The Vegas Valentinos

The Vegas Valentinos
Once you see them, there’s no gettin’ out!

By Karen Nugent
June 2007

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So I get this press packet about a band called The Vegas Valentinos. It’s stamped with things like “Confidential” and “Official Las Vegas Police Files-State of Nevada,” and is sent to me by a guy, supposedly the manager, who calls himself Uncle Bruno.

My interest is piqued.

The somewhat thick packet tells an incredible, and hilarious, story about four musician half-brothers, sons of a “known crime affiliate” from Las Vegas named Jimmy “The Knob” Valentino, who has supposedly been in the witness protection plan since 1977.

As the story goes, the brothers, who have different mothers - including Vegas showgirls - grew up in various places, with Scotty Valentino, the singer, ending up with a foster family in Massachusetts.

The oldest brother is Bobby “The Blind” Venetian, who supposedly suffered temporary blindness from running into a tree after seeing his mother in bed with a man other than his father.

Bobby’s love of music started early, likely from going on the Vegas lounge circuit with his father. Also called “B.B.” (yup, he likes B.B. King), Bobby learned guitar, bass, and harp, and songs by the real B.B., along with Wilson Pickett, and Sam and Dave. He went to Memphis, where he got into the pre-Vegas Elvis, Carl Perkins, Roy Orbitson, and Jerry Lee Lewis.

Soon, he found a drummer in Joey “Da Wrench” Bellagio, after firing his previous drummer (who allegedly woke up the next morning with a broken snare drum in his bed, a twist on the horse head theme, but a Sicilian message nevertheless.)

Bobby then set out to unite the other brothers into a band, and eventually stumbled on guitarist Johnny “The Inferno” Tropicana; and Scotty “2 Times” Casino, the singer.

The upshot is, The Vegas Valentinos have arrived, and they are based in Massachusetts.

I have to admit, when I went to see them at The Chicken Bone saloon in Framingham, I didn’t believe most of this story, nor did I know what to expect musically.

Uncle Bruno said in an email that the band does some blues, and had done a recording session in 2004 at Sun Records in Memphis (the Valentino’s first label was  “One Big Tomato Records.”) Mainly, they love rock and rockabilly, and anything from Stax and Sun Records. They have performed at the Rockabilly Hall of Fame in Jackson, Tenn., and at the Carl Perkins Civic Center.

Scotty (wearing scarlet satin pants and a black top hat) assured me before the first set that Uncle Bruno really is their uncle, and manager, and most of what the press packet proclaims is true. Not only that, in honor of the band, Chicken Bone, which is known for its barbecue, added a special all-you-can-eat spaghetti, sausage and meatball dinner that night.

The set started out with “House Party” by the J. Geils Band. They did an Elvis song, and, unfortunately, I thought, “Night Moves” by 80s-man Bob Seger. But, they did a great version of CCR’s “Born on the Bayou,” with guitarist Johnny “The Inferno” sounding eerily like John Fogerty. The Inferno, who supposedly got his moniker because of a penchant for arson, wears a shirt with flames shooting up the front. I have a feeling the name relates more to his fiery guitar playing.

Johnny Inferno Valentino (or whatever his real name is) clearly is the most talented member of the group. He ruled on guitar, and has the pipes to match. He, and singer Scotty, took to jumping off the stage, with Johnny doing some Chuck Berry duck walking, and playing guitar behind his back. Bassist B.B. also sings, and he and drummer Joey “The Wrench” kept up a good rhythm.

Scottie is obviously the “cute one”  - big blue bedroom eyes, ladies - and he’s got a good voice and powerful stage presence.

Before they started, I asked about the Sun album, which has a fine version of Junior Well’s “Snatch It Back.” They did the song at Chicken Bone, and it was as good as on the disk. Scottie told me they called their back-up band in Memphis the “Ordinaires” (Get it? A take-off on Elvis’s back-up band, the Jordanaires.) The Sun disc also has a bonus video called: “That’s All Right Valentinos.”  You have to see it to believe it.

At the show, they also did some originals, including a rocker called “Springer” about Jerry Springer. The song is on the Valentinos newest record, called Five and Dime Quartet, on Nashville-based Black Rose Records. A earlier disc is called, appropriately enough, Spaghetti Western.

The set at Chicken Bone was rounded out with another CCR song, “Getting Better” by the Beatles, and an Italian number I was not familiar with.<

Uncle Bruno also informed me that the Valentinos wrote a song for Herald columnist and talk show host Howie Carr’s book, “The Brothers Bulger.” The song, called “Running With Whitey” can be requested by calling Carr’s radio show on WRKO 680 AM, he said.

While light on blues, the Vegas Valentinos are great fun, and worth taking in.

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