Dino, Desi & Billy – Teen Idols for a Time



Dino, Desi & Billy were an American pop group known for their Top 20 hit in 60s music era, “I’m A Fool.” The band was also known for their connections in show business. Dino Martin (born Dean Paul Martin) was the son of Dean Martin while Desi Arnaiz Jr. was of course the offspring of Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball. The two men and another member Billy Hinsche met while they were all studying at a grammar school. Since the nepotism among the band members was obvious, they got into the business with almost no sweat. The band auditioned for Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin’s friend and ward of Sinatra’s own label, Reprise. On their records, these kids didn’t play a single instrument, but their music was played by seasoned session musicians. Dino, Desi and Billy also didn’t write their own material either as their songs was provided by a host of songwriters that included Lee Hazlewood, Boyce and Hart, David Gates, Booner and Gordon, and Clint Bannard Jr. Their first singles were chart hits as the boys were barely into their teens, especially “Not the Lovin’ Kind” and “I’m A Fool,” the last being the band’s biggest hit. They were also being viewed in good favor by the Beach Boys, for whom Dino, Desi and Billy opened in their shows. Carl Wilson was married to Hinsche’s sister, leading to another connection – Wilson and Hinsche wrote one of Dino, Desi & Billy’s last singles “Lady Love” in 1970. The band had been criticized for their lack of genuine talent and the bland quality of their music. They’d been dismissed as well for taking away the valuable time, sales, resources and support that other more talented and more deserving bands needed, such as The Kinks who happened to be Dino, Desi and Billy’s label mates. In the 1970s, the group disbanded; Dino Martin, who had become a licensed pilot, was killed while flying a military jet in 1987. A reincarnation of the group called “Ricci, Desi & Billy” was formed from the late 1990s to the early 21st century, with Ricci Martin replacing his deceased brother Dino as a newest member of the group.

Formation and early years

A trio was formed in Beverly Hills collectively known as just by their names, “Dino, Desi & Billy.” The Hollywood-based trio consisted of Dean “Dino” Martin, Desi Arnaz, Jr. and Billy Hinsche. The three youngsters first met at grammar school. Martin was the son of Dean Martin (singer, comedian), while Arnaz Jr. was the son of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz.  Initially forming a band just for fun, the teens went to audition for Frank Sinatra who owned Reprise Records, which happened to be Dean Martin’s recording label.

The boys did not play their own instruments in most of their records. Instead, they recorded their material with top session players, songwriters (such as David Gates, Lee Hazlewood, Bonner & Gordon, Clint Ballard Jr. and Boyce & Hart) and producers (including Lee Hazlewood, Jimmy Bowen and Billy Strange).

Dino, Desi and Billy’s peak of their career

The pop rock trio released their first single by the end of 1964. “I’m a Fool” entered the Billboard Hot 100 and peaked at #17 in early 1965. It was followed with “Not the Lovin’ Kind” which went to #25 peak position in the U.S. chart. Those two singles were Dino, Desi & Billy’s best known songs and have been loved by oldies music fans.

Later that year, Alvin and the Chipmunks covered “I’m a Fool” for their album Chipmunks a Go-Go.  Although none of the three members had reached the age of 15 yet, they had come a pretty long way. The boys were also able to play as support act for the Beach Boys, Tommy Roe, Paul Revere & the Raiders, Sham the Sham, the Lovin Spoonful and The Mamas and the Papas.

Decline, break-up and reunion

After 1965 that was filled with successes, the band had lesser hits from 1966 to 1970. Even switching label to Columbia Records in 1969 did not help to maintain their recording career. In 1969, the band provided three songs for the surf film Follow Me. Later that year, Dino, Desi and Billy broke up and later pursued different careers outside the music business. After the split, Reprise Records issued Dino, Desi and Billy’s last single “Lady Love.”

Dino became a licensed pilot; he perished in an airplane crash in 1987. From 1998 to 2010 the surviving members, Arnaz and Hinsche, re-formed the group along with Dino’s brother Ricci and named themselves “Ricci, Desi & Billy.”

Did you know?

Barely reaching their adolescent phase, the Hollywood trio Dino, Desi & Billy hit the music charts in 1965. None of the members were 15 when they began playing music to a screaming crowd. Let’s look at some interesting facts about Dino, Desi & Billy.

  • Dino, Desi, and Billy starred in Dean Martin’s film ‘Murderer’s Row’ and sang ‘If You’re Thinkin’ What I’m Thinkin’, while three of their labeled songs were used as the soundtrack of a surf film titled “Follow Me.”
  • Dino, after their short success, became a tennis player. He eventually tried the limelight acting and became a California Air National Guard captain. He was married twice. The first was to the actress Olivia Hussey, followed by a figure skater Dorothy Hamill.
  • The two members faced unfortunate deaths. Dino lost his life in a plane crash, while Billy passed away at 70 following his short battle with lung cancer. Billy Hinsche died on the same day as his 95-year-old mother, Celia. 

Billy Hinsche playing on piano

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