By Aila Amer
Alvino Rey is an important part of Utah’s history because he added a unique touch to music during the 1940s. Rey lived in Sandy, Utah, and he framed his music in a very unique way. According to Bosse, “The work considers both dance and music as equal members of a gestalt, framing dance as a particular type of music reception, and addresses the question of how non-musicians make sense of musical sound through movement.” (Bosse, p. 354)
He was known for playing exotica, which is a combination of Latin music, lounge jazz, Hawaiian music, and using unconventional instruments. “Exotica offers a behind-the-scenes look at the sounds and obsessions of the Space Age and Cold War period as well as the renewed interest in them evident in contemporary music and design.” (Adinolfi, book cover) Then Rey started playing jazz and brought a unique twist to the style characterized by an “ensemble approach based on riffs—repeated phrases upon which instrumentalists built their solos—and an open-ended, freewheeling, style of improvisation.” (Stowe, 53)
He was particularly known for playing the pedal steel guitar. “Well we cooperated a lot to make the pedal guitar a tone color along with the rag section, reed section and a rhythm section that [added] another color in the band and we tried to get that across various albums. Maybe it will catch on someday,” Rey said in hos oral-history interview.
He and his band performed at Jerry Jones’s Rainbow Randevu, a club in downtown Salt Lake City. According to a story published in the Salt Lake Telegram on September 4, 1941, Rey and his group were “known for a captivating style of music.” Rey and his orchestra performed in various “smart spots” including the Biltmore in New York and Casa Mañana in Hollywood.
Rey and his band had an early hit in 1942: “Deep in the Heart of Texas” brought the self-styled “King of the Guitar” national stardom. Rey died in Salt Lake Lake City in 2004 at the age of 95.
This topic is significant to communication and Utah history because when many think of Utah they think of Mormonism or White residents, but because of his cultural music there’s more to remember about Utah. He was in front of people and delivering sounds in various ways and left a cultural and social legacy.
Aila Amer is a senior at the University of Utah and will be graduating spring 2019. Her major is Communication Journalism sequence and is minoring in Political Science. She is an aspiring Journalist and future Foreign Ambassador.
“Alvino Rey’s Band Due,” Salt Lake Telegram, September 4, 1941.
“Rey and Kings Due Back,” Salt Lake Telegram, November 25, 1941.
Stowe, David W. “Jazz in the West: Cultural Frontier and Region During the Swing Era” Western Historical Quarterly, 23, no. 1 (February 1992): 53–73.
“Alvino Rey,” oral history, June 14, 1994, National Association of Music Merchants.
Saxon, Wolfgang. “Alvino Rey Is Dead at 95; Virtuoso of the Steel Guitar,” The New York Times, February 27, 2004, A25.
Bosse, Joanna Nettle. Exotica, Ethnicity, and Embodiment: An Ethnography of Latin Dance in United States Popular Culture. Ph.D. diss., University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 2004.
Adinolfi, Francesco. Mondo Exotica: Sounds, Visions, Obsessions of the Cocktail Generation. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2008.