/MindyatIPBG.

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