The Talented Wayne Newton Part One
Carson Wayne Newton (born April 3, 1942) is an American singer and entertainer. One of the best-known entertainers in Las Vegas, Nevada, he is known by the nicknames The Midnight Idol, Mr. Las Vegas and Mr. Entertainment. His well-known songs include 1972’s “Daddy, Don’t You Walk So Fast” (his biggest hit, peaking at No. 4 on the Billboard chart), “Years” (1980), and his vocal version of “Red Roses for a Blue Lady” (1965). His signature song “Danke Schoen” (1963) was notably used in the score for Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986).
Newton in concert in 2012
Carson Wayne Newton
Also known as
Mr. Las Vegas, The Midnight Idol, Mr. Entertainment
April 3, 1942 (age 75)
Norfolk, Virginia, U.S.
Vocals, guitar, steel guitar, piano, percussion
He was born Carson Wayne Newton in Norfolk, Virginia, to Patrick Newton, an auto mechanic, and his wife, Evelyn Marie “Smith” (née Plasters). He is of Irish, German, and Native American ancestry, descendant of Pocahontas. Newton has stated that his mother is half German and Cherokee and his father half Irish and Powhatan. When his father was serving in the U.S. Navy during World War II, Newton spent his early years in Roanoke, learning the piano, guitar, and steel guitar at age six.
While he was still a child, his family moved to near Newark, Ohio. He began singing in local clubs, theaters, and fairs with his older brother, Jerry. However, Newton’s severe asthma forced his family to move to Phoenix in 1952, where he graduated from North High School. The brothers, as the Rascals in Rhythm, appeared with the Grand Ole Opry roadshows and on ABC-TV’s Ozark Jubilee; and performed for the president and auditioned unsuccessfully for Ted Mack’s Original Amateur Hour.
In the spring of 1958, near the end of his junior year of high school, a Las Vegas booking agent saw Newton on a local TV show, Lew King Rangers Show, on which the two Newton brothers were performing and took them back for an audition. Originally signed for two weeks, the brothers eventually performed for five years, doing six shows a day. On September 29, 1962, they first performed on The Jackie Gleason Show. He would perform on Gleason’s show 12 times over the following two years. In the early to mid-1960s, Wayne also acted and sang as “Andy” the baby-faced Ponderosa ranch hand on the classic western TV series, Bonanza.
Career as an entertainer
Many prominent entertainment icons such as Lucille Ball, Bobby Darin, Danny Thomas, George Burns, and Jack Benny lent Newton their support. In particular, Benny hired Newton as an opening act for his show. After his job with Benny ended, Newton was offered a job to open for another comic at the Flamingo Hotel, but Newton asked for, and was given, a headline act. In 1972 his recording of “Daddy, Don’t You Walk So Fast” sold over one million copies, and was awarded a gold disc by the R.I.A.A. in July 1972. Influential music director Rosalie Trombley of Canadian station CKLW “The Big 8” radio in the Detroit area decided to add the record to her radio station to embarrass her ex-husband, who wasn’t faithful about seeing his children, as Trombley explained in the documentary Radio Revolution: The Rise and Fall of the Big 8. The record topped the Canadian charts. From Detroit, “Daddy Don’t You Walk So Fast” took off and broke nationwide.
From 1980 through 1982, The Beach Boys and The Grass Roots performed Independence Day concerts on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., attracting large crowds. However, in April 1983, James G. Watt, President Ronald Reagan’s Secretary of the Interior, banned Independence Day concerts on the Mall by such groups. Watt said that “rock bands” that had performed on the Mall on Independence Day in 1981 and 1982 had encouraged drug use and alcoholism and had attracted “the wrong element”, who would mug individuals and families attending any similar events in the future. Watt then announced that Newton, a friend and supporter of President Reagan and a contributor to Republican Party political campaigns, would perform at the Mall’s 1983 Independence Day celebration. When Newton entered an Independence Day stage on the Mall on July 4, 1983, members of the audience booed.
On May 23, 1989, Newton’s live stage show was broadcast as a Pay-Per-View event called Wayne Newton Live in Concert. In an odd break with tradition, Newton didn’t perform his trademark songs “Danke Schoen” or “Red Roses for a Blue Lady”. Newton did, however, close the show with a special finale of “MacArthur Park”, which culminated with an onstage rainfall.
On December 12, 1992, Newton hit #1 on the Cashbox Pop and Country charts with an Elvis Presley-inspired song, “The Letter.” Controversy swirled around this chart feat, as “The Letter” did not chart at all on Billboard Magazine’s authoritative Hot 100 chart, Adult Contemporary chart or “Bubbling Under” chart. It did not make the Radio and Records magazine chart either. This marked the first and only time in history that a record hit #1 on the Cashbox Top 100 chart, yet failed even to chart on Billboard’s Hot 100.
Wayne Newton strums the guitar during his USO show at the Patriotic Festival held on the Virginia Beach Oceanfront. May, 2005.
In 1994, Newton performed his 25,000th solo show in Las Vegas.
In 1999, Newton signed a 10-year deal with the Stardust, calling for him to perform there 40 weeks out of the year for six shows a week in a showroom named after him. Orchestrated by his business partner, Jack Wishna, this “headliner-in-residence” deal was the first of its kind. In 2005, in preparation for the eventual demolition of the casino, the deal was, from all reports, amicably terminated; Newton began a 30-show stint that summer at the Hilton. His last show at the Stardust was on April 20, 2005. During a break in his on stage performance, he announced to the crowd that night he wanted to spend more time with his wife and new daughter as the main reasonings for canceling the contract. Newton said the Boyd family made him a very nice offer to stay on past the demolition of the hotel and casino and to play in other Boyd venues, but Newton declined citing “another deal in the works for Vegas”, but he did not mention the Hilton specifically. News crews were expecting this performance to end on time, to make their 10 pm and 11 pm shows, but the show finally ended around 11:30 pm, thus eliminating the possibility. Mr. Las Vegas went on at 7:30 that night, and sang nearly his entire repertoire and songs of other Vegas mainstays as well.
Newton was elected to the Gaming Hall of Fame in 2000.
Gen. Tommy Franks, Commander, U.S. Forces Central Command (CENTCOM) sings a duet with Wayne Newton aboard the USS Nimitz during a USO show. At the time, the USS Nimitz was deployed to the Persian Gulf in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. June, 2003.
In 2001, Newton succeeded Bob Hope as chairman of the USO Celebrity Circle. In January 2005, Newton started a reality television show on E! called The Entertainer. The winner got a spot in his act, plus a headlining act of their own for a year. And during player introductions at the 2007 NBA All-Star Weekend in Las Vegas, Newton sang Presley’s “Viva Las Vegas.”
Newton was the grand marshal of the 80th Annual Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival in Winchester, Virginia, May 1–7, 2007. He canceled a sold-out show to join the Festival.
Newton was featured on the 2007 fall season of Dancing with the Stars partnered with two-time champion Cheryl Burke. He became the third contestant to be eliminated from the contest. During the taping (which takes place at CBS Television City), he also became the first guest on The Price Is Right, which tapes on the same lot, under host Drew Carey, who began adding guests to the show, especially to present prizes. Newton appeared after a trip to Las Vegas was shown.
In 2007 Newton revealed on Larry King Live how he personally confronted Johnny Carson about jokes The Tonight Show host was making about him. Newton said he thought “Johnny Carson is a mean-spirited human being. And there are people that he has hurt that people will never know about. And for some reason at some point, he decided to turn that kind of negative attention toward me. And I refused to have it.”
In 2008, Newton received a Woodrow Wilson Award for Public Service. The Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, a national memorial to President Wilson, commemorates “the ideals and concerns of Woodrow Wilson.” The award honors leaders who have given back to their communities.
Beginning October 14, 2009, he began performing his newest show “Once Before I Go” at the Tropicana in Las Vegas. A year later he took a 5-year hiatus to spend time with his family and prepare his voice for a future Las Vegas residency. In 2016, Newton returned to the stage at Bally’s Hotel in the form of a lounge show called “Up Close & Personal”, a combination of live singing, playing some of the 13 self-taught instruments (learned in the past to give his voice a rest when performing 6 shows a night at the Fremont Hotel), and movie and TV clips shown on screen.