“The Dean Martin Show” debuted on September 16, 1965. For most of its run, Dean’s variety hour was a fixture on the NBC Thursday night lineup. Martin was initially reluctant to do the show, partially because he did not want to turn down movie and nightclub performances.
His terms were deliberately unrealistic: as author Lee Hale recalled, “He presented [NBC] with a list of demands he thought it would be impossible to fill. He asked for an outrageous amount of money, of course, but there was more. He only wanted to work one day a week, and that day had to be Sunday. He didn’t want to do anything but announce the acts. He didn’t even want to sing if he didn’t feel like it… But surprisingly NBC agreed to each of his demands. ‘They should have thrown them in my face,’ Dean said later, ‘but they agreed to it all. So what the hell, I had to show up!'”
As his daughter, Deana Martin, recalled, after meeting the network and making his demands, Martin returned home and announced to his family, “They went for it. So now I have to do it.”
At first Dean had no regular supporting cast other than his accompanist, pianist Ken Lane. Guest stars were featured each week in comedy skits and songs, both alone and with Dean (who never rehearsed). Some of the young talent (including The Golddiggers and The Ding-a-Ling Sisters) also starred in Dean’s summer replacement series. The last show aired on May 24, 1974, but his “Celebrity Roasts” continued on NBC as a series of occasional specials.
57 years later, I can still watch clips of the show on YouTube and laugh like crazy! If you want to read a fantastic book about the show, find yourself a copy of “Back Stage At The Dean Martin Show” by Lee Hale. It’s a joy to read!