Sometimes kids can make a lot of “noise.”
That’s exceptionally true for the children of entertainment legends Dean Martin, Louis Prima, and Mel Torme, who will be creating a buzz all on their own with their very individual sounds of music at the M Resort on November 8tth.
For all of them, being the siblings of famous legendary stars has had its high points and its difficulties. Here, the three (in last name alphabetical order) talk candidly about how their parent’s fame has impacted their lives and careers.
RICCI MARTIN (pictured above)
For Ricci Martin, son of the late Dean Martin, it is love that has made his world go round – the public’s love for his dad. In fact, he says that it is people’s love for his famous parent that has made it extremely easy for him to carve out his own niche in show business. Ricci candidly admits, however, that he feels that no one can achieve the excellence that his father did so that has never interfered with his own career. He considers himself very fortunate and blessed. Still, he has had obstacles to overcome.
“Most people assume that because I am Dean Martin’s son that I am an asshole,” he states. “However, once they meet me, they eventually say, ‘Hey, you’re a nice guy after all.’ Since these are people who have never even met me, they go into the relationship thinking I’m an egomaniac when I’m not.
“My greatest lesson was truly understanding people’s love for and history with Dad,” he continues. “When I first began performing, it seemed routine. However, after 13 years, I learned why this man was so adored. And I’m thankful that I finally have figured that out.”
Ricci says that his favorite memory growing up has always been Christmas morning and his walking down the stairs knowing that his father was tired and that his mother had been up all night but that the family was all there, including all the seven Martin children -- Craig, Claudia, Gale, Dina, Dino, Gina and himself.
As for the greatest thing he learned from his father, he says that while shooting stills on Dean’s NBC television show, no matter if he was speaking to the president of NBC or to the shoeshine guy at the network, Dean treated everybody the same.
“It didn’t matter who you were,” Ricci acknowledges. “I always found that amazing. Here was a man who could truly abuse his stardom but chose not to. He stayed with his roots and treated everyone the same. And it always amazed me. Spiritually, he taught me to believe in God.”
Summing up, Martin says that the engagement at the M Resort is an opportunity to work with professionals of his generation and that he is truly looking forward to it.
Lena Prima, daughter of the late Louis Prima, isn’t just blowing her own horn when she says that being the offspring of a famous dad hasn’t presented any problems in her career and that, for her, it’s been great. According to her, that’s because she is a female. That, ostensibly, has allowed her to find her own identity and not be compared to her legendary parent.
Lena reveals that the only downside in her life and career was having an unsupportive mother who resented her. Still, Prima has thrived thanks to a lesson she learned early on from her father.
“My dad gave me a fortune from a fortune cookie that said, ‘Your own qualities will ensure your advancement in the world,’” she explains, “He told me to always remember that because it was very important. I had a copy of the fortune made and I wear it in a necklace to remind me to always be myself.”
Lena’s favorite memory of her dad is a story that she always tells in her shows.
“My dad sang "Pennies From Heaven" to me when I was a little girl to the music from my wind-up music box penny bank, which played that song,” she recalls. “I still have the little bank and I still pick up pennies and think of him smiling at me. I even designed a jewelry line because of it -Pennies from Heaven Jewelry.”
Insofar as the greatest gift her father gave her, she notes that it is several things -- joy, love, empathy, knowledge of music, integrity, character, importance of community, laughter, heritage...his legacy. She is honored to have been asked to be a part of the show at the M.
“I am very excited for us to come together and celebrate our parents and ourselves!” she enthuses.
For Steve March-Torme, son of the late Mel Torme, the hardest part of being the son of his famed parent has been coming out of the “fog” and cutting a clear path to his own identity. Although Mel’s moniker was “The Velvet Fog,” Steve wants people to know that he is “reigning” on his own parade.
“Mel was known as a musician’s singer and was admired by other musicians,” Steve expresses. “I know that I have to be well-rehearsed and as proficient as possible within the first four notes and establish my own identity. The last thing anyone wants to hear is me sounding like my dad. I don’t want to sound like him. Establishing my own identity is a challenge and it keeps me on my toes. We both sing jazz but we come from different places and different generations. My dad’s sensibilities were Harry James, Duke Ellington, and Benny Goodman. Mine are the Beatles, James Taylor, and Steely Dan.
“The hardest part was finding my own voice and staying true to it,” he adds. “The only obstacle I’ve had is me and learning to do what I do for an audience as opposed to doing what I do for me.”
Although Steve’s mother and Mel divorced when Steve was two-and-a-half years old and he was raised by his stepfather, Hal March, host of the hit TV show, The 64,000 Question and to whom he was very close, there is no denying that Mel had a great influence on Steve’s vocal talents later on. They spent a lot of time together during the last 15 years of Mel’s life.
“He taught me to develop my lower range,” Steve acknowledges. “I was from the Doobie Brothers era in which they all sang high.”
Still, Steve’s favorite memories of Mel have nothing to do with music. Rather, it is of the two of them hanging out and talking about everything but music.
“We were both like 11-year-old lids in grown men’s bodies,” he laughs. “We both liked planes, trains, and automobiles. Still, the most important gift he ever gave me was his genealogy -- his DNA -- and the gift of an instrument that people like.”
As for the show at the M, Steve says that he is more curious to see how it all comes off since all the performers share the second generation label.
“We’re all different types of personalities and musical styles,” he points out. “There is a mix of the Great American Songbook and jazz personalities. I’m curious to see how it all blends.”