I took a trip in the wayback machine last night going to 1960s Las Vegas. It felt like it anyway. Actually, it was just Coquitlam and the Red Robinson Show Theatre. The evening started with Vancouver-based crooner Kenny Colman and a 14-piece big band. Kenny is one of the great singers, and great hard-luck stories, of Canadian show business. He's had his breaks over the years, doing early Tonight Shows with Johnny Carson and Merv Griffin Shows. He's recorded with the London Symphony Orchestra. People like Lou Rawls, Redd Foxx, Johnny Mandel, David Foster and none other than Frank Sinatra have all sung his praises. Yet he's largely unknown. When he came along in the early 1960s, rock was taking over. Now you've got young bucks like Michael Bublé co-opting the style that comes naturally to Kenny – and making way more than guys did in Colman's generation. While his chops aren't what they used to be, they're still pretty good. The guy can swing. And the band swung like a mo-fo, too.
He was a perfect lead-in for Don Rickles. The 83-year-old is a show business legend and while he moves a little slower and a little more hunched over, he's still in full voice. His jokes have never made complete sense and they still don't. You laugh at the attitude more than anything. And his references haven't progressed, so you get mentions of Peter O'Toole in Lawrence of Arabia, lots of talk of buck-toothed Japanese soldiers and Jimmy Cagney singing I'm a Yankee Doodle Dandy. Yes, that's right, hockey puck, the man sings. He employs the same big band and uses it throughout his act, often singing unironically. Despite what you'd imagine, only about 20% of the show is unscripted insults directed at the crowd, if that. But it is what it is. You can't judge it by today's standards. You've just got to get in the right frame of mind, sit back and enjoy.