Saturday, June 1, 2013

The Sammy Davis Jr. Show

I was talking with Neil Daniels from the Dean Martin Fan Center about how I felt Sammy Davis, Jr. was the most talented of the Rat Pack and Neil agreed. Sammy had a troubled career, forced to marry a woman he didn't love, unable to be with the one he did love. The racist elements of society that plagued him. Neil brought up the point that Frank & Dean did a lot for race relations by publicly embracing Sammy and that's undoubtedly true.

Sammy had a couple of TV series, one was a primetime variety hour that he couldn't contractually appear on for the first few weeks. No really, he had a contract with ABC that forbade his appearance on another network for so many months; when NBC gave him an hour slot in the first week of January 1966 Sammy had to wait until February 11th before he could appear on The Sammy Davis Jr. Show. Guest hosts, including Johnny Carson, Sean Connery, and Judy Garland kept the timeslot lukewarm until Sammy could take the reins of a show in ratings free fall. Richard Burton & Liz Taylor guested on Sammy's premiere episode but cancellation came shortly thereafter.

Here's a a bit with Sammy and Richard Burton and his wife Elizabeth Taylor:

In this wild segment from The Sammy Davis Jr. Show Sammy coaxes The Supremes and The Andrews Sisters to switch songs. It almost works!

Sammy's other series of note was a 90 minute weekly talk show called Sammy & Company from 1975-1977, a production that split their time between New York, LA and Las Vegas. Another way the show distinguished itself was in featuring African-American artists that the other nighttime talkers ignored - like Marlena Shaw and The Chi-Lites. If you haven't had the pleasure of hearing Miss Marlena Shaw by all means jump over to You Tube (embedding is disabled) and check her out in her prime. More on her later.

Back to Sammy - here's why I believe he holds the crown as the greatest male musical entertainer of my lifetime, one of his best numbers - Who Can I Turn To.