I just got back from a weekend in Las Vegas, which got me thinking about the history of music in that somewhat fabled town. What kind of musical history does Vegas have? Which performers do we associate with Vegas? Frank Sinatra, Wayne Newton, Celine Dion are names that come to mind. I credit those connotations in large part to the motion picture industry. Think of all the films that juxtapose scenes in Las Vegas with tunes such as “I’ve Got the World On a String,” or “Come Fly With Me,” songs made popular by Frank. There must be at least 10, although I can’t think of any off the top of my head. “Las Vegas” the television show definitely conforms to this theory. I’ve gotten hooked on that program, which I suppose is preferable to getting hooked on the real thing.
That I think of Wayne Newton is due in full to one of the memorable movies of my childhood, Vegas Vacation. Though not quite the classic that is Christmas Vacation, Vegas Vacation nonetheless provides high quality entertainment for 95 minutes or so. If you’ve seen it, you’ll know the scene I’m talking about – during which Newton serenades Ellen perhaps a bit too seductively. In fact, this portion of the movie is not exactly fictional. It turns out that Wayne Newton made his career in Las Vegas and is a Vegas performer through and through. Believe it or not, his nickname is Mr. Las Vegas and he has performed over 30,000 solo shows during the course of his 40 year career, according to Wikipedia. Can you name a Wayne Newton song? Don’t worry, neither can I.
Now, Celine I vaguely remember as appearing for a stint in Las Vegas after having already reached the pinnacle of the music industry with that sappy song from Titanic. Well, apparently Celine’s little Vegas stint lasted for 5 years, during which she played at Caesar’s Palace 5 nights a week. Dion’s act was insanely popular, as it grossed a ridiculous $400 million dollars when all said and done. Jeeezus. I’m going back to Vegas…