An Interview with
'Danny 'The Count' Koker'
Frontman of Count’s 77 and also of Counting Cars TV Show
that took place 11th/12th May, 2017.
Interviewed by Glenn Milligan.
Glenn: Hi Danny,
Danny: Is this Glenn?
Glenn: It is yeah.
Danny: Glenn, what’s happening man? I always love calling the UK because it sounds like a Pink Floyd record when my phone rings.
Glenn: That’s a good answer. It’s weird how you mention Pink Floyd because they are having an exhibition in London at a place called DNA. I saw it in the paper today.
Danny: That’s gonna be huge. Oh my God.
Glenn: Yeah. They’ve got the pig outside.
Danny: How you doing brother? Everything good?
Glenn: Yeah Good. I’ve had a good day. How’s your day been? What have you been up to mate?
Danny: Oh man, it’s crazy. We’re in the midst of shooting ‘Counting Cars’ and we’re in the midst of the band touring on weekends. All we are doing is fly dates. I am at the shop all week and then it’s fly dates in and out on the weekends. Then I am back at it. I’m busy as can be but blessed happy. I’m working my butt off but it’s a good thing. I get to do motorcycles, cars and music. It doesn’t get any better than that.
Glenn: Yeah. When you’ve been on ‘Pawn Stars’ or the ‘Counting Cars’ programmes you always seem as happy as hell. You are the happiest guy on the programme. Nothing seems to phase you.
Danny: Yeah. You know what, I feel like the luckiest guy in the world. When growing up as a young guy, I was always around motorcycles, always around cars and always into music. Now I find myself at a point in my life where I’m doing all three and employing good people, paying the bills, building cool stuff, being able to go out on the road with my brothers and play concerts all over the place. There’s a lot worse things. I’m not digging ditches or tarring roofs. Absolutely!
Glenn: I mean, when I come across there I see the guys doing the roads and the roofs and it’s something like 90 plus degrees and I think, ‘How the hell do they do that?’
Danny: Oh yeah. It’s brutal here in Vegas. In the summertime it’s 115 in the shade. Anyway, what’s going on there?
Glenn: Well the weather’s getting good. I’ve done some good interviews recently like Michael T. Ross and Robin McAuley. In fact, I interviewed your mate a few weeks ago, Mark Slaughter.
Danny: Oh dude, he’s such a sweetheart. A good friend of mine. We got way back. We got back to high school. He’s an absolute sweetheart. I love him. He’s a good man.
Glenn: Yeah. He said to me, “Have you talked to Danny yet?” I said, “No not yet but he’s my next victim”.
Danny: I love it. I love it man! I haven’t talked to Mark in a while. Every once in a while our paths cross. He’s just terrific. All those cats from Slaughter are great guys – just good people.
Glenn: I was over to Las Vegas in January. I came to your place, Count Vamp’d on a Wednesday night. It was about 7pm and it was pretty quiet.
Danny: Oh we don’t get rolling until probably 9.30 – 10pm. You hit the weekends there! We do live music at Vamp’d every Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday. Wednesday is the jam night. It starts about 9pm. On Thursday it starts about 9.30. Fridays and Saturdays are about 9.30 – 10 start. The music probably stops about 2am, then the place stays open until the last person stumbles out.
Wednesday is the ‘John Zito Electric Jam’. He’s been doing the jam at Vamp’d for 6 years. He’s a true brother. As a matter of fact, if it wasn’t for John Zito, Count’s 77 wouldn’t exist. He’s the reason the whole thing happened. I used to do music when I was a younger man. I was into music all the time. I stepped away from it for years.
I build the crazy rock club and John Zito got the gig doing the jam. In fact, he found out from Jeff Blando from Slaughter that I used to sing. Zito got me up on stage. That started feeling really good so I would get up there and jam with him on occasions. Then one particular night five out of six of us in Count’s 77, we all ended up on the same stage at the same time and it just felt great. It was like magic.
Afterwards, we all sat out on the patio, had something to drink and talked a little bit about how good that felt. We decided to rehearse for next weeks jam. Rehearse a few songs and then we’d know what we were doing. Those rehearsals turned into a set. Then the set tuned into opening for other bands. It just started snowballing from there.
It’s been awesome. Zito is really the heart and soul of things. The rest of the band mates are phenomenal. It’s all the original guys from day one. We’ve been together now for about six years. We added Tommy Paris which is going on for three years now.
Glenn: What a voice that guy’s got!
Danny: Oh my Lord.
Glenn: I’m a big Britny Fox Fan. I thought, ‘Holy Sh*t! Tommy’s in the band’. We did a QNA in around 2001. I’ve never had chance to see Britny Fox.
Danny: He’s amazing. A shout out to him: he’s doing a side project – his own thing – The Tommy Paris Band. You’ve got to check that out. He’s just kicked out a new CD. It’s wonderful. Tommy’s one of those guys that you just love to hate because he can do everything. He plays guitar, he plays the keyboards, he plays the drums and he sings any part. It’s like, ‘Really man? I can’t stand you!’ He’s awesome.
Plus he’s an absolute brother. I love him. He plays all the organ because the vibe of the music is a lot of 70’s Hard Rock, so we do a lo to B3 stuff. Tommy is killing it on the B3 and the other keyboard. Then he does all the back-up vocals and everything. He’s just phenomenal.
Danny: Great guys. Stoney Curtis – oh my lord, my lead guitar player. He is unbelievable. There’s a little blues club here in Vegas. His background is blues. He’s had ‘The Stoney Curtis Band’ for a long time. I used to go and see him. Man, this club wouldn’t even get started until 2 in the morning. I used to show up in this dark, dingy, dull, smoky, filthy little joint. I’d find a sofa in the back in the dark and just sit there and listen to the Stoney Curtis band all night. We never even met. I’d just got down there and listen to him.
He then started coming to the jam night at my club at Vamp’d. He was just one of those guys and we all ended up on stage together. Now, Stoney’s been really expanding his horizons in the rock scene as well as the blues. John Zito is also very blues based. Our band as 70’s Hard Rock, it’s got a very underlined blues vibe to it as well.
Glenn: That’s what I picked up on a lot. I’ve played it a lot in the last few weeks and I absolutely love it. The album is phenomenal.
Danny: You like it. Thank you man! I appreciate that because we worked really hard on it. We put out our first record, Count’s 77’ three years ago and it’s something that we’re really proud of. It’s got a lot of great stuff on it – a lot of great material. What happens is, is that you go out on the road, then the band really starts to gel as we travel and as we start playing shows.
When we decided to get back in the studio and do this new record, ‘Soul Transfusion’, I think the band really found itself. We worked hard on it. I appreciate you saying that. We’re very proud of it. I think that people that are hungry for what we consider ‘Real Rock ‘N’ Roll’ where there’s actually guys playing real instruments and real voices singing real songs – that type of thing.
I think anybody that likes that real hard rock vibe that came of the 70’s is really going to dig this record. There’s a lot of good material on it. It’s got a lot of variety to it as well.
Glenn: Yeah. You’ve got your bluesy stuff, you’ve got your hard rock, youre classic rock and you’ve got your southern style. There’s allsorts on there. It’s beautiful. You guys have really gone to town on the actual arrangements on the songs. All the things you want to hear are there if that makes any sense?
Danny: Bro, it makes total sense. I appreciate you saying that. It makes total sense to us because we’re all guys who grew up in that same era. We loved that music from back in the day so we wanted to recreate that vibe with this record and give the variety with this record.
On this record there’s no tricks. There’s no auto-tune or anything like that. Its got a very analogue vibe to it and it’s real. It’s like what you would have got back in the day. If you ever come to a Count’s 77 concert, you’re going to get a 70’s show. You’re going to get at least two hours of in-you-face rock ‘n’ roll. We want to rock. We enjoy it.
Danny: What do you like on the record? Now I’m going to put you on the spot!
Glenn: No problem at all.
Danny: Is there a particular song that you dig?
Glenn: Well I could go through quite a few.
Danny: Alright, tell me what you like?
Glenn: The opening track, the actual single you brought out, ‘Summer of ‘77’ is a special song and it sticks in my head. For quite a few months, ‘Bang You Head’ by Quiet Riot is the song I could never get out of my head. I think you have replaced it.
Danny: Oh I love you right now man! That song means so much to us because it captures that era. Does that not take you back?
Glenn: Yeah. I mean, I’m 43. For me, the Summer of ’77, the actual time means a lot to me as well. This is the time when my Dad bought ‘News Of The World’ by Queen and ‘Rocking All Over The World’ by Status Quo. I was about three and I was hooked on Hard Rock ever since. I understand where you’re coming from what I came from.
Danny: I love it! Brother, you know what, you get it. You totally get what we’re trying to do with that. Thank you for catching that. That’s what we wanted to do. With that particular song, we decided that would be the song that we would put out there as the first real single off the record. We’ve done a video for it and it captures the essence of the band. Once you get that, you start digging deeper into the record. You are going to get all the different vibes of us but that one right there kinda catches us.
Glenn: That’s the starter. Then you go to ‘Hard Rock Band’ and it’s like a reprisal but in a different style again. I find that the songs are very autobiographical. You can see your life and maybe input from the other guys in those songs.
Danny: Brother you are totally right on the money. To me, some of the best things about the music of the hard rock songs of the 70’s is that they told stories. This record and these songs, they tell stories. Each one has a story in it and you’re right. So much is my life stories. A lot of it is wrapped up in this record.
Glenn: Yeah, you can tell.
Danny: I’m glad you did it man!
Glenn: Oh completely. Then you’ve got ‘My Detroit’. I love the fact that you sing about your Dad and Uncle Pete.
Danny: My gosh man! My Uncle Peter, he was an Executive at Ford Motor Company back in the day. He always had the cool sh*t at his house. Whether it was cars, motorcycles, hot rods or whatever. He would take us out cruising all the time. Again, thank you for noticing that and for picking up on it. I’m just trying to tell the stories of my life. I love it! I love it Glenn. I appreciate you picking up on this.
Glenn: Another one on the album is ‘Find My Way Home’. It’s such a gorgeous southern like ballad. It’s as though you’ve stolen half the members of The Allman Brothers Band.
Danny: Thanks Brother! That one is really close to my heart. I appreciate you saying that. That has so much to do with the memories in the past. Whenever I hear that song I think about where I grew up, I think about my family and those that are no longer with me. My father that instilled so many things in me that I believe makes me who I am today. Many times I wish that I could get back there. That song is all about, ‘Man if I could just go back home’. That’s a deep song in my heart. Musically, it captures what the song talks about as well. I love it.
Glenn: Yeah. It’s almost like a ballad version of ‘My Detroit’ if that makes any sense?
Danny: It does. It makes total sense. 100%. There’s so many different vibes all around on this record. That one gets to my soul.
Danny: That one’s kind of tough sometimes to do live because it actually chokes me up sometimes.
Glenn: I can understand that.
Danny: Absolutely Brother.
Glenn: You’ve got ‘Evil That You Can Do’ – a great mellow bluesy song.
Danny: Yeah man. We call that our demented love song. It’s a love song about a really evil chick.
Glenn: Are you allowed to say who it’s about? Is she dead yet?
Danny: We’ve all been there at one time or another. That was kind of a conglomerate band song. We’ve all been there one time or another with some evil chick. That one speaks to everybody. It’s very bluesy. It’s totally different on the record. That song is the song that makes a 100% left turn.
Glenn: For me, the certain bit that stands out is where you talk about her having 11 personalities.
Danny: Oh big time.
Glenn: I was thinking, ‘Which personalities of which person you are singing about are you referring to?’
Danny: Who am I talking to today? Right? Can you put the girl I talked to yesterday on back on the phone? She was a lot nicer. I know. We’ve been there. We’ve all been there. That’s hilarious.
Glenn: It’s true isn’t it?
Danny: It is.
Glenn: So funny. ‘Sin City Boogie Man’ – that’s obviously about Vegas?
Danny: ‘Boogie Man’ is great man. I’ve lived in Vegas twice but this time I’ve been here since 1988. I’ve done well here because I’m not a gambler. I don’t have any of those types of vices or anything. There’s a lot of traps in this town. Over the years I have had friends when I lived back east and things like that. They all say, “How is Vegas treating you?”. I tell them, Oh Vegas is Wonderful” and they say, “Oh I’m coming out!”. They come out here and they make it 2 months, three months and they’ve got to move back.
Danny: That song is where we jokingly say that the Devil’s got a summer home here in Vegas. It’s all about the traps all over this town. The Sin City Boogie Man is gonna get ya! If you’re not on your game and you’re not paying attention, this town will eat you up. The next thing you know, you are standing there with empty pockets and your thumb out at the side of the road trying to hitch-hike back to Milwaukee.
Glenn: it’s a bit like Hollywood isn’t it. I remember Lemmy from Motorhead saying, “To live here you’ve got to stay humble and stay out the bullsh*t and you’ll be okay”.
Danny: Right. You can. I love Vegas. Like I said, I’ve been here for a long time. All my businesses are based out of Vegas and I absolutely love it here. I can do it because I don’t have any of those vices. My vices are cars, motorcycles and the music. I bury myself in that. But a lot of folks, they can’t live here. If you can stay away from that it’s a great place to live. But if you get caught up in that you’re gonna go down in flames.
Glenn: I mean I stopped at The Stratosphere in January and saw the people. You could tell those who have lost loads of money because they have the cheapest, nastiest looking clothes on. You see those that have made a bit of cash. I just zip through and go out. The best way of putting it is that we’ve got seaside towns over here in the UK and it’s just like the amusement arcades but with 1970’s carpets.
Danny: Yeah! And you know, it didn’t used to be that way here. The first time I lived here, my family moved out here and I went to school here. The first time I moved out here was in ’78. I lived here from ’78 to ’82. To me, that was a magnificent time here. Everybody was dressed really nice, was very classy and there was hardly any crime in this town. As time evolved and years go by the city has grown so big – the clientele, I don’t know.
Glenn: I know. I’ve seen it!
Danny: Have you seen that movie ‘Casino’?
Glenn: Not yet.
Danny: Well there’s a movie called ‘Casino’ that has this great monologue that shows the evolution and the way that this city has changed. To me, it’s not what it used to be when it comes to the class that we used to have. There’s still pockets of that here but you’ve got to look for it.
The flipside of the coin is, I do love it here. It’s a great place to do business. The city treats me very well. Our Mayor here, she is wonderful. All the folks down at the city are great. They work very well with me on it because I do a lot of insane stuff here in Las Vegas. The shop that I do – Count’s Kustoms with motorcycles and hotrods and then the Rock ‘N’ Roll, Club Vamp’d. I’ve got a tattoo shop. I’ve got a recording studio here and the city works very well with me. In my opinion, this is a great place to settle in and do business – just don’t get caught up in the gambling.
Glenn: Here’s a question for you, how the hell do you find time to sleep?
Danny: I don’t. That’s why I’m happy all the time. I’m delirious. I haven’t slept in years. Glenn, the honest answer on that is that when I’m in Vegas, when I’m home, I’m going almost all the time. I’m at the shop right now. I’ll still be here for a while before I literally just go home and pass out, wake up to come back here and do it again.
I honestly get my most sleep when I travel with the band when we go on the road. I sleep on the plane. I get there and get checked into a hotel. I turn the air conditioning on cold, draw the drapes, turn the lights off and I am out like a light until Soundcheck. I get my most sleep on the road. I recharge. I not only recharge myself physically on the road but I recharge my soul when I’m on the road.
That’s one of the most important things to me about the music. Doing the television show, building cars, building bikes, things like that, it’s all taking a piece of you. You are putting a piece of yourself in each one of these things that you do. When I get to go out on the road with my boys and when I get to play concerts and make people just go crazy, it saves my soul. It takes me back to a time when I was doing music with my Father. It takes me back to a time when the music was the most that I did. I get to go back to that and my soul gets fed.
Then I come back off the road and I’m charged up. I got some sleep. I got my soul fed and now I’m ready to get back to cars, bikes and TV. Then next weekend I’m back on the road getting recharged. It’s crazy but it works.
Glenn: Hence ‘Soul Transfusion’.
Danny: You know what, that’s exactly what ‘Soul Transfusion’ is. That song right there is totally it. It’s like I do my best to pour it out for everybody and then I’ve to go and get it recharged. You need a soul transfusion for that.
When are you coming back out my way?
Glenn: I’m coming out on 5th June.
Danny: Cool because you’ve got to come back to the club.
Glenn: I will be doing. Guaranteed.
Danny: As they say, “I’ll have to buy you a pint there”
Danny: At least a pint or 12.
Glenn: Yeah! You’ve got some good beers at the club. Talking of the club, you had my buddies there last Friday.
Danny: Who was that?
Glenn: The L.A. Guns.
Danny: Oh big time man.
Glenn: They’re great aren’t they?
Danny: Dude, every time. L.A. Guns never let you down. They are awesome and Tracii’s been a friend for a long time. Another great guy, another great band. It’s just good people up there. That’s the fun thing about Vamp’d. I mean, you’ve been there so you know the size of the room.
Glenn: Yeah it’s massive.
Danny: The stage and that PA – it’s insane. Bringing national bands through there, it’s like having a ‘House Of Blues’ in your family room. It’s crazy. It’s so much fun to have that. Ritchie Kotzen just played there. This weekend’s fun. This weekend we’ve got… Friday night we’ve got a band called The Moby Dicks and there awesome.
Glenn: Yeah I’ve seen those guys. It’s Brian Tichy’s band isn’t it.
Danny: Yeah they are mindblowing. If you’re a Zeppelin fan..
Glenn: Yeah I know Chas West, the vocalist. In fact, they are all good guys. Michael Devin etc
Danny: They are, they are all animals – just great people. I know where I’m gong to be Friday night.
Glenn: Be sure to say hi to Chas for me.
Glenn: Sometimes your vocals remind me of Gene Simmons.
Danny: Oh cool man, I appreciate that. My background was in my music. I grew up singing gospel music. I grew up in Southern Gospel and in black Gospel music. My vocals tend to fall in that vibe. When you blend that with a blues based guitarist, then you stir it all up in a rock ‘n’ roll band, it comes outs out that way. I appreciate that. I worked away from singing for 15 plus years.
Like I said, Zito got me started again. It’s like a muscle. I had to start exercising and singing and getting it back going again. But because I hadn’t abused myself for so many years it came back and I’m able to sing. I’m thankful for that. I’m 52 years old and with other guys at that age their vocals start going away. Mine are getting stronger every day and I’m so thankful for that.
Glenn: I mean, you’ve only got to look at guys like Frankie Lane who never lost it.
Danny: I appreciate that. He did that – exactly.
Glenn: Or Johnny Cash. Some of those guys were phenomenal to the day they passed on.
Danny: Yeah, you’re right.
Glenn: Some of them have learned to look after themselves later on. They’ve all done the vices and then realise they can’t do them anymore. They have been told by either their wife or Doctor not to. They have learned to what not to do by doing it.
Danny: Right. Let me ask you this: here’s a question that everyone always asks me and I have the hardest time answering it. It’s tough. Who’s your favourite band?
Glenn: Oh I’ve got several.
Danny: The answer I always give.
Glenn: I mean, I went to Rick’s bar and I didn’t realise at the time he was a big fan of The Who. That’s my all time favourite band. Then of course you’ve got The Rolling Stones, The Faces, Humble Pie, Queen, Status Quo, ZZ Top, AC/DC, Kiss, The Beatles etc - all the main guys.
Danny: You just listed many of the inspirations for our band. That’s the vibe that we went out to try and recapture. We wanted to pay respect to all of those bands with Counts 77. It’s interesting that when we go out and play shows, for example we have just played Cobo Hall in Detroit with 5000 people there. It was anywhere from the young to the old to everything in between.
The older guys were digging it because it was the music they grew up with. The younger people were digging it because it was real music. We’re doing our best. I’m not saying we’re those guys but we’re doing our best to pay respect to those guys and pay respect to that music. You just listed off about a gazillion of our inspirations right there man!
Glenn: I just listened to your stuff and I was thinking, ‘Are you like this band or like that band?’ It’s not just that though. You’ve got your own style as well that blends it all together without doing a parody.
Danny: Absolutely. Thank you dude. That happens organically between all of us. Each one of us has been doing music at one time or another most of our lives. We’ve all got our own styles. When it all ended up together, there was that magic moment that all happened on stage.
Like in the song, ‘Hard Rock Band’, there’s the bridge that talks about ‘that one day we all got together, from the first note I knew’. That talks about that night that we all ended up on stage together accidentally. It was something that gelled.
That’s why as we pay respects to other bands it does have our own vibe to it. We’ve got our own feel to it because for somehow or another the formula between all of us really works. We’ve talked about Tommy Paris, Stoney Curtis and John Zito but we’ve got Barry Barnes on Bass and Paul Disibio on drums. Each one of these guys are just magnificent musicians. We work so hard together.
There’s one thing my Father always taught me, that is “You can’t over rehearse – rehearse, rehearse, rehearse, rehearse”. You can’t overdo that because what you do in rehearsal is what you do on stage. Don’t go to rehearsal and mail it in or screw around blah.. blah.. blah.. No! We had a rehearsal the other night.
Oh my lord! We just played a show outside of Denver on this past weekend. We rehearse weekly because we not only want to stay tight but we want to keep getting better. Our rehearsal before we went to Denver… we put on a concert to nobody and that’s just how we mean it.
Then you go out on stage and do what we just did in rehearsal. That I learned from my Dad: ‘How you are going to do it in rehearsal is how it’s going to end up on stage, so you better do it good”.
Glenn: That makes a lot of sense.
Danny: When you hear the record, again I don’t want to be patting ourselves on the back but we’re really proud of the record. When you come to one of our shows, you’re going to get that live. It’s not one of those types of things where you say, “Well I can sure see they fixed a lot of sh*t in the studio”. No – when you come to see us live, we’re gonna give you that live.
We take it dead serious and we have so much fun doing it that when you come to one of our shows you just have a blast. People have just so much fun because we’re having fun. We’re loving it. We get to do what we love to do. We’re having a great time doing it and the folks at the concerts – they get it! They are thinking, ‘This is nothing but a great time’.
Glenn: I’d like you guys to come over to the UK and Europe some time and do a tour because your programme, ‘Counting Cars’ and when you’ve been in ‘Pawn Stars’ makes you so well know here. But I know its hard due to your schedule.
Danny: I really appreciate that. We get so many really cool people from the UK that come to the States and we run into them. They come to my club often but, you’re right, because of scheduling it’s difficult. We’ve often talked about this. One of these days when I take a break from the television show because I’ve got great management here at the shop. I’ve got all kinds of good people that run my businesses that I check in with all the time. The most difficult thing is the television show. We are doing that all the time.
But one of these days when there’s a hiatus and we take a little time… We talk about it all the time about getting out on the road and staying out there for a little bit. One of the things that we would absolutely love to do would be to come over to the UK. Be able to have fun and rock out with everybody over there and meet some of the coolest people.
I was there a hundred years ago. Comediacally enough, I was in London, I was in Stratford but this was back in 1977. I was there and I loved it. I’ve always told people, “One day I’m gonna go back!”. I’ve never had the opportunity but one day I wanna come back over there man! I Iove it! I love it there!
Glenn: You’ll have to come on one of those days when we’ve got some nice weather for you.
Danny: That would be awesome.
Glenn: We’ve got some good places here like Corporation, Sheffield.
Danny: Would we be a good fit for some of the places over there.
Danny: Would love it!
Glenn: You’ve got both Counting Cars and Pawn Stars that are shown here and there are still fans of Britny Fox here in the UK. Actually, I knew of Stony Curtis too before I knew he was in Count's 77 because my buddy Michael T Ross used to play with him.
Danny: Yeah Michael did some years back. Absolutely. That’s one of the fun things. Curtis and I, we talk about this all the time and we always laugh about this. People know me as the car guy and the bike guy. A lot of people don’t know I have a music background. Technically in my life, the first thing in my life was music, the next thing in my life was motorcycles and the next thing in my life was cars. I find myself now able to do all three but because of the television shows everybody knows me as the car and the bike guy.
Now they say ‘Oh he’s got a band’ and they’re expecting when they come to a show if they haven’t heard the record or haven’t heard anything like that, they show up and they are expecting to see the guy from TV and some guys from the shop sitting around doing 20 minutes of ‘Mustang Sally’. They don’t realise that this is for real. It’s so much fun to see the look on people’s faces when they go, “Hold crap, this is a real rock ‘n’ roll band! Their doing it on a real rock ‘n’ roll show!” They don’t expect that.
I would say that over the last three or four years it’s now starting to really get notoriety. People are starting to realise, ‘This is for real’. Count’s 77 the band is as for real as Count’s Kustoms – the shop as the cars are for real, as the motorcycles are for real and the band is for real. That’s one thing that people have to know about me, even if they’ve never heard the record yet.
Even if they’ve never heard any of the first or this second record or any of the music or been to our concert – if they see me on TV or know anything about me they are gonna know that I keep it real and that I don’t settle for just okay. So know this, if you pick up a Count’s 77 record, or if you come to a Count’s 77 show, it’s for real and I don’t just settle for okay. We’re gonna melt your face.
Glenn: Nice! We don’t even need Rick from ‘Rick’s Restorations’ with his famous blowtorch to melt our faces. We can get you guys on stage – you can do it instead you know?
Danny: Absolutely. We’ve got it handled here. They’re all great guys. They are friends. We’ve been buddies for a long time and it’s good people. But yeah man, we’re strong. We’re rock solid.
Glenn: I know you’ve got that one single out in ‘Summer Of ‘77’ but ‘Do You Feel Me?’ Wow! That’s a definite single. The harmonies and the way you’ve put that together is just mind-blowing. The notation of that is… what can I say?
Danny: Brother thank you. Thank you man. I love that song. That so funny that you threw that one at me. I love that song. Thank you. ‘Do You Feel Me?’Again, it’s a story just like the songs from days gone by – they tell stories. That one right there tells a very important story.
This whole record from front to back is stories about my life. I just travel on the road. Like I said, after the first record travelling on the road, I was spending a lot of time in hotel rooms and on aeroplanes writing. That song ‘Do You Feel Me? – that one’s in your face.
Glenn: Yeah definitely!
Danny: In your face man! Another personal favourite is ‘Weight Of The World’.
Danny: I dig the record and it’s our own record. I dig it.
Glenn: Without me blowing your trumpet, it’s one of those records you can keep playing every few days and you just never get bored of it. There’s not many of them.
Danny: I appreciate you saying that. Thank you. I really appreciate that. When I look back on some of the music that always sticks out in my mind is when you happen to score that record that you can just put it on, you don’t skip any of the songs and it’s great from beginning to end. Like you said, you can keep listening to it. You can come back to it and it’s just as good as it was before.
Glenn: It’s like the first ‘Crosby, Stills and Nash’ album or something like that. It never gets boring. Every time you hear ‘Suite: Judy Blue Eyes’ it always blows your mind.
Danny: Absolutely 100%. Absolutely. Just to be mentioned in the same sentence as that! Thank you!
Glenn: No problem.
Danny: I appreciate that.
Glenn: It’s cool man! I am going to stick you onto side 2 of the cassette. I am still using cassettes because you can’t lose anything on a cassette. If you put it onto a computer and your hard drive goes, you are f*ck*d.
Danny: Right! I agree. I totally agree. My gosh man, I’m such an old school guy that it’s ridiculous. I don’t have any modern technology at all.
Glenn: I noticed that because I had to laugh when you that old guy brought in the Car tester to Rick on Pawn Stars and when you saw it you said, “Wow! Old School! I want it!”
Danny: I love it! Absolutely. That’s what I love. It’s the real stuff. To me, that’s real. Again, I keep reflecting back to the music. We kept it real. We went into the studio and we recorded it for real. That’s why the whole record has got that analogue feel to it. It’s just ‘Old School Real’.
Glenn: The album has a really cool cover as well.
Danny: Oh thank you Brother! You remember the records in the 70’s. That album artwork was always so cool. We wanted everything about this record to be that way. We made sure that the whole album cover also captures that old school 70’s vibe. The more you look at it, you keep finding more stuff.
Glenn: It’s like when you look at ‘Nursery Cryme’ or ‘Foxtrot’ by Genesis. There’s all these little things going off in the background beyond the focal point.
Danny: Right. Absolutely man! You keep staring at that thing, you’re going to find more and more in it. That’s why the band is Count’s 77. That number 77 – that year – a lot of things happened that year. We’ve got a lot of fond memories of it. Music-wise, some of the really great hard rock bands of that era were putting out awesome stuff. Also there was the artwork on the record covers. We wanted to do it all correct and that’s why it came out the way it did. We’re thankful. We’re really thankful.
I can’t say enough good things or give enough respect and props to Mike Varney. He has the record label, Shrapnel Records. He has discovered so many amazing artists over the years. Shrapnel is now in conjunction with Sony. We’ve got a magnificent record label but Mike Varney himself, he’s not only the record company but he’s a Producer and quite a musician himself. He’s the guy who was in the studio with us all the time.
He came to the club one time and caught a Count’s 77 show. This was in the early days when we were doing all these covers but we were doing them our way. We changed them up and did them but we paid respect to the original versions. It was after that show that he said, “Look guys, we should do a record!” We thought ‘Seriously Mike Varney? Okay!’. It was Mike Varney that got us in the studio the first time on the first record. I believe because of him and the way that he worked with us, he took us to the next level.
Then we went out on the road and we toured. We really worked the band hard. So when Mike said, “It’s time for us to do our second record”, we got back in the studio with Mike. He knows how to bring out the best in each and every one of us. I really have to give a huge amount of credit to Mr. Mike Varney. As a human being too, I love him. He’s just a great guy. He’s a brother.
Glenn: I was going to ask you how you came to be on Shrapnel Records but you’ve answered that and that’s great.
Danny: Well Mike Varney is a huge guitar freak. He had done a couple of straight-up blues records with Stoney Curtis. Varney at the time was living up in California. He came to Vegas to visit some friends and stuff like that. It happened to be on a night when we were playing. Stoney said, “Hey Mike, come down and check us out”. That’s how Mike found us. He came because Stoney invited him. When he came down he saw something there and starting working with us on it.
Since then, Mike has actually moved out of California. He lives in Vegas now. He lives, no kidding, three minutes from my club. He’s literally there all the time rocking out. He’s a permanent fixture in the club. Again, one of the best guys you’d ever want to know. He’s awesome.
Glenn: Nice! Who would you say your vocal favourites are and why?
Danny: Jim Morrison. I love Jim. I absolutely love Jim. I’m one of the biggest Doors fans that there is. I think they were way ahead of their time. Of course the drugs had a lot to do with it. I love Jim’s voice because he sings like a man. He sounds like a man. He sings like a man and I love his voice. Other vocalist that get me… you brought up earlier Gene Simmons. When we were doing a lot of cover stuff, I used to love to do anything Kiss where Gene was singing. I always enjoy that as well. But I keep going back to Jim. I just absolutely love him.
But on the other side, some of the huge people I love are guys like Marvin Gaye. My gosh!
Glenn: For the soul and everything else.
Danny: Some of the bands I like to listen to are bands like ‘Rare Earth’ back in the day. I love Badfinger. I love all of those things but all of those guys, they sang like men. I think that’s my pocket vocally. You’re not going to hear me doing Freddie Mercury tunes. It’s not because I don’t like him. I think Freddie Mercury is probably one of the greatest singers on the planet but I can’t do that.
Glenn: Because we’re baritones. I mean I can get so far screaming like Axl Rose but after a while it gets painful to listen to and to do.
Danny: Exactly. You are 100% right. I will listen to Queen and I will respect Freddie all day long. Good Lord, he is one of the best singers in the world. But you’re right, I’m a baritone. I can’t attempt some of those due to the depth of my range. But Jim – yeah, I love him. It’s so funny, I’m sitting here in my office right now. I’ve got a picture hanging on the wall right over my desk, right behind my chair. It’s Jim’s mug shot in Newhaven with the numbers up over his chest. I love that picture.
Glenn: I stopped at the house where Pamela used to live. It’s Hampton Avenue in Hollywood. You just feel that eeriness about it. I don’t know. It’s weird. You still feel like he could be there and Pamela is there.
Danny: Absolutely. There’s got to be an aura there. Like in the song, ‘She lives on Love Street’. That’s where it was. There’s something to be said for that. While his career was short as was his life, he certainly left a mark. It’s something that’ll live on forever. He truly influences me.
I’m really excited about getting ready to do something that is kinda crazy. There’s a club in the bay area called The Bohemian Club. It’s a strictly private, members only club. It’s been around I believe since around 1900/1. It’s made up of guys that have been very, very successful in their lives at one time or another. We are going to get guys that own giant corporations or politicians. The cool thing about ‘The Bohemian’ is they support the arts. Whether it be music or whether it be acting – they support the arts. They throw events on occasions.
I was fortunate enough to be invited to one of the events some time back and I met some pretty incredible people there. I got to rock out with some people and everything. But here in the end of July I’m going to The Bohemian’ again. I got invited back and Robbie Krieger is coming. Robbie and I are going to do some Doors together. I’m freaked out.
When we’re playing concerts and we’re having fun and doing Count’s 77 stuff we’re are having a ball. Then nobody wants to leave. The party just keeps going on into the night. I’ll start calling out Doors tunes because I’m having a ball. Well to be able to go to this club and I’m gonna jam with Robbie, I’m beside myself. I can’t wait to do that. I wish everybody could come to that. It’s this private thing that these guys do. It’s pretty insane. I can’t wait. I just want to shake the man’s hand. But to know that I’m going to get to jam with the guy, I can’t wait.
Glenn: Yeah. I met him briefly when they had ‘Riders On The Storm’. You got Bret Scallions from Fuel on lead vocals. Ray was there. He said, “We’ll only sign one item per person”. He said ‘Hi’. It was so surreal because it was like they weren’t sure how they were going to get back to the hotel. They just thumbed down a black cab taxi. You saw them go away in the distance. Ray and Robbie’s head travel away in a black cab taxi. It was f*ck*n’ surreal. I mean, legends like that.
Glenn: We’re all human.
Danny: It’s awesome. God bless Ray. Losing him here in the not too far ago past was sad. Oh my Gosh, just think about Ray’s contribution to The Doors. Each one of those guys. That was a band of four guys that got together and just gelled. It just worked. It was magic. The fact that they got to capture that magic on tape and share it with all of us is just… we’re fortunate enough to have it even though it was for a short period of time. I can talk about The Doors forever. That’s arguably one of my favourite bands in the world.
Some of my other true blue favourites are Led Zeppelin, The Who, who you talked about - I absolutely love them. Then I wander over into The Eagles. Give me The Eagles. Oh my gosh – Glenn Frey, Don Henley, Joe Walsh – all of those guys, oh my lord – to me, it’s one of the best bands in the world. Fleetwood Mac – I wander into Fleetwod Mac. I love all of that kind of stuff as well. Then you start talking about bands like Kiss and early Aerosmith back in the day.
All of those things are just so influential on the music that we do. I think you can hear some of that. Then I wander over into Bob Seger and The Silver Bullet Band. I love all of that old stuff. Again, at one of our shows, one of our favourite things that we do is to say goodnight at the end of a show from ‘Live Bullet’ we’ll give you ‘Travelin’ Man’, ‘The Beautiful Loser’ and then cap it off with ‘Ramblin’ Gamblin Man’. People just lose their minds. Nobody does that stuff live.
Glenn: No they don’t.
Danny: That’s because you’ve got to rehearse. We call that big boy tunes. It might sound nice and easy to do but sit down and try and do ‘Travelling Man’ and ‘The Beautiful Loser’ and do it right when people aren’t throwing stuff at you. It’s big boy music. Those are huge influences on us. There’s a singer for you that influences me too – Bob Seger. Again, a baritone that can still run up into the high stuff but…
Glenn: Can still deliver?
Glenn: We could talk for hours actually.
Danny: Yeah. We’re talking about things we are passionate about.
Danny: I feel so blessed to do the music again because it’s for real and it’s your life. This is not just something like, “Oh I’m going to put together a band and try and capitalise on this”. Not at all. This band started for real. It started as something that just felt good and started feeding the soul. That’s why!
Glenn: Right! You know what, sometimes I jump onto YouTube and see what else I can find. I found some footage where you were doing this Elvis night. It was f*ck*n’ great man!
Danny: Now there’s another huge influence on me – Elvis. I love The King. Let me tell you man, not only do I love his voice but he is just cool. Elvis started cool. That man was totally cool. We did it. It was on Halloween and here at Vamp’d. Count’s 77 was the headline for the Halloween.
We decided we are going to do our original songs. To surprise everybody, the whole band got black studded jumpsuits and then myself, I got the actual Blue Hawaii white jumpsuit - big flared pants, the high collar, the whole bit and did my hair up like him. We came out and opened the show with ‘CC Rider’ like Elvis used to open.
We went from ‘CC Rider’ into ‘Burning Love’ and ‘Burning Love into ‘Suspicious Minds’. Then from there we kicked into the Count’s 77 music. We stayed dressed as Elvis all night.
Glenn: Nice! That’s cool.
Danny: It was an absolute blast. There was something magic in that jump suit.
Glenn: Here’s a corny question: Because it’s Vegas, that’s not Elvis’s actual own suit is it? Or was it made for you?
Danny: They’re all over the place. I like to do things right so I went to a guy and got the right suit. It wasn’t some costume shop thing. I had it tailored – the whole bit. When you put that thing on, there’s something magical about it. I don’t know man, when you walk out on stage in that suit you kinda feel like The King.
You know what? Now I’m going to wander into cars for a minute. One of my daily drivers.. and I’m not kidding you, I drive this car all the time. It’s literally one of my daily drivers. It’s a 1974 Stutz Blackhawk. Elvis had six of them.
The night he passed away, he was driving his Stutz Blackhawk and was last seen driving it into the gates of Graceland at 2 in the morning and at 4 in the morning he was gone. I drive it very, very often and just for the fun of it, in the glove box I’ve got my Elvis glasses. I wear those when I drive.
Glenn: That’s cool.
Danny: Just to catch a little bit of that mojo.
Glenn: It’s bright as well in Vegas isn’t it? You need your glasses.
Danny: Absolutely. It’s always sunny here.
Glenn: Here’s something I wanted to bring up: ‘Saturday Fright Night At The Movies’ Where did that come from?
Danny: This goes back to the Elvis thing. It was when moved to Vegas the second time in ’88. The motorcycles and the cars were a hobby. I’ve been doing them all my life so I had a shop in the background. That’s where I spent most of my evenings and this and that. But I worked at a television station.
I was as late night horror movie host. I would host horror films on this TV station in Vegas. The character was ‘Count Cool Rider’ - so his initials were ‘CC Rider’ – Elvis’s theme song. The character was a vampire that loved Elvis, lived in Vegas and was a biker.
Danny: A really crazy conglomerate character but they were all little pieces of me. I did the whole Eastern European accent because my family background, my father’s parents, they came over on a boat from Yugoslavia. So growing up as a kid when I was in Detroit, all my relatives, they were either speaking Serbian or they were speaking very broken English. They had that Eastern European accent. In the vampire show I was merely imitating my relatives. The accent was them. The accent was my Grandfather’s and Grandmother’s.
I was just imitating them but I was doing as a vampired out, slightly Elvis dressed guy and hosting horror films. I’d have on crazy guests. We’d do crazy skits. We have bands on the show and do a lot of music. Go around town and do crazy things. I’ve still got my Hearse. I’ve got a Cadillac Hearse that I decked out as a limousine. They used to drive me around town and do crazy bits all over town in that car. It was a blast. That show was on the air over here in Vegas for over 10 years. Absolutely crazy!
Danny: I loved it too. Those were good times.
Glenn: It’s like you were more authentic than Elvira. Since the more you go into it, it was more about you. Just that you were coming out the coffin.
Danny: Yeah. It was one of those things that worked. When the television station wanted a character, I just developed this character. It was all little pieces of me that we wrapped up and put on Saturday nights – late night. It was crazy. Oh my gosh! It was every Saturday night for 10 years! People ate it up here in this town. It was a ball. It was fun. I can’t believe you just brought that up actually.
Glenn: I had to. I always have to bring up something stupid.
Danny: I’ve got to tell you Glenn, I’ve never done anything normal in my life. I look at my life and it’s just been a rollercoaster of bizarre things. Again, you said earlier that I seem to be a happy guy. I’m having fun in what I’ve been doing most of my entire life. Don’t get me wrong, there are those days when I can walk into the building and just by the look on my face I can clear the room. Everybody knows, ‘Get away from him today’. That’s all part of being a business owner. That’s all part of being the captain of this ship.
At the end of the day, you’re the guy left holding the bag. Some days are good. Some days are not good. I do have to be the businessman sometimes and I’ve got to put my foot down sometimes. That’s just reality. That’s the honest part of it but as a whole for the most part, man I’m blessed and I’m thankful. That’s just the Gods honest truth.
Glenn: I guess the bad days are when you’ve had a bit of a ‘Lowballer’ kind of a day going on?
Danny: A lowballer day. Hey Baby hahahaha! That’s right man! I’m worn out from working all day. That’s the song right there. ‘Lowballer’ – see? Another life story. That record is full of stories. Whoever is reading right now, please pick this record up, I promise you. Just like the records of the 70’s, you start getting into the songs, listening to the words, listening to the stories and you can relate to it. One way or another, I promise you, you’re gonna relate to this record.
Glenn: Nice. I related to it straight away. You just get into it. Then you end up putting it on again. Then you get certain songs that really stand out to you and you think, ‘I like this!’ You know what I mean?
Danny: Yep. Thank you man.
Glenn: It is what it is and that’s how it works for me personally.
Danny: Thank you brother. I appreciate that. It means a lot to me. It really does. It means a lot to the whole band. We worked really hard so I appreciate that. You’re awesome for saying that. I hope everybody else enjoys it. I really do.
Glenn: Awesome man!
Danny: You rock bro!
Glenn: Thanks Man, I appreciate it. Right I’ll let you get off mate.
Danny: Glenn, you rock my man. Give the Queen my love. You’re awesome!
Glenn: Thanks man. You too mate.
A big thank you to Scott Thomas, PR for Shrapnel Records for setting up the Interview
and of course Danny Koker himself for a wonderful Interview!