Bruno Mars: Singing is all I ever wanted to do

Singer Bruno Mars says, "Ever since I was a kid this was all I wanted to do." CBS News

(CBS News) All told, Bruno Mars' music videos have been viewed a staggering one BILLION times on YouTube. Not bad for a singer who was dumped by a big record label once upon a time. This morning, Bruno Mars talks to Lee Cowan For The Record:

By his own definition Bruno Mars is a musical melting pot.

He can spin from Pop to R & B to Reggae at the drop of that signature fedora.

"So, what would you say your style is?" asked Cowan.

"What's my style? I'm a singer. I'm just a singer," he replied.

And it's the way he sings his love songs that put Mars into orbit just two years ago. "Grenade," and "Just the Way You Are" both reached Number One on the Billboard charts, becoming two of the bestselling digital singles of all time.

His debut album, "Doo-Wops & Hooligans," sold more than 5 million copies. He was Billboard's top male artist last year. And this week he'll release his second album, called fittingly enough, "Unorthodox Jukebox."

At 27 the boy from Hawaii seems to have it all.

Mars was asked if it was precarious, being on top of the peak.

"I'm a happy dude, Lee," he laughed. "The fact that I even get to feel this, at this moment is enough. Enough."

WEB EXCLUSIVE VIDEO: Bruno Mars talks about playing at Pickwick's Pub in the San Fernando Valley when he was struggling to make it after being dropped by Motown. (Click on the video player below.)

He was born Peter Gene Hernandez on the island of Oahu, to a Puerto Rican father and a Filipino mother.

His dad nicknamed him Bruno after a popular wrestler. Bruno then added Mars years later.

For him and his five siblings music was always the family business.

"My dad had this 1950s review show, very Las Vegas-style, and my uncle impersonated Elvis, and that was my favorite part of the show," Mars chuckled.

Even at age two, Mars said he was taken with how girls were screaming for "Elvis." "And as a young kid, you're like, 'I want that.'"

So when his dad put Bruno on stage he did the only thing he knew. His Mini-Elvis was an instant hit, becoming so popular that little Bruno was given a cameo in the movie "Honeymoon in Vegas."

"I became a real, real attention whore after that!" Mars laughed.

At 18 he moved to Los Angeles. He and his brother started a cover band jokingly called Sex Panther, and he began performing anyplace that would have them. Places like Pickwick's Pub, in L.A.'s San Fernando Valley.

He also wrote his own music. "I had a couple tunes that we would try out," he said. Good ones? "No! Not at all!"

But soon he had inked a deal with Motown Records, and left Pickwick's for bigger gigs - or so he thought. Turns out Pickwick's actually left Bruno first. Within a few months Motown had left him, too, releasing him from his contract without ever putting out an album.

"How much of a blow was that when they dropped you?" Cowan asked.

"The biggest blow. That was a hard phone call, to call my mom and dad and say, 'I'm no longer a signed artist and I gotta rethink this whole thing.'"

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