Our family move to Las Vegas, was traumatic for my sister and I. Being raised in Los Angeles, you get used to a certain culture, access to the beach, and the mountains. We lived in North Hollywood, then Northridge, Sherman Oaks, and Van Nuys.. I went to Van Nuys Jr. Hi. This was a real blow,, I was only 3, when we left New York for L A, so this was HUGE. My sister and I were never closer and we clung to each other for survival. I was lost when she went off to live in San Fransisco for the rest of her teen years with my aunt and uncle.
Not long after the move to Vegas, I found that my record was a little popular there, and Dennis Hunt on KENO Radio had given it a lot of play. I went to Odyssey Records and even found my record in the sale bin!!!!! Talk about a blow to your ego!
I found out, I was to open for Johnny Crawford of the TV show The Rifleman at the Las Vegas Convention Center.
His hit song ‘Today is Cindy’s Birthday’ was huge at the time and this was the biggest venue in Las Vegas, where The Beatles played. I was to lip-sync my 4 songs, because the last two were not really mixed, and completed when I was dropped from the label. I still have the demos, the vinyl, but they didn’t make it to the radio.
I was so nervous! All these young girls screaming Johnny… Johnny… and I come out! They were polite enough, but bored stiff until my set was over. Whew, my first big concert. Alone! Over with! I think if my opening song hadn’t been ‘Johnny Let Me Go’ they would have killed me!
I was at Valley High , here in Las Vegas. High school started at 9th grade, for four years. in Los Angeles it was 3 years. So here I was in high school, after a half semester at Roy Martin Middle school.
The bands were all male dominated. NO chick singers. A band, ‘The Little People‘ asked me to join them. YES, after doing that concert alone, being IN a band was a great thrill for me. This was when I honed my performing skills, and we worked every weekend. We even did the Jerry Lewis Telethon, during MORNING PRIME TIME!!!! After a few personality issues, we morphed into another band, ‘London Fog’, adding on more talent.
That band was an improvement; we were getting older, and working better places, The Teenbeat Club and many frat parties. We even played the only casino in Searchlight, Nevada, a mining town, about an hour outside Las Vegas.
Then the best thing happened to me. A college band called ‘Free Circus’ asked me to come aboard. Wow, I was so excited to do originals, and songs by Traffic, Yes, and Jefferson Airplane. The band had great musicians,, and two singers in addition to me.
Roby Bennet wrote a lot of great songs and Danny Barnett was on B3 organ, a rare sound for local Vegas bands. We were so good, concert promoters hired us to be opening act for Santana, Three Dog Night, Steppenwolf, Iron Butterfly, Electric Prunes, Sweetwater, and others, I can’t even recall!
We were stars now, when we would load in, kids would crowd around to watch us, just to be around us because we were going to be close to these headline bands backstage; acts they all loved, and admired. This was a great time in my life.
So, after we were really on a roll, and I was in my senior year, The Viet Nam war was calling our pianist! Yes , Danny had to go, and we just could not replace him. He played B3 for goodness sakes, and that was our sound! When Danny left, I knew my next move had to be for ME, for my career.
So, I went to Los Angeles with an agent that my sister had met at the Stardust Hotel. He was quite well known, Bill Loeb agency, and you would think someone that big would behave themselves? After he read my bio, he just took a shot and took me to Hollywood, and checked me in at the Bel Air Motel. That’s when my world started to get pretty scary!
I have to add, that years later (which I’ll cover in another post), Las Vegas wasn’t so forgiving to female singers, and I have some horror stories there also. But as a teen, it treated me well. As I made my journey with this complete Stranger to Los Angeles, the rest of my life begins a whole new chapter!
I had a cute room at the motel, with a little fridge. Mr. Loeb was well behaved up to this point. I had my first audition set for the following week, the Love Rock Musical HAIR, I was preparing my song and dance. I bought some vintage satin pants at a thrift store,,, a madras blanket and I sewed it into a top,,,that was my Hippie outfit,,, I auditioned for Teddy Neely, and Kay Cole, Armand Coulet, and I got a callback,,,,, Then I was called without the callback,,I was to start right AWAY!!!! I was thrown into the most popular Broadway show in decades,,
I was a vegetarian, and made frequent trips to the market,
On one such trip, a very dark hairy hippie approached me in the produce section, and started chatting me up, said he was a songwriter, come to my car, I will play you a song.
Well, I did, and it was a smelly, beat up old car. He was smelly, too, and seemed a bit crazy… The hair stood up on my arms, so when Charlie, that was his name, asked to to go to his ranch, I declined.
Yes, my friends,, The Spahn Ranch and CHARLIE MANSON was his name. Welcome to L A
Third installment coming soon.
Las Vegas Vocal Training