Posts Tagged ‘Atlantic City’

“BACKSTAGE WITH BRUCE KLAUBER”: January, 2015 edition

Friday, January 2nd, 2015

Happy 2015 to the readers of “Backstage with Bruce Klauber,” celebrating 30 years of continuous publication. Here’s to 30 more. Happy reading!

Things are changing at Atlantic City’s troubled Taj Mahal Hotel/Casino seemingly by the minute. The last “big news” to be reported was this: Though a deal between the Taj investor Carl Icahn and the casino workers union fell apart at the 11th hour, Ichan will ante up $20 million to keep the venue open, at least for awhile. He promises a $100 million in additional investment if he gets the tax breaks he wants from the state of New Jersey. Good luck with that one, Carl. Bet on this: The Taj will close. It’s only a matter of when.

The deal to purchase the shuttered behemoth called Revel is officially off. Seems that high bidder Brookfield Associates didn’t read the fine print about having to pay some of the costs associated with Revel’s utility plant. Evidently, Brookfield wanted out badly, as they didn’t mind losing their $11 million deposit. “Plan B” is that Revel has gone back to investor Glenn Straub, second highest bidder for the facility at $95.4 million. Straub is interested and has talked vaguely of turning Revel into an institution of higher learning/think tank type of operation, but he’s looking for something in the neighborhood of an $8 million break on his bid, claiming he wasn’t treated fairly in the initial bidding war against Brookfield. Additionally, he wants nothing to do with paying outstanding utility bills. This could be a problem for the physical venue itself. The utility company responsible for keeping electric, heating, cooling and water running at the shuttered facility just defaulted on their December payment. If someone doesn’t pay the freight, the utility folk have threatened to literally pull the plug, which would be disastrous for Revel.

There is a ray of hope on the Boardwalk, as the sale of the Caesars’-owned Showboat Hotel and Casino to Richard Stockton College—inferred in this space last month—has been finalized. Price tag is $18 million.

What do you do with a shuttered and abandoned hotel and casino that no one wants to buy? Atlantic City has decided, in the case of the Trump Plaza, to implode the thing. Guess a vacant lot is better than anything.

In the “backing out of deals” sweepstakes closer to home, the on-again, off-again saga for the purchase and renovation of the Boyd Theater is evidently off again. It seems that developer Neil Rodin never followed up on his agreement to buy the Boyd from owner Live Nation. Rodin claims to be negotiating a new lease with Pearl Properties, who bought the Boyd for $4.5 million in October.

The famed Four Seasons Hotel, moving to the top of the new Comcast Tower, circa 2018, will close in early June. However, it has been reported that the current Four Seasons facility was purchased by an outfit affiliated with a company called Sage Hospitality. All that Sage has said thus far is that they will handle the transition into a new “luxury brand,” and that plans are to invest millions in upgrades in order to open in the fall. The legendary Fountain restaurant ceased serving dinner December 27. Breakfasts and lunch, however, will continue. Rest assured that the “new” Four Seasons “brand” won’t be Motel 6.

Also getting a reprieve is the Philadelphia Theatre Company, which was “this close” to shutting down, as TD Bank had foreclosed on the Suzanne Roberts Theater that houses PTC. One savior is Kennedy Center President Michael M. Kaiser, who helped put together a recovery plan. The theater now has a month-to-month lease with TD, $400,000 in donations has been made in he last 90 days, and Ralph and Suzanne Roberts have pledged $2.5 million.

There’s good news at the Curtis Institute of Music as well. Curtis Board Chair Baroness Nina von Malzahn has pledged $10 million and President Robert Diaz pledged an addition $1.5 million. Diaz said the gifts were not for anything specific. Diaz’ mission, he says, is “to raise enough endowment money to keep Curtis tuition-free, and to make ‘Curtis on Tour’ permanent.”

Things are also looking up for Dance USA/Philadelphia, whose funding via The William Penn Foundation was pulled with no notice. William Penn has had the grace to pledge short-term funding in the amount of $89,000 which should keep the company going for a least another few months. Dance USA plans to use some of that time to seek other funding. William Penn, which had been funding the company since 2006, has given no reason why they pulled their support. Perhaps it’s because they don’t have to.

Downright bad news for the Philadelphia Singers. After a concert in May, the 43-year old Singers will be no more. Seems the William Penn Foundation reared its head again and turned down a request for a three-year grant for general support. This time, William Penn did give a reason. Philadelphia Singers is carrying debt in the neighborhood of $125,000, and last year, Penn began focusing on issues of financial health for those organizations they fund. Will there be a “Save-the-Chorus” campaign? Doubtful. “We’ve got to face reality,” said Board VP Michael Martin Mills.

Scheduled to open this summer on the 57th floor of the 61-story One Liberty Place is—get this—an observation deck. Montparnasse 56, a French company, is doing the deck, which it describes as “the city’s first large-scale observatory.”

Though the Rittenhouse Square location of the legendary Famous 4th Sreet Deli at Fourth and Bainbridge has been sold, it will continue to operate under the name of Kaufman’s. Brooklyn’s Rich Kaufman is one of the owners, and plans no change to menu or staff.

Fans of Little Pete’s on 17th and Chancellor—and there are many—were deservedly upset when they heard that their beloved joint was going to close to make way for a massive redevelopment project. While that still may happen, the redevelopment bill itself is stalled in City Council because of union concerns, a Center City civic group’s issues, and the complaints of thousands of Little Pete’s customers.

Our friend Michael Klein of the Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News has reported that the long-shuttered Old Original Bookbinders in Old city, leased to restaurateur Jose Garces for a bit more than a year, will reopen sometime this month. Garces will call it “The Olde Bar,” which, he says, will be an “interesting interpretation of a classic oyster saloon.”

Smoking has not been permitted in bars since 2007. There are some exceptions, however, as it is possible – if a bar qualifies – to gain an exemption. As of now, 66 bars and clubs do allow smoking. Qualifying for an exemption isn’t easy. As an example, for what the state calls “a drinking establishment” a venue cannot have dancing or any live entertainment and must prove that food sales comprise 20 percent or less of the venue’s combined gross sales. Some cigar bars also may qualify. Four more venues have just applied for indoor smoking permits. They are: The Pyramid Temple No. 1, a fraternal organization on West Girard Avenue. They are applying for the cigar bar exemption. Grumpy’s Bar in South Philly would like to allow smoking, and likewise with two “gentlemen’s clubs,” Club Risque on Tacony Street, and Christine’s Gentlemen’s Club on West Passyunk.

While there was some shock and more than a bit of outrage over the news of Bob Dylan’s upcoming CD of Sinatra songs, “Shadows in the Night,” to be released February 3, it seems there is some validity to the project after all. Our friend at the Philadelphia Daily News, Chuck Darrow, spoke to Frank Sinatra, Jr. recently—Junior was in town for a celebration being held for veteran broadcaster and Sinatra fan Sid Mark—about the Dylan release. Sinatra told Darrow that not only was Dylan a major, major fan of senior’s, but that “the odd couple” actually hung out a few times over the years. To junior’s credit, I’ve rarely heard him put down anyone who he believes is singing good music. But a heads-up to Dylan’s handlers at Columbia Records. One of the songs on “Shadows” is not a Frank Sinatra Song. Song number ten on the ten track project is “That Lucky Old Sun.” That song belonged to Frankie Laine, not Mr. S.

Good colleague Sal Richards has been one of the funniest comics in the business—and a darned good actor as well—for decades. Those of us who hung out with Sal in Atlantic City, Miami Beach and who knows where else had no idea of the pain he was going through over the years. He’s just written a sometimes touching and sometimes hilarious autobiography titled “Behind the Laughter, Hidden Tears,” which tells of his upbringing, his rise in the business, how he dealt with the loss of a son, how he battled his own personal demons, and the show biz greats and not-so-greats he’s met along the way. The Helen Reddy story is worth the price of the book. This is wonderful reading. Keep swingin’, Sal. Available via


Monday, December 1st, 2014

December, 2014 Edition

The Big Casino

In that I’ve been on the newspaper and magazine casino beat since gaming was legalized in Atlantic City on May 26, 1978, it seems fitting and proper to comment on the brouhaha surrounding the granting of a second casino license within the city limits. While I’m all in favor of free enterprise and have nothing against the newly-named “winner”—Live! Hotel & Casino–the truth is that a second casino in the city just makes no business sense. No sense at all. We know what’s happening in Atlantic City. We know that revenues, particularly from slots, are leveling off in casinos in Pennsylvania. And we know that the planned casinos in Newark, Maryland and elsewhere will siphon off revenue from existing casinos. A second casino in Philadelphia would only hurt business for those that already exist. Not only is that greedy and selfish, but it makes no business sense. None at all. Numbers don’t lie and here they are: Overall, October gaming revenues from slot machines were up a paltry 1.1 percent over last year’s figures. Though Parx and Valley Forge casinos takes increased—Valley Forge up 15 percent and Parx up 4.8 percent—SugarHouse and Harrah’s both showed declines. Revenue from table games was only up one percent over last year. This, in the industry, is called “leveling off.” Live! is hoping that those who frequent events at South Philadelphia’s sports complex will gamble before or after the game. Good luck with that. Developer Bart Blatstein, who had grandiose plans for a $700 hotel and casino in Center City, summed up the situation nicely. “It’s shocking that they would choose another crappy slots-in-a box project,” Blatstein told the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Boardwalk Beat

There may be non-casino life for Atlantic City’s recently-shuttered Showboat Hotel and Casino, and the new, possible tenant is a highly unlikely one: The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey, now headquartered in neighboring Galloway Township. There’s not a lot of info available on this just yet, other than the fact that Stockton is seeking to buy the property, which is owned by Caesars Entertainment Corporation. Though the college reportedly has been in talks with A.C. politicos and execs from Caesars for months, right now, Stockton is in the “letter of intent” stage and bound by a confidentiality agreement. Think of the possibilities here: On their lunch hours, underclassmen could munch on salt water taffy and/or hit the slots on whatever casinos are still open on the Boardwalk.

Brookfield Asset Management, the firm that had an agreement of sale to buy the shuttered Revel, has—not surprisingly—backed out of the deal. Seems the fine print read that Brookfield would have to pay additional fixed costs to the outfit running the utility company next door. Sources say that investor/developer Glenn Straub, the runner-up in the bankruptcy bidding war for Revel, may still be interested. Like the projected plans for Showboat, Straub’s intent was to make the venue an educational venue of some kind.
Though it appears that Atlantic City’s Taj Mahal hotel and casino is just too far gone financially to be saved, the decision to close it or keep it open is still up in the air. It is very possible, however, that what was once the largest and most lavish hotel/casinos in town will close on or about December 12, making it the fifth casino to close this year. It opened in 1990 as the Trump Taj Mahal, and it was built for a cost of the then astronomical sum of $1 billion dollars. The performer on opening night? Michael Jackson. I played drums in the lounge of the Taj, which I think was called The Casbah, backing up the great Sonny Averona from 1991 until his untimely death the following year. What a swinging joint that was. Along with the lounge at Resorts International, the Casbah was the place to be after hours. Everyone from Tom Jones to Harold Jones (the latter being Natalie Cole’s drummer at the time), came in after their shows to hang, to sit in and to throwback a few. Fond memories indeed. The lesson to be learned from all this? Have some foresight and know that the party—at some time—will end.

Here’s a shore tidbit that received little or no coverage in the Philadelphia press. The Clearwater, FL-based TJM Properties Inc .has agreed to purchase the Atlantic Club Hotel/Casino property. Atlantic Club, the smallest of the city’s hotel/casinos, shuttered on January 13. TJM has also agreed to buy an adjacent property for an additional $715,000. This outfit also owns the former Claridge Hotel and Casino, which it plans to turn into a “luxury boutique hotel” by this summer. As for the Atlantic Club, once the jewel of Atlantic City gaming venues as The Golden Nugget and Bally’s Grand, TJM has no specific plans for it thus far, other than saying it will be “a non-gaming property.” Those in the know say that both facilities will be turned into condo/hotels.

No doubt that Atlantic City, New Jersey, is in dire straits. But there is a positive spin: The very fact that five shuttered venues on the Boardwalk are vacant almost forces the city to come up with non-gaming tenants, entertainment complexes, and retail centers, all sorely needed. It’s already happening. Philadelphia developer Bart Blatstein bought the near dead Million Dollar Pier. As reported, Richard Stockton College is close to buying the Showboat and The A.C. Club will likely become a hotel. Renovations are almost completed at the venerable Claridge Hotel, once a casino. And you can bet that Glenn Straub will be back in the Revel picture. If all these things do happen, that means Atlantic City will be dealing with two closed properties, not five. There is hope.

Tears for Spears in Vegas?

Our Las Vegas sources tell us that Britney Spears’ Las Vegas show at the Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino—“Piece of Me”—is not one of the bigger draws on the strip. The producers are said to be doing everything they can to paper the house and running special promotions like “Britney Spears Day.” Otherwise, it’s being claimed that the seemingly washed-up diva would be playing to half empty houses. And it just could be that Spears’ Vegas run is over for the time being. According to the Planet Hollywood ticketing site, there are no dates booked for Spears beyond November. But shed no tears for Spears. Those who track such things estimate her net worth at $220 million. So, who needs Vegas anyway?

Spears, who at one time was the highest paid woman in music, at least according to Forbes magazine, doesn’t even place on the 2014 list. Number one is Beyonce, who earned $115 million, followed by Pink, who made a measly $52 million. Last year’s number one earner, Madonna, didn’t make it to this year’s top ten list. Not to worry, though. Madonna’s net worth, says the New York Post, just recently hit $1 billion.

Flyin’ Home

The Philadelphia Zoo’s beloved 6ABC ZooBalloon is not dead and will be back next spring. The popular attraction has had its share of troubles of late, including severe damages from a February snow storm, and a replacement balloon that was leased to the zoo only through the end of this year. The solution? The zoo bought a new balloon that will be installed, ready to soar, this spring.

The Odd Couple

Evidently, The King has not left the building. Entirely, anyway. It’s been reported that Kevin Spacey will star as Richard Nixon and Michael Shannon will portray Elvis Presley in an upcoming film tiled “Elvis & Nixon.” Yep. The film is based on the infamous and rather bizarre meeting of the President and The King that took place at The White House on December 21, 1970. The Pelvis, seemingly stoned out of his gourd, pledged to The Tricky One that he would do anything he could to set misguided youths on the right track, but in order to do so, he would need for a badge from the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs. Nixon said he’d take care of business on that issue. Then Presley hugged him. Wow. All we can say is, “Thank you very much.”

Barry’s Dead Duos

While there’s no denying that Barry Manilow is talented, his new CD, “Dream Duets,” has set the standard for a new low in the quest for showbiz tastelessness. “Duets” features the aging singer/songwriter in 11 duets with the dead, ranging from Louis Armstrong and Sammy Davis, Jr. to Whitney Houston and Marilyn Monroe. Even Natalie Cole, who virtually invented the “duets with the dead” genre via her duo on “Unforgettable” with her late father, must be shocked at how far this has gone. See, the point is, Barry, that none of these people had any choice in the matter of singing with you, and some didn’t even know you. And you can bet there will be a video of this travesty as well. Interestingly, the one “dream duet” partner missing from this list is one, Mr. Francis Albert Sinatra. Even in death, Mr. S. had the good sense to stay away from this. Those in the Philadelphia area interested in such macabre morbidity can catch Mr. M’s dead duets show at the Wells Fargo Center on June 13
Van Fans Unite

Those tireless, veteran songwriters and promoters, Bobbie and Henry Shaffner, have advised that they are one step closer to having the United States Post Office issue a commemorative stamp honoring the late film star, Van Johnson. “Lucille Ball, James Cagney, Gary Cooper, Greta Garbo, Judy Garland, Katharine Hepburn, Grace Kelly, Marilyn Monroe, Edward G. Robinson, Frank Sinatra and James Stewart all have stamps,” the Shaffners say. Why not Van Johnson? Interested parties can sign the official petition for the stamp at

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“BACKSTAGE” with Bruce Klauber: October, 2014 Edition

Wednesday, October 1st, 2014

“BACKSTAGE” with Bruce Klauber: October, 2014 Edition

“Backstage” is a continuation of a column that has been published regionally, and syndicated nationally, since 1978. The column is intended to be a quirky and personal take—someone I once knew described it as “snarky,” whatever that means—on popular culture, books, news of our area’s arts scene, what is and isn’t going on in Atlantic City, and whatever else lands on my desk that I deem to be newsworthy, appropriate and/or slightly absurd. As a journalist and a performer, hence the name “Backstage,” I hope I bring a unique perspective to matters serious and not so serious. I welcome your comments and also your news via Welcome. And enjoy.—Bruce Klauber.

It’s Labor Day weekend in Atlantic City. The Philadelphia-to-A.C. train is sold out, the beach, Boardwalk, Margaritaville at Resorts, and Steel Pier are mobbed; and venerable restaurants like Tony’s Baltimore Grill and White House Subs have lines going out in the street. A visiting, out-of-touch outsider would have no idea that this town is in serious jeopardy. At day’s end, the 27-year-old Showboat hotel/casino will shut its doors. Tomorrow, Revel hotel/casino, open for just a bit over two years and built at a cost of $2.4 billion, will also close. There’s very little action at Revel this day, not even the curiosity seekers—or as Mel Torme’ might have called them, “The butchers, the bakers, the let ‘em eat cakers”– are here. Walking through this overgrown and overbuilt behemoth once again, it’s clear that the experts who have said “it never should have been built” were correct. There’s not much more action down the boards at the Showboat on its last day of operation, or at the neighboring Taj Mahal, which will likely be the next to close. But business picks up considerably, save for the doomed and decrepit Trump Plaza, once I reach Bally’s and Caesars. Indeed, at the Tropicana, the last hotel/casino on the Boardwalk, business was booming. Those visiting Borgata and Golden Nugget told me they were mobbed. As for the future? Sports betting has finally been legalized, which will be a help, and it appears that for the moment, the “great casino shakeout” is over, meaning more business for the six remaining gaming venues. Revel will become something, likely a gigantic entertainment complex, much needed in the city. That the non-gaming spots were packed with families certainly says something, meaning that it is perhaps due time that Atlantic City re-invent itself as a year-round family destination. The lesson to be learned via all that’s happened here? Don’t try to make this place into something it isn’t and likely will never be. See you next summer.

Ginger Alden, Elvis Presley’s last girlfriend, hasn’t said much since the passing of The King since he left the building in 1977. Now she’s saying plenty, as she has a new book out called, not surprisingly “Elvis and Ginger” (Berkley Hardcover). The best that can be said about it is that Elvis gets top billing. In interviews hyping the book, the “author” has come up with at least two incredible revelations: That The King really died of chronic constipation and that his death was “unexpected.” Interesting. Was it possible that Alden couldn’t see that something was amiss when a 300-pound man was stumbling around the stage and crying out for a fix? Unexpected, indeed.

In 1961, then CBS News President Fred Friendly described a good deal of television programming as a “vast wasteland.” While that is certainly not the case today, there’s still a lot of waste on the air, including the RFD network, which specializes in airing reruns of “Hee Haw.” Viewers who want to see such things will be seeing more RFD TV, as the network will now be carried by AT&T and will be available in 46 million homes. Including those in Mayberry. And we thought we were done with Goober and Gomer.

Major house-cleaning at Pennsylvania Ballet. Artistic Director Jeffrey Gribler, on hand since 1975, is history, as is long-time ballet mistress Tamara Hadley, Ballet School Director William DeGregory, and Artistic Director Assistant Michael Sheridan. The firings were said to have been the result of a report by arts consultant Michael M. Kaiser, who indicated that the company is no longer in the “top ranks” of American ballet companies. Spanish dancer Angel Corella is the new Artistic Director. Info the company’s 51st season:

Was it embarrassment, generosity or both? The near-dead, foreclosed upon and up-for-sale Suzanne Roberts Theatre, home of the Philadelphia Theatre Company, may be rescued by none other than the Roberts family who has pledged—if certain changes are implemented–$2.5 million in cash. Season details:

In other non-payment news, guess who owes the Philadelphia Police Department $108,000 for security the police department provided from 2009 to 2012? The Mann Center for the Performing Arts. But the Mann folks shouldn’t feel that bad. The Philadelphia Phillies owe the cops $275,000.

Philadelphia’s Giovanni’s Room, the country’s oldest LGHT bookstore, was very close to closing its doors earlier in the year, but has been given a new lease on life. The Philly Aids Thrift has signed a two-year lease with the former owner, and the “new” Giovanni’s will open officially on October 10.

Accordions are in the news again: Police received a call last month about a suspicious package standing next to a trash can at the front door of the Whole Foods Market in Plymouth Meeting. Turned out, police said, that the package was a “suspicious accordion.” No comment on this from “Weird Al Yankovic.

There’s little basis in fact to reports that “Skinny Joey” Merlino, believed to be a former Philadelphia crime boss and out on parole since being released from prison in 2011, will open a restaurant in Boca Raton. There’s a chance that “Skinny Joey” may go back in the can again for parole violations.

This just in: The much hyped “advance ticketing policy”– for a $325 per person dinner at Jose Garces’ Volver within the Kimmel Center—has been discontinued. Reason? Few folks wanted to have dinner at that price within the 34-seat space. Volver is now going the “lower-priced options” route. This scenario seems similar to the marketing disaster that was Atlantic City’s Revel. The lesson to be learned here is simple: Know your market.

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Saturday, August 11th, 2012

This is not “Real Estate Corner” and I’m no real estate maven, but I don’t do badly in the common sense sweepstakes.

And common sense tells me that if real estate experts want to build some kind of facility and attract big spenders, THEY SHOULDN’T BUILD IT IN A SLUM AREA.

And if they do, because market researchers said they should, THE SLUM AREA SHOULD BE CLEANED UP FIRST.

From what I’ve seen, the two-plus billion dollar hotel/casino chose not to clean up their own neighborhood, as abandoned, burned-out and decaying homes still stand just yards away from the new facility.

See, the Revel may be great inside. Getting to it, however, is anything but inviting.

And what brilliant mind determined that Atlantic City needed yet another casino?

The fact is, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Suzette Parmley–who does a marvelous job covering the casino beat–Revel’s brief time in the sun may be coming to a quick end. Their July numbers, totalling $17 million and change, was far below what is needed and what was expected. Market leader Borgata, for example, led the pack with $54 million.

$17 million in July? The Down Beach Deli did better.

Given the short time the place has been open, it’s astounding that Parmley’s story should mention bankruptcy as a possibility. “The threat of an early bankruptcy has increased,” according to industry observers and gaming analysts, reported Parmley.

I’m no Criswell, either (remember him?), but from the first time I saw this place and where it was, I knew they were headed for trouble. I wrote about it and contacted–more than once–the powers that be about what I thought the problem was and how I thought it could be solved.

It wasn’t surprising that I was ignored.

Perhaps it’s not too late for them to use some common sense: If you spend billions to build in a slum, why not spend a few bucks to clean up the slum first?

In the meantime, I’d suggest to Barry Manilow, who’s booked at the Revel on September 8, that he get cash up front.

Better yet, why not book Phil Woods instead?


Wednesday, August 8th, 2012


The name of Andy Kahn appears often in this space. That’s because I love his playing, I can’t get enough of it, and I want everyone to hear him. In the 50 or so years of our personal and professional association, I’ve heard him advance and evolve in a thoughtful, intelligent and sometimes exploratory manner. What you won’t hear from Andy Kahn are “licks” of any kind. Not Oscar’s. Not McCoy’s. Not Bill Evans’. Not Chick Corea’s. Not Paul Bley’s. Not Bernard Peiffer’s. Okay, 24 years ago he did quote from a solo by Harry “Sweets” Edison.

What’s particularly gratifying about his playing is, of course, his Great American Songbook repertoire, and that listeners won’t even be aware of licks or the lack of them. Quite simply, Andy Kahn makes a beautiful sound.

Right now, he holds the Thursday night spot at center city Philadelphia’s Prime Rib restaurant, and Fridays at Girasole in Atlantic City. I have no doubt that all or some of the other five nights per week will be eventually filled.


Right next door to the Warwick Hotel’s Prime Rib is a space called Tavern17. Featured there not too long ago was singer Mary Ellen Desmond, backed by pianist Tom Lawton and bassist Lee Smith. It was one of the more wonderful evenings of music I’ve ever had. For the complete story, check out the re-cap on the Community Pages.


How many drummers in history have accompanied Jimi Hendrix, Count Basie, Ray Charles, B.B. King, Charles Mingus and Charlie Ventura? And how many drummers have been on network television five nights per week for almost 30 years? Only Ed Shaughnessy. Ed has written a superb book about his life and his drumming and it’s available from Rob Cook at and other outlets.

The daughter of the late and great Jake Hanna has let us know that the long-in-preparation book about her dad should be available early this fall. Jake was a colorful character and a one-of-a-kind drummer, and I know first-hand that the book is chock full of great musical stuff, and great “Jake Stories.” Check out for release date.


Stephan Peiffer, son of pianist Bernard, and pianist/educator/musicologist Don Glanden are the behind-the-scenes “powers-that-be” responsible for the release of “Bernard Peiffer: Improvision.” Part of the Universal Music “Jazz in Paris” series, “Improvision” is the first “new” Peiffer release in a half-dozen years. This stellar project issues, for the first time on CD, two incredibly rare LPs: “Bernie’s Tune” from 1956, “Modern Jazz for People who Like Original Music” from 1960, and some private material from the 1970s. “Astounding” is the only word for this project and for Bernard. For more details, log on to the Jazz Times Community Pages.


I’ll be doing more work in the near future with Michael Ricci’s web site. Michael was one of the first out of the box, in 1995, with a comprehensive jazz site, and it’s only gotten bigger and better as time goes on. Latest development is a wide-ranging venture that will bring to visitors—via web pages and an app—every jazz and jazz-related event that is going on in your particular town. “Jazz Near You” is slated for a September launch.

How many folks visit Michael’s site? I can only say that, as you read this, my “How to Guide” on how to book jazz into a restaurant or club will have been read by nearly 4,000 people. That’s a lot of readers,and hopefully, a lot of eventual gigs for all.


I doff my cap to Suzanne Cloud, Wendy Simon-Sinkler and all other involved parties at Philadelphia’s Jazz Bridge, who worked tirelessly to put together what I consider to be one of the most important jazz events of the decade. This was a Town Meeting, hosted by Jazz Bridge and the newly-formed Philadelphia Jazz Coalition, and it was a forum to address the great, near-great and not-so great issues that face jazz musicians in Philadelphia and nationwide. Once again, for my take on that memorable evening, visit the Jazz Times’ Community Pages.


My recent visit to Atlantic City was done in secret. I wanted to be alone while visiting old haunts and keep an open mind when visiting new ones. Some nice folks from Caesars’ security staff let me know that business seems to be on the upswing. That is as it should be. It’s the summer season. The beach was packed, the new, Michigan Avenue stores seemed busy; every Jitney that passed me was full and casino floor—even in mid-day on a weekday—appeared to be doing well.

There’s even some jazz to be heard here. Pianist Orrin Evans had a recent date as a part of what was called the “Chicken Bone Beach Fesitval,” and the honchos at what once was the Playboy/Golden Nugget/Bally’s Grand/Hilton—and now the Atlantic Club Casino Hotel—are booking jazz on Sunday nights. Recent visitors included pianists Alan Broadbent, John Coliani and Jim Ridl, often heard in duo formats. How about booking jazz seven nights per week?

With the untimely death of Resorts co-owner Dennis Gomes in February, surviving partner Morris Bailey was looking for another co-owner and has found one in the form of the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority. These folks know what they’re doing and hopefully will continue to breathe new life, a new life started by Dennis Gomes, into A.C.’s oldest casino.

The same old problems still exist here, however. Urban blight and decay, abandoned lots and homes are on view, often yards away from billion-dollar hotel/casinos. Regular Atlantic City visitors are used to this. Newcomers are not. Doesn’t anyone down there realize that no one wants to see this in what is supposed to be a resort town? And what happened to the promises that were made from the day gaming was legalized in 1978? Until things are really and truly cleaned up, this town will continue to be in trouble.


Composer/conductor/pianist Marvin Hamlisch’s sudden death at the age of 68 on August 6th was a shock. He did a conducting gig as recently as July 21 and had just completed the score for the musical stage play of Jerry Lewis’ “The Nutty Professor.”

Hamlisch was not a jazz man, nor did he profess to be, but he was the last of a breed of “old time tunesmiths” in the tradition of Great American Songbook composers. Call me a cornball if you will, but you could whistle Hamlisch’s tunes. And you could dance to them. There was elegance, wit, musical logic and exquisite simplicity in many of his tunes. Even Sinatra dug him and tried to make a hit out of Hamlisch’s “There’s Something About You,” written in tandem with frequent partner, Carole Bayer Sager.

Sadly, and I didn’t know of this until his death, Marvin Hamlisch was being strongly considered to replace Philly Pops’ conductor Peter Nero after Nero’s planned departure at the end of the 2013 season. That would have been great for this city. And for music.


Bob Brasler’s obituary did not appear in Down Beat magazine, and the flag in front of the A.F.of M. Local #77 wasn’t flown at half-staff upon his death. That’s because Bob was best known as being one of this area’s most innovative real estate developers and forward thinkers, responsible, in good measure, for Philadelphia’s National Constitution Center.

But musicians loved Bob Brasler, who passed away at the age of 75 in June, and Bob Brasler loved musicians. It didn’t matter what the nature of the social or charitable gathering was. All he needed was a piano player, and Bob would end up singing half the night.

The trio of pianist Andy Kahn, bassist Bruce Kaminsky and yours truly, accompanied Bob frequently through the years, often at the Arthur Ashe Youth Tennis Foundation headquarters (an organization, by the way, that Bob and his darling wife Sibby virtually put on the map) and most recently at his 75th birthday gala. Bob’s singing was an important part of these occasions, with charts, keys, lyrics and song lists submitted to us long, long in advance.

When Bob died, I got a call from Sibby, saying that Bob insisted, shortly before his death, that our trio play at his memorial service. I wasn’t surprised, but I was touched and honored.

This guy put on a show. And a heck of a show it was. He was one hell of an entertainer, and one hell of a human being. Wherever Al Jolson has been residing since 1950, I know he said the following when hearing of Bob Brasler’s arrival: “Brasler’s here? Oh, shit.”


Friday, May 25th, 2012

My sincerest and most heartfelt thanks to the Suzanne Cloud and the other movers and shakers behind Philadelphia’s Jazz Bridge, a non-profit organization devoted to helping jazz musicians in need. In addition to being a marvelous singer, Ms. Cloud is one heck of a human being. She–and Jazz Bridge–have helped me personally and professionally. I look forward to helping get the word out about this marvelous organization in the future. I was so moved by what they did for me–and what they do–that I wrote The President. Whatever you may think of the man, he has the good sense to stay away from the tenor sax, which could not be said for another recent President.

This area has recently lost two, great jazz pianists, George Mesterhazy and Don Wilson. Both were players and human beings of the highest order. George could swing and improvise like the wind. Everything he played was joyous. Wilson was quite an individual stylist. Singers, and everyone else, loved him. He was particularly effective at very slow tempos, a quality that few could duplicate, though Trudy Pitts, Shirley Horn and singer Joy Adams came close. The scene here will never be the same without George and Don.

Wilson had a regular Thursday night gig at one of Philadelphia’s premiere restaurants, The Prime Rib, which is also THE place to hear piano greats like Tom Lawton. Taking over the Thursday spot is my friend Andy Kahn.

Andy, by the way, will be involved in a very, very special promotion for Jacob’s Music, which concerns the piano owned and played by one Vladimir Horowitz. Andy Kahn, who also does some work for Jacobs, will be interviewed by Temple University’s WRTI radio about the Maestro and the instrument, and plans to play a few numbers as well. I plan on being there when the interview takes place at Jacobs, and will report to you thusly.

As you likely already know, has reduced the price of everything we have to $10, with shipping free worldwide. I urge you to take advantage of this.

I also look forward to reporting my musical encounter in late June with pianist Peter Beets, who will be visiting these parts shortly.

Atlantic City, a.k.a. “Beirut by the Sea,” continues to get battered by the economy, other gambling outlets, and the sheer fact that A.C. does not yet have it together. A front page story in the Philadelphia Inquirer alleged that mental health organizations and similar organizations in New Jersey and surrounding areas are “dumping” patients and others in terrible need–where else?–A.C. Not surprising, nor is the fact that in the list of top 10 beaches in New Jersey, Atlantic City didn’t make the cut.


Wednesday, April 4th, 2012

My sincerest thanks to our loyal customer base who are beginning to return to the bigger and better and now again online And let this serve as a hearty welcome to new visitors as well. We are working hard to tweak things at the site in terms of organization, streamlining and ease of use, dealing with a non-working link or two, etc.

We’ve also begun adding “new discoveries” for the first time in a while, including some great, 1944 and 1946 from the Krupa band (already posted), a 1966 Newport All-Stars date with a spectacular drummer who all know and some of you love (soon to be posted), and early 1960s DVD concerts from the likes of Buck Clayton and Stan Kenton. Look for some stellar additions to the MP3 collection as well.

Good things are happening in Philadelphia music wise. Those who have long claimed that jazz is dead in Philadelphia need only head over to the venerable 23rd Street Cafe’, where the jam session is mobbed every Tuesday…as it’s been for the past 21 years of Tuesdays. Drummer and session producer “Big Jim” Dofton is doing a superlative job of keeping each and everything together. Believe me, it isn’t easy.

Our friend, pianist/singer Andy Kahn, deservedly, keeps getting busier and busier. He continues with regular recitals at Jacobs Music in center city Philadelphia, has returned to the Hedgerow Theater in Media, will return to The World Cafe’ at the end of April, and is not doing sessions at the city’s popular restaurant, The Prime Rib.

My good associate–bassist Bruce Kamsinky–and I recently took a ride down to that city by the ocean that musicians have long called “Beiruit by the Sea.” Atlantic City, New Jersey, that is. A.C. is the scene of the soon-to-open (with Beyonce’ at the headlining opener) Revel Hotel and Casino. The facility is said to have cost in the two billion dollar ranger. And a half-block away from Revel’s massive lobby? The same, decayed and in-pieces “homes” that have been a part of the inlet’s “urban blight” sector for more than 50 years. All the promises of using casino money to remove this decay? No one seems to know what’s happened, and it absolutely amazes me that allegedly intelligent business people who have managed to build a two billion dollar casino, could fix it so, when a customer looks out his pricey window, the view is nothing less than disgusting…for more than one reason. Whats-a-matter? You don’t have a couple of hundred to tear down a house?

AC needs all the help they can get, and starting with an enviornment that’s clean and safe is a good and long overdue beginning.  The struggling resort has now dropped to number three in the “gaming destinations” rank, and has recently lost another seven or so percentage points in terms of gross revenue.

We all know that this business of entertainment is a young person’s game, but don’t tell that to the likes of Pat Boone, Wayne Newtown, Debbie Reynolds and Frank, Jr., who have announced busy, 2012 schedules.

Feel free to email me directly at with suggestions, wants, problems and other info. All good wishes to you and yours for a swingin’ spring, a great holiday season-and beyond.

Keep swingin,

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

Philadelphia has been suffering
through its worst winter in history. Right now, I’m looking out at about five
feet of snow, and given the size
of this property, I’ll likely be holed
up here for several more days.
That’s but one of the reason for
delays in orders. But remember,
we do specify two-to-four weeks’
delivery, as each item is custom
duplicated in real time.

Those of you who haven’t ordered
the Krupa at Newport CD
should get it as soon as possible.
Though there are a bunch of airshots
of this quartet–Gene, Ronnie Ball,
Jimmy Gannon and Eddie Wasserman–mainly emanating from the London
House, none are as good as this.
Gene was really “on,” perhaps
because this was a large and
appreciative crowd, and the
locale was not a saloon (as much
as Gene did love The London

Those few of you who continue
to order via mail-order, please be
aware that two crucial factors
have changed: We can no longer
accept checks, only cash or
money orders. Secondly, our
mailing address has changed. It
is now 8500 Henry Avenue / PMB
116, Philadelphia, PA 19128.

I have received no further word
about what will hopefully be the
commercial release of the 1985
documentary on Artie Shaw, “Time
is all You’ve Got.” It certainly
does deserve a wide release,
if only to help fill in the gaps of
what we don’t know–or only
heard about–this enigmatic
genius. He may bave been an
eccentric, but boy, he sure
could play that clarinet. Likely
better than anyone. We have
mentioned this before, but it
bears repeating:
will NOT be making this title
available at any time, but we will
be happy to let you know when
it is released and where you can
purchase a copy.

Those of you who read Jazz Times
magazine may have noticed that
I am now contributing reviews
and features. This is something
I’ve wanted to do for some
years. JT’s legacy of contributors–Martin Williams, Leonard Feather, Nat
Hentoff and many more–constitute
exalted company. Be sure to
log on to their superb website,, for plenty of
reviews, interviews, news and
profiles that you won’t see
in print.

Those of you who pay attention
to such things may have heard
some noise about
being up for sale. The truth is,
I am seriously considering selling
the domain name. The sale would
not include the vintage audio and
video collection, which would
still be offered to the industry.
If anyone out there is interested or
knows someone who is, please
email me at

The Philaelphia / Atlantic City
area has lost a wonderful saxophonist
and entertainer. Jackie Jordan died
in Atlantic City at the age of 71
not long ago, and personally and
professionally, he will be missed.

Jack was one of legion of Atlantic
City-based players who was more
R&B and Louis Prima than pure
jazz–Michael Pedicin, Sr. was
another–but man, he swung.

I spent many hours playing with
Jackie and his wonderful groups,
many times at “after hour’s”
spots (do they still have those?)
until 4 a.m.

I did a piece on Jackie once for
the late and lamented Atlantic
City Magazine, and I asked him
to describe his style.

“I play happy music, Bruce,” was
his reply.

Indeed he did.

The Last Time I Saw Paris

Thursday, June 11th, 2009

The golden age of lounge entertainment in Atlantic City has been over for some years. The recent passing of saxophone giant Sam Butera, architect behind the sound of Louis Prima, just formalized the end of an area.

From the inception of casino gaming in 1978 until the early 1990s, virtually every casino/hotel had a lounge that featured live music. Some of the attractions were local, some were national. In the very beginning, Resorts International, the first casino to open, booked jazzers like Red Norvo and Teddy Wilson, and later, Sam Butera, Freddie Bell, R & B pioneers The Treniers, and jazz trumpeter Jack Sheldon.

Later on, The Golden Nugget booked everyone who was anyone from the world of Las Vegas lounges, including Buddy Greco, Frank D’Rone, Keely Smith, Billy Eckstine, Johnnie Ray, Billy Daniels, Joanie Sommers, Chris Connor, and many others.

The Claridge jumped into the fray after a while, as did Caesars, with attractions like Julius LaRosa. Dakota Staton and Buddy Greco, who, if memory serves, moved to The Claridge from The Golden Nugget and then to Caesars. There were bidding wars going on in those days.

It was party every night in those lounges. And remember, this was world class entertainment on view for the price of a drink.

I can’t pinpoint exactly when things began to change, but I do recall when I first saw the handwriting on the wall.

Sonny Averona was a Sinatra-type singer who had a substantial following at the shore and beyond. Sonny’s following was the “right” kind of following, i.e., high-rollers. He packed the lounge at The Taj Mahal six nights a week. I know. I was his drummer. When Sonny took a break, the crowds gambled–quite heavily, I was told–until we returned to the stage.

I was shocked when we were given two weeks’ notice. I had become acquainted with one of the Taj’s executives, also a regular visitor to the lounge, and told him that, for the life of me, I couldn’t understand why we were given notice, given the size the type of business we were doing.

“Come with me,” the exec said, while leading me to a quarter slot machine at the end of an aisle in a dark and rather secluded part of the casino floor. “See this machine? It may be in a dog of a location, but it’s still good for a minimum of $600 per hour. What’s replacing you in the lounge? Slot machines.”

As of summer, 2009, there are a number of lounges that do book live music, though the descriptions of the sounds within–provided by the casinos themselves–do not go beyond “live entertainment” or “rock cover bands.”

What hasn’t changed is that casino executives have to be creative in terms of who or what they book in their bigger rooms. A “name” is always a draw (when Sinatra was in town, all of Atlantic City was sold out) and given the economic climate and the fact that A.C. is no longer the only game in town, these places need all the help they can get.

Here’s some creativity at work for you: A recent advertisement for the Borgata casino/hotel listed none other than Paris Hilton as an upcoming attraction on Saturday, June 13th. You’ve got to hand it to the folks at the Borgata. What they’ve done in terms of appealing to the younger/upscale market has been astounding, and the operation has become a model for all other casinos in the area and beyond.

But Paris Hilton?

Those of us of a certain age knew that “actress” Zsa Zsa Gabor was basically famous for just being famous, though she did develop a character and demonstrated a flair for comedy, often at her own expense.

But Paris Hilton?

What does she do, and more importantly, what will she do at the Borgata on the evening of Saturday, June 13th?

The copy for the first newspaper advertisement I saw read, simply, “Paris Hilton, Music by Jesse Marco, Saturday, June 13.”

Music by Jesse Marco? Gee, maybe Hilton would be singing with a big band.

It turns out that Marco is one of the hottest, young D.J.’s around, so don’t look forward to hearing any Count Basie charts.

One of the Borgata’s web sites,, offers another clue as to what Hilton will be doing on the evening of June 13.

Here, the copy reads PARIS HILTON (in very big letters), and underneath, in very small letters, “Hosts Mur.Mur,” and underneath that, also in small letters, “Music by Jesse Marco,” and underneath that, again in large letters, SATURDAY, JUNE 13.

Mur.Mur, it turns out, is a new nightspot within the Borgata, which they describe at “the nightclub with a personality all to itself.” In line with just what the Hilton appearance is all about, the key word here has got to be “hosts.”

That, evidently, is what Hilton does. She shows up. And on this night, she’ll be hostessing at a disco. Mur.Mur. The nightclub with a personality all to itself. Bet the joint will be mobbed.

I bear no ill will toward Hilton or Jesse Marco, the Borgata or Mur dot Mur. In fact, I’m jealous. I want the gig. I’d love to get paid for showing up. Nice work if you can get it, says the song.

More seriously, I miss Sam Butera and the era when Buddy Greco would be singing and swinging to a packed room. There was nothing canned about it and these performers gave their all and created an excitement and energy that hasn’t been surpassed. And it was all live.

I’ll pass on the famous hostess and the disc jockey. I’ll listen my Sam Butera records instead.


The ageless Buddy Greco appears regularly at his own spot in Cathedral City, CA, “Buddy Greco’s Dinner Club,” and will be touring the U.K. in August.

Julius LaRosa’s web site lists no appearances beyond November of last year.

Trumpeter Jack Sheldon is still out there swinging, and will be playing at The Playboy Jazz Festival at The Hollywood Bowl on June 13, the same date Paris Hilton will be hostessing at the Borgata.

Singer and guitarist Frank D’Rone, a vastly under-appreciated talent (boy, did we have some times at The Golden Nugget), continues to play to packed houses in and around his native Chicago, on the west coast and at other selected, national venues.

Vocalist Joanie Sommers is still singing and takes jobs, when offered, near her Los Angeles home base.

Several of the recorded works of legendary jazz singer Chris Connor are being reissued–finally–by a number of record companies in Japan. Her singular singing style will be the subject of pianist/composer/eductaor Ran Blake’s lecture series this summer at the New England Conservatory.

The golden voice of Keely Smith has not changed one iota since her days with Louis Prima. She appears in the “main rooms” — no longer the lounges — of nightspots and concert halls nationally and records for the Concord Jazz label.

Milt Trenier, the only surviving member of The Treniers, appears a few times per month in and around his Chicago home.

Jazz pianist Teddy Wilson died in 1986.

Billy (“That Old Black Magic”) Daniels died in 1988.

Singer and hit-maker Johnnie Ray died in 1990.

Singer and bandleader Billy Eckstine died in 1993.

Jazz vibraphonist Red Norvo died in 1999.

Jazz singer Dakota Staton died in 2007.

Vegas lounge maven Freddie Bell died in 2008.

SAM BUTERA: What Made Sammy Run

Saturday, June 6th, 2009

Note: I saw Sam Butera hundreds of times in the 1980s at various
casinos in Atlantic City, notably Resorts International. At that juncture,
I was writing for Atlantic City Magazine by day and playing in the lounges
by night, but I always made it my business to be in the lounge of
Resorts when Sam Butera and The Wildest were in residence. It
was the hottest show in town. Eventually, I became close with Sam
and the talented members of his band, including the late Buck Mainieri
and Chuck Stevens Ignolia (Connie’s brother) and keyboardist
and arranger Arnie Teich. Sam had me helping with sound, with
publicity, etc. In other words, I was a hanger-on with a purpose. Sam
and the boys gave me some of the most exciting and most
educational moments of my life. Though the following tribute
concentrates on Butera’s long association with Louis Prima, be
aware that he participated in many projects on his own, both before
and during the Prima years, including recording sessions as a
soloist, fabulous pairings with the likes of Frank Sinatra and Sammy
Davis, and even a film or two, including “The Rat Race.” Sam’s music,
with and without Prima, is timeless and will never, ever date or age.
Was it art? As Sam might have answered, “I don’t know, man…but it
was sure fun.”

Saxophonist Sam Butera, the architect behind the sound of the legendarysinger and trumpeter, Louis Prima, passed away in Las Vegas on June 3rd. He would have been 82 in August. Butera, who retired in 2004, died as a result of complications from Alzheimer’s Disease, said his wife of 62 years, Vera.

The Butera/Prima pairing constitutes one of the great show business stories. In 1954, young Butera was quite the sensation on the New Orleans club scene, with his raucous combination of jazz, dixieland and rhythm and blues sax solos and vocals winning over locals and tourists nightly. He was, in fact, already a national name, as he was voted as one of the most outstanding teenage jazz musicians in the country by Look Magazine a few years earlier.

Unfortunately, Louis Prima career was all but shot by 1954. Though he had enormous success in the late 1930s with a Dixieland combination on 52nd Street in New York city, a popular and quite entertaining big band throughout through the 1940s and plenty of hit records, by 1954, the big band era was long over and Prima’s “jumpin’ and jivin” style was pretty much considered old hat. Prima and then-wife, vocalist Keely Smith–they married in 1953– were working every dive imaginable, with local rhythm sections. “Louis had us playing in bowling alleys, or wherever else he could get us a job,” Smith said years later.

Prima needed a break, and he got one in the form of Bill Miller, Entertainment Director of Las Vegas’ Sahara Hotel, where Prima had once headlined. Miller gave Prima and Smith two weeks in December. In the lounge. On the midnight to 5 a.m. shift.

Though they went over well with the Vegas audience—they were extended throughout the month, and the musicians provided for them worked well–Louis Prima knew something was missing. Prima’s New Orleans-based brother, Leon, told Louis about this fabulous band in New Orleans, led by a swinging, honking, entertaining dynamo of a saxophone player, Sam Butera. Instinctively, Prima knew that Butera could give him the sound, and help realize the musical concept, he wanted. Prima begged Butera to come to Vegas on Christmas. Butera came out December 26th, and shortly after, the face of Las Vegas entertainment changed.

Louis Prima had already been through a number of musical styles, including swing, big band sounds, dixieland, Italian “jive” novelties like “Please Don’t Squeeza-Da Banana,” and several more. His goal was to somehow incorporate all of these in his act, with contemporary rhythm and blues overtones. At the same time, he was developing the role of his singing wife, Keely Smith, into that of bored, deadpan vocalist who could care less about Prima’s on-stage scatting, jiving, dancing, be-bopping and other musical shenanigans. Sonny and Cher were an updated version of Louis and Keely.

Sam Butera and his talented New Orleans crew, dubbed “The Witnesses,” brought it all together. Even Prima’s cornball novelties–like “Josephina Please Don’t Lean-A on the Bell”–were now catchy, electrric swingers, held together by a modified swing beat called a “shuffle.” It wasn’t rock and it wasn’t jazz and it wasn’t dixieland. The music of Louis Prima, as defined by Butera, had elements of them all.

Louis Prima, Keely Smith and Sam Butera and The Witness were a hit and took Las Vegas by storm. The Casbah Lounge at the Sahara was the spot in Vegas. Tables were impossible to come by and after-hours visits to the lounge by the headliners–which frequently included Frank Sinatra and his Rat Pack co-horts–became the norm. The group signed a lucrative contract with Capital Records, had a bunch of hit records, made a movie or two and were all over television. Ed Sullivan, who employed them frequentely on his television program was fond of calling them “the hottest act in the country.”

And the songs? Venerable oldies like “That Old Black Magic,” “Just a Gigolo,” “Oh Marie,” “I’ve Got You Under My Skin” and dozens of others were arranged by Sam Butera for maximum effectiveness, utilizing the skilled talents of Prima’s wild vocals and trumpet playing, Smith’s sweet singing, and on most every tune, the booting and rousing tenor saxophone of Butera.

Prima, Butera and The Witnesses remained Vegas staples–and toured the country– for years, even after the very public divorce of Keely Smith and Louis Prima in 1961. Though the hits stopped coming and audiences and tastes changed, they always had their following. In 1967, Prima, Butera and the Witnesses got a tremendous shot in the arm via their casting, albeit as cartoon characters, in Walt Disney’s “The Jungle Book.” Prima, naturally, was “King Louie,” King of the Apes. Youngsters are still mesmerized by the songs and the characters in that film today.

The man who Sam Butera called “The Chief” played his last gig in 1975, after lapsing into a coma during an operation to remove a brain tumor. Louis Prima died three years later. Butera understandably floundered a bit on his own in the beginning, and sadly, a pairing with Keely Smith didn’t work out. Vegas, of course, wasn’t the same.

But things changed with the advent of legalized casino gaming in Atlantic City in 1978. As Sam Butera and “The Wildest” (Prima widow Gia Miaone owned the name “The Witnesses” and wouldn’t allow Butera to use it), the rabble-rousing tenor man garnered an entire “new” audience who remembered and loved the music of Louis Prima. It was that Vegas excitement–every night–all over again. Butera had a fine, fine band which was seven or eight strong at one point, and for years, they were the stars of the lounge within Resorts International, often alternating with other Vegas lounge legends, The Treniers and Freddie Bell and The Bellboys. Again, everyone who was everyone came into the lounge to catch Sam Butera. Including Frank Sinatra.

Rocker David Lee Roth’s remake of Prima/Butera’s “Just a Gigolo” brought even more audiences, nationwide, to see and hear “the original,” as did The Gap’s use of the Butera arrangement of “Jump Jive and Wail.”

In 2004, Sam Butera formally retired, tired of the constant travel and having to deal with a changed Las Vegas and a changed Atlantic City. He didn’t need to work. He worked and played long and hard, and even during his last gigs at the age of 78, he played with more energy than I have ever seen on stage before or since.

I once asked, during a band break at Resorts International in the early 1980s, if there was any secret to to his longevity. “There are two things to remember,” he told me. “One is that it’s nice to be important but it’s more important to be nice. The second is, and I love pure jazz more than anyone else, that we don’t play for critics. We play what I call happy music, and as Louis used to say, ‘We play it pretty for the people.'”