The name of Dwayne Hickman won’t mean much to British TV viewers, but in America Dwayne was a superstar, thanks to his role as the title character in The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis.
Running from 1959 until 1963 (but available in syndication ever since), Dobie Gillis was the first American television programme from a major network to feature teenagers as leading characters; previously, teenagers were only ever portrayed as supporting characters in a family story. Dobie Gillis also broke new ground by depicting the rising teenage counterculture, although even then many of the portrayals were highly stereotypical, the teenage tough, the long-haired beatnik and so on. Still, the show was a huge hit, and co-star Bob Denver, who played Dobie’s best friend, Maynard Krebs, would go on to play Gilligan on the phenomenally successful Gilligan’s Island. It did not matter that the actor playing the teenage Dobie was 25 when the series started, and close on 30 when it finished.
Before landing the starring role in Dobie Gillis, Dwayne had featured (as Chuck) in another hit sitcom, The Bob Cummings Show. Chuck was the break-out character of the series (much like Maynard Krebs would prove to be), and a big hit with the younger viewers. So what do you do when you have a hit on your hands? Why, you drag him (or her) in to a TV studio to cut some recordings, of course!
Dwayne’s first brush with pop fame came courtesy of the faux-rock n’ roll 45 School Dance, backed with Pretty Baby-O. It’s not the worse cash-in you’ll ever hear, but it is fairly appalling. The horrible, screeching backing vocalist do their best to drown Dwayne out, but his flat delivery wins through. Reviewed by Billboard in March 1958, they thought it would be a hit. Sadly, it wasn’t.
Not that that would upset Dwayne much, for within a year of issuing his first disc he was a bone fide star with his own television show. And what do you do when you’re the producer of a hit TV show with a popular and attractive young man in the starring role on your hands? Why, you drag him in to a TV studio to cut some more recordings, of course! The resultant album, Dobie, finds our Dwayne strolling through a few ineffectual slices of pre-beat boom pop, nothing great and nothing too offensive. Nothing that reached the heights (or plumbs the depths) of his debut.
After Dobie Gillis, Dwayne went on to star in the cult movies How to Stuff a Wild Bikini and Dr Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine with Frankie Avalon and Vincent Price. More recently he popped up as a guest star on episodes of shows including Sister, Sister and Murder She Wrote. Dwayne is also a talented artist, and had been offering his own paintings for sale on his website, although sadly that does not appear to have been updated for a number of years.
Download SCHOOL here
Download PRETTY here