After 38 years, Jim Burgett’s back | TahoeDailyTribune.com

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After 38 years, Jim Burgett’s back

Provided by Bill KingmanThe American Legion Hall was the site of Jim Burgett's dances during the 1960s. The building was crushed one winter by a heavy snowpack. This photo was taken in 1965 by longtime Tahoe radio man Bill Kingman, years before spell check.

Rumors of Jim Burgett making a Tahoe comeback began last year on the Internet.

The last time Burgett played here, only the United States Department of Defense knew about the Internet. In fact, there wasn’t even cable television in the basin. Burgett’s last show was at Harrah’s Lake Tahoe in 1972.

Burgett, his wife, Marlene Ricci, and members of his old band perform at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 14, in Harrah’s Lake Tahoe South Shore Room.

“I’m absolutely thrilled and I’m scared to death,” said Burgett, 75, who lives in Las Vegas.

The reunion idea began July 3, 2009 at a surprise birthday party on the beach near Zephyr Cove.

“My original bass player was there, coaxed me up on stage and we played,” Burgett said. “Then rumors started on the Internet.”

Burgett stopped performing in 1985.

Although the singer-multi-instrumentalist wanted to continue as a frontman, he had more success managing Ricci, who toured nearly three years with Frank Sinatra.

Burgett began playing rock ‘n’ roll at Tahoe in 1958, around the time Elvis Presley joined the military, doo-wop came around and along with crooners like Pat Boone, threatened to make rock a short-lived musical fad. But in the early 1960s when Burgett was rockin’ Tahoe, along came the British Invasion.

“When the Beatles came out, we had been doing every one of those Chuck Berry songs,” Burgett said. “I thought, ‘What’s the big deal here?’ We’d been doing those songs. They were copy tunes. The Beatles stirred it all up again.”

While Burgett didn’t have a Liverpool accent or long hair, he was a Tahoe star nonetheless.

“In the summer of ’64 and spring-early summer of ’65, when Jim was doing the dances at the old Legion Hall, I was a radio DJ at K-HOE in Truckee,” said South Shore resident Brian Williams, whose radio name was Brian Hammond. “We were the only station in the Sierra running a top-40 rock ‘n’ roll music format. And Jim would bring me down to the Legion to do occasional record hops. Jim’s first LP was “In The Swim,” and I helped write the liner notes.”

Williams recalled playing one time in Burgett’s band.

“Jim had a gig at Susanville High School and his rhythm guitar player was MIA,” Williams said. “He says, ‘Brian, come play guitar in my band for this date. My contract calls for six musicians.’

“But Jim, I can’t play guitar.”

“That’s OK, we won’t turn your amp up.”

And I did. And it was a kick.

Joining Burgett Saturday will be Mike Coulter, J.B. Estes, Fred Gallant and Cindi Kerr. The concert features Sidro’s Armada, another longtime Harrah’s act.

Burgett searched for Sidro Garcia after agreeing to do the Harrah’s show. He eventually found him living just a mile and a half from Burgett’s Las Vegas home. They’ve done some rehearsals – not as many as Burgett would have liked, but enough to suffice, he said.

“Sidro doesn’t do anything unless it’s perfect, so I’m sure we’ll take care of the details,” he said.