Across the Musical Universe

Caesars-Palace-1966-300x230IN AUGUST OF 1966, CAESARS PALACE, the most incredible casino/resort/hotel of it’s time, opened its doors to the public. A few months later the most improbable event imaginable happened when Trish Turner, a talented R&B singer who occasionally sang with us in early morning jams introduced me to Clyde Carson, a slight, pasty-faced guy with a mustache so thin it looked painted on ….

“Clyde made me the most inconceivable proposition I’d ever heard. “Would you guys be interested in playing across the street at Caesars Palace?” he said after we’d settled in with our drinks.

He told me he was well connected at Caesars and thought he could get us an audition to open the rumored new Nero’s Nook lounge at the opulent resort hotel. I was incredulous, it had to have been written all over my face. Caesars Palace being just across the street from the Pussycat might be geographically true, but for a band like Stark Naked and the Car Thieves that mammoth edifice was far across the musical universe from us. Only the biggest, most well known stars played there. Andy Williams, who hosted his own prime time television show, opened the main showroom to an international audience of celebrity and wealth flown in from all over the world just a few months ago. No rock star or group, no matter how famous or talented, had ever broken into a major Las Vegas Strip hotel, not even in the lounges. It would happen one day, but it was utter fantasy to imagine that event would take place now, with an unknown group like us. And certainly not at Jay Sarno’s, Jimmy Hoffa financed, luxurious Caesars Palace, already legendary among the elite for glamor and extravagance. When a rock artist did break that barrier, it would be the Beatles or Elvis, or maybe the Four Seasons, somebody famous worldwide taking the stage. Never an unknown band with no hit records, no matter how good anyone might think we were. It was laughable to think how being popular in a local rock n roll dance club would translate to a stage in the immense casino. Caesars overshadowed every other hotel on the Las Vegas strip, even the storied Sands and Flamingo. What Clyde was suggesting was like a talented Little League team being offered an opportunity to play with the Yankees in major league baseball.

And, of course, as is the case in fairy tales, there was a catch. We’d have to kiss a frog — Clyde Carson. He wanted to be our personal manager.”

[ – Excerpted from Chapter 34, ACROSS THE STREET, ACROSS THE MUSICAL UNIVERSE in THINGS WE LOST IN THE NIGHT, a memoir of love and music] Read more about the STORIED START OF CAESARS PALACE in Vegas Magazine at http://vegasmagazine.com/style/articles/the-storied-start-of-ceasars-palace

  2Comments

  1. Jim   •  

    Larry,

    It’s been many decades since we’ve spoken. The first time was when you and the band were playing your initial Pussycat gig. You mentioned Trish Turner. When I last spoke with Sonny Charles several years ago, he said she had disappeared from the Las Vegas music scene about the time Bobby Stevens left the Checkmates. It’s a pity she never got the break she
    worked so hard to obtain. Do you have any idea what became of her?

    Jim

  2. Larry Dunlap   •  

    Hi Jim. Trish sang at Caesars with us along with two backup singers. In fact, I believe our billing was Trish Turner and the Big Spenders. We were a little bent out of shape about that because of the way it was presented to us. But all that was forgotten when Trish rescued us when we were tricked by an agent and found ourselves down and out in Hollywood for the four weeks before we went to Caesars. I’ve been looking for her as well to tell her about the book but I haven’t had any luck yet. I know she worked with a lot of jazz bands and I believe she was the lead singer in a band that played at a jazz club in Pasadena or thereabouts for about six years. If you talk to he before I do, ask her to get in touch.

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