Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Happy Birthday, Al Martino!

My list of favourite singers of all-time would seem to consist mostly of Italian American baritones. And right up there with Frank, Dino, and Tony would be this man: the great Al Martino! Like many of my generation, I was first introduced to Al by way of his appearance in the classic film, The Godfather, as Johnny Fontane, the singer with aspirations to break into the movies (albeit through unsavoury means!)

Several years later I was captivated by his song To The Door Of The Sun, a hit on the pop charts in 1974. I was just a young teen of the time, but quite frankly I was intrigued by this crooner of my parents' generation far more than any of the artists my peers were grooving to in that era. I suppose Al Martino himself decided to try adapting somewhat to the times when he recorded a hit version of the Italian standard, Volare, with a distinct disco beat to it. Still, he raised the bar even there, by belting it out in his majestic, rich voice of near operatic proportions.

I collected several of Al's albums on LP back then, and have since bought a number of hits compilations released on CD. I do wish that more of his original albums would be released on CD, but I must admit that I do get a nostalgic kick out of spinning that vinyl. I'm glad I've kept all of my LPs through the decades!

My caricature of Al Martino on the wall of his family's home
In recent years, I was fortunate enough to see Al Martino in concert whenever he performed here in Mississauga at the Stage West hotel theatre. It was particularly nice in that I would go see his shows with my Mom, also a longtime fan of his. After the show, Al Martino was gracious enough to come out and greet and sign autographs for his many fans. It was a huge thrill for us to meet him, and I presented him with a framed caricature I had drawn of him. It was also very gratifying when he returned the next year to perform and his lovely wife Judi told me in the lobby before the show how much he appreciated the caricature, hanging it on his home office wall once he'd returned from his tour. I got to see Al after this show too and it was great to chat with him again, and he thanked me once more for the artwork. Unfortunately, Stage West's dinner theatre is no more, but I'll cherish seeing those shows and spending such wonderful times with my Mom through those years.

In 2009, we sadly lost Al Martino at the age of 82, and his passing affected me deeply. Of all my favourite crooners of that great era, Al was the only one whom I'd had the pleasure to actually meet, so he'll always be a very special memory for me. He was a ruggedly handsome man, with such a majestic voice and stage presence. There will likely never be any more singers to come along of that calibre. They are the product of a superior era of genuine entertainment.

Al and Judi Martino at Stage West in Mississauga, Ontario

And so, I have created this new caricature of Al Martino that appears at the top of this post in tribute to this magnificent man on his birthday. It has also been my pleasure this year to have been reacquainted with his wife, Judi, and their daughter Alison through Facebook. It's very gratifying to see that Alison Martino has dedicated herself to remembering that era of entertainment by setting up interviews with noted veteran performers to reminisce on stage for appreciative audiences. Alison, I know your Dad would be so proud of your efforts! I would therefore like to dedicate this post to Judi and Alison, with much admiration. 

Here is the video reference that I mostly used to create my new caricature of Al Martino, in which he performs his hit song, Spanish Eyes. Enjoy!


Mike Curry said...

Al Martino was a classic. And like the other "crooners" of that period, and pop stars too, they knew how to handle a microphone. It kills me on the current crop of "talent search" shows how the singers have to put their lips on the microphone. The microphones back in the 60s were very powerful, and there was a "sound mixer" techie making sure everything sounded right.

Unknown said...

Nice caricature and the other on the wall is also too good. Great Job! I appreciate your work.