Dino, Desi & Billy was a group of well-connected young men from Beverly Hills who recorded songs in the 60's and were able to secure a recording contract based more on who they knew than on how well they performed. They managed to put two songs in the top forty in the 60's.
The group was composed of Dean Martin, Jr. (Dino), Desiderio Arnaz IV (Desi) and William Hinsche (Billy). Dino was the son of singer/comedian Dean Martin, Desi is the son of Hollywood stars Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz (of the 50's TV show I Love Lucy), and Billy is the son of a successful real estate developer. They attended school together and became friends, and in 1964 they formed their group. In the beginning, they just played for fun.
This band has been compared to another rock group that was popular at the time, Gary Lewis and the Playboys. The comparison is valid in the sense that both used their powerful show business connections to get noticed (Lewis is the son of comedian Jerry Lewis). But Lewis's group included some talented musicians, and Gary himself proved to be adept as both a singer and songwriter. Dino, Desi & Billy, on the other hand, performed with studio musicians and handled only the vocals on most of their records, and even at that, they were not among the best singers of their time. They recorded primarily on the Reprise label, which was Dean Martin's label and for which an audition was arranged in front of none other than Martin's good pal, Frank Sinatra.
They were able to secure material from some of the top pop promoters and songwriters of the day, including Lee Hazlewood, Jimmy Bowen, David Gates, and Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart. In 1965 the group cracked the top forty with I'm A Fool. Later that year their second and last top forty record, Not The Lovin' Kind, reached number 25. The group continued recording throughout the rest of the decade before disbanding in 1970. They did some cover songs, including one of Dean Martin's Memories Are Made Of This, and released five albums. The group also made an appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show.
Toward the end of their career the group members became more involved as songwriters and musicians, but their talent was not quite up to other established groups of the day. Billy Hinsche's sister married Carl Wilson of the Beach Boys. In 1970 Dino, Desi & Billy released a song that had been written by Brian Wilson and Billy Hinsche titled Lady Love.
Dean Martin, Jr. went on to lead an interesting life that was cut short when he was in his prime. In addition to his work with Dino, Desi & Billy, he acted in a television series and was married to Olympic skating champion Dorothy Hamill. He died in 1987, at age 35, in the crash of his Air National Guard jet plane.
None of the members of Dino, Desi & Billy had yet turned 15 years old when their songs were on the charts. They played for fun, and were offered a recording contract in large part because of the connections that their parents had -- a contract that many teenagers of that time would have gladly accepted if given the chance. They did the best they could with the ability that they had and reached a certain degree of success through their efforts.
In 1996 Sundazed issued a compilation of their recordings titled Rebel Kind: The Best of Dino, Desi & Billy.
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