There can be no argument: Sammy Davis, Jr. was one of the greatest entertainers we were ever fortunate enough to see. Dancing, singing, acting — he did it all. I saw him in person a few times, the first when I was nine years old. I will never forget it.
Las Vegas also, indirectly owes Davis a debt. When the Rat Pack — Sinatra, Dean Martin, Joey Bishop and Peter Lawford — played here originally, Davis had to stay on the “West Side,” that part of Las Vegas where black entertainers — who had to go in and out of the casinos through a kitchen door — stayed. They couldn’t stay where they were playing. (At the time, very segregated Las Vegas was known as “The Mississippi of the West.”)
Well, one day around 1960, Frank Sinatra had had enough of that. He told the management at the Sands Hotel, “If Sammy can’t stay, I can’t play.” Thus, for the first time — and always from that day on — a black performer could stay in a hotel on The Strip. Davis — with and without the Rat Pack — continued to play here for another 30 years or so.
That’s why, when Dre sent links to some 1966 video of Tom on the Sammy Davis, Jr. Show, (March 18th) I got caught up in nostalgia and looked for more of them together, found it and put them together in a video.
The first two clips, in black and white, are from 1966, Davis’ TV show. The first song they do is the beautiful Scarlet Ribbons. Check out how Davis sort of imitates Tom while they’re singing. Then they do a unique version of What’s New Pussycat.
The last three clips are from two episodes of the second season of This Is Tom Jones in 1970 (season #2; episode #s 2 and 26). They sing Thanks For the Memories, A Little Help From My Friends, A Boy Named Sue, Oh, Sweet Blindness, My Way, and And When I Die, Next up, from that same show, is the very moving Mr. Bojangles, which is included on one of the TITJ TImeLife DVDs. And, finally, Sammy — dressed in a 1970s-defining jumpsuit, sings one of his maay hits, For Once In My Life.
The clips from Sammy’s show are very old, transferred from a movie camera to video, but I still hope you enjoy it as much as I do.