South East Wales

Welsh tenors follow Elvis and Sinatra with Las Vegas residency

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Media captionThe Tenors of Rock played BBC Wales' Children in Need show in November

Elvis Presley, Liberace, Frank Sinatra and Tom Jones move over - here come the Richards brothers from Creigiau, Cardiff.

Rock and roll royalty have revelled in the razzmatazz of having their names in lights over the famous Las Vegas strip.

Now a former Welsh cabbie and his little brother are joining them with their rock harmony group.

The Tenors of Rock are starting a year-long residency in the self-styled entertainment capital of the world on 14 January, following in the footsteps of some of the greatest names in showbiz.

"So you probably want to know how two brothers from a little sleepy town in Wales get to headline their own show in Las Vegas?" said the group's founder Gareth Richards as he walked down a balmy Las Vegas boulevard.

Well, now you mention it...

They are billed as the "newest, most exciting vocal group around" but the Tenors have already had the seal of approval from the "Queen of Vegas".

"Priscilla Presley was at our first Vegas gig back in 2013," Mr Richards recalled.

"When someone who was married to the king of rock and roll turns up at our first Vegas gig, everyone thought 'wow, this band must be something special'. It caused a real stir.

Image caption The five Tenors of Rock have all starred on the West End in London

"She was meant to be doing panto in the UK, but was in town and her producer said 'I've got some mates doing a gig at The Palms, you should come along.' And fair play, she did.

"She's the Queen of Vegas and doesn't come out often so the press were like 'these guys must be awesome'.

"It was a real juxtaposition as one minute we were hanging out with Priscilla Presley, the next we were eating food off the dollar menu in McDonalds.

"There was no money in it, at the time we were skint. The feedback, though, was great and people said we'd end up in Vegas."

Career jackpot

Four years on, after at times considering "jacking it in and getting a proper job", they have hit a career jackpot in Sin City.

He was once the guy driving a Dragon's Taxi around Cardiff, now Mr Richards is the one being chauffeured around.

But it is not all work and no play for the tenors as they fine-tune their 80-minute performance at Harrah's casino and hotel, which will include hits from Aerosmith, Bon Jovi, Queen, Guns 'n' Roses, AC/DC and The Eagles.

"We're being treated like megastars but we're just five normal guys having a laugh," joked Mr Richards.

"And that's what is capturing the imagination of the Americans.

"You've got Elton John, Rod Stewart, Mariah Carey or Celine Dion over the road, Britney Spears or Backstreet Boys down the road and Diana Ross next door.

"That's not forgetting Frankie Valli, Boys II Men and Jennifer Lopez as well the Vegas Strip staples like Penn and Teller and the Chippendales.

Image copyright Getty Images

"Then you've got these clowns from Wales having a go.

"And the funny thing is, the massive poster as you arrive into Vegas airport is of us. That's when this all hit me, it's so surreal.

"There's 170 shows a night in Vegas so we've got to work hard and put on a real show to stand out. We must become part of the Vegas community to survive."

It is a far cry from his first gig in front of "10 men and a dog" aged 16 at The Bricks club in the Rhondda Cynon Taff - and not long since odd-jobbing as an estate agent and trainee taxi driver "just to pay the bills".

"All I wanted to do growing up was football and I was in the youth team at Cardiff City," said Mr Richards.

"I was playing with Robbie Earnshaw, who went on to play in the Premier League and for Wales. But I wasn't good enough.

"I got into singing by accident after playing Tony in West Side Story in the sixth form at Stanwell School in Penarth.

"Amazingly that earned me a place at Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama.

"I started gigging around the Rhondda Valleys. I thought I made it when I played one song at The Bricks up the Rhondda.

"My second gig was at the Prince of Wales in Treorchy and I had to call the bingo in between playing Stereophonics and Bon Jovi covers.

"I thought I was Tom Jones and my old man was at the bar crying with laughter."

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Sir Tom Jones and Dame Shirley Bassey have been Vegas headliners

Now it is full houses of a different kind on his mind after forming Tenors of Rock with four other West End singers six years ago.

"After doing a few West End shows and acting around the country playing all kinds of parts, I didn't want to be in the hands of agents any more so I set up Tenors of Rock.

"It has been difficult and I've thought numerous times I might have to give it up and get a proper job to earn some money.

"The odd jobs were paying for my dreams but I believed - and that experience with Priscilla Presley a few years back and the good vibes from gigs like it, kept me believing. Then hey presto, we get that call."

The Tenors of Rock were doing a show in the Philippines when bookers for Caesars Entertainment, who own eight hotel/casinos on the Vegas Strip, offered them "the chance of a lifetime".

"That was an emotional moment for all of us, and that's what we'd been working tirelessly, gigging around the globe, for," said Mr Richards.

"It's special for Jonny, my brother and I as Welshmen , only Tom Jones and Shirley Bassey have had a Vegas residency.

Image copyright Tenors Of Rock

"What a privilege we've got to follow them and keep the good name of Wales going.

"We're such a small nation with such huge talent, we don't shout about how good we are sometimes as it's not our way."

The Richards brothers will follow the legendary Righteous Brothers onto the Harrah's Showroom stage.

"We couldn't have a better chance to make it here," said Mr Richards.

"We're following the legend that Bill Medley, the man behind The Time of My Life, You've Lost That Loving Feeling and Unchained Melody. Absolute classics.

"We're in a casino that is in the centre of the strip, we couldn't be in a better spot. Now it's up to us to become part of the Vegas furniture."

Image copyright Getty Images
Image copyright Tenors Of Rock

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