Posts Tagged ‘music’

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.

FRANCES KLAUBER: From Gene and Buddy to Frank and Dean to Moe and Larry

Tuesday, July 26th, 2005

Some may deem this to be a bit inappropriate, but it’s my web site and I can say and do what I want! And if that sounds like shades of “it’s my ball, so it’s my game,” so be it. Seriously, and forgive me if I’m a little sentimental at this time, so many of you–from all over the world–seem like family to me. I’ve never felt like anyone who ever visited was a “customer.” A supporter? Yes. A friend? Yes. Perhaps it’s because we all have one thing in common, no matter where we live and what our backgrounds may be. That’s the love of jazz, generally, and the music of Gene Krupa, to be more specific. 

Those of you who have been receiving periodic, personal updates from me are aware that my mother, Frances, has pancreatic cancer. She just celebrated her 92nd birthday last month and she is as feisty as ever, but what she has just cannot be stopped and we’re told that time is relatively short. She is quite, quite comfortable in a convalescent home outside of Philadelphia, though she detests the food and is less than thrilled with the rotten chord changes of the pianist who comes into the dining hall to entertain a few times a week. 

Frances knows changes and she knows tempos. She grew up in the vaudeville era, and from what I’ve been told, was an active participant in it as a singer and dancer in amateur shows all over the Philadelphia area. Indeed, the story goes that one or both of her brothers, Mitchell and Jack, used to go with her to gigs for the sole purpose of collecting the money thrown at Frances on the stage! The “take,” I’m told, could really add up for those days. I also understand from various sources through the years that my mother was asked to go on the road by some rather well-known vaudevillians. However, given the reputation of show business folk at the time (they were, of course, all drug addicts and drunks), Frances’ family absolutely and unequivocally forbid it. She could have made it. Her test recording of “Apple Blossom Time” came about seven years before The Andrews Sisters had the hit on it. Coincidentally, and we all know show business is bizzare, I went throught the same thing in 1978 with my recording of “Just a Gigolo” (David Lee Roth eventually had the hit on that one). Mom was the few who understood. 

The business, though, was always in her blood. She played piano, by ear and in the key of G, at home constantly, and at family gatherings, she always entertained, many times with her brothers. She pushed me into taking music lessons at the age of six, first on accordion and later on flute. I hated both instruments, although I love them today. It wasn’t until my older brother, Joel (who many of you know as the renowned musicologist who studied with the legendary writer, Martin Williams), joined a band that I found the instrument I wanted to play. Joel was kind enough to bring me to one of the bands’ rehearsals, and in the corner of the room, there they were: a gold sparkle set of “Revere” drums (for the collectors out there, I believe Revere may have been an offshoot of “Kent”). I was hooked, and as most of you know, I still am. 

Like a lot of youngsters in the early 1960s, I wanted to take drum lessons. Gene Krupa and Buddy Rich were getting much television exposure, Joe Morello was the hippest guy out there, Art Blakey and the whole hard bop movement was helping to change the course of jazz, Maynard Ferguson’s band was swinging down the house, Sonny Payne was doing his stick-flipping bit with Basie, Cozy Cole was on the road as a result of his freak hit of “Topsy Part Two,” and even a guy named Sandy Nelson was hitting the pop charts with something called “Let There Be Drums.” My mother found me a good drum teacher, and I studied. And studied. There were a lot of teachers. And a lot of drums in our house. 

Frances, who never drove an automobile, somehow managed to attend every performance of mine throughout the years — and there were many of them — at Cynwyd Elementary School, Bala-Cynwyd Junior High School, and Lower Merion High School. Over the years, and I know this was at Frances’ insistence, my brother and I where schlepped along at famed Philadelphia venues like The Latin Casino, The Celebrity Room and just about every place in the Catskill Mountains that featured live entertainment. Just as a sampling, we saw–more than once–Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis, Dean Martin, Shecky Greene and Bobby Darin, to say nothing of the jazz greats our father took us to see, including Harry James with Buddy Rich, Thelonious Monk, Sonny Stitt, Erskine Hawkins, Shirley Scott, Basie, Duke, Maynard, Lockjaw Davis, Woody, Duke, and of course, Gene Krupa. You would have had to have been there. There will never be another time like it, and I believe that if it were not for my mother, not only would I have never seen these legends, but I would not be doing what I’m doing or be who I am. When Gene was on the Mike Douglas Show in Philly, my mother made sure I was there. 

Charlie Ventura called my mother at home one afternoon to ask for her permission: Could I sub for drummer Tony DeNicola for a few nights at The Saxony East club in Philadelphia? I was about 16. Not only did she give Charlie permission, but Frances organized a table of ten, front and center that very night, at The Saxony East to lend support. Charlie thanked her, in fluent Yiddish, believe it or not, that night. 

My mother was often overshadowed by my more flamboyant father, but in her day, she was the one who got the things done that had to be done. In 1959, a local, children’s television host by the name of Sally Starr announced on her program that The Three Stooges were coming to Philadelphia at a club called The Latin Casino, then located at 13th and Walnut Street in center city. Non-Stooges fans may not understand, but I had to be there. I cannot imagine how distasteful this must have been for Frances and Charlie (I recall my father saying that The Stooges were corny when he was a boy), but we got there, and I guess I’m among the chosen few who can, today, say that “I saw The Three Stooges.” My mother got me there. 

We have had our differences over the years and still do, but at times like this, one begins editing out the negative stuff. And that’s a good thing. After all, how many kids can say that their mom got them in to see The Three Stooges. That’s love. And I won’t forget it. Here’s hoping she’ll be bitching about bad chord changes for some time to come. 

In “other business,” there is, we believe, an astounding new discovery on its way to We have heard a song or two over the years from a Jazz at the Philharmonic concert from Hamburg, Germany, from 1956. Some of you have heard the JATP ensemble introduce Krupa’s solo on “Drum Boogie,” and one of the versions of Gene backing Dizzy Gillespie on “My Man.” We understand that the entire concert, if not more, is available, with Gene as the only drummer of the evening, backing everyone from Dizzy to Ella Fitzgerald. Watch this space! 

My sincere thanks to all of you, my friends, for allowing me this forum. God bless and keep swingin… 

Bruce Klauber