Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Meeting Billy Eckstine

Billy Eckstine was without a doubt one of the greatest entertainers of all time. I first met Billy in Australia back in 1979 while I was on tour with the Platters. I was invited by a group of beautiful dancers from Las Vegas called Harlem Fever, to see Billy who was performing at the St. George Leagues a few miles from Sydney. The show was so awesome, there was a tap dance act called The Clark Brothers, an incredible singer called Damita Jo. This show was something that Paul Robi said you could only see in New York or Las Vegas many years ago.

After the performance Paul Robi and I went to say hello to Billy. I was so taken by how professional Billy Eckstine was. I was 25 years of age at that time and had only knew of Billy Eckstine from a previous album I heard on the radio called "Feel The Warm". To meet Billy after watching him literally slaughter this particular Australian audience, was a huge deal for me.

Nearly 10 years later while in Brazil, again on tour with the Platters we ran into Billy once again. This time Billy was finishing a performance at a hotel called the Maksoud Plaza, in Sao Paulo. He was also staying at the hotel, so Paul called his room as said that we had just checked in and wanted to meet in the lobby's coffee shop.

I waited for Paul to get ready and call me to go down and say hi to Billy for so that I just went down stairs on my own to meet again with my favorite singer. Our conversation was so funny and I believe that because Billy has sons my age, that he felt as if I was just like one of his own kids. I asked as many questions as I could without seeming like a pest or an over excited fan before Paul and his wife and the other members of our group came down. What we talked about I'll save for me book.

Paul Robi finally came down stars to meet his longtime friend Billy Eckstine and embraced and carried on with an incredible conversation about great times from years of working just opposite to Paul telling him what a fan he was to Billy.

Interesting thing was during our conversation, Billy mentioned that I should contact his son Ed who was a big producer at Mercury/ Polydor record company, which I did only to talk about things one should do to get a record deal. Ed was a very busy man and I could tell that he didn't have time to talk to someone he didn't personally know. He was very nice though.

After talking to Billy for a long time he never mentioned a word to me about his daughter Gina who was pretty close to my age. Had I known Gina was a singer and was probably working on her own at that time, If I was Billy I wouldn't have. Never the less Billy's daughter Gina's name came up to me while I was assisting a friend and legendary bassist Jimmy Bond, with his computer. He said that he knew Gina and was going to try and help her with getting some gigs through some of his connections. I asked if he would introduce me to her, which he did say he would but when was another question.

After months passed by while waiting for Jimmy to give me some information about Gina, after another month passed I asked again about Gina. This time Jimmy's cousin Vincent Bond told me that he had a promo video on Gina, and would let me have a look and copy it. I took it home and viewed her promo video to see that she was not only good, but beautiful. I looked her up on line to find that she was a vocal teacher, and was available through email. I contacted her with a plan.