VINTAGE NEON: Los Angeles 1979
by Billy Vera
In 1979, singer and long time New Yorker Billy Vera relocated to Los Angeles to write songs for Warner Bros Music. After a decade off the charts, his song, “I Really Got The Feeling” had reached number one in a recording by Dolly Parton. “It felt like an omen, like I was back in show business,” says Vera today.
Hooking up with his former bass player, Chuck Fiore, who’d been in town for three years, the two hit upon the idea of forming a band, “to meet girls.” Thus, Billy Vera & the Beaters were born.
While in St. Croix in the Virgin Islands, Vera had taken some photographs with a camera borrowed from a well-known fashion photographer who told him he had a natural talent and an unusually good eye for composition that he should develop.
With the newcomer’s eye that sees what locals tend to ignore, Vera noticed that there were a lot of great old neon signs in LA, so he recruited his friend Fiore to drive him around at night to shoot pictures of them. In time, he had gathered almost a hundred slides. Compiled together, these told a noirish story of a city at night, a visual history of a time and place long past.
He considered a book but, not knowing the first thing about how to get a book published and with his musical career taking off, thanks to his number one hit, “At This Moment,” the photos sat, hidden away from all eyes, until now.
One day not long ago, going through an old drawer, he came across some old slides and negatives and these neon shots jumped out from the rest. Shyly, he showed them to his friend, Tamela D’Amico, who immediately saw the value in the images and went about the task of securing a gallery showing and a book of this “found art.”
Grammy winner Billy Vera has a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and has reinvented himself for a new generation with his album BILLY VERA: BIG BAND JAZZ.