Led by guitarist/songwriter and vocalist Joel Ferguson, Papa Vegas emerged in the late '90s. They had a sound, a look, and an attitude tailored for the mainstream "alternative" masses and the media/business…
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Papa Vegas Biography

by Vincent Jeffries

Led by guitarist/songwriter and vocalist Joel Ferguson, Papa Vegas emerged in the late '90s. They had a sound, a look, and an attitude tailored for the mainstream "alternative" masses and the media/business outlets that catered to what had become a large musical appetite for polished and melodic guitar rock. After a brief indie recording stint, Papa Vegas was welcomed with open arms to the musical stables of RCA Records, who oversaw the writing, recording, and release of the band's one and only full-length disc. The resulting interest in the group was hardly what the band or the label anticipated, and Papa Vegas promptly fell off the face of the earth. If the group was dropped from the RCA roster, or if they, in fact, broke up before the label had a chance to purge the group from its accounting ledgers, there were no significant announcements or press releases (except perhaps in and around the band's Michigan home). So, all fans of the group and their 1999 offering Hello Vertigo could do, as news of the band trickled then halted completely just months after the release of their debut, was look to the stars and pray for an unlikely resurrection.

The band started in Grand Rapids, MI, when Ferguson -- inspired by musical heroes like the Beatles, the Police, and Depeche Mode -- began jamming with guitarist Pete Dunning in the early '90s. The pair split up not long into their initial partnership, but the vision that would become Papa Vegas was set in Ferguson's mind and set into motion. A steady stream of musicians came and went as Ferguson tinkered with his songwriting skills and his band's lineup through the mid-'90s. Things really started happening for the group soon after Brian Vander Ark of the Verve Pipe caught a Papa Vegas set while judging a local battle of the bands. This was the first performance of the group under their new moniker, and Vander Ark was so impressed he signed the band to his fledgling label Sid Flips months later in 1997 and produced the group's five-song debut EP, entitled Grounded.

While all this was going on, Dunning returned to the group, and, along with drummer Scott Stefanski, bassist Mick Force, and Ferguson, the final Papa Vegas lineup was formed. Sid Flips was soon incorporated into the Verve Pipe's label home, RCA Records, which turned out nicely for Papa Vegas as they now had a major-label home of their own, too, and the budget to more fully flesh out their material with Eve 6 producer Don Gilmore. After RCA sent the group to Guildford, England (of all places), for a few months in order for them to have an inspiring yet somewhat isolated venue to refine their music, the band returned home to the States to record Hello Vertigo in July 1998. After a few months of recording in L.A., the band finished tracking the record in Seattle and sent the masters to the legendary mixing engineer Tom Lord-Alge (the Rolling Stones, blink-182, Collective Soul, the Verve Pipe, Eve 6, etc.) for finishing in Miami. After Hello Vertigo was released on April 27, 1999, the band went out on their first and only real tour, which included many nights of opening for Vander Ark and the Verve Pipe. The single "Bombshell" received very little attention, and the group was pretty much finished (touring and otherwise) by the fall of that year.

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