Books, talks aimed at preserving Las Vegas’s music history

Updated December 22, 2017 - 11:36 am

In the 1950s, there were more music jobs in Las Vegas than there were musicians to fill them. A musician could play a show at 8 p.m. and midnight and a different lounge at 10 p.m. and 2 a.m. and sometimes even after that, at 4 a.m.

“Since most of the hotels were on the same schedule, this was possible to do if you were energetic and motivated,” said Janis McKay, associate professor of bassoon at UNLV and author of “Played Out on the Strip: The Rise and Fall of Las Vegas Casino Bands.” She spoke to about 20 people during a Dec. 13 presentation at the Marjorie Barrick Museum of Art at UNLV.

The book, published in 2016 by the University of Nevada Press, follows Las Vegas hotels during the height of their role in musical entertainment from 1940-89. At the time each hotel employed a full-time band or orchestra, and they often had multiple lounge acts and entertainment revues to boot.

It’s just one of the many books chronicling Las Vegas’s golden age of entertainment and the inspiration behind the cliche “It was better when the Mob ran Las Vegas.” As the popularity of DJs and electronic dance music, or EDM, has soared, more musicians are taking on the task of recording the city’s musical history.

Jimmy Mulidore, a reedist who performed with Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley and as a member of trombonist Carl Fontana’s Red Norvo Quintet, also wrote about music’s heyday in his memoir, “The Vegas Player,” published in 2015.

Then there’s recently departed Las Vegas Review-Journal columnist Mike Weatherford’s “Cult Vegas,” which touches on the wackier side of Vegas entertainment, and perhaps most recently, Las Vegas Events President Pat Christensen’s “Las Vegas Rock City: How Casino Central Became the Live-Music Capital of the World” (2017).

What drives the need to record this history? Mulidore, who also served as the music director for the Hilton and Flamingo hotels in the 1970s, said it’s partly because music in Vegas is “totally different now.”

“Today it’s a town full of people imitating dead people,” Mulidore said, referring to the many cover bands that perform hits of ’40s, ’50s and ’60s. “Imitation is a form of flattery, but it’s not anywhere close to the real thing of watching Frank Sinatra and the Rat Pack perform.”

In the 1960s, instrumental groups were in their heyday, and there were plenty: the Las Vegas Civic Orchestra, Las Vegas Boulevard Hotel Symphony, the Las Vegas Brass Sextet, the Las Vegas Jazz Septet, the Las Vegas Junior Symphony Orchestra, the Las Vegas Percussion Quartet and the Las Vegas Philharmonic. That doesn’t include the chamber music matinees, chorale ensembles and other, smaller groups, McKay said.

By the 1970s, corporate entities began to take over the casinos.

“They were determined to control all of the costs and to make every part of the hotel profitable,” McKay said. Casinos and hotels began switching to taped and synthesized music, making live musicians virtually obsolete.

McKay said that during the research of her book, one couldn’t talk about music in Las Vegas without someone mentioning the musicians’ strike of 1989. On June 3, musicians first walked off the stage at the Tropicana at the Folies Berger show to protest the changes.

The strike lasted for 7 1/2 months.

“That brought to an end the golden era of entertainment in Las Vegas,” McKay said.

McKay said the bubble for EDM and DJs is ready to burst, but she’s not sure what might replace it.

In the meantime, Mulidore is determined to keep remembering the good old days. In 2018 he’s set to put on a show called “We Were There” at The Bootlegger with “The Godfather” actor Gianni Russo, Dennis Bono and others.

“So now you’re going to hear from the horse’s mouth: We were there,” Mulidore said. “We were people that were actually right there with royalty of the entertainment business.”

Contact Madelyn Reese at mreese@viewnews.com or 702-383-0497. Follow @MadelynGReese on Twitter.

ad-high_impact_4
Local
Nonprofit provides clothing for homeless
Sydney Grover of Can You Spare A Story?, talks about how she founded the non-profit organization. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Family remembers deceased mother
Family members of Adriann Gallegos remember her. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
Camp Broadway teaches kids how to sing and dance
The Smith Center's seventh annual Camp Broadway musical theater program gives 150 kids ages 6-17 an opportunity to learn musical theater skills from industry professionals over a five-day period. Marcus Villagran/ Las Vegas Review-Journal @brokejournalist
Restoring classic Corvettes to perfection
Members of the National Corvette Restorers Society Convention talk about what it takes to earn the NCRS Top Flight Award for a restored Corvette at South Point in Las Vegas on Tuesday July 17, 2018. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
Watch Ruthless! at Las Vegas Little Theatre
The musical Ruthless! will be playing at Las Vegas Little Theatre from July 13-29. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
Cadaver art and sword swallowing at The Dark Arts Market
Curator Erin Emrie talks about her inspiration for The Dark Arts Market at Cornish Pasty Co. in Las Vegas Tuesday, July 10, 2018. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
'NO H8' Campaign comes to Las Vegas
Hundreds of locals participate in the NO H8 campaign founded by Adam Bouska and Jeff Parshley as a response to Proposition 8, a California ban on same-sex marriage. The campaign has since evolved to represent equal treatment for all. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
What to expect at Station Casinos' Fourth of July celebration
Station Casinos' is hosting its annual 4th of July celebration with Fireworks by Grucci. Fireworks scheduled to go off on Wednesday, July 4 around 9 p.m. at Green Valley Ranch Resort, Red Rock Resort, Fiesta Rancho and Texas Station. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
Star Wars and Golden Knights mashup at downtown art shop
Star Wars and Vegas Golden Knights fans attend the Boba Fett Golden Knight Paint Class at The Bubblegum Gallery in Las Vegas, Friday, June 29, 2018. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
Tourists and locals enjoy Independence Day fireworks at Caesars Palace
Hundreds of tourists and locals gaze at the Independence Day fireworks show at Caesars Palace on Saturday, June 30, 2018. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
Clark County recount votes in commission’s District E primary
Clark County staff begin the recount requested by candidate Marco Hernandez in the democratic primary for the County Commission's District E seat on Tuesday, June 26, 2018. (Marcus Villagran/Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
Long-running local hip hop producer wants Vegas rappers to shine
Las Vegas Hip Hop producer and co-owner of Digital Insight Recording Studios Tiger Stylz reflects on 30 years of music production in the city. (Marcus Villagran/Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
"Pawn Stars" fans visit Richard Harrison's memorial at Gold & Silver Pawn
"Pawn Stars" fans from around the world visit the Gold & Silver Pawn Shop in Las Vegas following the passing of Richard "Old Man" Harrison on Monday, June 25, 2018. (Marcus Villagran/Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
Construction for new 51s ballpark underway
New home of the Las Vegas 51s is planned to be finished by March 2019 in Summerlin according to team president Don Logan. (Marcus Villagran/Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
Underground home was built as Cold War-era hideaway
The underground house at 3970 Spencer Street is one of the valley’s most unusual homes built 26 feet underground in 1978 by Girard “Jerry” B. Henderson, who, planned to survive the end of the world there.
TOP NEWS
News Headlines
Add Event
Home Front Page Footer Listing
Circular
You May Like

You May Like