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Sammy Davis, Jr. - Mr. Entertainment (The Candy Man)

Updated on January 24, 2015
Sammy Davis Jr.
Sammy Davis Jr. | Source

Sammy Davis, Jr. was, bar none, one of the greatest entertainers of all time. I grew to appreciate Sammy at a very young age, thanks to my dad. I am still fascinated by his talent. Here's a man who had much to endure on his road to success.

For people of color, there was the constant struggle for acceptance and approval. And, as an entertainer, dealing with the disappointment of not being allowed to stay in the hotels where you performed in had to be totally disheartening as well as degrading. This happened constantly, but Sammy did not want to accept that reality. It disturbed him greatly that they were treated in such a way. After some time, Sammy refused to perform in places that practiced racial segregation. As a young boy in show biz, Sammy's father and uncle, Will Mastin, would tell him that they were being discriminated against others who were jealous of them because they were in show business. The fact that it was truly a racial issue was kept from him for many years. He had a rude awakening after being drafted into the U.S. Army during WWII. Racial prejudice was strongly emphasized in the service amongst the soldiers. Sammy was a victim of many cruel pranks and even had his nose broken several times while serving. He found some solace when he was assigned to an integrated entertainment Special Services unit. He gained some respect and admiration from the prejudiced white men and used his talent as his weapon and power. It was the only way he could fight.

When he returned home to his dad and uncle, things were different because he knew they had been shielding him from that pain. He appreciated their actions, but it still hurt having to find out the hard way. He became more determined to rise above the prejudice. Sammy longed to be treated fairly and for people to just be decent to him. With his sheer determination, Sammy was able to knock down the barriers that stood between him and his great success as an entertainer. He became a huge financial supporter of the civil rights movement.

As far as Sammy was concerned, he had no looks, no money, no education. Just talent. He once said, "I have to be a star like another man has to breathe." Can you imagine?

Sammy Davis Jr. - Age 6

Sammy was introduced to show business at a very early age. His father was the lead dancer in Will Mastin's vaudeville troupe. His mother, Elvera "Baby" Sanchez, was also a dancer in the troupe. At the age of two, Sammy Sr. took Sammy on the rode with him and Will. Sammy was backstage at every show, watching and learning. At the age of three, he won an amateur dance contest against 16 other older kids. By the time Sammy was four years old, he had performed with his dad and Will Mastin in over 50 cities. The road was his home. When they weren't performing, Sammy stayed with his grandmother, Rosa B. Davis. She did not enroll him in school when he turned five because she did not want him playing with any other children. So, basically, all Sammy Davis, Jr. learned growing up was strictly show business, and he lived for it.

The Will Mastin Trio - Starring Sammy Davis Jr.

As Sammy got older, he became the main attraction of the Will Mastin Trio. Everyone wanted to see "the kid in the middle". In 1951, the trio was hired as the opening act for Janis Paige - who was then at the height of her stardom - at Ciro's in Las Vegas. They were a huge hit with the crowd, and after receiving fantastic reviews; Janis Paige had no choice but to relinquish the closing spot on the show to them. Although he knew he was the real star, Sammy never asked his father and Will to leave the group. Eventually, Sam, Sr. and Will knew it was time to step down; they bowed out on their own to let Sammy shine as the star he was. It was his turn.

Sammy Davis Jr. - Impersonations - 1954 TV Apperance

Sammy Davis, Jr. was multi-talented. He tap danced, sang, played the drums, trumpet, was a quick draw artist, an actor and very good at doing impressions. Early on, it was frowned upon for a black person to do impersonations of white people. But, Sammy went against the grain and did them anyway, and was applauded for it. While on tour opening for Mickey Rooney, who was supposed to be the only one on stage doing impersonations, he encouraged Sammy to do his during the show - it went over big, of course.

After coming off tour with Mickey Rooney, the Will Mastin Trio was booked to open at the Capitol Theater in New York for three weeks with Frank Sinatra, who was already a huge success. Even after being told by the head booking agent that there were several other more qualified black acts to chose from, he insisted on having them. He wanted Sammy. Although Sammy was doing great impressions of the well known singers, he hadn't considered singing as himself. Frank encouraged him to sing, because he really did have a great voice. Sammy went on to record many tunes during his career. He appeared on Broadway in 1956's Mr. Wonderful and in Golden Boy in 1964. Over the years, Sammy would be seen often with Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin as members of the "Rat Pack" which also included Peter Lawford and Joey Bishop. They made several movies together including Ocean's 11 and Robin and the 7 Hoods, and performed all over. They were frequently the main attraction at all of the Las Vegas showrooms.

Sammmy Davis Jr. - The Candy Man

In 1966, Sammy Davis, Jr. had his own TV variety show, but his career tapered shortly after that. He unexpectedly hit the top of the Billboard Hot 100 chart on June 10, 1972 with The Candy Man. The song stayed in the number one spot for three weeks and was number one for two weeks on the easy listening chart. This was one of his signature songs and further in his career "The Candy Man" became his moniker.

Sammy Davis Jr. on All In The Family

On February 19, 1972, Sammy was a guest star playing himself on All In The Family during the series' second season. In the episode, he leaves a briefcase in Archie Bunker's cab and has to go to the Bunker's house to pick it up. It was a classic moment in television when Sammy kissed Archie while being photographed. This episode was ranked the 13th greatest sitcom episode of all time by TV Land To Go: The Big Book of TV Lists, TV Lore and TV Bests.

Sammy Davis Jr. - 1987 Performance

In 1987, Sammy reunited with Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin (who was later replaced by Liza Minelli) and toured internationally. That same year, he was the recipient of the Kennedy Center Honors, an honor given to performing artists for their lifetime contributions to American culture. In February of 1990, a tribute show for Sammy aired, where he joined Gregory Hines on stage, marking his last live performance. He died on May 16, 1990 of throat cancer. Sammy chose not to have his voice box removed when first diagnosed, stating that if he could not sing, he would not want to live. In 2001 he was posthumously awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Grammys.

Sammy Davis Jr. Dances Live for the Last Time During His Tribute Show

Yes I Can: The Story of Sammy Davis, Jr.
Yes I Can: The Story of Sammy Davis, Jr.

The most interesting autobiography I've ever read.

Much cheaper prices on Amazon not listed here.



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    • DarylnCochrane profile image

      Darylen Cochrane 6 years ago from New York, NY

      Mhatter99, I'm so glad you enjoyed my hub on Sammy. Jack Benny was good, too! Thanks for stopping by.

    • Mhatter99 profile image

      Martin Kloess 6 years ago from San Francisco

      Thank you for this wonderful tribute to one of my favorite entertainers. my favorite is still Jack Benny

    • DarylnCochrane profile image

      Darylen Cochrane 6 years ago from New York, NY

      Hello Dru. I'm glad you enjoyed this hub. It will probably always be my favorite one! Thanks for stopping by :-)

    • profile image

      druhepkins 6 years ago

      Hello, and thank for this excellent hub. I've always known Sammy was an incredible talent, however I did learn a few new things about him.

      Great hub!

    • DarylnCochrane profile image

      Darylen Cochrane 6 years ago from New York, NY

      Thanks for reading Billrrrr. I wish I could have seen him perform live. Definitely a class act.

    • Billrrrr profile image

      Bill Russo 6 years ago from Cape Cod

      Nice job. Sam was a favorite in my town - Boston. He played Blinstrub's many times and sold out his shows. One memorable evening after the show, he rewarded the whole band by taking the guys out for a late night dinner. Guess where he took them? To Roxbury, a predominantly African American part of Boston, for Ribs!

      A great time was had by all.

    • DarylnCochrane profile image

      Darylen Cochrane 6 years ago from New York, NY

      Bethperry, thanks for reading! I'm so pleased you learned some things about this wonderful entertainer.

    • bethperry profile image

      Beth Perry 6 years ago from Tennesee

      DarlynCochrane, so glad you posted this. I've learned some things about this wonderful performer that I didn't before.

      When I was a little kid I used to watch his movies with my Dad. He was so funny and my Mama loved the Candy Man song; one of the few songs she'd listen to.

      Voted up!

    • DarylnCochrane profile image

      Darylen Cochrane 6 years ago from New York, NY

      Thanks Christy! As you can tell, I thought he was amazing lol. Glad you enjoyed. :-)

    • ChristyWrites profile image

      Christy Birmingham 6 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      I like the hub! I didn't know much about Sammy Davis Jr before reading this. I like the way you combine videos of him with your text, well done :)

    • DarylnCochrane profile image

      Darylen Cochrane 6 years ago from New York, NY

      Thanks Dawn! Glad you liked it, and thanks for the compliment. I know I need to write some more hubs!

    • DawnKing profile image

      DawnKing 6 years ago

      Wow. This is a very informative Hub. Thanks for sharing. You're an excellent writer/reporter. So thorough. Voted UP!

    • DarylnCochrane profile image

      Darylen Cochrane 6 years ago from New York, NY

      I think his voice is awesome lol. Well, there were some bad things said about him during his lifetime, but definitely not against his talent. As you said, no denying that. Thanks for reading my hub.

    • michiganman567 profile image

      michiganman567 6 years ago from Michigan

      I'm not a huge fan of Sammy Davis' singing. But, I can not deny that Sammy Davis was an amazing talent as well as a very classy man. I don't think that I have ever heard a bad thing about him.

    • DarylnCochrane profile image

      Darylen Cochrane 6 years ago from New York, NY

      Wow. I never heard of that cameo appearance! Thanks for reading my hub. Sammy's life and his struggle is very interesting to me. Definitely a great entertainer. And yes, he was pretty funny, too. Great personality.

    • KF Raizor profile image

      KF Raizor 6 years ago

      Sammy had a marvelous sense of humor. One of my favorite things he did was a cameo in the TV series "Burke's Law," dancing on the police sergeant's desk. It was funny -- and stunning for his footwork. I wish more people would study Sammy Davis Jr. to learn what an ENTERTAINER is supposed to be. Great hub, thanks for posting.

    • DarylnCochrane profile image

      Darylen Cochrane 6 years ago from New York, NY

      I'm glad you enjoyed, Bronterae. Thanks for reading. I find his life really interesting.

    • Bronterae profile image

      Bronterae 6 years ago from Nor Cal

      A complete report. well done. Thank you!

    • DarylnCochrane profile image

      Darylen Cochrane 6 years ago from New York, NY

      Thank you so much for reading, Rebecca. I'm glad you enjoyed it. Writing this was really an enjoyable experience for me.

    • Rebecca E. profile image

      Rebecca E. 6 years ago from Canada

      what an awesome hub, and with so much detail, I love it. I know more about Sammy Davis Jr. because of this hub.

    • DarylnCochrane profile image

      Darylen Cochrane 6 years ago from New York, NY

      @Josak Thanks for reading my hub interesting! There are so many things people don't know about Sammy Davis and what he had to go through to open the doors that he did.

    • Josak profile image

      Josak 6 years ago from variable

      Couldn't agree more, great entertainer. Voted up.


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