Photo credit: Denise Truscello
They’re the type of guys who roam from town to town; they’re never in one place but now they’re hoping to settle down…thanks to Windows of opportunity in Las Vegas.
It was always the dream of Vinny Adinolfi, head/lead singer of The Bronx Wonderers, the high-energy one-part oldies and two-parts rock n’ roll group that recently opened in the Windows Showroom at Bally’s, to be part of the entertainment scene in this city. With his son Nicky on his left and son Vonny on his right (and three musicians on the side), he is now one of the acts performing in the showroom every night. And he couldn’t be more thrilled to be displaying the fact that sometimes when Windows open, so does the door to the life one has always strived for.
“I’m living the dream,” Adinolfi exclaims excitedly “I see the lights on the Strip and I keep pinching myself and asking myself if I’m really here. I was always kind of different. Growing up, while my friends were playing Led Zeppelin, I loved Dion and other singers of his generation as well as Frank, Dean and Sammy. My parents used to bring me to Las Vegas and I’d watch all these great entertainers come out in a tux and I wanted that. I wanted to perform where Engelbert, Tom Jones, and Wayne Newton did.”
Ironically, it was the artist who had the hit record “The Wanderer,” Dion, who was influential in Adinolfi’s trek into the entertainment arena.
“Dion lived on my block in the Bronx,” Adinolfi explains. “I knew him from the neighborhood. During my teen years, he was working for Terry Cashman and Tommy West, who produced his records and those of Jim Croce and the Partridge Family. Dion took me under his wing and sent me to them. I wanted to be an entertainer but they started me out as a tape copyist. For example, if Engelbert was looking for a song, I’d make a copy of it and send it to his office.
“Terry and Tommy knew that I wanted to be an entertainer but told me that I didn’t want that because I’d be involved in drugs and drinking and I’d never be home,” he recalls. “So they made me a producer and I climbed the ladder, eventually becoming VP and General Manager of Lifesong Records, which was a CBS label. I also got to work on the albums of stars like Billy Joel and Paul McCartney who were on the Columbia label because we all used the same production facility.”
Becoming known as gold record producer “Yo Vinny,” it was after his bosses retired that fortune fell into Adinolfi’s lap. Even though he hadn’t acted since high school, he was asked to audition for a musical play by the producer, whom he met in a nightclub. Sans pictures or a resume, he went to the audition, sang one verse of Dion’s song “Donna the Primadonna,” shook hands, and left. When he got home, he got a callback and went in and read. He got the part in what turned out to be an off-Broadway play on Broadway.
But, ultimately, it was another friend who lived in the neighborhood, actor Chazz Palminteri, who suggested that Adinolfi take his two kids, Vinny, then 14, and Nicky, then 11, the latter of which Palminteri had just witnessed playing drums on stage, and start a group. It was also Palminteri who came up with the name The Bronx Wanderers.
“Chazz told me that he and Danny Aiello and all the guys would help us,” Adinolfi remembers. “One thing I took away with me from the record company was the importance of a game plan. So I sat down with my kids and did a 10-year plan. One of the original Jay and the Americans, Kenny Vance, had started his own group and was making great money. I wanted to be making Kenny Vance money in five years. We did it in four years. The next level of the plan was to get a national presence within the next five years and after that, Las Vegas.”
Vinny now has another five-year plan – he would love to end his career in Las Vegas. The Bronx Wanderers capture a range of music from Dion and Frankie Valli & the Four Seasons (in fact, Tommy DeVito, who founded the original Four Seasons, helped Vinny put together the medley) to Billy Joel and Bruno Mars. Currently performing five nights a week from 5:30-7 p.m., it is a fun and upbeat family show. Son Vinny is now 28 and son Nicky is 25. The rest of the band has morphed over the years and all are seasoned musicians with credentials. The Bronx Wanderers have been on their own for 11 years now, Vinny and his sons having played for three years before that with Dion’s band.
“For me, it all goes back to working at the record label,” Adinolfi sums up. “We play the music that has withstood the test of time. And we’re the only Baby Boomer game in town. All I want is for Las Vegas to be home.”
And to wander no more.