Hearts of Rock ’n’ Roll

Yesterday’s Vegas rockers get the bands back together

As a Vegas music writer, let me say that nothing’s cooler than discovering old forgotten rock bands that once ruled local clubs, listening to their recorded demos and albums, and reading their newspaper clips. OK, there is something cooler—getting to hear and see a bunch of these sockhop/soft-rock acts at a reunion show.

Go ahead and pinch me, but it’s happening at the Henderson Pavilion from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday, May 1 ($15-30). Billed as the Las Vegas Rock Reunion Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony and Concert, the all-day live music festival features 18 local ’60s and ’70s rock bands.

The event also honors the contributions made by local concert promoters who produced rock shows at the Las Vegas Convention Center, the Ice Palace (now the Cue Club in Commercial Center), the Kitchen coffee shop (formerly on the UNLV campus) and the Teenbeat Club (once a rock mecca for Vegas bands and the first night club in the U.S. dedicated to the teen market, now Club Paradise)—people such as Stan Irwin, who brought The Beatles to Vegas in 1964. Other legends to be recognized include Joe Guercio, Elvis Presley’s orchestra conductor during the King’s run at the International/Hilton, whose son Jim will be performing with the progressive 1970s rock band Census. Even better, the event benefits Safe Nest as well as music scholarships for Clark County School District Coral Academy of Science students.

“I don’t think there has ever been a concert or Hall of Fame ceremony like this one anywhere, in any part of the country. Or at least I haven’t heard of it,” says the event’s producer, Mike Selinsky.

Now living near Santa Rosa, Calif., Selinsky is a Las Vegas High School grad and bassist in the Present Tense, a British Invasion cover band he founded when he was 13. The Present Tense made a name for themselves as part of a test-market promotion for the Slurpee in ’66. Hired by Southland Corp., the band performed in the parking lots of the then-dozen 7-Elevens in town, drawing crowds in the hundreds and having their music played on the air by local radio DJ, Coffee Jim Dandy.

But it’s the bands playing their own original songs that intrigue me—surf-rock combo the Teenbeats (who took their name from the aforementioned club), soft-rock duo Batdorf & Rodney (who signed with Arista Records and released two chart-breaking singles in 1975, including “You Are a Song”), and late-’70s metal act Belladonna, just to name a few.

The event inducts Vegas bands, promoters and venues across a 20-year span (1960-79). Selinsky says he hit upon the idea for a reunion a year ago, and with so much interest and input from yesteryear’s rockers and the Vegas music scene, he felt a large outdoor show was the only way to do the event justice. Earlier this year, he approached the city of Henderson, which hooked him up with the Pavilion. If the reunion is a success Selinsky would love to extend the induction for ’80s rockers.

“Many of these bands are reuniting for the first time in 30 to 50 years,” Selinsky says. “People don’t talk about it, but Vegas was at one time a thriving hotbed of great rock talent. A documentary of the event is even being planned.

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