Not many country music bands feature a Cuban-Puerto Rican-American percussionist, but for the two-time Grammy Award-winning Zac Brown Band, the addition of Las Vegas musician Daniel de los Reyes seemed like a perfect match.
De los Reyes, a Spring Valley resident, was officially named a full-time member of the country band in April, but the longtime percussionist has been playing with the group for more than a year.
When the two first met, lead vocalist Zac Brown asked him to play a couple of songs with the band on stage at a concert in Northern California.
"I felt more comfortable than any other time in my career," de los Reyes said of the impromptu jam session. "It fit like a glove … It was meant to be."
He said he was blown away by the amount of people the band tours with – 78 crew members.
"Everyone out here is family," de los Reyes said. "We’re all part of an incredible ship of hope."
The ship has set sail. The Zac Brown Band is on a nationwide tour and is scheduled to play 25 shows from June through September.
Still, de los Reyes said he will not forget his Las Vegas roots and that his music is constantly influenced by his time spent in many showrooms and lounges on the Strip.
His father, Walfredo de los Reyes III, a famous Cuban drummer and percussionist, moved his family to Las Vegas when Daniel was 11 and earned a spot as the drummer in the "Latin Fire" show at the Thunderbird Hotel and Casino. His father went on to perform in Wayne Newton’s show for nearly 20 years.
"My playgrounds were the back stages of the Frontier and the Sands," de los Reyes said. "Being a little kid, everyone would take me in. I was always making friends with the light and sound men."
His older brother, Walfredo Reyes Jr., is currently touring with the rock band Chicago and said he also has fond memories of growing up in Las Vegas.
"Every time there was an artist in town with musician friends, my dad would (have) them over for dinner, and my mom would show off her Puerto Rican-Cuban cuisine talents," he said in an email. "We would eat and jam in our garage, then sit at the table and have Cuban coffee."
The brothers’ first teacher was their father. He taught his two boys how to play various percussion instruments at an early age.
"My father instilled in me good educational beliefs," de los Reyes said. "The fundamentals all came from him."
And the lessons are still coming, he said.
"He’s almost 80 years old, and he still practices every day," de los Reyes said.
De los Reyes graduated from Valley High School in 1980 and started out playing in local lounge acts and small shows on the Strip, following in the footsteps of his father and older brother.
"I try to explain to musicians the way Vegas was back then, and the one thing I would say Las Vegas taught us was discipline," Walfredo Reyes Jr. said. "We did two shows a night with an artist – a dinner show at 8 and a cocktail show at 12 – for four weeks. No nights off for the artist’s musicians."
De los Reyes went on to perform and tour with artists such as Don Henley, Stevie Nicks, Peter Frampton and Jimmy Buffett.
"We’re so proud of him," said younger brother Kamar de los Reyes in an email. "I couldn’t think of anyone more deserving. And who would’ve thought that a Cuban-Puerto Rican percussionist would be a member of a country band?"
Charity is also a big part of de los Reyes’ life. He recently founded the Walk-n-Roll Drum Group at Opportunity Village. The group was made up of young men with mental disabilities and drummers from Bishop Gorman High School’s band. Under the direction of de los Reyes, the group performed in front of a live audience in order to raise funds for the nonprofit.
"I didn’t know what would happen, but it was magical," de los Reyes said. "There wasn’t a dry eye in the place."
He said he is continuing his charitable efforts with the Zac Brown Band.
The band, in conjunction with Brown’s own record label, Southern Ground Records, is in the process of designing and building Camp Southern Ground, a 500-acre property in Fayette County, Ga. The camp will specialize in programs to assist and rehabilitate children with neurobehavioral and learning difficulties.
"He’s a big heart, a good guy," de los Reyes said of Brown.
The band’s new album, "Uncaged," is set for release July 10. De los Reyes said he was excited to have the opportunity to work on it.
"I’m proud of what I was able to get out of myself," he said about the recording process. "I was able to bring something unique to the album."
Still, de los Reyes said his favorite times come performing on stage with the Zac Brown Band.
"We have a heck of a time up there," he said.
Contact Southwest/Spring Valley View reporter Nolan Lister at email@example.com or 383-0492.