Talking With Wanda Jackson – October 29, 2015

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This week, Ira spoke with Wanda Jackson. To listen to the interview click below.

Wanda Jackson, the Queen of Rockabilly and the first lady of Rock and Roll, will be making a rare Las Vegas appearance, headlining at Backstage Bar and Billiards in Downtown Las Vegas Saturday, October 31.

Jackson was born in Maud, Oklahoma on Oct. 20, 1937. She spent her first few years in Oklahoma before her father, Tom Jackson, a country music singer and fiddle player, moved the family to Bakersfield, California in 1941. The Great Depression led many Oklahoma families to the West coast in search of a better life.

In 1943, Tom bought his daughter her first guitar and started teaching her how to play. Jackson’s parents were talented dancers, and would take her to the big bandstand shows to see acts such as Tex Williams, Spade Cooley and Bob Wills. She would stand up front by the bandstand the entire night, mesmerized, while her parents would dance. Seeing these classic performers left a lasting impression on Jackson’s young mind.

When Jackson was 12, she and her family moved back to Oklahoma City. In 1952, she won a local talent contest that landed her a 15-minute daily show on the OKC radio station, KLPR. She would rush over after school every day with her guitar to sing and play to fill her 15-minute slot. KLPR noticed Jackson’s knack for entertaining and quickly upped her show to 30 minutes. This afternoon radio show lasted through Jackson’s high school years and led to her discovery.

King of Western Swing, Hank Thompson, heard Jackson performing on the show one day and called into the station. He asked for Wanda personally. During that conversation, Thompson asked Wanda to join him and his band, the Brazos Valley Boys, in an upcoming performance.

After graduating from Capitol Hill High School in Oklahoma City in 1955, Jackson hit the road with her father as her chaperon and manager.

When she first started touring, Jackson was placed on the bill with none other than the King himself, Elvis Presley. The two hit it off almost immediately and toured together and briefly dated in 1955 and 1956. Jackson cites Elvis and her father as the ones who encouraged her to sing rockabilly music.

In 1958, Jackson released her rockabilly hit, “Fujiyama Mama,” which skyrocketed her into stardom in Japan. Two years later, she released her version of Presley’s “Let’s Have a Party.” The song soared into the Top 40 charts in 1960 and has remained one of Jackson’s most popular songs since.

Jackson continued to tour regularly and became a Las Vegas attraction from the mid ‘50s into the ‘70s.
2009 proved to be a career-altering year for Jackson, as she was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as an early influence.

At almost 78 years old, Jackson continues to tour the world. She has recently teamed up with another celebrity producer and is working on releasing a new record next year.


Talking With Sammy Kershaw – October 22, 2015

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This week, Ira spoke with Sammy Kershaw. To listen to the interview click below.

Grammy-nominated country artist Sammy Kershaw, who, since his debut on the music scene in the early 90’s has remained one of the most consistent power hitters in country music, will be performing at the new Craig Ranch Regional Park Amphitheater Friday, October 23.

Kershaw’s platinum albums include such hits such as “She Don’t Know She’s Beautiful,” “I Can’t Reach Her Anymore,” “National Working Woman’s Holiday,” “Love Of My Life,” “Cadillac Style,” “Don’t Go Near The Water,” “Haunted Heart,” and many others.

His plan for country music is re-claiming its roots and recapturing the spirit that made it great “Man, for someone like me who had George Jones’ music imprinted in my DNA before birth, the last few years have been rough as a fan of country music,” noted Kershaw candidly in a recent national interview. “Country music is not a formula…it’s a music with its own soul…and I’m all about saving that soul!”

Often referred to as the “heir apparent” to the legendary “voice” himself – George Jones – Kershaw helped make the ’90’s a shining decade for country music. It’s a comparison not lost on the singer, who grew up in the Cajun country of Louisiana on a diet of crawfish and country music. The oldest of four children, the tragic loss of his father, matured him even faster than the clubs and honky tonks he was performing in at 12 years old.

He speaks openly today of years spent battling substance abuse and addictions. “It’s not a period of my life I’m proud of, but I do talk about it to encourage kids not to follow in my footsteps,” Kershaw recently noted.

Helping others is a subject close to the heart of Kershaw, who has established the Sammy Kershaw Foundation. Its outreach has extended through donations so far of more than 2 million dollars in aid to children and child related charities. The foundation exists to fulfill Kershaw’s goal of improving the lives of children.


Talking With Mark Schulman – October 15, 2015

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This week, Ira spoke with Mark Schulman. To listen to the interview click below.

Mark Schulman, a drummer for Pink, Foreigner, Cher, Billy Idol, Velvet Revolver, and Stevie Nicks is author of the book, “Conquering Life’s Stage Fright, Three Steps to Top Performance.”

Born and raised in Los Angeles, Schulman became interested in pursuing music as a toddler. At age 3, he witnessed the phenomenon of Beatlemania: “…I remember seeing a repeat of The Beatles on the Ed Sullivan show with my brother and my folks. I saw Ringo playing the drums and something resonated so deeply with me. Then I saw all the screaming girls, and at that moment, I thought to myself, ‘I want that!”

Schulman has enjoyed an unprecedented career over the last 26 years as a first call drummer for world-class rock and pop artists. He has been voted “Top 3 Pop-Rock Drummers” in the 2014 Modern Drummer Reader’s Poll, finished his third record breaking world tour with P!NK, and joined CHER for her ‘Dressed To Kill’ World Tour 2014.

He is the recipient of numerous Gold and Platinum discs and has appeared on nearly every American and European variety show on television including The Grammys, David Letterman, The Tonight Show, Conan O’Brian, Jon Stewart, American Idol, Paul O’ Grady, X-Factor, Wetten Das and more.

Music is not Schulman’s only driving force; he was the chairman of the board of directors of Create Now! a non-profit organization founded in 1996, to help change troubled children’s lives through creative arts mentoring. A cancer survivor himself, he has also motivated children and teens through his work doing seminars with the Ronald McDonald House and benefits for the Teenage Cancer Trust in the United Kingdom.


Talking With Doug Elfman – October 8, 2015

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This week, Ira spoke with Doug Elfman.To listen to the interview click below.

Doug Elfman writes about Las Vegas nightclubs and entertainment on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday in the Las Vegas Review Journal. He is also the author of a novel, his first, called “I Know What I Have and I’m Grateful” and a host of his own podcast, called, “The Doug Elfman Show.”

Elfman grew up in New Orleans and Athens, Georgia, graduated Louisiana State University, interned at the Times-Picayune in 1990, then explored newspapers throughout the South, covering hurricanes, presidential campaign stops, and lots of court cases.

Then, in 2000, he became a nationally recognized music critic at The Las Vegas Review-Journal, where he also began writing about games. It was there Elfman earned three first-place awards — for feature writing, and arts and entertainment criticism — from the American Association of Sunday and Feature Editors.

This month, his short story, “The Siege of Las Vegas” will be included in the original anthology, “The Anarchy of Memories,” in conjunction with the Las Vegas Writes project.


Talking With Arnold Jay Smith – October 1, 2015

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This week, Ira spoke with Arnold Jay Smith. To listen to the interview click below.

Professor and jazz journalist Arnold Jay Smith, as part of the yearlong celebration of the 100th anniversary of the birth of Frank Sinatra, will offer “Sinatra in Hollywood,” a lecture that also features rare clips and insights on the artist on October 3, at Doc Rando Recital Hall, hosted by the Arnold Shaw Popular Music Research Center at the UNLV College of Fine Arts.

Brooklyn-born Smith has an MBA in Finance in addition to his more-than-abiding penchant for all things jazz. He was a pianist and bandleader in Jr. High School (now Middle School) and High School. Smith has written for Billboard, a columnist for Cash Box, on staff at Variety, and eventually became East Coast editor at Down Beat.

Smith has contributed to the New York Times, American Airlines’ “American Way” Magazine and Newsday, among other publications.

Upon returning from a secretly planned trip to Cuba in 1977 with Dizzy Gillespie, Stan Getz, Earl “Fatha” Hines and David Amram and with President Jimmy Carter’s blessings, he wrote for five publications about his adventure. It was his tapes of the Cuban Latin-jazz-rock group Irakere that launched the careers of Paquito d’Rivera, Arturo Sandoval and Chucho Valdes.

Smith has lectured at Michigan State University, Long Island University, Hofstra University and Borough of Manhattan Community College. He taught at New York University. His course, “Jazz Insights” ran for 26 years at the New School in NYC. He is currently an adjunct professor of Jazz History at New Jersey City University.

Smith’s vast archives are to be housed at the University of Nevada/Las Vegas (UNLV) where he lectures twice annually.