There is nothing like live music. It tunes you in and turns you on. If variety is the spice of life, then music is the marinade that makes it all come together. The Impalas of today have added to their special sauce over the years, transitioning from The Ravens and emerging to become the band it is today. I asked Bob Rivas to canvass the group and come up with answers to a series to questions. What you will read here is the story of people who love music and who love to share it with others by performing, jamming, creating, laughing and having a plain old good time, in which you as an audience member are invited to participate.
Information provided by Bob Rivas and members of the band: The Impalas early history began in 1962 when a band named The Ravens was formed. It lasted two months. In July 1962 Nash Montoya joined the band and decided to name it Nash and the Impalas. Members were Nash Montoya, Eloy Montoya, Teddy Trujillo, Lou Dan Salazar and Timmy Lucero. This group played together until mid-1963. When Nash moved to California, the group reorganized to form The Impalas, at which time Mike Kavanaugh joined the group replacing Timmy Lucero. From this point on The Impalas played together until 1967. At that time, some members of the band left Las Vegas to pursue careers elsewhere. Others continued to play together in different bands. For example, Eloy and Bob played together in a group called The Guitar Ensemble in the early ‘70s, and worked as a duo in clubs in Las Vegas, such as La Casita.
Q. What brought you all together as a band?
A. In 2014 a concert was held to pay tribute to musicians in the Las Vegas and the surrounding areas. After this successful concert Eloy Montoya and Mike Kavanaugh (members of the original Impalas) decided to get a band together and keep The Impalas name in honor of the original group. Thus The Impalas Reunited was reborn with band members Eloy Montoya, Mike Kavanaugh, Leroy Lucero, Bob Rivas, Bobby Duran and Salomon Gomez.
Q. What’s more fun, playing the music you like or playing to an audience’s expectations?
A. The Impalas enjoy playing what they like, and more importantly to an audience’s expectations. The band likes to get the audience involved in singing and encourages audience members to ask for songs they want to hear. We consider ourselves a success when we get people to dance, and they do!
Q. When the band started back in the day, what kind of music did you consider to be your signature style?
A. Signature style back in the ’60s was rock (American Band Stand style), especially ‘50s and ’60 songs. The band also played Northern New Mexico Spanish music and some Country and Western.
Q. What is your style now and has it changed, or do you like the idea of being flexible and playing a variety of styles?
A. Today The Impalas play a variety of styles and try to cater to the occasion and the audience. The band can be very flexible and plays a wide variety of music.
Q. Describe the practice experience. Is it collaborative or do you kind of “play it by ear” in terms of developing a program?
A. All members of the band suggest songs to play and discuss the program according to what occasion they are playing for. They also figure out what type of music they need to learn to keep a variety of music fresh.
Q. What bands do you try to emulate or do the Impalas strive for a distinctive style?
A. Because of the variety of music The Impalas plays, we emulate a wide variety of music artists and bands. We especially like the “oldies” and traditional Hispanic music.
Q. What bands have taught you all the most about performance and presentation?
A. The Impalas try to dress for the occasion and strive to look professional whenever they play for an audience. Each member has 40-50 years of experience playing and has developed his own performance style.
Q. What are your fondest musical performances?
A. Some of the fondest musical performances have been back in the ’60s when the original Impalas played for Johnny’s Record Party in Albuquerque. They enjoyed playing for the local schools, weddings and local night clubs. Most recently, the 2014-15 Las Vegas Musicians Reunited concert will always stand out as a fond and successful memory. We also remember fondly our opening of the Las Vegas Arts Council’s Studio Tour when we played in the Breezeway on Bridge Street. We had people dancing in the street. The Friends of the Museum annual dance in 2016 at the Plaza Ballroom was packed. It was one of our best performances.
Q. What do you most want people to know about the band?
A. We want people to know that all the current members thoroughly enjoying playing again and love the idea that so many people of the community still remember The Impalas. To quote a band member: “It keeps us young at heart (because we’re all seniors now) and we enjoy seeing people going back down memory lane. Many people have told us that our music brings back many fond memories.”
Q. Where do you perform next (or regularly)?
A. We are booked for the opening of the Las Vegas Arts Council Studio Tour in the fall. This event will also mark the opening of this year’s Meadow City Music Festival. We will be playing in August at the 3rd Annual Musicians Reunited Dance at the Rialto. We are hoping to appear at the Fiestas de Las Vegas in July.
Bookings and venues are difficult to find in Las Vegas. There are few places for bands to play. We love playing family parties and class reunions. We have also played numerous events for various charitable events.
Q. How do people reach you for bookings?
A. People can contact any of the band members:
Eloy Montoya • 505-231-0930 firstname.lastname@example.org
Mike Kavanaugh • 595-259-9054 email@example.com
Bob Rivas • 454-3867 firstname.lastname@example.org and
Leroy Lucero • 505-426-4935
Salomon Gomez • 505-415-0163
Bobby Duran • 505-426-6768