ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) — Four days and 50 versions of "Margaritaville" later, talent scouts for the Jimmy Buffett-themed restaurant, music and gambling complex that will open next month have a pretty good idea which acts they'll hire to perform there.
Bands, duos and solo artists traveled from hours away to audition last week for a prized entertainment slot at the $35 million complex scheduled to open Memorial Day weekend at Resorts Casino Hotel.
Requirements include being able to play a wide variety of music, to accommodate audience requests, and yes, to know at least a few Buffett tunes.
Not surprisingly, most of the acts that tried out in a 13th floor ballroom last week opted for his tropical ode to frozen drinks and that mythical lost shaker of salt. Joe Ginel, entertainment director for the nationwide Margaritaville chain, swears he never gets sick of hearing it, no matter how many earnest applicants succeed with it or butcher it.
"'Margaritaville' is our national anthem," he said. "When that song comes on at one of our places, it's special. The whole brand started with that song."
Mike Engle and Tony Caggiano, acoustic guitarists and singers from Caldwell, N.J., lean more toward classic rock. But during their audition, they mixed in obscure pop hits like Tony Orlando and Dawn's "Knock Three Times" among more modern tunes.
"How 'bout a Jimmy Buffett song?" Ginel called out from a sound board at the back of the room.
"OK," Engle said, launching into, well, you know.
Ginel said he'd let the duo know within two weeks whether they were hired. The pair was encouraged by their tryout.
"I think it went fantastic," Caggiano said. "It's a great opportunity. I've been wanting to break in and start playing at the shore."
Engle said it would be great to get a steady gig at Margaritaville.
"I'm into classic rock, but I'm as into James Taylor as I am Led Zeppelin," he said. "You really need to branch out."
And that's pretty much what Ginel said before the pair even took the stage.
"We're looking for talent that can play well-recognizable covers that can appeal to many different age groups, all the way from 15-year-olds to 70-year-olds," he said. "The style of music we need is anything from classic rock, beach rock, country, reggae and today's music. And they have to take requests."
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