Sounds Of Sinatra In Cabo

When the CD version just won’t do, here’s a live option
BY: AL DENTE

If you go out for a nice Italian dinner at Salvatore’s, or at Galluzzo’s, its sister restaurant just a few doors up the block, you’ll likely hear the sounds of Frank Sinatra crooning while you eat. But that music isn’t coming from some Rat Pack CD playing on loop; it’s being sung by Willie Hoffee, a recent Cabo transplant who’s hoping to make a name for himself in the local restaurant entertainment scene.

You can find Willie singing tunes at either restaurant pretty much any night of the week. Dressed in a short-sleeve button up, skinny tie and a fedora, he dresses the part of a Rat Packer (although his long gray ponytail gives him away).

willie.JPGWillie had originally hoped to make his performance more of a dinner show, but Salvatore’s owner Tim Galluzzo nixed that idea, saying his patrons want to be able to have conversations while they’re eating. And we can understand that, is there anything more annoying that feeling like you have to yell over the music to be heard?

But, Tim says it’s a possibility that in the future they’ll have a “Willie night” where they have Godfather movies playing on the televisions and Willie singing front and center. And Willie says he hopes to make his singing an experience, the type of thing people recommend to others visiting Cabo.

And really, it’s not totally fair to call Willie background music. Yes, some diners do pay more attention to their food and their conversations than they do to him, but others are happy to be a part of Willie’s show. They’ll sing along, joining in on the course of Dean Martin’s “That’s Amore.” Or, couples will hear “their song” and get up and start dancing. And Willie does his best to get an uninterested crowd involved; moving around the room and encouraging diners to join in. He’s even stood in the doorway of the restaurant and sung to people walking outside, hoping to draw them into the restaurant. And it’s working.

When we visited Galluzzo’s, Willie had only been singing there for three weeks, but he’d already had people coming in and asking if he was performing. He thinks one of the reasons he’s resonated with people is because Frank Sinatra is not something you hear much of in Cabo.

“Everybody does Elvis,” he says, “but nobody does Frank.”

Willie first came to Cabo a year ago September, and fell in love with the place (as many of us do). On that trip, he went on a sunset cruise on the Cabo Rey and watched the guys in the cover band play. Having a long history of playing in cover bands himself, Willie thought, “I could do that, too.”

Willie came back to Cabo this past April and scored a gig at the country club, playing rock music at their Tuesday Drinking & Driving nights at the driving range. That same month he auditioned for the Salvatore’s gig, also playing rock music. Tim wasn’t too interested in that, but asked if Willie could do Sinatra and, it turned out, he could. Willie went back home to Yakima, Washington and spent a few months practicing before moving down to Cabo in August.

Willie sings mostly Sinatra, because his vocal range is very similar to Frank’s so it’s not too much of a stretch for him. And we have to admit, he does sound like “Ol’ Blue Eyes.” Willie says that by trade he’s a “crooner,” which is defined as a male who sings sentimental songs in a low, soft voice. At first he didn’t like having that term applied to him, but now he’s embracing it.

Along with Sinatra, Willie also throws in some Dean Martin and Nat King Cole in the mix, and one night we even heard a surprisingly upbeat version of the 90s grunge rock hit “Black Hole Sun.” And he’s learning more songs, based on what people are requesting. Even though he’s personally not a big fan of Sinatra’s “My Way,” he started practicing it and has now added it to his repertoire because everybody asks him for it.

Currently, Willie is performing just about every night at either the Salvatore’s or Galluzzo’s, both of which are on Emiliano Zapata, between Miguel Hidalgo and Vincente Guerrero in downtown Cabo. He does one show a night, starting at 7:00 p.m. and lasting about an hour and 15 minutes. During high season, he says, he’ll do two shows a night, with the first starting at 7:00 p.m. and the second starting at 9:00 p.m. So if you can’t make the first dinner show, you can go to the later one and have drinks while you listen to Willie sing. Maybe you’ll even feel inspired to join in.