Ask Wayne Kennedy how long he’s been Dean Martin and he tells you straight: “Eleven years, since day one. I set up the role. It was my idea.
“I got to the stage in my career when I thought, there’s going to be no more Michael Jackson for me and my type of voice.
“I did The Rat Pack to an audience of 11 in a pub in Staffordshire.”
A bemused audience, I’d have thought, seeing Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra and Sammy David Jnr manifested in one body.
How did it go? “Awful,” quips Wayne.
But it can’t have been too bad because he wasn’t ejected from Peggy’s Bar in Burton-on-Trent - and he’s still at it.
The Rat Pack, recalling the famous Las Vegas nights when three strong characters crooned and wisecracked through a haze of smoke and alcohol, has become a showbusiness staple.
Wayne’s solo act became a three-man affair in 2003 and the following year it headed for the United States and then Turkey.
The original Rat Packers were in the spotlight for just six years in the 1960s so Wayne’s show has outlived the real thing.
It is well-travelled, too. “We’ve been to the west coast of America, Tokyo, Germany, Spain, Denmark, the Czech Republic, Abu Dhabi...” The list goes on.
Once, confesses Wayne, he fell off the stage on to a mic stand. As Dean might have done, he brushed himself down and got on with the show.
For the last two years Wayne and company, including his Vegas Showgirls, have sold out massive Edinburgh Playhouse with audience members too young to remember the 60s getting into the spirit.
Wayne used to come to the North East in the 1970s with a rock ‘n’ roll band. “We did social clubs, college halls,” he recalls. “It was a great time and we did quite well.”
But times change and now Wayne is helping to keep a very different musical genre alive.
See The Rat Pack Vegas Spectacular at Newcastle City Hall on Friday (tickets: 0191 277 8030) and at Sunderland Empire where there will be two shows on October 31 (0844 8713022)