Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2006 | 12:33 p.m.
Venerable Las Vegas conductor Jack Eglash knew what it took to make musical stars shine even brighter in Las Vegas.
"When the light goes on you'd better be there with something to deliver because the competition is just fierce," he once said. "This is the only town in the world ... with so many showrooms simultaneously running big-name talent. You have to feed the audience more and more."
A visionary, Eglash made those observations in a March 11, 1979, Sun story - words that ring true more than a quarter of a century later.
Jack Eglash, the longtime Sahara Hotel orchestra leader who worked with major stars such as Johnny Carson, Don Rickles, Jerry Lewis and Buddy Hackett, and was vice president of entertainment for Del Webb Corp. in the late 1970s and early '80s, died Saturday in Everett, Wash. He was 76.
Eglash's family said the cause was complications from emphysema and anemia.
Eglash, a Las Vegas resident for 50 years who moved to Everett five years ago, was the conductor for about 30 "Jerry Lewis Muscular Dystrophy Labor Day Telethons."
"Jack was a very special person," Lewis said through a spokeswoman Tuesday. "He was in entertainment for so many years and worked with so many good people, helping them along. I always told Jack he should write a book about his experiences in show business because he had so many great stories."
Eglash's daughter, Leslie Feuer agreed, saying that, "Dad would want to be remembered for helping people get their careers started in the business.
"We have received calls from Charo, Frank Sinatra Jr. and others, telling us they felt he helped them a lot in the business and gave them the right advice.
Eglash, who took up music as a teenager, turned professional at age 19.
"From there ... I went on to play a bunch of one-nighters and dates in Memphis at the Peabody Hotel as well as Houston, Milwaukee, St. Louis, Canton, McKeesport and some towns I never even knew existed," Eglash said on his Web site, jackeglash.com.
Eglash moved to Las Vegas in 1950, where he was a saxophonist and woodwind musician in the Desert Inn orchestra and other local bands.
In the 1950s Eglash worked as an official for the local Musicians Union.
As entertainment director for Del Webb, Eglash booked a number of top stars and rising newcomers into both the lounge and showrooms, including Carson, Lewis, Hackett and Charo.
"I was lucky enough to grab" Carson, Eglash recalled in a Jan. 28, 2005, Sun story. Carson would go on to become a headliner at the Sahara from 1964 to 1980. Eglash also traveled with Carson for seven years as his musical conductor, performing at venues around the country.
Eglash's last performance in Las Vegas was in 2000 at the Orleans, conducting a 30-piece orchestra for Jerry Lewis.
Ed Koch can be reached at 259-4090 or at [email protected]