Vegas Baby!:

A Review of the 2003
Viva Las Vegas Rockabilly Weekender
April 17 to April 20

By Larry Shell

Let me preface this by saying that before I went, I did not think the line-up for this year's Viva Las Vegas Weekender was as strong as previous years but let me tell you I think I might have had the best time ever!

I'd also like to add that unlike the time I reviewed the first VLV, I took no notes. Everything below is accurate but straight from memory, hence the lack of some set lists, band personnel, etc.

Tuesday, April 15 --

I arrived in Vegas a couple days early so that I could attend Ronny Weiser's Meet N' Greet party he holds every year the day before VLV and the pre-VLV show put on by Wild Promotions that same night. As I made my way to my room by going past the bar near the elevators, I ran into a couple of familiar faces from NY and Chicago getting an early start on their drinking, Roy Wilson of The Buzzards and Carl Schrieber, he of the atomic pompadour and formerly of The Duvalls, currently wowing the Midwest as 1/2 of the Neverly Brothers. I made my hellos and excused myself to drag my suitcase up to the room as it had been a looong flight from NJ. When I got back downstairs, they had split so I amused myself by checking out the neighboring casinos in a blur of slot machines, buffets, and non-alcoholic beverages until I was ready to crash as the jet lag set in big-time.

Wednesday, April 16 --

After greeting my newly arrived roommate from down under, Peter Scanlon, we made our way to the lobby and purchased a couple six-packs of Rollin' Rock beer, which we figured would be appropriate to bring along as we were heading for the home of Mr. Rollin' Rock Records, Ronny Weiser, for his annual pre-VLV Meet 'N Greet party! I'm assuming I don't have to spell out who Ronny is for anyone reading this, but sufficed to say a good time was had by one and all as usual. The action all takes place in Ronny's BIG back yard with assorted musicians jamming on the patio playing that rockabilly music we all love so well. Among those who played were Bill Fadden, Roman Self (son of Ronnie), The Farell Brothers, Johnny Mercury, Marshall Scott Warner, Carl Schrieber and oh so many others whose names unfortunately escape me right now. Good music, good food, good people -- it was another excellent bash hosted byRonnie and Laurie Weiser, my kudos to them both!

Around 6 PM, the party broke up and most folks made a beeline for that evening's entertainment, the VLV pre-show put on by WILD Promotions at Gilly's in the Frontier Hotel. We got there just as the first act was going on.

Billed as WILD Mexican Rock n Roll, LOS RHYTHM ROCKETS had a real jumpin' Bill Haley rock & roll vibe going and were quite enjoyable. I can't wait to check these guys out in a year or two as they're only going to get better! I can not recall the exact order the rest of the acts appeared in but that's not as important as the music itself.

BOZ BOORER on VLV Main Stage
Photo © Louie Newmyer
THE FOLSOM FOUR featuring Boz Boorer was a gas, doing pretty much all Johnny Cash songs from his Sun Records days through "A Boy Named Sue." If you ever get a chance to check them out, don't miss it!

Sun Recording Artist, HAYDEN THOMPSON was up next backed by Ashley Kingman, Bobby Trimble and I'm thinking Shorty Poole on bass. As he was when I saw him on the first WILD Promotions pre-show two years ago, Hayden was simply great doing his hits like "Love My Baby" to covering Johnny Cash and much more. His voice was deep and strong, an excellent performer!

Next up was someone I was really looking forward to seeing, Challenge Recording Artist, HUELYN DUVALL! I was not disappointed as he delivered big time! Backed by Boz and Lyn Boorer along with a drummer who I didn't know, Huelyn delivered all the classics, "Life Begins At 4 O'Clock," "Pucker Paint," "Teen Queen," "Susie's House," and kept us all rockin' until the end of the set! Just great!

And to end the show, OMAR & THE STRINGPOPPERS came out and gave us a mini-set, a preview of his set to come Sunday on the VLV Main Stage. Omar is new on the scene and gave a energetic performance on the 3-4 tunes he did, I look forward to checking him out in the future as the boy is a real wild child!

Standing by the entrance of Gilly's chatting with some friends at the end of the show, I saw Huelyn Duval and his wife walk by. I went outside to talk to him as he was supposed to set up and sell his wares after the show. Turned out the promoter didn't have the promised table for him but he didn't seem upset at all. We spoke briefly and I was able to get an autographed photo of him, a publicity shot from his Challenge days, pretty sweet! He and his wife were nice people, it was a pleasure meeting them!

And I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the excellent selection that vendor, Spindrift Records, had by the entrance. There are only a couple of dealers worth dealing with when it comes to rockin' CDs and Steve Chapman is certainly one of them. I picked up a couple of cool Proper CD boxes from him, the 4-CD HILLBILLY BOOGIE and a 2-CD LUCKY MILLINDER collection. Good stuff, good prices!

Thursday, April 17 ≠

Thursday is always the shortest night of the weekend with only the main stage having any bands performing and that wasn't until 10 PM. The Vendors Hall across from the Main Ballroom opened in early afternoon. In addition to the SOUNDS THAT SWING record booth, there were vintage clothing dealers galore, you name it, it was probably there. Originals, Repros, Shoes, Hats, Shirts, Jeans, Dresses and so much more. I was on a budget so only picked up a few CDs but the Daddy O's booth kept calling out to me the entire weekend with its great selection of cool shirts and even some designs in my size which is BIG like a Big Sandy big! I'll definitely be mail-ordering from them before the year is out!

I went out with some friends around 6 PM to the old Vegas Strip area around Fremont Street and we checked it out, pretty cool with some of the older hotel's like Binion's Horseshoe and others. We got back too late to catch the first band of the weekend, SHOTGUN, but the second, from the UK, BILL FADDEN & THE SILVERTONE FLYERS were a blast! I enjoyed Bill at Ronnie Weiser's party and his energy is contagious, he put on one helluva fun set! They play in a stripped-down, authentic style and their set included covers like Gene Maltais' "Raging Sea" and Andy Starrs "Rockin' Rollin' Stone" among others. The whole band was great but I have to give special props to their drummer, Miss Katie-Jane Fielding, for keeping that solid swinging backbeat going non-stop! Crazy-Man-Crazy!

At 1 AM, the final act of the evening, and one of the most anticipated of the whole weekend, came on. BIG SANDY & THE LONELY BLUE BOYS! As it said in the VLV 2003 promotional material, this was an rare opportunity to see Big Sandy perform his Doo Wop set. Heir apparent of the R&B Vocal Group genre, Big Sandy's solo album on Hightone Records, "Dedicated to You", featured covers of R&B and doo-wop oldies. Until now, Big Sandy's performance of these tunes and similar material was limited to maybe 1 or 2 songs tops added to his set list when he toured with the Fly-Rite Boys. But now here was our chance to see and hear him do an entire show backed by one of the finest new Doo Wop bands around, The Lonely Blue Boys!

The Lonely Blue Boys are a family group which includes Ernie Vargas, Alex Vargas, and Little Ernie Vargas,. They come from Hawaiian Gardens, CA and are carrying on an East L.A. tradition of Latino R&B and Doo-Wop. And boy, are they doing a helluva job! The saxophone player was Dave "Cad" Kadison known as Cad to his pals. Cad was a member of The Pastel Six which formed in 1958 and scored in 1962 with "Cinnamon Cinder" on the Zen label. They played an instrumental role in the formation of the SoCal surf sound which grew out of the rock & roll combos that thrived on the west coast in the late 50's.

The Lonely Blue Boys came out first and did a couple numbers to open which were "Remember Then" and "Hazel Eyes." Then the backing band came up which included Carl Sonny Leland, Cad, and Bobby Trimble. Then out came the man of the hour -- Big Sandy! The set went as follows: Lonely Guy (BS/LBB) / Pretty Girls (BS/LBB) / Guided Missiles (BS/LBB) / Hey Senorita (BS/LBB) / Rockin' All The Time (BS) / I Got A Gal (LBB - Alex lead) / True Fine Mama (Carl/LBB) / Leavin' It Up To You (BS/Big Ernie) Guitar Player (BS/LBB) / When You Dance (BS/LBB) / Lock Up My Heart (BS/LBB) / Have Love Will Travel (BS/LBB) and on the encore: Heaven And Paradise (BS/LBB) and Jumpin' From Six To Six (BS/LBB)! A grrrrrrreat show. Thanks to Big Sandy for the set list!

Friday, April 18 ≠

This was a big day. VLV had the most amazing line-up I'd ever seen for a Friday. After a late breakfast at the Gold Coast coffee shop, I checked out the bands in the East Lounge. Which started at 1 PM with the East Coast, Long Island-based BUZZARDS fronted by Roy Wilson who put on their usual fine set of honky tonk and rockabilly. The less said about the other band's performance the better, I'm sure that alone will get me some hate mail. I also noticed this time round that a couple bands never showed up over the 3 days of acts playing the Lounge. Not too professional, especially when you consider a number of the lounge bands have done on to play the Main Stage in subsequent years. And with the amount of musicians roaming the hotel all weekend, how hard would it have been to find at least one replacement act?

At 4 PM, I was in the SHOWROOM / DANCE HALL for the first act on the ROCKABILLY HALL OF FAME stage. Its always a treat to talk to RAB-HOF head honcho, Bob Timmers, and meet all the classic rockabilly performers who come out to support his fine efforts to keep the music alive!

First up was DAVE & THE BAD CATS with various guests. Bob Timmers surprised me with his surprisingly decent guitar playing! Good stuff! Ronnie Self's son, ROMAN SELF came out and did a mini-set, a preview of the full set he'd be performing Sunday on the same stage. Roman did his daddy proud with "Ain't I Dandy" being a stand-out. Although I've heard of GARLIN HACKNEY and his band, HACK & THE 57s, I'd never heard him before today and wow! It was like hearing some classic old rocker, good stuff! Hack makes the covers his own, check out his CD!. A pretty good start for the RAB-HOF stage!

Next up were THE BUZZARDS for their second performance of the day. As I'd just seen them, I must've run out for dinner as I don't recall seeing the next act, BOBBY CARAWAY, at all. Maybe its just my early senility kicking in!

THE STARLIGHT DRIFTERS are an excellent Detroit area rockabilly combo and their musicianship is of the highest order. They came out and did a few numbers before introducing ALVIS WAYNE, who performed as fine a set as I've ever seen from him. Wish he'd do his Rollin' Rock classic, "I Wanna Eat Your Puddin,'" sometime, but I suspect that as very unlikely as Alvis would rather forget about that one, it seems.

Next up at 8 PM was a SHOWCASE set with Alan Clark, Bob Timmers and various which included performances by Ersel Hickey, Jody "Endless Sleep" Reynolds, Bob "Git It" Kelly and others. I'd bought Alan Clark's excellent photo books from him many years ago but never realized he was also a performer and an excellent one at that. Alan rocked out on some Eddie Cochran classics, like "Twenty Flight Rock."

. Most of the backing band remained for the next act, Sun recording artist, BARBARA PITTMAN! Barbara was pretty hoarse but went on like the trooper she was performing for the allotted 45 minutes. Her set included her classic "I Need A Man" and many other Sun and Phillips recordings.

Whew! As if that wasn't enough for one day, after talking briefly with Ersel Hickey and Barbara Pittman, I hightailed it upstairs to the ballroom for South Carolina's rockin' daddies, JOE BENNETT & THE SPARKLETONES! It was Joe Bennett on lead guitar & vocals, Howard Childress on lead guitar & vocals, Paul Arthur on doghouse bass & vocals and Jimmy Denton on drums. Resplendently outfitted in sparkle jackets and green tops with black slacks of course, they opened with "Cotton Pickin' Rocker," and plowed their way non-stop through all their classics, rockers and ballads alike. The set included: "Rocket," "Boppin" Rock Boogie," "Boys Do Cry," "We've Had It," "Do The Stop," "I Dig You Baby," "Penny Loafers And Bobby Socks," "Bayou Rock," "Maybe Baby," "Beautiful One," and more ending with the all-time classic "Black Slacks". The performance was top-notch! Excellent musicianship! It was non-stop rocking of the finest kind! I hope I get a chance to see these cats again soon! After the set, all four Sparkletones were seated at a table outside the Ballroom and I got an autographed pic signed by them and got a brief chance to chat with Joe Bennett, who seems to be a great guy! Wish I could've talked to him longer but I didn't want to hold up the line and the next act was almost ready to go on by the time I was done!

Next up was Miss Rhythm herself, RUTH BROWN! She was one of the main reasons I came this year and she did not disappoint. Despite looking a bit frail and having to be helped onstage and sitting down for the performance, Ruth delivered big time performing all her 50's classics like, "Wild Wild Young Men," "5-10-15 Hours," "Mama He Treats Your Daughter Mean" and more backed by the VLV All-Star band including Ashley Kingman, Dave "Cad" Kadison and Carl Sonny Leland! Talk about your aural delights! During the set, Ruth told the crowd that this was the first time she has performed anywhere in four years. Her doctor had told her she would never talk again but with concentrated therapy, here she was, giving her all for a bunch of rockabillies and loving every minute of it. I've been to VLV four times and other weekenders as well and I have never heard a crowd reaction like the one they gave Ruth Brown. It was truly a religious experience! After the show, Ruth met her fans outside the ballroom and signed autographs for several hours. In fact, as I made my way up to my room when the night was over, she was just heading for the elevators herself. What a trooper! What an exceptional talent! What a treat to see and hear one of the greatest R&B singers there is! If the night ended at this point, it would've been enough but there was more good music to come!

Photo © Louie Newmyer

Next up were the reformed HOT BOOGIE CHILLUN from Germany! I wouldn't call these guys rockabilly, but it was good rock n' roll meets boogie blues ala John Lee Hooker but much wilder, faster, louder. It rocked baby!!! Sasha and the boys make one helluva power trio, powerfully good! HBC did everything they're known for except maybe "Yes or No." "Tonight," "Desperado Love," Chillun' Walk," "F***in' Sweet," "Try Me...," "Dimples," "Get Hot Or Go Home," and more bluesy bop.

Last up for the night but certainly not least, were 20 year rockin' veterans from San Diego, California., THE PALADINS! Known for their high energy live performances, the band features Dave Gonzalez on guitar and vocals, Thomas Yeardsley on bass, and Brian Fahey on drums. The boys wowed the faithful with their excellent and decidedly loud set of rockabilly, blues and rock n' roll! The Paladins are as always carrying the banner of roadhouse rockabilly, blues and roots rock high and proud! The set list included killer versions of Thomas Wayne's "You're The One That Done It," Lou Millet's (or is it Eddie Bond's) "Slippin' In," "Big Mary's," "Let's Buzz," "Kiddeo," "Lover's Rock," "Slow Down," and so many more as their closing position allowed for a much longer set to the delight of one and all.

Saturday, April 19 --

Today started off like it does every Saturday I go to VLV, and that's with a trip up to the top level of the Gold Coast Hotel's parking garage for the SHIFTER'S CAR SHOW! The cars on display are something to see, its a regular gearhead's wet dream with vintage wheels of every description! Yow!

ROYAL DEUCES playing at Shifters Car Show
Photo © Louie Newmyer

The bands at the car show started around noon and I got there just as the first band was setting up. THE ROYAL DEUCES are from San Francisco and are a top notch rockin' hillbilly outfit! They sort of remind me of an American Hillbilly Boogiemen with their ability to perform excellent stone hillbilly, country and the more rockin' sounds. Band members are: Mitch Polzak (Vocals/Guitar and occasional Banjo), Brendan 'Bernie' Glueck (Upright Bass/Pabst), Thomas 'Smitty' Campbell (Drums/Jim Beam) and Matt 'The Woodchopper' Stevens (Acoustic Guitar/Vocals).

Their set began with about 20 minutes of bluegrass with band member Mitch Polzak on Banjo. All were traditional songs by folks like Ralph Stanley and Earl Scruggs including: Cripple Creek / Foggy Mountain Breakdown / Clinch Mountain Backstep / Flint Hill Special / Man Of Constant Sorrow / Little Maggie / Pretty Polly and Cumberland Gap. A set of Rockabilly songs followed, mostly originals, including the two off the band's new single on Star Tone Records (ST110) -- "That's Why" b/w "If I Wander Back Tonight" both written by M. Polzak. Other songs performed included: Bottle To The Baby (C.Feathers) / Rockabilly Fever (M.Polzak) / Red Hot Gal (M.Polzak) / 18 Wheels (B.Glueck) / Ice Cold Beer (M.Polzak) / Pabst Blue Ribbon Beer (Trad.) / Catalina Boogie (M.Polzak) / Benny and Dupree (Trad.) / When The Truth Comes Out (M.Polzak) / Down South Blues (M.Polzak) and others for about an hour of good rockin' music all told.

And if that wasn't enough, the band gave out an entire cooler of free Pabst Blue Ribbon during the switch of sets to anyone in the audience who wanted to grab one That's what havin' a good time is all about, free beer and good music and the Royal Deuces certainly delivered all that and more! Check out their new 45 out on Star-Tone Records and I look forward to a full-length CD from these guys soon! They are well worth checking out!

I kept coming back and forth to the bandstand area as I left several times to walk through the miles of cars and peruse the vendors set up there including one with the coolest selection of oddball cheap LPs which I would've bought a suitcase full of but 99% of them were too scratched up to get. I did manage to score a 2-LP set of obscure truckin' songs by artists no one has ever heard of called Songs Of The American Trucker! Yikes!

GIANT TIKI HEAD at Shifters Car Show
Photo © Louie Newmyer

Right in the middle of the car show was a giant and I mean BIG Tiki head with red eyes which looked so cool I wanted to take it home and set it up on the lawn in front of my house! I dunno what was being promoted with it, but that sure stood out in the crowd!

LARRY SHELL and GEORGE BARRIS in front of Munster Coach,
at Shifters Car Show
Photo © Louie Newmyer

There were also a few guests in residence at the car show, I cannot express how cool was it to meet George Barris, designer of Grandpa Munster's Dragula, the Monkee Mobile, the Batmobile and so many more cool cars. I nabbed an autographed pic and got my photo taken by some friends in front of a full size replica of the Munster Mobile, shaking hands with George B! 'Doubly cool!

After the Royal Deuces, THE PALADINS took the stage for the second time this weekend and their standard of excellence continued! I couldn't stay for the entire set as I wanted to catch the opening act on the Rockabilly Hall of Fame stage and get out of the sun. As I passed the East Lounge, the last band of the afternoon was playing, BIG DADDY ALRIGHT, a seven piece jump blues band from Texas, and they were indeed all right! In addition to the usual swing fare of Louis Jordan and the like, they also covered some rockabilly tunes including "Red Hot," "Oochie Coochie," and an excellent version with R&B saxophone (!) of Go Cat Go's "Who Was That Cat".These guys have a CD and its worth checking out!

At 4 PM, the Rockabilly Hall of Fame stage opened and first up was PROFESSOR JOHNNY & THE RHYTHM SCHOLARS with father and son, John Tichy (Commander Cody) and Graham Tichy (Bones Maki & The Sun Dodgers) on guitars and Kenny Bruce (Bones Maki) on bass. . I was looking forward to checking them out but honestly found most of the set underwhelming except for the one song Graham sang, Don & Dewey's "Justine," which was great and I swear sounded like John Fogerty. I wish he had sung a few more as it was excellent! Too bad I cannot speak as kindly for the rest of the set as although the musicianship itself was pretty good, the vocals were uninspired.

I then skedaddled up to the Ballroom for the first act of the night on that stage. It was the BOP KINGS from San Antonio, Texas! I always love to check out new bands I've never heard of at VLV and boy, this group were one of the highlights! A drum-less trio fronted by Casey Miller, these boys are traditional to the bone! The set featured a killer version of "The Auctioneer," "Viva Las Vegas," "Cryin' Alone" (Charlene Arthur), "Black Slacks," "Down The Line," and "El Rancho Grande." Bop King originals included "Broken Dreams," "Devil On My Shoulder," "Ain't Goin' Fishin'" and others. They've got one CD out on El Toro Records with another release on the way soon, collect them all! You won't be sorry!

Next up was everyone's favorite Jive dominatrix who's added rockin' vocalist to her resume, SOPHIA WOLFF AND THE CUBS! Looking lovely as always in a knockout white fringe dress, Sophia, recently transplanted to Austin from Montreal, gets better every time I see her perform. Her Cubs are an all-star band which includes Noel Thibault (T-Bone) on lead guitar - he's who encouraged Sophia to start singing in public, for which we should all thank him, Richard Nantucket (Gelineau) on bass, Peter Sandmark (AKA Sandy Petermark) on snare drum/drums - original drummer for Ray Condo and lead singer with brother Eric of the Crazy Rhythm Daddies, and Johnny Slim on acoustic guitar, The above four also make up the Howlin' Hound Dogs! Also in the band was Kevin Maul on steel (from the Starline Rhythm Boys) who replaced Craig Morrison (author of Go Cat Go) who couldn't make it. Also missing in action was Bill (anything but) Bland on fiddle who was sorely missed by one and all. A stellar band for a stellar gal!

The band opened with an instrumental called "Jumpin With The Shadows," and then brought out Sophia for a swinging set which included the following: "William" (Janis Martin), "Playgirl" (Wolff), "I'm Havin A Party All By Myself" (Charline Arthur), "Automatic Lovin' Machine" (obscure Texas 78 by Tennia Wade).

Then on next two songs, Sophia was ably assisted by guest singer Nathalie Lavergne who runs the long time Rockabilly Jam up in Montreal: "Love Letter" (Wolff) and "Rockabilly Boy" (Wolff / NoŽl Thibault).

Sophia then went back to singing solo with "Wild, Wild Young Men" (Rose Maddox) dedicated to Ruth Brown, "Casino Queen" (Wolff), "Billy, Billy" (obscure 45 by DeeDee Dorety (sp?), "Let The Teardrops Fall" (Patsy Cline) and "You Can't Lose When You Choose Booze" (Wolff). The encore consisted of "Playgirl" (version of Wynn Stewart's Playboy), "What Else Does She Do Like Me?" (Helen Hall from Big D Jamboree) and "It Wasn't God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels" (Kitty Wells). Wow! What a great set and I am talking about the music here!

After Sophia's set, I raced down the escalator and made my way back to the Showroom and the Rockabilly Hall of Fame stage to catch 50's rockabilly legend, GLEN GLENN! Ray Campi was just finishing up his set and sounded great! Wish I could've heard more than the encore but I've yet to figure out how to be in two places at once! Alan Clark led the band backing Glen Glenn and did a fine job warming things up with another cool Cochran cover before introducing him. Glen did all his great recordings, like "One Cup of Coffee," "Blue Jeans and A Boy's Shirt," "Everybody's Movin'" and more! During the set, drummer SANDY NELSON was introduced and came out to perform his own little set of drum gymnastics which were pretty amazing!

After that I had dinner with some friends and then made it back to the Ballroom to catch the tail end of Detroit's own, BONES MAKI & THE SUN DODGERS! Like Craig "Bones" Maki's previous band, Big Barn Combo, these cats are not to be missed and play their l'il hearts out! The band's line-up features Kenny Bruce on bass and Graham Tichy on lead guitar. Another band I wish I'd been there for the whole set, these guys are the real deal, so if you get a chance to see them play, do not miss it!

Next up from Wales, England was THE RIMSHOTS! Featuring singer John Lewis, the band has been around for over 20 years and never fails to entertain the masses wherever they appear. As usual they put on an excellent set which included the crowd favorites, "One More Beer" and "Planet Bop."

I didn't see the next act, CARLOS & THE BANDITOS, as I once again headed downstairs to the Showroom where original rockabilly artist, ART ADAMS, was about to perform! I had heard that Art did not want to play with the VLV all-star backing band which had backed most of the vintage artists performing, he wanted to use his own band so he was banished to the Showroom instead of playing the Main Ballroom. I got there a few songs into the set and personally dug it, Art was right on the money and his band did an excellent job of backing him! If the story was true, Art could've easily performed in the Main Ballroom as he was the equal of most of the original rockabillies I've seen perform there over the years! I was going to comment on the amount of common cover songs Art did in his set which included "Shake, Rattle, & Roll," "Sea Cruise," and "Blue Suede Shoes" among others but after looking at the track listing of the brand new Art Adams CD on White Label which collects all his original recordings, I can see he did all those songs back in the day just like thousands of bands did. Art also did some of his better known originals like "Indian Joe," and "Rock Crazy Baby," but I was disappointed that he did not do "Dancing Doll," his best-known song, or at least I never heard him do it. I asked a friend who had caught Art's set from the beginning and she did not think he had done it and I found it hard to believe he didn't close with it! Unlike most of the bands I saw, Art got decidedly mixed reviews from everyone I spoke to, they either liked him, thought he was fair or really disliked him. I'm in the former category.

Photo © Louie Newmyer

The night ended back in the Main Ballroom with a bang as Sweden's GO GETTERS took the stage! Led by stand-up drummer / vocalist, Peter Sandberg, this trio plays pounding, take-no-prisoners rockabilly! I love these guys and was glad to see them added as a late addition to this years list of acts! Their set included "You Don't Love Me," "High School Caesar," "House Of Blue Lights," "Mexi-Go!," "Blue Moon Baby," "Somebody's Been Rockin" My Boat," and many more! The set lasted close to an hour and a half seeing as they were the last band of the night! The sound was louder than anything I'd heard all weekend, who did the soundman think was playing? AC/DC? Sheesh! One of my ears lost some hearing for days!

Sunday, April 20 ≠

Its always a bit sad when it comes to the last day of a great Weekender and you realize its back to real life or what passes for it the next day.

I made a last round of the Vendor Booths in case I decided to crack open the vault and spend some loot on some cool shirts but I was able to control myself. As I made my way around the room, I ran into Dave Gonzalez of THE PALADINS and got a chance to renew my acquaintance as it has been a year since I last saw him. Dave has got to truly be one of the nicest guys that I've had the pleasure to meet on the scene. A great musician and great human being to boot! I'm glad to know him!

At 2 PM, WILD PROMOTIONS had a showcase of bands in the Showroom. It was billed as their official Las Vegas Record Release Party for Omar and the Stringpoppers' new CD and 10" on WILD Records. Only thing is I don't believe the record was out yet as I never saw it there! The line-up for the show was Rene Dalva and the Lonesome Trio / The Lonely Blue Boys / Country Cats / Lil Luis y Los Wild Teens and a brief 3-4 song set by Omar and the Stringpoppers. The absolute highlight of the show was the LONELY BLUE BOYS set. Truly amazing harmony vocals! West Coast Doo Wop at its finest! I cannot wait to see these guys again and hope they have a CD released soon as they are the real deal!

At 6 PM, the first band took the Main Ballroom stage and that was the COUNTRY CATS! I was surprised to see the band was comprised of most of the Lonely Blue Boys. Those guys are sure multi-talented! Opening for a non-existent crowd, it looked like a lot of folks had taken off for home early. But these Cats put on a fine set none-the-less.

The HOWLIN' HOUNDOGS hail from Canada and have been around for a number of years. I believe all the members who performed here are also part of Sophia Wolff & The Cubs but are a top-notch rockabilly outfit all by their lone self! These dogs rocked the joint!

I questioned a couple of Michigan area friends before seeing the next act, CASH O'RILEY, and was told, no make that warned, that he wasn't rockabilly, he was pretty much country and somewhat on the humorous side. Well his style was classic country which I dig and dug I did! It was a great set and at least one of his songs made me laugh out loud, Most of the songs were all originals off of Cash's CD except for "One Piece At A Time" by Johnny Cash, and a new original not on the CD, "No Such Luck".

I wasn't sure what to expect from the next act, the last vintage performers of the weekend, but I was pleasantly surprised. The BOBBETTES performed a solid girl group set, excellent throughout, and were completely professional and fun to boot! Their set included the hits, "Mr. Lee," which was a Top 10 hit on Atlantic in 1957 and the follow-up recorded for another label, "I Shot Mr. Lee." A knockout gospel-laced version of "Ain't That Good News," "Eddie My Love," and "I Don't Like It Like That" which was their last charted single and was an answer song to Chris Kenner's "I Like It like That." A pleasant surprise as I did not know how I would like these gals but a good time was had by one and all!

Next up was a rockabilly band from Japan. The RIZLAZ, led by popular DJ Go, who have been together since 1998. I have to confess that I'm not a big fan of Japanese RAB bands mostly, I would say because of the vocals which are usually misinterpreting the lyrics in accents I can barely decipher. That was not the case with this band, who did a great job throughout playing a set of all cover songs with energy and lots of enthusiasm, these cats were the real deal and the crowd thought so too! I hope to catch them again one of these days!

Despite it being near the end of the evening, the best was about to come! A group of my hometown area boys, from Long Island, New York, it was time for RHYTHM BOUND! With this performance at VLV, New York's best kept secret was out in the open for the entire rockin' world to find out, that RB is one of the finest traditional rockabilly bands playing today! The band members are Rich Hopkins on vocals and acoustic guitar, brother Tom Hopkins on standup Bass, Jeff Dilenna on drums, and "The Professor," Brian Hack, on lead guitar. Despite big-time stage jitters, the boys put on their usual excellent performance rocking their l'il hearts out to the crowd.

The set includes such RB classics as "Mad Dog Mean," "Born To Love You," "Beast In Me," "Ride The Lonely Train," "Little Girl's Rockin'," "Rockabilly Red," and the always knockout, "Jungle Fever" plus many more!

One of the set highlights was when several gals from the East Coast tossed some recently purchased panties onto the stage which included a pair of the World's Largest Underpants! One pair landed on the mike stand, it was a regular laugh riot, at least to those of us who knew the band. And we're all still wondering what bassist Tom really did with that jumbo pair of drawers I saw stuffed into his bag after the set was over! Yuk! Yuk! Check out Rhythm Bound's new CD, "Born To Love You." It rocks from start to finish!

Well after that set, I'd had more than my required fill of excellent rockabilly and took off for my room, missing the closing act, OMAR & THE STRINGPOPPERS, who I'd seen perform several times over the weekend so I didn't feel I had to stay and catch them again.

My compliments to Tom Ingram and his merry men for another excellent weekender. I don't know how they do it, I'll just keep coming back as often as my wallet will allow to enjoy non-stop rockin' of the finest kind and good company like living legend, Ronny Weiser, Louie & Karie Newmyer, Kenny Bruce, my East Coast homies and my roommate from down under, Peter Scanlon. Thanks for making a great weekend only better!

See y'all next year in Vegas, I hope!

© 2003 Larry Shell, All Rights Reserved. Reprinting of this article without permission is verboten. []