Brier Hill's Jimmy Mulidore became fixture in Las Vegas
Jimmy Mulidore left Brier Hill in 1957 with $50 and a saxophone seeking to make his niche in Las Vegas, the entertainment capital of the world.
Handsome Jimmy, a Robert Taylor look-alike at the time, felt he was ready for the big time after playing in some night spots in Youngstown.
Mulidore, who appeared for one of Tony Trolio’s CIAO Promotions last year, eventually became one of the most sought-after orchestra conductors and jazz performers in the world.
Early in his career he had been a sideman for some of the big name bands and even toured with the Woody Herman and Bill May bands.
“I was ready for the big time because of my mentor, Al Calderone who prepared me,” Jimmy told me. Calderone, who had played lead saxophone with the local Carmen Mico orchestra, tutored young Jimmy and got him gigs at the Elm Ballroom, Yankee Lake and Idora Park.
“Even though I was a pretty good sax player in high school, I was more inclined to be on the Rayen football team with my buddies,” he recalled. “Al got on me like a ton of cement. He said you can play saxophone until you’re an old man like me,” (Al still plays some sax at the ae of 88).
‘In football you exit early. Take football and you can forget my name,” Al told him.
Mulidore listened to his old mentor and practiced even more on his saxophone and clarinet. “I’m glad I did,” he said.
When he arrived in Vegas, his first job was at the Sands. That was when Frank Sinatra and the “Rat Pack” made that hotel their headquarters.
Jimmy was a master of most reed instruments which he used when he played at the Sands Lounge at first. “Sinatra, Dean Martin and the rest of the clan would sit on a late jam session. They really loved jazz,” he said.
Career in Vegas blossoms quickly
Young Jimmy had taken Vegas by storm. In 1969, he became the musical director at the Vegas Hilton in that position until 1987 forming the Jimmy Mulidore Hilton Strings, which delighted thousands of dinner guests with their easy listening dinner music.
In some of the selections, some of Charlie Parker’s “be-bop jazz stuff’ of 20 years past were interwoven with some classic Mozart offerings.
Because of the type of music, Mulidore’s orchestra depended on the audiences; the musical selection was different—ranging from soft, romantic selections to Latin rhythm to easy jazz.
“We played anything that wouldn’t disturb the eating,” he said.
Mulidore, who plays a myriad of reed instruments— all the saxophones, clarinet, flute bassoon and oboe, said he changed the concert according to the performer.
“When we played for Liberace for instance, we emphasized the classics. When Lou Rawls was the headliner, we injected a little bit of soul and blues.
Having conducted for a multitude of stars—Dean Martin, Paul Anka, Ann Margret, Sammy Davis Jr., Barbara Streisand, Bobby Darin, Elvis Presley, Natalie Cole, Olivia Newton John, Frank Sinatra and others, Jimmy was able to compliment the performer.
“Elvis for instance wanted the sound of someone sitting under a tree in Georgia and he felt the flute would express what he wanted,” Jimmy said. So he played the flute to Elvis’s “American Tragedy.” The recording of this hit, which was one of Elvis all-time best sellers, included Jimmy’s flute solo.
Elvis was one of Jimmy’s favorites. “He was not as demanding as some of the stars I worked with, but he was the most powerful and awesome performer I had the pleasure of working with,” he said.
Mulidore recalls conducting old “Satchmo” Louis Armstrong. “It was his last engagement in Vegas, around 1971 and he was with Pearl Bailey. All they did was argue like cats and dogs, and then they would go off the stage arm in arm.”
Sinatra and Streisand demanded perfection, he said. “You had to be perfect. They both had a perfect pitch and if you played a little off, it would be very noticeable, especially to them. When my orchestra played for either of them, the boys would put out 150 percent. My musicians really enjoyed the challenge.”
After leaving the Hilton, Mulidore and his favorite sidemen formed the Jimmy Mulidore All-Stars and went on a successful tour around the country. Now in his mid 60’s, Mulidore and his group still perform in Las Vegas and have gigs throughout the United States.
In recent years, he has produced his own reviews
featuring himself and local stars wherever he appears. Last year he appeared with one of Tony Trolio' s shows at the Embassy." An Evening with "The Godfather," Starring himself and Gianni Russo who played Carlo in the first Godfather movie. Russo now is an accomplished singer.
He has also been a guest on several TV shows including Regis and Kathy Lee and the Nashville Opera House with audiences all over enjoying his powerful entertainment and unforgettable fun. Trolio hopes to have Jimmy back sometime in 2006 with another show.
Most recently Jimmy just finished filming a movie with Peter Falk, Rip Torn and George Segal, which will be released sometime next year.
Jimmy's Brier Hill years
Mulidore remembers when World War II ended on his birthday in 1945. "I was only seven or eight, but I played my saxophone up and down Poplar Street. Everybody was yelling and screaming and I had a ball playing all the World War II songs on my sax, he reflected.
"I thank God for my mother and dad," he said. "Their support when I was growing up in the Hill made me what I am today."
"We' lived in a big yellow brick home across from Kayo's Bar and when I was ten I hung around with Anthony Corelly, Tony Cortese, Billy Pontuti, Tony Trolio and others being cool about going to school.
"Rain or snow, my mother and I would walk downhill to W. Federal St., catch the 17 Mosier bus to downtown and walk up Wick Ave. to the Strouss-Hirshberg's Music Center for a one-hour lesson with Al Caldrone.
"We didn't have money to spare in those days. My dad made $10 a week caddying at Squaw Creek. He'd have to walk up Gypsy Lane and bum a ride to the golf course. And $2 of that money went for my music lesson.
"My grandpa, Jim Mulidore was the Casey Stengel of Brier Hill. He was a sports fan, and he spent what little money he had on football and basketball uniforms. Family needs at home were secondary."
Like his buddy, Tony Trolio, Mulidore would like to write a book about his career as a world-renowned flutist and saxophonist who conducted and recorded with many all-time great performers.
In the music world today, Jimmy Mulidore is known as "The Gripper." We don't know why, but we do know he is hailed as a "musician's musician" throughout the entertainment and jazz world today.
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