Frankie Moreno is the sort of entertainer you either immediately fall in love with or instantly envy. Singer, songwriter, showman extraordinaire, Moreno is the current King of Las Vegas, possessing that rare blend of talent and charisma that separates the superstars from the rest of us.
Nobody should be this good. Or good-looking for that matter. It’s just not fair.
Those who haven’t experienced Moreno’s mastery of multiple musical instruments and genres should stand by to have their minds blown tonight at 10 when KIXE presents a rollicking performance of Moreno and his 10-piece band on the second episode of Music Gone Public.
Do not make the same mistake the program’s co-producer, Peter Berkow, made when he was invited to his first Frankie Moreno concert in Las Vegas several years ago.
Berkow, a video producer, musician and teacher from Chico was attending a Sin City teacher’s conference. “I wanted to do anything but hear a lounge singer,” he recounts. “Boy, was I surprised. Moreno is anything but that. I was hooked two songs into his show. He is an amazing performer. He does 90 percent original material, and he is a musician’s musician. He can play anything, and during the show we filmed, he rips it up on piano and harmonica.”
That Moreno performs original material and draws huge crowds speaks volumes in a tourist town dominated by tribute bands and mega-stars like Elton John, Celine Deion, and Carlos Santana.
Moreno is now managed by Jay-Z’s Roc Nation, under contract with Sony and poised to (hopefully) take the music industry by storm. His concert on Music Gone Public, which is being aired on PBS stations coast-to-coast, could be his national coming out party.
The episode might never have come together without former Redding Record Searchlight sports reporter-turned-Las Vegas celebrity journalist John Katsilometes, the friend who insisted Berkow see Moreno, despite his objections to supposed lounge music.
That’s just one of many north state connections that can be found throughout the ten episodes of Music Gone Public.
Legendary slide guitarist Roy Rogers, born in Redding, is featured in episode eight, accompanied by equally legendary blues performers Charlie Musselwhite and Ramblin’ Jack Elliott.
Longtime north state fixture and world renowned stringed instrumentalist Joe Craven follows up in episode nine, which was filmed in five separate north state locations, including a homeless shelter.
Famed acoustic guitarist Tommy Emmanuel finishes off Season 1. He hails from Australia, but many Americans have been introduced to him through PBS programs produced by Chico-based Berkow.
Yet more local connections: Singer, songwriter, comedian, poet Antsy McClain calls Nashville home, but recorded his latest album at Dale’s Electric Canyon Recording in Chico, where the audio engineer is Dale Price, Berkow’s “go-to audio guy” for many of his video projects.
McClain is the featured artist in episode four.
Berkow’s other collaborators include co-producer Mike Hoopingarner, a Chico ex-pat who now works out of southern California; Dan Carter, who also produces video for Cal State Chico; co-producer Jim Miller, and Berkow’s wife Tricia Berkow, a talented camera operator in her own right. He figures that over the years, he’s probably used 25 or more north state freelancers on his projects.
“Whenever possible, I hire and mentor younger camera operators, audio interns, and student editors,” he says. “It’s the constant teacher in my heart: Many of the people on my crew started as students or interns—with a kind of apprentice/mentor relationship. Many have graduated to become equal collaborators. That’s one of the most rewarding things about all of this.”
The lesson being you don’t have to go to the Bay Area or Los Angeles to gain great work experience in the music and entertainment industry. To be certain, Music Gone Public is a top-flight production. It has to be in order to appeal to the nationwide PBS audience.
“PBS viewers value artistic vision,” Berkow says. “That’s the common thread here. Each of these artists is at the top of his or her genre.”
His mission is to present “an alternative to the assembly line music machine.”
“This is the best of American culture, and it is completely ignored by corporate media,” he says. “The mission of PBS is, partially, to keep the American arts scene alive. So, though we have a wide range of styles represented—Jazz, Bluegrass, Worldbeat, Zydeco, Americana, etc.—there is a unifying theme: This is great music we know our viewers will appreciate, because most people who watch PBS have an open mind.”
The powers that be at PBS are in agreement. Berkow and crew are already hard at work on Season 2 of Music Gone Public.
Music Gone Public airs Thursdays at 10 p.m. on KIXE Channel 9. Please check your listings for other times and showings.