Jamie Cosco Interview
(Ruby Shooz)

They formed in 1988 and since then they’ve seen their popularity increase each and every year.

They’re not only a band-----they’re a show band!! You’ll see costume changes and dance contests as part of the group’s act.

We are talking about Rochester, New York’s Ruby Shooz.

Lead singer Jamie Cosco spoke with us about the band’s history.

Q – Usually, you walk into the main gate of the New York State Fair, and right by Heroes And Legends you’d see a band performing. Many times that band would be Ruby Shooz. But-not-this year.
A – Yeah, that was pretty sad.

Q – I believe the powers that be made a mistake with this call. How long did you perform at that particular place on the fairgrounds?
A – We did it for 12 years.

Q – Were you anywhere on the fairgrounds this year? Were you under a tent?
A – No. We weren’t anywhere.

Q – That is too bad.
A – It was a main stay at the Fair for years. People just knew it was there every year. A lot of people were upset about it. We got e-mails about it. The State Fair got complaints about it. It wasn’t so much the Fair. It was their contract with Heroes And Legends and all that with MSK. They had problems. We didn’t really work for the fair. We worked for MSK. It was un-related.

Q – I read there were complaints about some of the acts that were playing around the same time the Chevy Court acts went onstage. Now, I never saw that or heard that.
A – No. That never happened. What happened was, some of the acts over at Chevy Court would be doing sound check while we were in the middle of our set. They were scheduled to go on everyday at 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. so, we knew we had to be done by 4 ‘cause that’s what time they started. We’d watch and see how long they’d play ‘til and then we’d go on at 8 o’clock and they were usually done way before 8 o’clock. No, no, no we did squeeze in another set there at dinner, at 6 o’clock. But, that was after the parade. We never played at the same time as the bands across the street. That would be suicide on our part to even try to do that. Sometimes they’d have us start at 2, 2:30 in the afternoon and while we did our first set and sometimes across the street at Chevy Court they’d be doing a sound check, right there through our set. We’re out there entertaining for 300 – 400 people and there over there, ‘Check. Check. Bang. Bang.’ Banging on the drums. (Laughs). But, I think that’s what that was about. Never were we ever playing at the same time.

Q – What were you doing before you put “Ruby Shooz” together?
A – Oh, God, that was a long time ago. I was in my early 20’s. You’re talking ’85, ’86, ’87. I started ‘Ruby Shooz’ when I was 23, in ’88. So, back then I was just like all the rest of my buddies playing in head-banging bands, doing the Van Halen, Motley Crue, whatever was popular at the day. We were playing Led Zeppelin. We weren’t really getting popular or going anywhere. Everybody was doing it. We were doing the same thing everybody was doing. I basically decided this isn’t going anywhere; back in ’85, if you came out with a band. You had to have the huge hair, the huge lightshow. You had to be larger than life. So, basically to get a gig you’d have to go out and rent a PA and lights. So, right there, you’re doing $400. So, automatically you gotta get $400 for the gig to pay for this huge PA and lightshow so you’d come out and look like God. We just weren’t making any money or going anywhere. It was ridiculous. I said let me just get a 3 piece band together. We’ll play Country. We’ll set up a PA on a stick over on some of the little dive Country bars and we’ll make $50 - $60 a night. At least I’ll make some money you know. And the next thing you know, after 3 or 4 years went by, it kind of just snow-balled. We wound up getting the big PA and the big lights. It all wound up coming up anyway. It started off very stripped down, a 3 piece rock-a-billy band.

Q – Where did you get the idea to put a group together that did Early Elvis songs?
A – I just loved Elvis, and all his music. It was fun. It was easy for me to sing. It wasn’t like trying to scream Led Zeppelin and Motley Crue all night. It was more suited for my voice, and I enjoy doing it. And once I started doing what came natural, it caught on, I guess. Before I guess, I was trying to force it.

Q – Was it difficult to find musicians who could play 50’s music? Musicians who had that kind of feel?
A – Yeah. Nobody really got the vision. They just thought I’ll do this for awhile. Our first drummer lasted like 6 months, and he was gone. We got another drummer. Nick (Russo – current drummer) has been in the band 15 years. Our first 3 years I think we went through 4 drummers. It was crazy, but I was so young back then, you know how you go through those growing pains. You make a lot of stupid mistakes and then learn from them.

Q – How many people were in the first version of “Ruby Shooz”?
A – I sang and played acoustic. I had a guitar player, bass player and drummer. So, it was actually a four piece band.

Q – Where did you perform?
A – We played in small bars around here; Rochester, East Rochester, Penfield, whoever would hire us.

Q – Didn’t you have a girl singer in the band at one point?
A – No, actually everyone asks us that. The only time we had a girl sing with us; you’re talking back in ’93 maybe. A friend of mine, Tina Felini, who is now the lead singer for a band called ‘Me and The Boys’, she used to come out and do a set with us. She used to come out and do a set of girl songs. She’s from Rochester. We only did it for a couple of months. That was a long time ago, but people still come up and ask me that.

Q – “Ruby Shooz” is really more than a dance band. You’re a show band aren’t you?
A – Yeah. It’s a show. We just don’t come out and stand there. We got the outfits. We change. We try to get into it. Everyone has a lot of energy on stage. Everybody’s very entertaining to watch.

Q – How many members in “Ruby Shooz” today?
A – Six.

Q – When did the band’s popularity really start to take off?
A – It was a growing thing. It’s hard to say. Probably ’94, ’95.

Q – At some point you must’ve decided you couldn’t just play Elvis material, correct?
A – Exactly. We couldn’t do just Elvis all night long. That’s when I got the haircut. You gotta figure in 1988 when we first came out we were singing Elvis rockabilly tunes and I had a perm. My hair was down to my shoulders. We didn’t have the outfits. We were wearing like white suits. Then we said we got something here. Let’s really try to take this to the next level. So, that’s when I went out and cut all my hair off. I went out and got the gold lame suit. People really started turning their heads when we played places. So, the look really had a lot to do with it back in the day.

Q – Jamie, where would you like to take this group?
A – I’d like to travel a little bit more on a national level. We went to Florida in May 2005. We did the Hard Rock Seminole Casino Café in Hollywood, Florida. We did a couple nights there and that was a lot of fun. That’s what I’d like to do. We’re actually trying to get a cruise together right now. A lady approached us from a cruise line or from a travel agency that puts those cruises together. We’re trying to put a cruise together for the Fall of 2007. If we get a couple of hundred people signed up on it, we’ll go out on a 3 day Caribbean cruise and we’ll do a couple of nights. It’ll be a lot of fun with all our fans. We still have a really strong fan base. We’ve been around for, well, 2008, it’ll be 20 years. Everybody in the band now has been in it quite awhile. Our sax player has been in 7 years. Our keyboard player has been in 5 years. So, the guys I have now have been in a long time.

Q – What type of venues are you playing now?
Q – During the summer, we’re still King of the Carnivals. We’re doing every county fair, Fireman’s Carnival and field day festival from Rochester to Syracuse. We’re still playing 3 – 4 nights a week, when it comes to summertime. We’re still playing in front of some big crowds. We still do Charlotte Beach at the end of every year which is up at Lake Avenue. We draw like 7,000 – 8,000 people. It’s huge. We do it the last Wednesday of every August of every year.

Official website: www.rubyshooz.com
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