I stood transfixed in the Flamingo Las Vegas parking garage and listened as a soulful rendering of Wilson Pickett’s “In the Midnight Hour” reverberated throughout the concrete structure.
“I’m gonna wait till the midnight hour, that’s when my love comes tumblin’ down,” the voice sang out strong and clear. “I’m gonna wait till the midnight hour, when there’s no one else around.”
For the moment I forgot my morning assignment and instead followed the sound of the voice, up one parking ramp and then another. The acoustics in the garage were surprisingly good, and the song boomed out strong as if it were being amplified and blended with a soundboard.
Was it some showroom headliner, or Strip lounge veteran? Perhaps it was a celebrity guest just passing the time.
As I turned a corner, I saw the singer.
He wore the khakis and print shirt of the Flamingo’s maintenance workers. He carried a broom in one hand, a dustpan in the other.
He continued doing Pickett proud:
“I’m gonna wait till the stars come out and see that twinkle in your eyes. I’m gonna wait till the midnight hour, that’s when my love begins to shine.”
When he finished, I applauded as an audience of one. He smiled and introduced himself as Kenneth Peters. By his count, he has the longest-running show at the Flamingo. His show times run from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. most days, and he has been on the unofficial stage at the Flamingo for 20 years.
His singing, which ranges from country to gospel and soul, doesn’t get in the way of his daily duties, which include hanging banners, cleaning the south parking garage, trimming bushes, raking the shrub beds, and driving the scrubber. At 53, he enjoys working outside in the early morning and singing and whistling tunes that have entertained many people.
Flamingo security has even used his voice to help tourists locate their lost vehicles. If they heard a guy singing when they parked their car, they were in the south garage.
“It keeps me sane,” Peters said. “It keeps me centered. Singing is not just singing for me. As a Christian, it’s also a form of worship that helps me stay in touch with God. I’ve had kind of a hard life.”
But he has a good life now.
He was belting out a country song by Diamond Rio one day when a hotel guest walked up to him. The man blessed Peters and said to him, “I wrote that song.”
The writer applauded Peters’ singing skill and wondered, as so many people have, why he wasn’t working professionally.
What, and give up the peace of mind that comes from working mornings and keeping things simple?
“I love to see people smile,” Peters said. “I’ve had ’em cry on my shoulder, too. They’ve done all kinds of things over the years.”
One even offered him a contact in the record industry. Peters has that card somewhere around his house and says he’s thinking about calling the producer. Some day.
Peters’ girlfriend, Colleen O’Neill, laughs about all the phone numbers they’ve collected from strangers who want to be called as soon as he gets a gig. Then there are the people who fall in behind them as they shop.
“We’ll go into a Walgreens to pick up a prescription, and he’ll start singing,” O’Neill said. “All of a sudden, people will start following us through Walgreens. He just does what he does. He can whistle like you can’t believe, too. God gave that guy a tremendous gift. He never had a voice lesson or anything.”
For now, and perhaps forever, Peters appears content to sing to the morning for the occasional passer-by.
When I interrupted him with my questions, Peters was about to launch into a favorite of his, “Believe” by Brooks and Dunn.
As I walked away, he sang, “When I raise my hands, bow my head, I’m finding more and more truth in the words written in red. They tell me that there’s more to life than just what I can see. I believe …”
He’s happy with his work and his life. How many showroom legends can say that?
John L. Smith’s column appears Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday. E-mail him at Smith@reviewjournal.com or call 383-0295.JOHN L. SMITHMORE COLUMNSDiscuss this column in the eForums!