Words and Music: The Lee Hale Story

Lee Portrait

It isn’t just Dean Martin, and every individual who was ever involved in any way with his television series, that owes a debt of gratitude to Lee Hale — it’s also every fan of Dean, as well as all of the regulars and guest stars who appeared on his show, who should be thankful for Lee’s invaluable contributions to The Dean Martin Show, The Golddiggers’ series, and numerous other entertainment productions with which he’s been connected.

As longtime followers of Dean and company already know, Lee Hale served as Musical Director for almost the entire 9-year run of Dean’s series; worked with and helped fine-tune the performances of the program’s on-camera talent; and came up with the idea for The Golddiggers, auditioning every young woman who tried out for the troupe and overseeing all of their music, too (in addition to handling the same responsibilities for The Dingaling Sisters, as well as The Soul Sisters for the syndicated Wacky World Of Jonathan Winters).

Those may be the highlights of Lee’s career, but in truth, they are only one part of the life of someone who, from the very start, seemed destined to find his calling in show business, and of a soft-spoken but immensely gifted individual who’s played a large and important, if not always highly conspicuous, role in shaping, enhancing, and preserving the art form of the television variety show and a style of music that’s come to be known as “The Great American Songbook”.

Lee '66
TOP HAT, WHITE TIE AND TAILS: In point of fact, the top hat may be missing, but this well-attired gent is certainly the epitomé of sartorial splendor sporting the rest of the formalwear immortalized in the Irving Berlin song made famous by Fred Astaire. In this instance — one of several cameo appearances that Lee Hale made over the course of The Dean Martin Show’s 9 seasons — the fancy threads were donned for a sketch in which Lee had to fend off the crazed advances of singer-comedienne Dorothy Loudon. The segment first aired on the 5/5/66 episode of the series.

A few years ago, Lee set out to document some of his life experiences in an autobiography published by Richard Gruden’s Celebrity Profiles imprint, renowned for its music-oriented tomes. Although the first edition of Lee’s book came out about 14 months ago and has already been read and enjoyed by many, we thought that as he prepares to celebrate a landmark birthday this week, this would be an apropos time to bring The Lee Hale Story to the attention of those who heretofore may have been unaware of it or who have yet to purchase their own copy.

I COULD WRITE A BOOK: Indeed, Lee has written two — one about The Dean Martin Show, published in 1999 — and last year, a new memoir (above) that, while including a great deal about Dean, his series and others who took part in it, also explores other aspects of Lee’s life and career.

In many ways, this is a tale that mirrors the narratives of so many of the Hollywood musicals of which Lee, and millions of others (including we here at the Super Site) are so fond. At the heart of the story is a protagonist who dreams of coming to the big city and fulfilling his creative aspirations, facing triumphs, challenges and even some tragedies as time goes by, but when all is said and done, succeeding in his ambitions, having a ball in doing what he loves to do, surrounded by a multitude of friends and revered by even more admirers, all making for a happy ending.

As the author’s journey unfolds, he’s impacted by many of the key events of the 20th Century, including America’s entry into World War II (at which time he enlisted in the Navy) and, of course, the growing power and influence of television. Along the way, as could be expected, situations arise that provide plenty of anecdotes about various celebrities and eccentric characters (in some cases, they’re one and the same).

As a mark of the high esteem in which Lee is held by colleagues and friends, the book is sprinkled throughout with testimonials from Tinseltown luminaries and others who’ve known and worked with Lee, including a number of The Golddiggers, some of whose remarks first appeared in our website’s own tribute to Lee, posted a few years ago.

Yet it’s worth noting that even though portions of the book focus on Lee’s life apart from showbiz culture, those slices of his everyday existence also manage to hold the reader’s interest. Still, as appealing as those portions may be, the sections that will no doubt engross the largest number of  readers are the ones covering Lee’s association with The Dean Martin Show. And as he points out, those seeking still more on that subject can find a wealth of additional details in his earlier volume, Backstage At The Dean Martin Show (though long out of print, copies can still be found on Amazon, ebay and the like).

Dean Ronnie Lee
HALE TO THE CHIEF: It was while still in high school, Lee writes in his autobiography, that he first met Ronald Reagan, then an up-and-coming actor being groomed for stardom by Warner Bros. As feature editor for his school newspaper, Lee managed to land an interview with the future President, and decades later, would cross paths with him again while working on both Dean’s variety series and on the Dean Martin Roasts. In the scene above, recorded during the 1970-71 season while Ronnie was still Governor of California, Lee (on the far right in hardhat) did a walk-on as one of the Gov’s highway construction workers.

Meanwhile, for anyone curious to learn more about a man who began as a singer himself and over time utilized his own genius to make others on stage look so good, there’s The Lee Hale Story, told in an easy-to-digest, conversational style which, like one of the maestro’s own musical arrangements, should leave his audience feeling enriched, uplifted, and highly satisfied.

And to you, Lee, we wish a Very Happy, Healthy Birthday, and Many, Many More.

Paul Golds Lee on a boat
ON A SLOW BOAT TO CHINA: With Paul Lynde as captain (l.), it seems unlikely that this dingaling dinghy would ever make it out of the Port of Los Angeles, let alone halfway around the world to China; but having Golddiggers Pat Mickey, Rosetta Cox and Wanda Bailey on board (center, l. to r.), Lee manning the stern (far right), and Ken Lane hidden behind Rosie’s head, at least there’d be music for the voyage.

The Lee Hale Story can be ordered directly from Amazon.com by clicking the icon below:


Additional information about Lee’s book, as well as many others written about the singers, composers and instrumentalists famous for Big Band, Jazz, and Tin Pan Alley standards, can be found on Richard Gruden’s Celebrity Profiles Publishing website:

Celebrity Profiles

Much more about Lee Hale’s work with Dean Martin, The Golddiggers and The Dingaling Sisters appears throughout the pages of The Golddiggers Super Site, including in the following articles:

Lee Hale Tribute (2008)

Open Letter To Lee Hale (2007)

Review of the 1st Dean Martin Show DVD set from Time-Life (2011)

Review of the 2nd Dean Martin Show DVD set from Time-Life (2012)

Review of the 3rd Dean Martin Show DVD set from Time-Life (2012)

And to rub elbows (figuratively speaking) with cast members of The Dean Martin Show — among them, many who were members of The Golddiggers and Dingaling Sisters — we invite you to LIKE and regularly visit our Dean, Golds and Dings Facebook page:

2 Responses to Words and Music: The Lee Hale Story

  1. The Happiest of Birthday wishes to dear Lee Hale!!! LOVE always, Michelle DellaFave

  2. Video Vision says:

    From the Dean Golds and Dings Facebook page:

    Janice Whitby Happiest of Birthdays Lee!

    Michelle DellaFave Love and light and all good things to you dear Lee, HAPPY BIRTHDAY!

    Ron Iveson Happity happy day

    Richard Wierzbowski Happy Birthday to Lee…no new updates on any new DVDs coming out but will keep checking in from time to time if I come across any news on future DVDs of this great program.

    Mark Hudson Happy Birthday, Lee……

    Marilyn Faye O’Leary-Baker Lee..Wishing you Health, Happiness and many more Great Years!!! Wow 90 years young…My very own mom made to her 92nd…I know you’ll go on and on….God Bless!

    Lindsay Bloom Happy 90th Birthday Lee! So glad I got to see you before Christmas at Deanna Martin’s Concert!!!
    You looked fabulous:-)

    Trisha Flesh Happy 90th birthday Lee as well wishing you all the best! Thanks

    Nancy Gerrard-Moffett I use to play Dean’s records when I was little and I watched his show every week. Remembered all the beautiful girls but who would have thought that some day you would be a part of our family. Mayf did good.


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