Bob Anderson had been a fixture of the Las Vegas entertainment scene for more than 30 years, but he was finding it difficult to find work in 2003.
The entertainment philosophy was changing — bigger shows, fewer headliners. Lounge entertainment was disappearing from the Strip, where the likes of Louis Prima and Keely Smith, Don Rickles, Buddy Hackett, Shecky Greene, Alan King and the Mary Kaye Trio had helped make Vegas the Entertainment Capital.
Anderson returns to Vegas to perform Friday and Saturday at the Cannery.
“There’s more entertainment in Branson than in Las Vegas,” the 58-year-old singer and impressionist says by telephone from his Branson home. “I think Vegas has about 83 showrooms and Branson has like 150.”
Overall the shows aren’t as spectacular as those in Vegas, but they are less expensive — in the $35 to $60 range, he says. You can see a variety of entertainers including Andy Williams
, Yakov Smirnoff
, the Oak Ridge Boys
and Bill Medley. There’s even a wax museum
“Mickey invited me to come down here because he knew things were getting tough in Vegas,” Anderson says. “He said ‘Come on down here, but don’t do no country — we got enough of that. Just do what you do.’ ”
At one time country music and cornball comedy dominated the Branson entertainment scene, but Andy Williams and others began to broaden the horizon.
“I came here at a time when they were trying to diversify,” he says. “When I came here I brought something totally different from what they’re used to.”
Anderson has been called a saloon singer who does impressions. He has about 100 in his repertoire and focuses on vintage Vegas entertainers, including the Rat Pack, Tony Bennett, Ray Charles and Bobby Darin. His cabaret act is backed by a three-piece combo.
Anderson worked at Gilley’s showroom for a couple of seasons, moved to Club Vegas and then to Club 57, where he has performed since 2006.
The Detroit-area native performs five nights a week April through December in the 150-seat supper club. The other four months are mostly spent entertaining in such places as Chicago, Palm Springs, Great Britain and Florida.
He’s been doing a lot of symphony dates with musical director Vincent Falcone of Las Vegas. They recently performed with the Utah Symphony in Salt Lake City.
“I’ve been doing a lot of big band jazz stuff and a lot of corporate dates,” Anderson says.
He’s looking forward to his homecoming in Vegas.
“It’s going to be a lot of fun for me, a lot of great music,” he says. “And I’ll catch up with a lot of friends I haven’t seen in a long time.”
While here he may be talking to venues about possible long-term engagements, although it’s hard to believe Anderson would give up the bright lights of Branson for little ol’ Vegas.