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A True Story About Some of My Singing Experience
With more than 25 years of experience giving singing lessons and doing vocal coaching, Chuck Stewart, provides proven technique and instruction to his students. You only have to try it, to discover it will work for you.
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I was literally pushed into performing as a singer. It started in the back room of the high school band house. Instrument cases were stored on shelves at the rear and right side walls, as you would enter from the outside of the building. To the left was a water fountain, which was my destination at the time. I was coming from the band room, through the door on the right of this room. A singer was singing in the bandroom with the bigband. In addition to the instruments and cases, there were five gorgeous majorettes standing in there, babbling about who knows what. The song "Winchester Cathedral", a novelty song, was being sung by him in his own voice. I started singing along, making fun of the original singer of the tune. Accosted by the five majorettes, I was forcibly escorted into the band room as they yelled, "Mr. Oshel! Listen! You've got to hear him!" The music stopped and he made me sing. I went from trombone player to singer and at the age of fifteen, was discovered for the first time.
Years of high school singing performances were followed with college, local bands and then touring bands, hitting eleven states from the Midwest through the Southeast. When the last band was broken up by the breakup of a marriage, I headed to Las Vegas, doing music and drafting. Eventually I got licensed to do architecture but music tugged at me every day. My father was a very good musician and an engineer, who taught me a lot about both fields. I figured I couId do both. I worked some as a trombonist in Las Vegas but singing has always been easy to me.
I had some recording equipment and recorded myself, mostly hating what I heard when I listened back. My standards were not those of a perfectionist but they were very high. My wife was dancing in a show. I saw it several times, since they allowed me in for free. An opening appeared.
Before going into the "Hallelujah Las Vegas" show, I had practiced for a solid year, a minimum of 3 hours a day. I also recorded myself a huge amount in those sessions. I eventually had a tape that didn't make me throw up when I heard myself, went to meet with Betty and she hired me on the spot after hearing the tape. She did make me audition in front of the cast and crew. I sang "Night And Day"... by Cole Porter and they went totally wild. They said I was better than the Sinatra impersonator who was in the early show (there were three shows running there then...it's now called the Stratosphere Hotel and Casino). Much of the cast were dancers. If you haven't been in a show, the dancers think that they are the show and everyone else is not. That made the compliments and applause mean even more.
The owner of the hotel-casino at the time, Bob Stupak, was a sort of tough guy, who hated entertainers, I was told. He wasn't a big man but he was imposing, as I had witnessed when he slapped a reporter on a Las Vegas TV station once. The reporter had asked him if he was on drugs. It wasn't at all a hard slap but was done as a show of power. No charges were filed, by the way. Not long after the slap, the reporter was fired, never to be heard from again, at least by me.
The first night of the show, the stage manager came backstage to where I was. I did the announcing and also assisted with other acts, paging the curtain for them. So, the stage manager said, "Do you see that booth in front at center stage?" I looked through the curtain and said, "Yes." She said, "That is Mr. Stupak's booth. No one else sits there. He's going to be there tonight and if he doesn't like you, it will be your last night." I thanked her for the heads up. I thought to myself that if he didn't like me then he's stupid.
I knew I was ready. Still you don't want to hear that before opening night. People don't say "good luck" or even "break a leg" anymore. They say "Merde!" which is a French word. So, I got more than a fair share of merde before walking onto that huge stage the first night. Oh yes. He did like me and every time after that when I saw Mr. Stupak in his casino he spoke to me or waved, if we were far apart.
The expansiveness of some casinos is mind blowing, if you haven't seen them before. It can be confusing just to get around until you have found some landmarks to orient yourself. Things aren't always in a straight line. Row upon row of video poker, slots, and other games arranged in curves have a way of turning your perspective around. There are no windows and there are no clocks. Lights are flashing. You hear bells, sirens, sounds and music coming from gambling machines, mixed with the occasional clinking of money pouring out, in harmony with the elated winners' screams and laughter. As if that's not enough, there are scantily clad cocktail serving ladies, eager to give you another free drink. Of course you will tip them as any decent guy would. You can look but you don't touch. There are suits walking around and there are eyes in the sky-cameras that lead to monitors that lead to security. I've not seen anyone eighty-sixed, as they say there, kicked out of a casino and not allowed to return, but it does happen.
Back at the show, the music starts, I'm walking out onto the stage, knowing that some dancers would join me in a few seconds. The stage was huge and it was the second biggest showroom in town at the time. Eleven hundred people sat in the audience and at first, it was just a cordless microphone and me on the stage. Stupak was in his booth. He only came to the show one other time but there were 179 more shows before I took the next step, doing the lounge shows with my wife.
Relocating to Florida and living there for 19 years, found my wife and I working extensively as a duo all over the Central Florida area, including a Disney property for ten years. The entire time I was doing vocal coaching and singing lessons to as many as eighty students a week.