Jimmy Mulidore Knows How To Make Beautiful Music
“From 6 to 6:10, it’s very quiet, but as soon as we’ve broken the ice, it’s all over. We play numbers that they can’t help applaud and we end up having a joyous two hours.”
You might think it would be strange for a Las Vegas crowd not to know whether to applaud a performance for 10 minutes, but the show being discussed here is unique. The man discussing it is Jimmy Mulidore, musical director for the Las Vegas Hilton and Flamingo Hilton and the leader of a band of 13 musicians who put on a two-hour show every evening in the Las Vegas Hilton showroom while the showroom guests are having dinner.
The show has no title and the musicians don’t have a group name, but they have become one of the longest running and most appreciated shows in town. Newcomers to the Hilton showroom are often taken by surprise when they see a show already going on when they enter the room. Mulidore sees it every night.
“It’s a universal experience for the newcomers,” he says. “For the first 10 minutes they are awed by the room and then by the group on stage. They sit next to people they don’t know. We play a few numbers and they wonder who’s going to be first to applaud. Once they get started though, they don’t hold back.
Applause isn’t what the group is necessarily after, Mulidore emphasizes. “if they want to, fine; if they don’t fine:” he says. “We try not to get too heavy with our material. We don’t want to make a show out of it.” The idea, he explains is to complement the dinner with music that will please the crowd. The trick is to find out what the crowd likes.
“We really have no show at all when we open up the curtain’ he says, “but we are really out to please them so we try a few different numbers to see the reaction before we decide which direction we’re going.” He says the Liberace, Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme and John Davidson crowds are “easy to play for,” but that the crowd that comes to see Paul Anka “takes a different kind of music” with more updated material.
“It is odd, however,” he adds, “that even with the same performer, music that works one night won’t work on another.” That is what makes the nightly testing with the first few numbers necessary.
Mulidore credits Henri Lewin, vice-president in charge of the Hilton properties in the western states, with originating the idea for for the dinner music, which has been in operation for a year and a half at the Hilton. It was based on the concept of giving people more for their money than they get at any other hotel, he says.
“NOW, OTHER hotels call me and ask to borrow my sumic because they like it so well,” Mulidore says. “I’ve never done it. I have over 110 original arrangements that I spent a great deal of time preparing for this show.”
The situation is not only an added benefit for the audience, but also for the musicians as well. The musicians are not just from the Hilton, he emphasizes. “I pick the best talent I can from throughout the town,” he says. “I have an advantage because they can play here and finish, then return to other hotels for the regular 8 o’clock shows. It makes them the highest paid musicians in town and gives me the advantage of getting the best players.”
One recent addition to the group has been Vince Cardell, a protégé of Liberace who has played in “Mr. Showman’s” productions at the Hilton many times. The addition of Cardell was another idea of Lewin’s, Mulidore says, and adds, “It has upgraded the show more than ever; it was a great addition.”
Because the type of music the group plays depends on the audiences, the musical selection is wide-ranging from soft, romantic selections to Latin rhythm to disco. “We play anything,” he says, “that won’t disturb the eating.”
Mulidore, who first came to town in 1957 and has been with the Hilton since 1969, says the show has turned out to be a plus for the entertainers, also. “What we do really warms an audience,” he says. “I’ve had many comments from opening acts saying how nice the audiences are. Business is better for everyone in the room, too.”
The group is now preparing to make its first album, Mulidore says, which has come about as a result of so many requests for it by the audiences. With his partner, Larry Lewin, son of Henri, the album will be produced from recordings done live in the showroom.
Describing the album, as well as the group’s music generally, Mulidore say “There will be a variety and it will appeal to everybody.
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