The music scene in Phoenix would not be a music scene without Danny Zelisko. Ask a rock impresario a simple question about his favorite artists and you'll never get one answer. After all, when you've presented generations of Arizonans to rock n' roll, it's like asking Ben and Jerry their favorite ice cream.
It was June 1974 when jazz-fusion artists, Mahavishnu Orchestra were performing at the Tucson Music Hall. It was this performance that launched the beginning of a career. However, it wasn't the band's career, it was that of the young promoter producing the show, Danny Zelisko. With the help of his father, the 19-year-old Zelisko moved to Arizona from Chicago and began promoting concerts for a living. Zelisko's first show in Phoenix was on June 21, 1974 with Herbie Hancock and the Headhunters.
As a pioneer of nightclub concert presentations in the late ‘70's, Zelisko has established himself in a facet of the business that thrives to this day. With Zelisko's reputation spanning over four decades, his client list reads like a "who's who" in the industry; Ozzy Osbourne/Ozzfest, Paul McCartney, Pink Floyd, Tina Turner, Bette Midler, The Eagles, KISS, Tim McGraw, The Rolling Stones, U2, Eric Clapton, Cher, James Taylor, Santana and thousands of others.
Danny Zelisko and Barry Kluger share one thing in common, the music generation. When Scottsdale.com Editorial Director and former MTV Executive Kluger caught up with Danny, they decided his encylopedia of knowledge and experience was vast.
Q. Seattle had Nirvana; Athens, Georgia-R.E.M.; Charlotte- Hootie & The Blowfish and Miami- KC and The Sunshine Band. Well, sort of. You have created the Phoenix Music scene as we know it. Over the past 30 years, who have you seen of home grown bands that really made an impact on you?
A. There have been some great bands and performers from Arizona. Alice Cooper is the best around for so many reasons: the music is always great, and beyond that, he has chutzpah unlike most any other human that I know. I also love Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers. He really gets the Southwestern spirit and is a great ambassador for our state. Stevie Nicks did ok, coming out of here in her teenage years. Bruce Connole from the Jetsons and other bands is a huge talent. I could go on...and I will! The Gin Blossoms, The Phunk Junkeez. Then there's Michael Nitro and Icon, both real good rock talents and great friends from Arizona, by way of Eastern cities. Hans Olson is a complete piece of work, the state would not be the same without him. The Tubes are a point of musical pride for Arizona. Jerry (Elvis) Riopelle has made Arizona his home, and what can I say about him? He will be playing at the Dodge Theater this coming New Year's. It's never too early to plan.
Q. Golfing has become a mainstay of rock n roll life from Alice Cooper to Tico Torres to Amy Grant. When an artist comes to town and he/she only has time for 9 holes, where do you take them and why?
A. I have played with all of these people you mention. I had a great time with Amy Grant at Grayhawk Golf Club . I took Roger Waters to the golf club Scottsdale and he is a lot of fun. Alice and I will go play any place at the drop of a hat, as long as we play for free. We hate paying for golf! The Biltmore is a great place for a quick game, very close and conveniently located. So are Camelback Golf Club , Orangetree (my old home course) and the The Phoenician Golf Club . Also, Phil Mickelson's Whisper Rock is amazing.
Q. What band or artist had the strangest request for backstage goodies or one of those things they just had to have when they got to town?
A. These days, it's usually food. I take all the acts who want to eat, to one of a few favorite haunts: Avanti's which is a huge favorite, by many acts: I take Jeff Beck there every time he is in town. It is by far the best Italian food on the planet! For something more casual, it's Cooperstown, or A & J BBQ on 16th street. People crave bbq!!! I have a major love affair with Mark Tarbell and his Tarbell's restaurant! Sammy Hagar goes there EVERY TIME he is in Arizona. City Hall on Camelback has the best steak in the world and always goes down huge! Then there is Sea Saw over on Stetson drive. We have closed the place many times for private gatherings. I have had The Scorpions in there (Klaus sang a Japanese song acapella!); Bobby Weir and Ratdog were there. Alice goes there, but he is really a meat and potatoes guy. But Sea Saw has magical food. You must go there to understand (lots of exclamation marks!)! Food is my passion (among other things). If the groups can't go to the restaurants then we bring the food, and often the chefs, to them! Other than that, they like to come to my house...usually quite a religious experience.
Q. American Idol has changed and, in many ways, exploited the pop music scene and now everyone has their 15 minutes. What is the best piece of advice you have for someone wanting to start a career in music?
A. DON'T! Assuming you don't listen very well, be prepared for lots of stress. If you handle stress well, then that's a good start. Remember, there is always someone better than you, or who acts like they are better than you in this business. Thick skin is a must. I mean, what else are you going to do better than the Beatles? Start there. You have to be that good. THAT is your competition...not many new acts are getting thru anymore...even the household names have a hard time selling tickets sometimes.
Q. Your car breaks down on the way to the Glendale Arena , and you have an hour to kill before help is on the way. What do you have on your CD player to get you through the wait?
A. A copy of my radio show that airs every Sunday night on 93.3 KDKB at 11pm, called the Regular Guy Radio Hour. This past week's show featured James Brown, Otis Redding, Buffalo Springfield, The Grateful Dead, Jeff Beck, Dylan, The Band, Johnny Cash, as well as Dio and Black Sabbath. I like different kinds of stuff. I'm very much into hard rock and Miles Davis and everything in between... I am also partial to King Crimson, The Floyd, Peter Hammill, Adrian Belew, Led Zeppelin, Eric Clapton, and of course, Alice Cooper!