Born in Richmond,
California, the son of a Chevron Oil Company machinist and his homemaker wife, Gary
attended the local Catholic grade school with his three siblings. Because of watching the
variety TV shows like Ed Sullivan and all the child performers on "Round Up
Day", the Friday talent show on the Mickey Mouse Club, Gary, at a very early age
wanted to play music. It took two years of begging his parents before they signed him up
for lessons at the age of 8. Within one year he was doing shows for PTA meetings, local
events, and socials all over his home town. Hearing the applause and getting the attention
from all the people who would listen to him became an addiction that would become
He played basketball and baseball in grade
school and was an above average student. Gary joined his first band at age 10, and nearly
dropped music because of the monotony. Then came 1964 and a band called The Beatles. The
music was the most important thing in his life. He started his own rock band The Vulcans
in the 6th grade, at age 12. (Note: This was before Star Trek).
At 14 he joined a very popular local group
called "The Vandells" with his older brother Mike. The sound and look of the
band was now newer, fresher, and bigger. The group worked all over California for the next
four years, recording two singles and an album. They disbanded after a 6 week tour of the
Orient while Gary was still a senior at Salesian High School in Richmond. He worked three
nights a week all during his high school and college years.
In 1970, Gary had his first taste of casino
showrooms. A local Lake Tahoe rock band who saw him perform with the Vandells, asked him
to join up for 12 weeks at Harrahs Hotel Casino. This was a dream come true. His goal was
now to begin the groundwork of his own band. He bounced around the country playing with
different shows until 1972. GARY & FRIENDS began working in May of that year and ended
in disaster by New Years. He took one month off and formed a less pressured band, and
thirty days later found Sandy Selby.
This was the kind of look and personality
Gary was looking for. The goal was Nevada, and by the 4th of July, 1976, that goal was
reached. GARY & SANDY premiered in Lake Tahoe & Reno with glowing accolades. They
had already become a big commodity for the casinos before signing the longest running
contract of their career with the MGM Grand Hotel in 1979. (A contract that is still
running with the recently renamed Reno Hilton today).
With four Albums and a CD under his belt,
(producing three of them); shooting videos, television and radio shows; Concerts and
appearances all across the USA, Canada, Europe, and the Orient, branching out was the next
He married in 1989 to his beautiful wife
Jeanene, who works for RE/MAX Realty Professionals. They have two children Casady &
Garrett, and Jeanene's first son Ben Weston.
In 1992 Gary & Jeanene
became entrepreneurs with Gary's invention and creation SLAM GRAND PIANO Co.
The concept was to come up with a piano that was light weight, easily cared
for, and would never go out of tune. Sounds impossible? The company is in
its seventh year and has sold pianos to JOHN TESH, EXTREME, COUNTING CROWS,
SUPERBOWL 29, DISNEYWORLD, P.M. DAWN, WAYNE NEWTON, THE 1996 ATLANTA WORLD
OLYMPICS (for Celene Dion, David Foster, Little Richard, and Stevie Wonder),
and built the only copper metal, mirror image pianos in the world to the
BREW BROTHER'S PUB at the Eldorado in Reno, Nevada and an aluminum pair for
the Monte Carlo Hotel Casino in Las Vegas.
With very little time on their hands working
14 hour days, that wasn't enough. In December, 1995, Gary & Jeanene went into the
development business as well. RAFFANELLI PROPERTIES just completed their first view lot
street in Sparks, Nevada, called "Serendipity Court". Their house is now under
construction on that site.
In 1997, with as many clubs as
Gary worked during his lifetime, (good and bad stages and venues), his
knowledge of sound systems, lighting systems, and showroom design was
amassing. He built pianos for all of the top dueling piano bars across the
United States, and it was time to design stages, showrooms, and venues for
those kind of "action packed" piano bars. With his longtime
friend, and co-founder of "Counterpoint Consulting", Van Walraven
(who himself is credited with beginning, training talent, and performing in
the best of those dueling piano bars across the country), Gary & Van
flew all across the U.S. designing, booking, and consulting for showrooms,
bars, clubs, and casinos from coast to coast.