As the Rat Pack’s cigarette smoke fades into distant memory, the heavy-drinking, casino-centric Las Vegas music scene of yore has given way to a bustling, diverse era. Most would position the Killers as the center of the Vegas tunes solar system, but what other acts have sprung from Sin City? Here are a handful of artists that got their start in Las Vegas – no Sammy Davis Jr. required.
Just like Brandon Flowers of the Killers, the lead singer of Imagine Dragons, Dan Reynolds, is a Vegas-bred member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. And while the booze, boobs and blackjack of Vegas might not seem to exactly square with Mormonism, it sure has a way of getting alternative groups together. Imagine Dragons kicked off in 2008 and were soon the toast of Vegas before breaking nationally. They’ve since notched a ubiquitous single, “Radioactive,” as well as Platinum and Gold records.
Panic! at the Disco
You want lineup changes? We’ll give you lineup changes. In 2004, Panic! At the Disco was founded in the Las Vegas suburbs by Ryan Ross and Spencer Smith. Right, neither of them are in the pop rock band anymore. Still, Brendon Urie —who was recruited in the early days — remains, a testament to the longevity of the project (which began as a Blink-182 cover project). Today, the group has amassed five albums that have sold an impressive 3,500,000 copies.
Born Shaffer Chimere Smith in Arkansas, the man we know as Ne-Yo didn’t get things poppin’ until he was a student at the Las Vegas Academy of Arts. While attending, he became part of an R&B group Envy and adopted the stage name GoGo. After some successful TV appearances, Envy disbanded, GoGo became Ne-Yo and the world was blessed with “So Sick.” Ne-Yo may have a claim to being the best-selling solo act from Vegas ever, across six albums — two of which topped the Billboard 200 and three of which are Platinum certified.
In the 1989 movie-length Nintendo commercial, The Wizard, Lewis plays a young girl who is on her way home to Reno. (And gets a first taste of how bad the Power Glove is.) Well, close enough: Jenny Lewis was born in Las Vegas to two entertainers. She kicked off her acting career before forming Rilo Kiley in 1998. Her solo career has since flourished and she’s released albums at a steady clip, also contributing to side projects like Jenny and Johnny. Her latest is Nice as Fuck, an all-female act with Erika Forster (Au Revoir Simone) and Tennessee Thomas (The Like).
In 2014, Shamir Bailey released his debut EP, Northtown, in a tip of the cap to North Las Vegas, where he grew up. His take on electro-disco reached a wide audience at the end of that year with the release of the much-imitated “On the Regular.” “I had quit my old job and got a new one; it was at Topshop on the Strip,” the singer explained of the sudden attention. Shamir cemented his place as a critical darling with the release of the complex, often mystifying Ratchet last year. He’s been relatively quiet of late, which means you can bet new music is coming soon enough.