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Transcript of interview with Dennis Wilson by Lisa Gioia-Acres, October 12, 2010







Dennis Wilson an experienced musician was born in Arabi, Louisiana in 1951. His parents both served in the Marine Corps. Dennis started playing the clarinet in the 4th grade but he did not stop there by the time he was in college he could play the alto saxophone, flute, and clarinet. He received a scholarship to Loyola University in New Orleans. The first introduction to Las Vegas was in 1971. At this time Dennis played for Wayne Cochran and the C.C. Riders traveling all around the United States with the band. In 1979 Dennis moved back to Las Vegas after a short stay in New Orleans. On his return to Las Vegas Dennis recalls his experiences playing with relief bands and performing weekly at Stardust, Dunes, Flamingo, Tropicana, Sands and Caesars. Dennis recalls what it was like working in Las Vegas and the rigorous schedule of a musician. Dennis has had a successful carrier as a musician he went on to play for Burt Bacharach and Dionne Warwick traveling the world. He then settled back in Vegas working on prominent shows such as Avenue Q, Spamalot, and Phantom of the Opera. Dennis still resides in Las Vegas and is now a paraprofessional at Johnson Junior High.

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Wilson, Dennis Interview, 2010 October 12. OH-02768. [Transcript.] Oral History Research Center, Special Collections & Archives, University Libraries, University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Las Vegas, Nevada.


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An Interview with Dennis Wilson An Oral History Conducted by Lisa Gioia - Acres October 12, 2007 All That Jazz Oral History Project Oral History Research Center at UNLV University Libraries University of Nevada Las Vegas ii ©All That Jazz Oral History Project University of Nevada Las Vegas, 2008 Produced by: The Oral History Research Center at UNLV – University Libraries Director: Claytee D. White Editors: Barbara Tabach, Melissa Robinson Transcribers: Kristin Hicks Interviewers and Project Assistants: Lisa Gioia-Acres and Claytee D. White iii The recorded interview and transcript have been made possible through the generosity of Harold L. Boyer Charitable Foundation. The Oral History Research Center enables students and staff to work together with community members to generate this selection of first-person narratives. The participants in this project thank University of Nevada Las Vegas for the support given that allowed an idea the opportunity to flourish. The transcript received minimal editing that includes the elimination of fragments, false starts, and repetitions in order to enhance the reader’s understanding of the material. All measures have been taken to preserve the style and language of the narrator. In several cases photographic sources accompany the individual interviews. The following interview is part of a series of interviews conducted under the auspices of the All That Jazz Oral History Project. Claytee D. White Director, Oral History Research Center University Libraries University Nevada Las Vegas iv Preface Dennis Wilson an experienced musician was born in Arabi, Louisiana in 1951. His parents both served in the Marine Corps. Dennis started playing the clarinet in the 4th grade but he did not stop there by the time he was in college he could play the alto saxophone, flute, and clarinet. He received a scholarship to Loyola University in New Orleans. The first introduction to Las Vegas was in 1971. At this time Dennis played for Wayne Cochran and the C.C. Riders traveling all around the United States with the band. In 1979 Dennis moved back to Las Vegas after a short stay in New Orleans. On his return to Las Vegas Dennis recalls his experiences playing with relief bands and performing weekly at Stardust, Dunes, Flamingo, Tropicana, Sands and Caesars. Dennis recalls what it was like working in Las Vegas and the rigorous schedule of a musician. Dennis has had a successful carrier as a musician he went on to play for Burt Bacharach and Dionne Warwick traveling the world. He then settled back in Vegas working on prominent shows such as Avenue Q, Spamalot, and Phantom of the Opera. Dennis still resides in Las Vegas and is now a paraprofessional at Johnson Junior High. v Table of Contents Interview with Dennis Wilson October 12, 2007 in Las Vegas, Nevada Conducted by Lisa Gioia - Acres Preface………………………………………………………………………………………..…..iv Born in 1951; grew up in Arabi, Louisiana; mom and dad in the Marine Corps; dad served in WWII; dad was a trombone player but not professionally; started playing clarinet in 4th grade; one brother who played the trombone; started playing the alto sax in high school and put together a band called The Premiers; mention of brothers musical journey from college to auditioning for the marine band in D.C.; went to Loyola University in New Orleans on a scholarship; joined the union in 1969 and worked at a place called Huki-Lau with Poncie Ponce; works as a paraprofessional at Johnson Junior High; moved to Las Vegas in 1979; at 19 took a job with Wayne Cochran and the C.C. Riders; mention of being a woodwind doubler………...…...…1 – 7 Recalls going to an all white high school and the differences between the band choreographing between an all white school and the predominantly black schools; by the time he was in college could play the alto saxophone, flute, and clarinet; introduction to Las Vegas in 1971 played for the band Wayne Cochran & the C.C. Riders at the Flamingo lounge 3 times daily; traveled all around the United Sates with Wayne Cochran; moved back to new Orleans and worked with Dick Stabile Orchestra playing lead alto; back to Las Vegas to play in Frank Sinatra Jr.’s band and went on the road for six months; eventually went back to the Blue Room at the Fairmont Hotel in New Orleans; experience when moved back to Las Vegas in 1979; playing with relief bands; played weekly at Sahara, Stardust, Dunes, Flamingo, and Tropicana, and either Sands or Caesars on Sundays……………………………………………………………………..……8 – 15 Recalls what it was like working and living in Las Vegas; moved over to Caesars Palace in 1982; playing at the Golden Nugget with Sinatra; 1989 strike; canned music; married in 1988; two children; spent time bartending; landed a job playing for Burt Bacharach and Dionne Warwick traveling all around the world; working Broadway; Avenue Q, Spamalot, Phantom of the Opera; different work experiences throughout the years; philosophy on life……….….…………..16 – 32 Index………………………………………………………………………………..………33 – 34 1 Today is October 12th, 2007. This is Lisa Gioia-Acres. I'm here with Dennis Wilson conducting an oral history interview for the "All That Jazz" oral history project at UNLV. Hi, Dennis. Hello. Thank you very much for having us here today. Let's talk about Dennis Wilson the early years. And tell me about mom and dad and how many brothers and sisters you might have had and where you grew up. I grew up in Arabi, Louisiana, which is St. Bernard Parish, which was a couple of blocks right outside of New Orleans Parish in Louisiana. Actually, my mom and dad were both in the Marine Corps. My dad served in World War II. And that's where he met my mom at Parris Island. Anyway, we grew up—sorry. My dad was a trombone player. But by the time I grew up, I was old enough to know that he was a trombone player, but he wasn't playing professionally because he was sick from a disease that he had gotten during the war. And so he was sort of like semi-disabled, couldn't work and stuff. Anyway, in that area they start the music program in fourth grade instead of sixth grade like it is in Nevada. And I had one brother and his name is Tom. He's five years older than me. And he was already playing trombone. So when it came time to start playing a musical instrument, basically the question was posed what do you want to play? You can play everything but trombone because my dad didn't want two trombone players in the family. So I said I want to play that long black thing, which is the clarinet. And back in those days when you wanted to start playing a musical instrument, the guy from the music store, the representative from the music store would come right to your house with the instrument about like we go to the store here. By the way, what year were you born? Oh, in 1951. So obviously this was 1960 I guess. So the guy comes over and puts the clarinet together, puts a reed on it and hands it to me. And I start playing "The Saints Go Marching In." 2 Really? Yeah. So the representative from the music store says, oh, I see that your son's already had lessons. And my mom said, no, he's never seen one before. And I hadn't. But the reason why I was able to do that was in third grade they start you on a little song flute, which is like the recorder. So you can learn singing. You kind of learn it on the song flute. So I just put my fingers down like I did on the—they called them a song flute then. I think now they call them recorders. Recorders. Yeah, they do. So one thing led to another. So you started with the clarinet. Yes. I played clarinet until I was actually a sophomore in high school. My dad had died when I was a freshman in high school. Anyway—no. My junior year in high school. I'm sorry. We met up with a couple of guys. Hey, we ought to put a band together. So my mom bought me an alto sax. We put a band together called The Premiers. The trumpet and saxophone. And I played clarinet and sax. We had a rhythm section and the drummer sang. We worked almost every weekend through my junior year and senior year of high school. We worked almost every weekend. Did your brother continue with his musical— He did. Actually, he did the same thing when he came up. He went to Loyola University. While he was going to school at Loyola, he worked at a place called Your Father's Mustache on Bourbon Street and played Dixieland trombone. Then there was an opening. The only showroom in New Orleans was at the Fairmont Hotel. It used to be the old Roosevelt. And the bandleader was Dick Stabile. Dick Stabile was the—see, how all these threads lead into—Dick Stabile was Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin's conductor for seven years and was in some of the movies. Well, he wound up getting a lifetime contract to lead the band in New Orleans. There was a bass trombone chair open. So my brother decided to switch to bass trombone. 3 And then all his deferments ran out once he got out of college. Then he was getting ready to draft. That was 1969. That was the first year of the draft. They had a lottery. And my number was 346. I wasn't going to get drafted unless there was a nuclear war, third world war. Well, anyway, his number was like 112. I remember that. I don't know why. I think it's interesting that guys will remember what their draft numbers are. Yeah. So there was an opening in the marine band in D.C. He auditioned and got it. And it's the only service band that you don't have to go to boot camp for. They enlist you as an E-6, as a sergeant. Anyway, he just retired about four years ago. He was in there 29 years. So, yes, he did stick with trombone. I see that. And so because he went to Loyola, I was being groomed by the band director there, who also had the jazz band, Joe Hebert, to come to Loyola. So I did a couple of summer schools doing musical theory summer schools and stuff over at Loyola. Then finally I got a scholarship and went to Loyola. Now, in work around town, actually I had my first union gig—and I joined a union in 1969—was at a place called the Huki-Lau with Poncie Ponce. He was a ukulele player on 77 Sunset Strip. So that was my first union gig. And I played that. It's funny. They kept on saying we've got these two girls coming in from Hong Kong, because it was a Polynesian restaurant and they had like a little stage and a showroom, too. So they used to have dinners and shows. We need a piano player. Now, after my dad had passed away, my mom's boss knew that both my brother and I were into music. So one Christmas he bought us a piano. I never had any formal training. But I used to sit down and play songs. So I learned how to play piano. So I remember it was the last night at a job. They kept asking us who wants to play piano. Do you know anybody that plays piano for these girls? So finally the last night we're desperate. We need somebody. I said I'll do it. So, hence, I had my first piano. I hired a good 4 rhythm section to cover up the fact that I couldn't play that well. Well, let's go back just a little bit to your childhood. It sounds like you come from a semi-musical family. Did your mom play any instruments? She didn't, although I found out after talking about it she played in high school. But that's as far as it went. I think she may have played oboe or English horn in high school. So she did play. Like I said my dad he never played, although there was always a trombone on a stand in the house. He would walk around and play "Getting Sentimental Over You." He'd go (making noise). He'd put it back down on the stand, still got it, and walk away. Did he come from a musical background? No. My grandfather—no. No music. And did your mom and dad ever talk about why music was so important to the family? No. Not that I remember. That's really weird. It was just kind of one of those things that this was what it was. I don't remember much about it. It was just like get in your room and practice. Were they encouraging? Was there ever a period of time where you did not want anything to do with music? No. I don't think so. But we're going back when, when your dad said to do something you did it, otherwise—and there were a lot of times when friends were out playing football or doing whatever they were doing and going bowling and stuff—we had a bowling alley real close. But, no, you get in the room and practice. Do you feel that your time in New Orleans was any inspiration for you to continue in the music? You know what? You know the inspiration—I've told students this because I have a bunch of private students and then I teach as a paraprofessional over at Johnson Junior High. This is I think my fifth year working with sixth, seventh and eighth graders. Here's the thing. When you 5 get into playing music—I remember making a conscious decision up until I think my sophomore year in high school. I was pretty much an athlete, too. I said I'll play baseball during baseball season and I'll play clarinet in a symphony the other times, not knowing how all that worked. But I remember making a conscious decision that I really liked music. But I never made a decision that I was going to be a professional musician. I think that you just—I hate to use the word trapped—you get trapped into it. As I said before like my junior and senior year with my band we worked every weekend. Here's the thing. You get together a bunch of guys and you start rehearsing. And you're not rehearsing because you're going to work. You just rehearse because you want to play. And then when you get a job that they pay you, you go, hey, isn't this cool? Like they're going to pay us. I remember us laughing over that. Hey, guys, get this. We're going to go down there and play for these people and they're going to pay us to do it. How cool is that? And then you just start doing it. And it's really funny. When I got into college at Loyola, I was starting a music education degree and realized immediately that that's not what I wanted to do then. So I basically dropped all my art and science courses and just started to take music courses. I just wanted to learn about music. I wanted to be a player. Did you end up getting a degree from Loyola? No. That's coming up. And prior to that—you were in the era of The Beatles and all the rock and roll. Were you ever drawn to any of that kind of music, or did you want to stay with your jazz? Well, you know I didn't—when I kind of discovered that I liked playing, like I said when we had this band, I liked playing solos and I liked playing jazz. We'll take a step back. I'll finish this statement. I was never really influenced by—I liked The Beatles. I remember going to Loyola my first year. I remember driving up off St. Charles Street in the Garden District where Loyola was in New Orleans and there was a big contest going on. Do you like Elvis Presley or do you like The Beatles? And I hated rock and roll. I hated Elvis. I just thought it stunk. I liked the Beatles because I thought their music had more musical content to it. So I could get onboard 6 with The Beatles. But to tell you the truth I'm a complete—I'm a black hole when it comes to knowing anything about pop music. I'm talking to Gary like he knows because he did The Legends concert and he grew up in the era playing lounges and stuff. Well, after I started working—we'll get around to it—when I started working playing shows, I never had to work a lounge. I've never had to work a lounge except for when we get to 1994. I did one lounge during the day. But we'll get to that. So my influence—I started listening to jazz right away. And it wasn't the kind of jazz that was available in New Orleans. So I don't feel as if New Orleans was an influence on me musically, either. People say, oh, you're from New Orleans; no wonder why you play jazz. Well, the thing is jazz is something we all as a musician you want to play, but you wind up not being able to do it because it doesn't pay any money. And I kind of learned that lesson. When I saw those guys working on Bourbon Street working six hours a shift making very little money sitting there playing all night long, I remember saying I don't want to do that. That's something—I'm not going to be a slave, you know. Although I knew some tremendous musicians that played on Bourbon Street, just incredible talent, I decided I didn't want to do that. Where is Loyola University? New Orleans. It is in New Orleans. So how long did you stay in that region? Well, I didn't move here until '79. But there are some events that happened prior to that. Then let's hear about them. That's great. What happened is that I went to Loyola and got into the college thing and was doing little gigs here and there around New Orleans but really wasn't making a lot of money as a professional musician, basically going to school, just supplementing some income, you know. But in 1971, I was getting ready to start my fourth semester at Loyola. There was a trio 7 of guys that went on a band called Wayne Cochran and the C.C. Riders. My brother went there for a summer, but he had to come back to school not to get drafted. But this other guy Charlie Brent, who actually this past year passed away also, became sort of like the musical director for Wayne Cochran. He was playing guitar for him and wrote all the arrangements. There was a guy named Teddy Ludwid that was at Loyola. He was a senior. So he asked Teddy. We need an alto player. Can you come out on the road? Teddy didn't want to go because it was his last year at school. It was his last semester. And I said I'll go. So I told Charlie Brent's girlfriend, who was a piano player/singer at Loyola, too. She called him and said Dennis said he would go. So the next morning—I remember going home and telling my mom, hey, I may get this job. And she was hysterical. No, you're not quitting school. Good hysterical or bad hysterical? No. Bad hysterical. She was like no way. No. No way. So I kind of just let it drop. I got into Loyola in the morning about seven o'clock in the morning for classes. And it was an old mansion. The music school was an old mansion, antebellum home, converted into a music school. And they had a basement. In the basement there was a little note. That was where everybody hung out, in the basement. That's where the coffee went. Everybody—you went to school. You went into the basement, which is a shame because it's not there anymore and it was a great, great place. Anyway, there's a note on there, "You've got the job. The ticket’s at the airport. Here's your flight information and you leave. Call this number." And I called and said, yeah, I'll take it. And now, how old are you right now? Nineteen. So you were beyond mom's age, but you didn't want to disappoint. And I played solo clarinet in the concert band at Loyola for three years. And then the oboe/English horn player was graduating. So the guy that kind of groomed me to come there 8 said I know you want to be a doubler, woodwind doubler. So here's the oboe and here's the English horn. You're playing. What's a doubler? I don't know what that is. Oh, okay. What happens is that—for instance, I picked up clarinet and then I bought an alto saxophone. Right now like when you work a show, you play saxophone. Your main instrument is saxophone when we're playing for Sinatra and Tony Bennett and stuff. You're playing mostly saxophone. But you'll have flute and clarinet parts. Well, when you play another instrument other than the one that's your main instrument, it's a double. And so I'm considered a woodwind doubler. I play multiple instruments, which is an interesting story because how I picked up playing flute was—going back into high school—our band director in high school was just the best. Everybody loved him. But my senior year this new guy came in. Actually, the guy named Stanley Hurstell, this guy came in. He was my fourth grade band director. And I actually knocked my front tooth out when I first started playing clarinet. And he told my parents he'll never be able to play clarinet again. And I kind of said—so I got a false tooth and I played. I told him no, bull. I picked up a clarinet. I played on my good tooth. Everything was fine. So here he is. He comes back to be my senior year band director. Now, a series of events happened. It's sort of weird how this happens. My junior year— we were an all-white high school. There was no integration at that time, not yet. Our senior year that started that. We had one black person in our school. We used to march in Mardi Gras parades. And that was the big deal. We had a huge marching band. But we were sick and tired of the predominantly black schools. They had all this really hip arrangements and they're marching. They've got all these choreography. You've seen them, like Grambling University like the colleges—and Southern. Well, the black high schools had the same kind of thing. So I wrote—there was a song called "Soul Finger." It was big and popular on the radio. So I wrote an arrangement for the marching band my junior year. So my senior year when we go to play this, he wouldn't play it because the new director had called me—there's an end to this 9 story. No. This is great. He had called me to help him out organizing the music during the summertime. I said no. My summertime is my break. I don't want to spend my summertime doing your job, which really pissed him off. This is the fourth grade— This is the fourth grade, Stanley Hurstell. So he had a thing for me when we started our senior year. So he purposefully wouldn't play the arrangement I wrote. So I quit the marching band. So watch this series of events. So your ego. So he put me last chair clarinet because I wouldn't be in the marching band. So I said, well, I'll play saxophone. But they had like 16 alto players. No. You're going to sit last chair alto because I was the best clarinet player. I was the best saxophone player. So I looked down there and there were only two boys playing flute. I said that's it. I'm going to buy a flute. You know, a little ego goes. The worst I can be is third chair. So I bought a flute and started playing flute my senior year. So, consequently, by the time I got to college, I played alto saxophone, flute and clarinet. Now, other than your college experience, you didn't have any formal training? No. Only on clarinet. The three semesters that I was at—I studied legit clarinet, but no saxophone lessons. I was self-taught on saxophone. Self-taught on flute. How about writing music? I did that myself, too. Bought some books. Well, the interesting thing right when we were doing that high school thing, Blood, Sweat & Tears and Chicago had just come up. And they were big, huge horn bands. So I was transcribing the horn parts while I was in high school writing out all that music. So by the time I got to college—well, when we got into music theory, I knew a whole lot about writing music, about writing music, about chords. 10 You seem to be obsessed with—I mean you immersed yourself. Oh, yeah. During high school and college, any time for a love life while you were— Of course. I'm a saxophone player. Nah. You know what? Well, you know, just the typical thing. Girlfriends on and off. Then college the same thing. But I was mostly into music. We all hung out and did what we do. Anyway, so we'll jump ahead. I took that job. I told my buddy here hand the oboe and English horn back to the band director and follow me home because you've got to give me a ride to the airport. And your mother? And I stopped at my mom's work and told her that I was on my way to the airport to fly to Las Vegas. And she was crying and screaming and hysterical. I mean really. I don't want you to go. You've got to get your education, which actually now in retrospect I should've stayed. I'm glad I did it because it was a great experience. We flew to Las Vegas and we worked—well, the band didn't use music. You had to memorize everything. So I sat in a room for two weeks at Wayne Cochran's house on DI with a tape of the show and basically sat there and watched the music go by as I played it. And I did that for two weeks so when it came time—he had just had surgery on his throat for notes. So when we finally started working, when we'd go play the songs, I could actually see the pages turning. So I had to memorize 22 songs and 15 big band arrangements because it featured the band. And what show was this for? Wayne Cochran & the C.C. Riders. We played at the Flamingo lounge 11, 1:15, and 4:00 a.m. in the morning. And everybody in town used to come see the band, especially at the four o'clock show. The band was a real popular band. We were all dressed in a line and did choreography 11 and the whole thing. But when I joined them we had three saxophones, two trombones and three trumpets with three singers. But shortly after I joined, they got rid of the singers and added another sax, trombone and trumpet. So we had 11 horns in a row—four trumpets, three trombones and four saxes. It's great. We did an album that this guy Charlie Brent that hired me wrote all the music, almost all original music. We did that album. Like I said we traveled around the country. So my first indoctrination to Las Vegas was 1971. And you were 19 years old. But you were allowed to work in the casinos. Yeah. You just didn't tell anybody. It just was what it was. Back then everything was really loose. And talk about that time in Las Vegas. What was your impression of Las Vegas and who did you see? Man, this was a dust bowl back then. We worked at the old Flamingo. Right next to it they had just tore down—it was where the now Bally's is—was the Bonanza Hotel. And they blew that thing up and took it down. I think that's when they started building the MGM. That's what it was at the time. I mean seriously when you went down to like Trop and the Strip, if you went east on Tropicana, if the wind was blowing at all, there was almost no visibility because it was nothing but dust. There was nothing but dust and dirt there. Did you like Las Vegas? You know, I was 19 years old. Everything was great. It's like how could you not like it? I couldn't take full advantage of it because like to play a video poker machine, you had to sneak into a corner or to have a drink because it was still a 21-year-old requirement. So I didn't really do a whole bunch. Every now and then I would stop at the Pussycat a' GO GO, which was on the way home because we stayed at these—what was the name of this little place on DI right across from where the Wynn is where the church is now? Right in back of that there was a little motel. I think it's still there. And then we stayed at the Flamingo Capri. But we were making so little money we 12 had roommates. And you were not making good money, but you were part of the musicians union at this time? Well, yeah. Like I said I had joined in '69. But at that time I was still working out of the New Orleans local. So I went on the road and was out for 14 months with Wayne Cochran traveling all over the United States playing. We'd do a month here and then go out and do two or three months on the road, come back and do a month here and go back. Then I went back to New Orleans. Actually, there was no saxophone gig. So a drummer friend of mine—their organ player had just left this group. So I started playing piano in like a tower-power kind of band—two horns, me playing piano, bass, drums and a singer, a little six-piece band. And I did that on and off for like a year. Then the position at the Blue Room with the Dick Stabile Orchestra playing lead alto came available. In New Orleans? In New Orleans. So I got that job. And that was really an experience. We used to play—you know, Tony Bennett would come in, Ella Fitzgerald. I mean all those type of small showroom— which were almost like lounge acts here in Las Vegas. But in—oh, well, we'll get to that. But that whole circuit used to come through. Jack Jones. Vic Damone. Did you get to know any of these performers on a personal basis at all? Well, actually, not like buddies. But eventually what happened in New Orleans, which we'll wind up getting to, I wound up becoming a contractor of the band. But that's kind of getting a little ahead. I did that for a few years. 1975 I knew a guitar player here called Hap Smith. Oh, you've got to talk to Hap Smith, too. You want to talk to Hap. Hap was in Wayne Cochran's band when my brother was on. So we had become friends. So after my brother left Wayne Cochran, we still kind of kept in touch 13 with Hap. When Wayne Cochran would come in and play the Al Hert’s Club down on Bourbon Street, Hap would actually stay at our house. So I got to meet Hap when I was still going to college and everything. When there was an opening with Frank Sinatra, band, somehow—was he instrumental? Anyway, I don't know how I got a call. But I got a call to go on the road to do this. So I took it. So here I am flying to Las Vegas again. Joining up with Frank Sinatra, “och-ted” and go on the road for six months. I wound up leaving that job and going back to New Orleans and actually went back to the Blue Room. Got the job back again. Tell me a little bit about what did you prefer, being on the road or living in New Orleans and having a regular local? You know, I was still making up a decision about that. Obviously, being on the road was really exciting. Growing up in New Orleans—I mean seriously growing up in New Orleans, we never really had a lot of money. When I would see things like tennis on TV you'd say, oh, boy, that's a rich person's game. Or you see people skiing like snow skiing. Oh, rich people get to do that. So getting out of New Orleans was—anything getting out of that environment. When I look back in retrospect—I mean I still have a lot of friends that are doing exactly the same thing that they were doing when I left. You know, they're just playing these—I mean they're great musicians, but they're still doing these two-bit little jazz gigs here and there. Actually, when I was at the Blue Room, I wound up sitting in with this group that—have you heard of Bradford Marsalis and Wynton Marsalis? Well, their dad, Ellis Marsalis, had played at this place called Lou & Charlie's. He played there six nights a week. And I knew the people in this jazz group because they played on Sunday night, which was the off-night, which happened to be my off-night at the Blue Room at the Fairmont Hotel. So I used to sit in with them all the time. And then consequently, the owner Charlie—Lou was his wife—I'd play for free drinks. And I think then they finally realized that it was cheaper to pay me. So they added me to the band. I used to play Ellis Marsalis in that little jazz club. So that was my kind of introduction to playing a steady jazz thing. 14 But I still kind of had made this conscious decision, you know, what do you want to pursue? Being in a showroom all of a sudden, then, well, they need piccolo. So I bought a piccolo. So now I'm playing piccolo. And I'm playing flute. And I'm playing clarinet. I'm playing alto saxophone. Now, I had a tenor saxophone. So I'm playing tenor saxophone. Then they needed soprano saxophone. So I bought a soprano saxophone. So now I'm playing that. Well, can you take us from there and bring us up to Las Vegas, how you got here? So I went back and started doing the shows. The band director, Dick Stabile, had a stroke. So I became the interim band director. And I was the interim band director for a year. And this is when I got to meet a lot of the stars more so than I did before. I was kind of like a sideman. Now I'm actual the contractor, the bandleader. I'm supplying. I'm making all the arrangements. I'm making the announcements and everything—not the arrangements—musical arrangements, the arrangements for all the extra musicians and stuff. So I was more involved. And then when Dick Stabile started recovering, it became obvious that there was some tension because he had some friends that said I was trying to take his band away from him. So I just figured—now, the trumpet player Tom Snelson who you're going to talk to, he was on Frank Sinatra, Jr.'s band. And we had become real good friends. We just talk on the phone, kind of "late night, had too much to drink, and you call everybody you know" kind of a thing. It's funny. Tom, when he left Frank Junior's band, he had moved to Las Vegas. So every time he'd call and we'd talk, he'd go, hey, man, you've got to move to Las Vegas. You've got to move to Las Vegas. So this is '76, '77, '78. So it's really funny. So finally in '79 when it was t