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Lonnie Klein meets Wayne Newton during ‘Vegas visit; bringing The Buckinghams to Las Cruces


Thanks to his friendship with musical arranger and promoter Mariano Longo, Lonnie Klein not only got to attend a performance by Wayne Newton in Las Vegas, Nevada in January, he also got to meet the legendary performer backstage.

Klein, the former longtime conductor for the Las Cruces Symphony Orchestra (LCSO), was in Las Vegas with his companion, Christina Salazar, to celebrate Salazar’s birthday, and was talking to Longo about acts Klein could bring to Las Cruces to perform.

“’By the way, do you want to see Wayne Newton tonight,’” Klein said he was asked by Longo, he was playing keyboards for Newton’s show.

Klein said Newton’s performance was “like a retrospective of his career,” and included clips of him with Jackie Gleason, Ed Sullivan, Bobby Darin, Elvis Presley, the Rat Pack and others.

Newton, 80, performed “Danke Schoen” (1963) “and all the great tunes” during the show, Klein said.

After the show, Klein and Salazar got to talk to Newton and Longo backstage, Klein said.

“He was very nice,” Klein said about Newton. “I went up on stage and chatted with him and Mariano. He had a lot of energy. He talked from the heart.”

Klein said Longo was the pianist and arranged the charts when the Earth, Wind & Fire tribute band Serpentine Fire performed in Las Cruces a year ago, with Klein conducting LCSO–– during the performance.

Longo “has played every big show in Las Vegas and he’s written charts for all the stars – that’s how good he is,” Klein said.

The Buckinghams coming to Las Cruces in June

Longo is also the promoter for the Buckinghams, a Chicago-based band that began performing in 1966 and had hits like “Kind of a Drag,” “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy” and “Susan,” 1966-68.

As a result of their meeting, Klein said he will bring The Buckinghams to Las Cruces Thursday, June 8, to perform at Amador Live, 302 S. Main St.

“They’re still together,” Klein said. “This is not a retro band. This is THE Buckinghams. They look great.”

Klein retired as LCSO director in 2021.