Singing in Las Vegas and L A

Free Circus at Teenbeat club

Free Circus at Teenbeat club

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.

Odyssey Records

Odyssey Records

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.

teenbeat-clubThat 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.

Program cover: Los Angeles Hair

Program cover: Los Angeles Hair

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.

Jessica Marciel
Las Vegas Vocal Training

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Riding the Career Roller Coaster – Phase 1

Grammy-trophyWhen I read through my leads for lessons. I get everything from, “I want to get over my stage fright,” to, “I want a Grammy!  Really?  You want a Grammy, and you think just having a better voice will help you? Having a good voice helps, but there’s a lot more to it.

Let me start at the beginning. When I was three, my family moved from New York to Los Angeles, because my dad was a drummer. That’s when my life began.

I have no memory of our big house with the wraparound deck in the Hollywood Hills… although I have seen photos of myself on that deck.

Eydie-Gorme-Eydie-In-LoveI DO remember moving into the cute house in North Hollywood. I also remember getting Eydie Gorme’s album , ‘Eydie In Love‘  for my 4th birthday.  ‘Someday he’ll come along, the man I love, and he’ll be big and strong, The man I love…….

Yes, I was crooning love songs at four, and knowing and believing I was a singer. I wasn’t a famous singer,  or a paid singer. At age four, in our living room,  this is where I would dream my dreams.

However, those fantasies never included awards, mansions, cars and lots of money.   They were dreams of singing for people, and doing it for a living. Making enough to have a house and a dog or 3 and sing. Sing all the time.

In retrospect, that IS how my life has turned out. But there are many many stories in-between.

Be Aware of Red Flags

Not all the experiences are radio appearances, concerts, and signing autograph. For those of you who are pre-teens, teens, or young women, I want you to know what you are in for.

Signing with a Record Label was easy, in 1962

When I was 12, my dad took me to Capitol Records to sing for the CEO in his big office. I had my guitar, and sang for him. He made a call, and in a few minutes, we were signing a 6-song record deal. Three records of two sides each.

Career Roller Coaster

Jessie Paul in Studio C

Within a few days, a few songs were delivered to our house via limo. My producer/manager was nice as could be. He was the only one who Was  in my career!!. It was all so exciting and new.

THEY said I had to change my name. My new name was Jessie Paul.

I was in Van Nuys Jr. High, and the press releases were all, ‘that cute new doll from Van Nuys Jr High, the new singing sensation blah blah blah.’  I had photos done, but NO one told me how to pose!! No one helped me with my wardrobe?

So we recorded with a full orchestra in Capitol Studio A, or C, I just know it was the BIG one., a huge orchestra,   with three back up singers. It was so much fun, I knew this would be my life, forever. I lip-synched my record ‘Johnny Let Me Go‘ at a school party. I had a blast.

The song charted on Billboard’s Top 100, 75 with a bullet. Then, the roof caved in. The Beatles landed in America, and what label were they on?  Capitol Records.

My next session was NOT at Capitol, but a smaller studio with a smaller rock band. I didn’t mind that, I was doing what I loved and the songs were better than the last ones. However, Female singers were not on the hit maker machine anymore. It was all British bands and beach music. The boys dominated. Capitol dropped me. I was a has-been, overnight.

My initial success as snatched up in an instant.  Well, it wasn’t the end of the world… we were moving to Las  Vegas, and KENO radio was playing my songs!!  When I arrived, Dennis Hunt asked me to appear on his KENO radio show.

On the strength of my record and radio appearance, I was booked to open for Johnny Crawford at the Las Vegas Convention Center . He had a TOP 10 hit, “Cindy’s Birthday.”  It was my first big show at a stadium, but not my last.

Lessons Learned: 

  • Having access to decision makers is always important. In today’s labyrinth of record executives, getting signed to a label does not happen so swiftly and directly.
  • As exciting as it can be, you learn quickly that you are not in control of your career. You’re being told what to sing, how to sing it, what to wear… in my case, being told (not asked) to change my name ‘for career purposes;’
  • Events were moving so quickly, I barely had time to be stage-ready in front of large audiences. Feel the fear and do it anyway.
  • When you’re the flavor of the month, everything is sunshine and flowers. But tastes in music are like fashion. They can change in a moment, and suddenly, you are on the outside, looking in.
  • Every performance is training for the next appearance. And collectively, you move up the career ladder.

Next Stage: The whirlwind begins anew in Las Vegas. Opening for major rock acts.

Jessica Marciel
Las Vegas Vocal Training

Working singer since 12, no time for the prom at 17.

In 1964, The Beatles came to America, Capitol Records, my record label was also the distributor. Capitol Records, suddenly distracted by The Beatles, left me, and other artists, high and dry. I lost all my clout with the label and was washed up at 14.

Shortly thereafter, my dad was with Juliet Prowse as her drummer and was seeing Las Vegas as his future.  Against the family’s wishes we all moved to Las Vegas and I had to re-invent myself.

Dennis Hunt a DJ with KENO radio had been playing my record, Johnny Let me Go“, and frequently had me appear on his show. I opened a concert for Johnny Crawford of The Rifleman TV show, who had a big hit, “Cindy’s Birthday”. this was my first big concert at the Las Vegas Convention Center.

I was in Valley High School, and there were tons of local bands in town. The  Scatter Blues, The Weeds, The Present Tense, Nobody’s Children, Sioux Uprising, The Teenbeats, Kentucky Blue Grass, Loadstone, Later, Kharisma,with John Sterling, Terry Ryan, Jay Mitthauer. Same band, few changes. and the band that I joined, The Little People.

 

The Little People were, Mike Lyman, Mike Friedman, Glenn Cooper, Steve Harvey, Howard Salstein, and myself. We were very popular and appeared on the Jerry Lewis Telethon. Mike Friedman”s father Maurice Friedman was a mob-connected hotel man. The Frontier Hotel. Mike was a spoiled and complex kid. Naturally, I was drawn to him…. What was I thinking? I wasn’t thinking, that was the problem. His parents were always out, and he had a nanny that let us all do anything and everything around his golf course home.

We evolved into a better group called  London Fog. That was Bob Lilly, and Glenn Cooper, Mike Lyman, and Mike Friedman and myself.  We worked the Teen Beat Club, and shopping centers, local parties and even a Hotel in Searchlight.

Free Circus

Free Circus

I outgrew my high school musicians soon, and was solicited by  a college band, The Free Circus. Roby Bennet, Bob Byornsen, and Danny Barnett. This was a great band. We covered Stevie Winwood, Cream, and a lot of originals. With this band we got a manager, Jennifer Joseph, and opened for  Santana, Grateful Dead, Iron Butterfly, SteppenwolfThree Dog Night, Blue Cheer Sweetwater, and virtually every headliner who came through town. We even spent a summer in Lake Tahoe, and opened for Steppenwolf, again.

I  distanced myself from Mike Friedman at this time, and started seeing John Sterling, who I met through drummer Jay Mitthauer, {Jaybird}  He was taking drum lessons from my dad. John was in Loadstone and a little older, 24,  My parents were thrilled about this, I’m sure!

But shortly after we began, the band Loadstone became Andy Williams featured band on his TV show, and they were slowly transitioning to Los Angeles.  I made a few weekend trips to see Sterling before we drifted apart.

On one of these trips, we were at A&M studios, they were recording and I ran into my idol, Lani Hall. I had always wanted to be in Sergio Mendes & Brazil 66!!! Just seeing her in the restroom of A&M was thrilling.

Las Vegas Convention Center

Las Vegas Convention Center

Meanwhile, my band, The Free Circus, was getting close to a recording opportunity when our pianist Danny was drafted to  go to Vietnam. He was still in boot camp, when on a  trip to visit him, his parents and brother were hit by a drunk driver and his mother was instantly killed. He got a grief discharge, but we were broken up by then. Danny’s  mother was a beautiful woman and it was so sad.  His dad moved to Morrow Bay and lived on a yacht with the settlement money.

My sister met an agent Bill Loeb, he met with me, flew me to Los Angeles, and my first audition was HAIR. I was blessed! But back to Free Circus. We were close, I loved these guys, Bob had cancer in the 80’s and passed away, but Roby and Danny and I are going to be inducted into the Las Vegas Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, as well as Little People and London Fog.

 

Actual London Fog

Actual London Fog

Mike Friedman died of cancer as well and I was reunited with him at the end. He had nothing left, having snorted his money away and estranged from his sister, who told me, I don’t even care , don’t call me when he dies. I found a place for Mike to stay while he was sick, my dear friend Rene had been letting him live with her but it was going on way too long. She needed help. He abused my friends apartment with beer bottles and cigarettes, and I too, had to ask him to leave. He went back to Rene’s and died.

But I will add that when I was with Free Circus, I did no drugs. No drinking, I was really a serious singer…unlike my London Fog days, when I was a bit messed up and not very mature.

All this led to who I am today, and shaped my values as a singer. Take care of yourself and be on time! My life has been crazy and wonderful, but I wouldn’t trade anything I did. Even missing my prom!

Jessica Marciel
Las Vegas Vocal Training

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