Sammy Davis, Jr.

Starring Sammy Davis Jr.

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The career of Sammy Davis, Jr., which had proceeded slowly as he performed with the Will Mastin Trio in the late '40s and early '50s, started to move much faster when he signed to Decca Records in 1954 (his first major-label deal in four years) and reached the charts for the first time with his Top 20 cover of "Hey There." Then, he was involved in a serious car accident on November 19, 1954, that resulted in the loss of his left eye. He was still wearing an eye patch on the cover of this, his debut LP, released five months later. The disc, including among its 11 selections five previously released on singles ("Hey There," "And This Is My Beloved," "Because of You," "Glad to Be Unhappy," and "Birth of the Blues"), was a straight-forward set of standards for the most part, with Davis putting his stamp on recent Broadway show tunes and some evergreens, such as "September Song" and "My Funny Valentine." The final songs on the two LP sides nodded toward his nightclub act, however. "Because of You," originally split on two sides of a single, found Davis doing his impressions of singers on the Tony Bennett hit in the first part -- Bennett, Nat King Cole, Billy Eckstine, Frankie Laine, etc. -- then, on the second part, turning to movie stars including James Cagney, James Stewart, Edward G. Robinson, and Martin & Lewis. The album closer, "Birth of the Blues," re-created the effect of a loose encore, complete with musician solos and canned applause. The album thus succeeded in giving the listener a sense of what Davis was like in live performance, and that, coupled with his ascending celebrity, resulted in a number-one chart placing for the LP.

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