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Sammy Davis Jr. The Greatest Entertainer | Behind The Bio

Updated: Jan 10, 2021

Sammy Davis, Jr. (1925-1990) was generally regarded as the World's Greatest Entertainer for much of his career. He was a movie actor, TV guest star Broadway headliner, a bestselling novelist, a comic and impressionist, multi-instrumentalist, a singer and dancer.


Born in Harlem in 1925, at the age of three, Davis started performing with his father. He quickly became the focal point of The Will Mastin Trio's (a vaudville act also comprised of his father and uncle). The act featured Davis talents of Tap dance, acrobatics, singing, trumpet and percussion. Davis mastered them of all. He was commissioned at 18 into one of the Army's first integrated divisions. He was violently beaten and berated with derogatory remarks by fellow troops, yet experienced massive support from crowds as part of the entertainment squad.

While playing a show in Harlem, the wildly popular Frank Sinatra appreciated the potential of Davis and drew him into the upper echelon of stardom and his group of friends.

In 1954 Davis Jr., was in a car accident and lost an eye at the age of 30, right after releasing the song "Hey There” breaking the song charts with the greatest hit. Davis converted to Judaism while suffering from this near-death incident, partially recovered at Sinatra's home.

The Rat Pack

Sammy Davis Jr. was a member of the rat pack. "The Rat Pack," hip cats who socialized and performed together, mostly in Las Vegas, were a popular group led by Frank Sinatra that included; Davis, Dean Martin, Joey Bishop, and Peter Lawford. With their amusing dialogue and vocal harmonization they were the hottest ticket agound. On the big screen they starred in the casino robbery caper Ocean's Eleven (1960).

Television Star

Davis was also a TV guest star. Arguably the most commonly recognized event in the history of television is from the legendary sitcom "All of the Family" in early 1972, when Davis spitefully planted a kiss on the cheek of Archie Bunker, the most popular racist character on television. He also hosted television award shows, events, and appeared on several varitey shows.

Davis claimed on a talk show in the mid-1970s that he was concerned one day he would appear like the has-been dancer/ performer similar to the title character in Davis' album, Bojangles. The character was a talented dancer that performed concert in front of thousands of fans at the pinnacle of his career. Towards the end of his career he was penniless, dependant on alcohol and working in small bars and drives.

Davis co-hosted the 1975 Academy Awards and in 1987, he was awarded the Kennedy Center Honors for lifetime achievement. Davis continues to be remembered as one of the best entertainers to ever take the stage.

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