With a chuckle, he credits Wayne Newton for paying for his schooling as a kid.
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Descended from three generations of percussionists, and carrying on the family trade with country arena-fillers the Zac Brown Band, Daniel de los Reyes is a product of Vegas lounges and showrooms — at least the area behind the velvet curtains.
His father, Walfredo Reyes Sr., was the drummer in the house band at Howard Hughes properties such as the Sands, the Desert Inn and the Frontier, playing with big names of his day such as Sammy Davis Jr. and Paul Anka when they came through town.
Eventually, he would become Wayne Newton’s full-time drummer, a position he held for more than two decades.
He’d often take his young son with him to the gigs.
“I kind of grew up as the kid backstage,” Reyes says. “I would go and hang with my dad a couple of days of the week, watching the show. I learned a lot. That was school right there.”
Still, Reyes never envisioned himself as a musician when he grew up, even though he seemed all but predestined to be as much.
And so his father’s occupation didn’t seem like that much of a big deal to him at the time.
“It was just what my dad did,” he says. “My grandfather was also a musician, so music was pretty much a staple every day — it was music, music, music. So I was always looking forward to something that was not music. I’d have a lot of fun when my friends would take me with their dad to go and hang out at a barber shop or something like that.”
Nevertheless, Reyes started playing drums in the band at Valley High School, where he’d graduate, and soon thereafter, was performing in lounges and production shows locally throughout the ’70s and into the ’80s, when he moved to L.A.
From there, he’d become an in-demand percussionist, working with an array of artists including Don Henley; Stevie Nicks; Aretha Franklin; Earth, Wind &Fire; Sting; Shakira; Josh Groban; and James Taylor, to name a few.
Then, a few years back, at a music event in Northern California, he was invited onstage to jam with some of the members of the Zac Brown Band, after which, he and Brown hung out.
“He introduced himself, and we went and shared a couple of drinks and talked about music for hours,” Reyes says of meeting Brown for the first time. “At the end, everybody was like, ‘Do you know who that was? That was Zac Brown.’ And I’m like, ‘Cool.’ I did not know who Zac Brown was.”
A little over a year later, after once again playing together at the same event, Brown would invite Reyes to join his band, which he has been a full-time member of since 2012.
He’s even moved to the band’s native Georgia to be closer to the group, although country living has been something of an adjustment for him.
“It’s completely different,” he says. “Looking out my window right now, I have 5 acres, I have chickens, I have trails throughout the woods.”
Of Cuban and Puerto Rican descent, and raised for a time in the latter territory, Reyes is a natural fit for the Zac Brown Band, which incorporates plenty of Caribbean rhythms into its sun-kissed country and seems to be clearly influenced by Jimmy Buffet, another musician with whom Reyes has played.
Reyes’ artistic range — the guy’s well-steeped in jazz, folk, rock, funk, R&B, you name it — serves him well in the band, as they blur the boundaries of bluegrass, stadium rock, folk, pop and honky tonk en route to having notched nine No. 1 hits on the country charts.
They’ve become a gateway act of sorts, serving as a bridge between country and rock fans and vice versa (live, they’ve been known to cover Metallica, Led Zeppelin and Guns N Roses right alongside David Allan Coe, Lucinda Williams and Garth Brooks).
They even got Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl to produce their latest EP, “The Grohl Sessions Vol. 1.” Grohl agreed to join the band in the studio after striking up a friendship with Brown following a chance encounter, even though he had never even heard the band’s music before.
“He was very pleasantly surprised,” Reyes says. “It was starting from scratch.”
Despite all the success the band has had on the airwaves and in racking up ever-mounting album sales, it’s on the road where the Zac Brown Band has really made its name, becoming one of country’s top touring acts with its jam-friendly shows.
It’s a massive production, as Reyes estimates that the band and their crew number nearly 90 people these days, with 10 tour buses and 11 semitrucks hauling them all from one city to the next.
This weekend, the caravan pulls into Las Vegas.
When Reyes talks about seeing the band’s name up in lights here, he lights up himself.
“You can just imagine going to school there and living there for so many years,” Reyes says of his youth spent in Las Vegas. “Then, I go there and look up at the marquees that I used to look at when I was a little kid and see Elvis and Sinatra and, all of a sudden, we’re on the marquee.”
Contact reporter Jason Bracelin at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0476. Follow on Twitter @JasonBracelin.