Going solo pays off for Campanella

Drummers don't usually do solo acts, especially in Vegas lounges.

But Paul Campanella has replaced his sticks with a guitar pick and a microphone, at least on Fridays at Santa Fe Station. From 5:30 to 8:30 p.m., Campanella performs his solo act in the 4949 Lounge, covering everything from Justin Bieber to Train.

He's made a career as a drummer, starting at 15 when he saw a Motley Crue concert. Tommy Lee and the pyrotechnics were impressive to a teenager looking for career ideas. His musician father further encouraged him to take a musical path when he handed Campanella a fistful of cash for playing a gig with him.

"That was my high school job, working with him," Campanella says. "He handed me some money at the end of a gig, and I said, 'Hey this is pretty cool. I could do this.' "

His solo act, complete with guitar, didn't start until three years ago when a manager from the pub at Lake Las Vegas asked for a referral. He still plays drums with the band Red Light.

"They had cut back on their budgets," Campanella says. "So the managers would call and say 'Hey, we can't afford a whole band, do you know anyone who could come down and do a solo act?' I wasn't working at the time, so I said 'I can do it.' It's now become half my income."

Originally from Buffalo, N.Y., Campanella moved to Las Vegas six years ago to settle down. He made a good living playing drums but he was constantly on the road. He had young children and wanted to see them grow up.

"I was in a hotel in Sicily," he remembers. "We had a day off, and I was thinking there's got to be a better way to make a steady paycheck and see my kids. So eventually I wound up finding a band and moving here."