Monday, November 22, 2021

The Buckinghams Remember the Life of Billy Hinsche

It came as a genuine shock to learn from Rolling Stone the news that musician Billy Hinsche, 70, died yesterday, Nov. 21, from an only recently discovered cancerous lung condition. The Buckinghams and Billy have had mutual respect and friendship for over 50 years. Hinsche, was part of the popular rock group, “Dino, Desi, and Billy” (DDB) just as The Buckinghams were just starting to become nationally known.[Photo from Best FM Fans site.]

As is the case with many young bands out of Los Angeles, the DDB guys went to school together. Bass guitarist Dino was Dean Paul Martin, Jr., son of Dean and Jeanne Martin and he was just 13 years old; Guitarist Billy Hinsche, whose family had relocated from the Philippines to Beverly Hills, was the oldest at 14 years. The son of bandleader and TV pioneer Desi Arnaz and entertainment legend wife, Lucille Ball, Arnaz Desiderio Alberto Arnaz y de Acha, IV otherwise known as Desi, Jr., was just 11 years old when he first played drums with the band. All three boys sang.

Here they are on the Ed Sullivan Show in 1965:

The Buckinghams were a little older than Dino, Desi, and Billy but during the 1960s music tours, no one was looking at driver’s licenses or bus passes among the crowds of teens who loved their sounds.

In 1971, Dino, Desi, and Billy appeared on The Dean Martin Show looking more mature. Dino was already married to Olivia Hussey by the time this song was released. On this song, “Lady Love,” Billy and Dino traded leads:

In total, the band released approximately 17 singles and six albums for Reprise records.

After the band went their separate ways, Billy remained as a music professional. Desi Jr. joined his sister in their Mother’s television shows and became involved in a different aspect of the business. Dean Paul Martin sadly lost his life at age 26, when his California Air National Guard plane crashed. He had also been married to Olympic champion skater Dorothy Hamill a few years prior following an early marriage to Olivia Hussey.

Just like The Buckinghams had toured and once served as an opening act for The Beach Boys, so also did Dino, Desi, and Billy.

In 1967, when The Buckinghams were on their way up on the Canadian music charts in Edmonton and Alberta, Canada, with The Buckinghams’ “Hey Baby” at the #18 spot, Dino, Desi, & Billy were at #3 with their song “Kitty Doyle,” which had spent 9 weeks in the Top 30 already.

In Chicago, for the week of June 30, 1967, Dino, Desi, & Billy had “Two in the Afternoon” at the #29 spot on the chart and The Buckinghams were at #13 with “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy.”

Billy cowrote “Lady Love” with Beach Boy talent Brian Wilson. After Dino, Desi, and Billy broke up, Billy went back to school. He completed his BFA from UCLA in Theatre, Film and TV in 1974, having joined The Beach Boys on tour as well as in the recording studio from 1971–1977, and then once again from 1982–1996.

Another special family connection came about when the Beach Boys’ Carl Wilson first married Billy’s sister, Annie. They were married from 1966–1982 and if the show business circle isn’t small enough for you, Carl later married Gina Martin, daughter of Dean Martin, in 1987 and was still married to her when he passed away 11 years later in 1998. Billy Hinsche performed with Carl and with Brian beyond the Beach Boys for several years.

Billy has been friends with Carl Giammarese and Nick Fortuna (Nick lives in Las Vegas) all through the years. In the late 1980s and 1990s during tours that would pair The Buckinghams and The Beach Boys, Carl Wilson and Carl Giammarese also became good friends as well. In those days, there was not always a lot of time for socializing between bands (mostly they'd run into one another at the airport), but The Beach Boys were always gracious about visiting with The Buckinghams.

In the past 10 years, when The Buckinghams have performed at the Golden Nugget, the Suncoast Casino in Las Vegas and Green Valley Ranch Casino in Henderson, Billy Hinsche has frequently come to see their concerts and supporting their music.

Just as Carl and Nick reformed The Buckinghams fulltime in 1986, Desi and Billy reformed their ban, adding Dean Paul’s younger brother, Ricci, to the lineup, forming the band Ricci, Desi, and Billy. They performed together and even released new music from 1998–2010, per Extra. The story noted that Ricci Martin died in 2016 at age 62, and just three weeks later, his mother Jeanne died. The Hinsche-Wilson and Hinsche-Martin family connections drew even stronger.

Particularly during the season of COVID, for the past year and a half, Billy had been broadcasting a 90-minute weekly program, “Live from Billy’s Place” and posting it on YouTube. The entertainment included Billy playing keyboards and guitar as well as conducting phone interviews with longtime friends and music executives.

Poignantly, Billy shared how much he loved the music of The Buckinghams in Show #64, “Chicago Style,” right after he performed “Vehicle” by The Ides of March, Billy sang “Kind of a Drag” and “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy” among selections from other Chicago bands he admired.

Billy also had a great phone interview that same broadcast with Ron Alexenburg, one of Columbia Records’ youngest vice presidents, who had a major role in propelling the career of The Buckinghams forward during their time with that label. So many coincidences it would seem and intersections in the lives of Billy Hinsche, The Beach Boys, and The Buckinghams.

One final coincidence, this one of special poignance, is that on the very same day that Billy died, November 20, his mother, Celia, also passed away at the age of 96 [Photo from Billy Hinsche fan page].

There’s no doubt that somewhere in Heaven, there’s a grand reunion of the Hinsche and Wilson and Martin families going on. What began 57 years ago as a musical act among three high school friends endures still today, another beautiful aspect of the connecting power of great music.

RIP Billy Hinsche, June 29, 1951 – November 20, 2021