Lon on TalkTails

Known as an icon in the Las Vegas music industry for over 19 years, music conductor/producer Lon Bronson joins us on today’s episode of Talktails.

A Night in The Life

By Lon Bronson

“Woke up, got out of bed, dragged a comb across my head….”

Well, not exactly, but I had spent eight or more hours in mundane conversations with agents and stage managers about upcoming gig details. All that will soon be behind me as I prepare to leave for my All Star Band Saturday night performance (“get a little action in”). I kiss the kids goodnight as they leave me with the eternal question: ‘What’s the true meaning of Christmas, Daddy?’ Before I can venture a reply, they chant in gleeful unison “Vengence”, ah, I’ve taught them well.

My Durango 95 purrs away (“Baby you can drive my car”). It’s a real horror show down Las Vegas Boulevard; I’m steeling myself for the upcoming battle. Tonight we’re recording “The Gig” and that’s special. As I pull into the Golden Nugget valet I make small talk with the attendants. (“Everybody knows my name”). In Vegas it’s way more important to know the valet guys than the bartenders (but knowing the bartenders doesn’t hurt either). I make my way through the battleship gray labyrinth of wrong way turns to the Sinatra Room. Find the elevators. The frenzied trumpet duel from ‘The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” plays over and over in my mind. I half expect to be confronted by Tuco and Angel Eyes as the doors slide open. ‘(“If there’s anything I can do, just call on me and I’ll send it along.”)

Now there’s a flurry of activity – set lists must go out, mutant musician egos must be massaged, which guest artists are sitting in and are they here? I need to relax, only 22 minutes to downbeat time, where’s my beer?
Fee Waybill from the ‘Tubes’ enters our Sinatra Green Room. I’ve been a fan for years; he’s the ultimate front man. What can I say that would be cool? I manage a lame “Hey man!” Noel Coward I’m not. “I’m just a jealous guy” without any power tools.

It’s the midnight hour. Cue the good guys. Rhythm section is in place. Assemble the horn section in the wings. Tom effortlessly screams out a double C note-guess he’s warmed up! Sloppo (the forgotten Marx brother) brings up the rear. He just now begins to assemble his charts and put his horn together (“Try thinking more if just for your own sake”).
We finally take the stage. Applause is mixed with ‘whoas’ and ‘my mans’ which heralds our arrival. Band fans. ‘Cat’ lovers.

I give Mark “the look” and he clicks off four into our opener ‘Gotta Run’. I have a split second to make a decision: one more pull of Guiness or play my horn. Reluctantly I reach for the horn. The first few notes are laborious, a test of sorts: “Cold turkey”.
I once told friend Drew Carey comedy was easy and playing the trumpet is difficult. I like Drew: “A working class hero is something to be.”
The tune comes to a screaming, screeching finish and the crowd erupts…..what this is really all about. I step to the mic to address them thinking ‘So this is what it’s like to be a big Vegas star like Clint or even the Scintas’…. “Imagine” but I kid, I kid….

Over the next 90 minutes we play 15 songs , I down five Guinesses, Sloppo fumbles three more times, Fee nails two unrehearsed Tubes tunes and newlywed Penn Jilette gets kicked in the jewels by one little fool. It turns out to be an “ordinary All-Star gig after all.” I want to tell you being a live musician is a magnificent anachronism.

We’re pauper dinosaurs, new Age antiques, the last of the last yet best of the best and I’ll keep showing up til the fat lady sings.

The Instrumental Lon Bronson

Gaming Today Magazine
David Stratton

It has been said that live music has become a lost art in Las Vegas. You’d never know it by watching Lon Bronson. An exuberant but exhausted Bronson recently came off the stage at the House of Blues after opening for the Tower of Power. The show was in addition to his regular duties conducting for David Cassidy at the Rio, directing the musicians in the Sahara’s Congo Showroom and serving as production manager at the Riviera, where Bronson also holds after-hours jam sessions in the Le Bistro Lounge. The multi-talented musician, orchestra leader and songwriter has been on a 10-year roll, and he’s finally beginning to bask in the glow of well-deserved limelight.

On Saturday, the Riviera will host a midnight party for Bronson in the Lounge, where guests will be treated to T-shirts and cake. What truly seems to be a small token for Bronson’s efforts could be outweighed by the number of star-studded entertainers and show business friends who will no doubt pack the lounge. Reminiscent of the old Rat Pack days, the list of celebrities who spontaneously jump on stage to perform with Bronson and the band include Taylor Dane, Penn Jillette, Huey Lewis, Joe Walsh and Blood, Sweat & Tears, as well as members of Tower of Power. But on Saturday, the real stars will be Bronson and his All-Star R&B, Rock & Soul Revue band.

The group’s members have played with the likes of Frank Sinatra, Diana Ross, Celine Dion, The Four Tops, Elton John and the Temptations. If you’ve never seen Bronson and his band on stage, you might have caught them on TV. They performed for the 1998 HBO special "Mr. Vegas Party Starring Drew Carey," which also aired on NBC. Said Carey after the show, "The band kicks ass. A house band so good, you never want to leave the house!"

Bronson’s original compositions and his All-Star Band were also featured in the 1998-1999 TV season of "Viva Variety" and throughout the "Drew Carey’s Club Roast," both on Comedy Central. A native of Keene, N.H., Bronson has lived in Las Vegas since 1985. He took up the trumpet at the age of 10 and eventually graduated cum laude from the prestigious New England Conservatory of Music in Boston in 1981. After touring the United States and Canada for several years, Bronson landed in Las Vegas. In addition to his various engagements noted above, he joined the faculty of UNLV’s music department in 1995. He is also a professor at Southern Nevada Community College.