Mic Gillette – Dead at 64

Mic Gillette – Personal Recollections

Early yesterday, the music world lost a giant, Mic Gillette. He was 64. There have been many thoughtful essays posted to Facebook. The Wikipedia page for Mic provides a good summary of his career. Mic is survived by his wife, Julia Gillette, daughter, Megan McCarthy, and two grandsons.

Meeting Mic

I first met Mic Gillette in 1977 at The Record Plant in Sausalito, California. Mic and fellow Tower of Power bandmate, Greg Adams, were assisting the band, Poppeye, for a recording session. Like myself, Poppeye band members were rabid fans of Tower of Power.

During a nightclub stint in the South Bay at the Jumping Frog Saloon, trumpeter Mike Clifford managed to garner the participation of Mic and Greg on Poppeye’s session. Greg provided arrangements and conducted on the recording. Mic and Greg played alongside Mike Clifford (trumpet) and Denver Smith (trombone), making for a powerhouse brass section. I still have an ancient cassette from the session.

I was privileged to give Mic a ride to his home in Hayward. We talked music,  nonstop, from Sausalito to Hayward. It was 20 years before I would be reintroduced to Mic.

Mic takes a break from his horns

Mic was always ‘madly in love’ (my words) with Julia. In 1984, he elected to leave to take a long break from his music career to make fatherhood his highest priority. His daughter, Megan grew up sharing Mic’s passions for music and softball. Ultimately, she became a member of The Mic Gillette Band, as a vocalist and percussionist.

Picking Up The Horns, Anew

In the mid-90s, with Megan now in her teens, picked up his trumpet and trombone which had been resting dormant for over a decade. Regaining his chops, week by week, Mic started gigging with a variety of bands.

It didn’t take long for news of Mic’s resurgence to spread throughout the Bay Area music community, and beyond. One of the projects Mic was working on, was the first recordings of Doc Kupka’s Strokeland Records.

In the same time frame, I was invited to attend a private party preceding a Tower of Power concert in Reno. None of the band members were in attendance, but I had a chance introduction to Bruce Steinberg, creative genius, rock’n’roll photographer, and album designer. Bruce was responsible for many of Tower’s album covers among many others.

Post Show Chance Meetings

One of the people attending the show was Tower’s first sax player, Skip Mesquite. In conversation with Doc and Emilio, he declared he would be picking up his sax, again, and get back to playing shape. And he did.

A few of us, including Bruce hit the 24-hour hotel coffee shop. In random fashion, Emilio and Doc walked up to the hostess stand. Bruce waived them over, and they both joined us.

Trying not to act like a fan boy, I still took the opportunity to share my first memory of a Tower concert in Las Vegas, 1973, Then, I shared my curiosity with Doc about his Strokeland Superband project. “How did you know about that?” He asked. I just smiled, and said “I make it my business to be up to date on such things.”

Fueled by Mic, several things happened

  • Working with Doc as Marketing Director at Strokeland Records.
  • Becoming Tower of Power‘s webmaster, building its first website.
    • Mic was incredibly helpful in sharing photos and memorabilia with me to use on the website.
  • Directly reconnecting with Mic
  • Meeting Rocco Prestia and David Garibaldi, and witnessing them recording Strokeland tunes for their first session together in 17 years.
  • Getting to know Jeff Tamelier. It was shortly after the Strokeland sessions that Jeff would join Tower and David would rejoin.
  • Being present during the recording of Tower’s CD, Rhythm and Business. Mic played trombone on the recording. It was quite a collaboration.

During the ensuing years, Mic would go on to perform with a variety of well-known performers, including Bill Champlin, Santana and others.

Tony Sacca’s ‘Vegas The Story’

Vegas The StoryBally’s Hotel no longer has an active major showroom; however, it has quietly built up an array of smaller shows in its Windows Showroom.

The multi-talented Tony Sacca has assembled a cast of singers, dancers, and comedians for a fast-paced show, titled Vegas The StoryCreated, produced, and directed by Sacca, the show chronicles the story of Las Vegas from its founding to the present, and projects to the year 2050.

A combination of live performances, impersonations, and video, Vegas The Story is an ideal event for Las Vegas newcomers or locals who are just curious about its history.

BEST BITS:

  • Tony Sacca and Amanda Kaiser performing a dead-on impersonation of Louis Prima and Keely Smith, singing That Old Black Magic.
  • Rodney Dangerfield as interpreted by Tom Wallek.
  • Frank and Dean, singing by Tony Sacca and Tom Wallek.
  • The Andrews Sisters and The McGuire Sisters by Laurie Caceres, Joelle Righetti, Amanda Kaiser, and Nellie Norris. 
  • Sonny and Cher – Nellie Norris and Tony Sacca.

This collection of characters is just some of the many acts during the show, seamlessly assembled with video and voice-overs. The Voice of Vegas The Story is none other than Ron Garrett, former Entertainment Director at the Sahara and Inductee of the Nevada Broadcasters Hall of Fame. Vegas The Story is on hiatus until the end of CES.

Windows Showroom at Bally’s

The 2pm showtime, Tuesday through Saturday, is an ideal time to enjoy the show. Other events in the Windows Showroom include Paranormal: The Mindreading and Magic Show, The Bronx Wanderers, Solid Gold Soul, 50 Shades! The Smash Hit Parody, Wayne Newton: Up Close and Personal. All ticketing is available through Ticketmaster. 

Am0ng the vast talents of Tony Sacca, he broadcasts a TV show, Classic Vegas Entertainment on various channels in the Las Vegas Valley. The show has been airing for 30 years and continues today.

Recommend Vegas The Story to friends who visit the city and go see it yourself. Vegas The Story doesn’t take itself too seriously. It will teach you about the history of Las Vegas, make you laugh, and you’ll cheer the performances.

Lon Bronson Smokes Cabaret Jazz

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The Lon Bronson Allstar Band was the first local band to play the Cabaret Jazz Ro0m at The Smith Center. Last Friday’s show marked the 15th time Bronson has sold out the ro0m.

Perhaps the most exciting element of the show was the crowd reaction to every song. The show was billed as a ‘Classic Horn Band’ performance. Every song met the criteria and the band simply sparkled.

The horn section is: Steve Jason (Bari Sax), Andrew Freelander (Tenor Sax), Neil Maxa (Trombone), Tom DiLibero (Trumpet), Dave Perrico (Trumpet) and Lon Bronson (Trumpet).

Lon told a few stories between songs, including the Legacy of Bill Chase. Chase was a Las Vegas resident who’d hit the market with a Jazz-Rock band including four screaming trumpets. Lon added one more trumpet for the band to perform its Top 10 hit, Get It On.  When Lon’s band played late nights at The Riviera, the late Terry Richards, Chase lead singer, would sit in on vocals.

Lon’s band usually has three singers. Friday, it had four: Lisa Mayer, Tony Davich, Eric Sean, and Lannie Counts. As Lon introduced each song, a fresh singer took the stage to fire up the proceedings.

Lannie brought new energy to the Blood, Sweat & Tears arrangement of God Bless The Child (Billie Holiday – original) and brought the audience to its feet wth a roar.

Tony took it home with a full-tilt version of the Winters Brothers’ T0bacc0 R0ad. His raspy, bluesy vocals soared with no end in sight.

Lisa covered two songs from Lydia Pense and Cold Blood, You’ve Got Me Hummin’ and CrazyShe left it all on the stage for both songs.Hummin’ was originally recorded by Sam & Dave.

Eric brought serious fire to Tower of Power’s Credit. The song has incredibly high notes and Eric hit them all.

The Rhythm Section is anchored by ‘The Guitar Army’, Jimmy McIntosh (guitar), Jim Buck (guitar), and Keith Nelson (bass). The rest of the rhythm section includes Mark Barrett (drums), Bill Zappia (keys) and Paco (percussion).

The key inspirations for Lon Bronson’s Allstar Band are Tower of Power and Chicag0. Lon told a specific story from 1989 when Tower’s horn arranger, Greg Adams, had eight arrangments delivered to Br0nson for his band’s use. Three of them made the grade this night, including Credit, So Very Hard To Go, and Soul Vaccination.

Chicago could not be left out, s0 Lon closed the show with Beginnings, and then extended it with Wayne Cochran and CC Riders doing Going Back To Miami. For those who were not here in the 70’s, Wayne was playing at the Flamingo until about 5am, back then.

The Lon Bronson Allstar Band continues t0 play at The Smith Center every month or so, and twice monthly at Texas Station.

N0vember 9th, Lon will be joined by former Tower of Power singer, Larry Braggs at Cabaret Jazz in The Smith Center (TheSmithCenter.com). 

Get your tickets now!


Andy Ebon
First-Generation New Yorker