Seasons come, and seasons go. But in one entertainer’s heart it’s always Christmas. Singer, author and entertainer, Linda Suzanne, has written, produced and starred in seven big-scale musical productions over the past two decades. While each show boasts an original theme, one thing remains the same: most of the proceeds from a Linda Suzanne production benefit children or animal nonprofit organizations. “I will always give back,” states Suzanne. “That’s our nature. That’s who we are.”
In keeping with the holiday spirit of December 2018, the petite red-haired producer and her cast earned a two-minute standing ovation following the “Linda Suzanne Rock’In Vegas Christmas” show at the Westgate Resort & Casino, Las Vegas: the proceeds of which were earmarked for the LVPD K-9 units.
Unannounced, celebrity actor Luke Perry dropped off over one hundred stuffed canine toys as a donation prior to the show. Drummer Brooks from Avenge Sevenfold and his family were among the media and other Vegas entertainers in the audience.
Just Say “No” and Always Diet
Having spent her formative stage years opening for timeless musical talents such as Rosemary Clooney, Jose Feliciano and Ricky Nelson, Suzanne is no stranger to celebrities. “Rosemary always battled with her weight. She told me to avoid food at all costs,” Suzanne recalls with a laugh. “She also told me to not get involved with drugs and not to drink with the managers or crew. She taught me how to watch my back, know who my friends are, and to get a great team together.”
The team Suzanne brought together for her Rock’In Vegas Christmas show truly boasts some of Sin City’s finest. “My nearest and dearest is our arranger and producer, Joe Escriba. Among other things, he’s been the head of Legends in Concert for twenty-one years. Joe thinks outside of the box. He is the guy with ears. He’s the one who brought in the Vegas element,” explains Suzanne. Accompanying Escriba’s sax and keyboard role was drummer John Wackerman, musical director for Terry Fator at the Mirage, Derek Jones, bass player for Ka, and lead guitarist Jake Langley, who was fresh off a Dixie Chicks tour. Ryan Kelsey of Chippendales added a wee bit of naughty to the evening along with a pair of sexy Santa dancers.
Married to Music
It’s no secret that Suzanne is married to a member of the world famous Wackerman family of drummers. She met her husband, John Wackerman, in 1995 after a drummer failed to show up at rehearsal for a country western album she was recording with Ian Keene. “My producer told me he was bringing in a Wackerman. I said, ‘I can’t afford one!’ John showed up anyway. We decided to talk about his fee over lunch. The lunch lasted twelve hours. We got married six months later.”
It was Wackerman’s move to Las Vegas eleven years ago to become musical director for Terry Fator that found Linda Suzanne walking into the Las Vegas Hilton (now Westgate Resort & Casino) in a state of total déjà vu. “The last time I was in there was with Elvis,” she recalls. “I had played Vegas before as an opening act for Liberace and Jackie Vernon. It was John who said I should do something of my own here (in Vegas) and get my career back on track.”
If You’re on Time- You’re late
The sage advice of her husband, plus wisdom gleaned from Ricky Nelson’s mother, Harriet Nelson, is what propelled Suzanne to produce “Linda Suzanne Sings Legendary Divas of Pop” at the South Point Hotel, Las Vegas, in October 2017. The show nearly sold out despite debuting on the heels of the Route 91 Music Festival mass shooting on the Las Vegas Strip. Suzanne had also suffered a severe foot injury a few weeks prior to the grand opening night, yet it didn’t deter her in the least. “I was sitting with Harriet Nelson during Ricky’s show the night his plane went down. He’d had a horrible day. His wife had filed for divorce. The Nelson’s motto was, ‘If you’re on time, you’re late’. Meaning, if you want to succeed in this business be the first one there and the last one to leave. The show must go on. It’s you. It’s your job. That is what I took from them.”
The Diva Balladeer
Linda Suzanne is ready to take her Christmas production and her two recent CD recordings overseas. “In Europe, they love Vegas. We’re rehearsing three days a week getting ready to tour there in February. I created a new CD of pop and ballads for pop radio to build name recognition in time for the summer Musik Fest in Amsterdam,” she says. “Our key word is ‘imagine’. Europe is very visual, whereas here it’s all black and white. We want people who use their imaginations.”
With two successful Vegas shows under her belt, a repertoire that includes nearly thirty pop diva hits, a Christmas extravaganza and a variety of original songs composed by Suzanne, plus a team of top-notch producers and performers, one can safely assume the upcoming tour will offer a feast for the imaginations of European audiences, which only seems fitting for the land of yore where minstrels toured on foot or by carriage instead of planes or buses. As Suzanne so aptly puts it, “I’m the big balladeer. That’s who I am.”
The Linda Suzanne 2019 Christmas show promises to be a gift for all. Put it on your list!
– Christine McKellar