This lecture by Patricia Crane, entitled Casino Sidemen: Reno Showroom Musicians of the 1950s-1990s, is part of the Nevada State Museum’s Frances Humphrey Lecture Series. This lecture will be presented via Zoom. Space is limited. To reserve your spot and receive the link, click HERE.
Musicians hired as sidemen on casino stages worked to provide accompaniment for prominent singers, dancers, and comedians, but the showroom culture that defined these musicians encompassed so much more. Viewing music just hours before performances, convincingly playing diverse musical styles, facing the “minefield” of live shows, confronting challenges never addressed in conservatories, and efforts to gratify audiences molded the culture under the spotlights. Relationships with peers, conductors, entertainers, and bosses, and struggles to maintain personal and professional standards further distinguished the culture.
For casinos of Reno and neighboring cities along the folds of the Sierra, the popularity of stage shows with headliners and large orchestras reached their peak during the 1960s and 1970s. Casinos offered elaborate live entertainment to attract patrons ultimately to gaming floors. In the process, musicians involved in this entertainment settled into a fascinating showroom culture.
This lecture describes the culture unique to casino musicians during these peak years, including the history leading up to showrooms, what made the jobs different from other professional environments, and the relationships of musicians with casino owners, conductors, and headliners.
Patricia Crane learned to play the violin as a child in St. Louis, MO. She left Missouri after marrying her career-military husband, Stewart, and became a military “nomad.” Crane added the viola to her primary instruments in 1992, and has been a freelance musician across the United States and in Europe. She settled in Reno with her family in 2001, and completed a master’s degree in Musicology at the University of Nevada, Reno in 2006. Crane remains embedded in the local music culture, playing music, teaching, and enjoying time with her colorful peers.