Not many people can say they've heard a live band that can cover Pitbull, Tina Turner and Michael Jackson in one night. But not every band is like Emerald City.
On a Sunday night at Lava Cantina, Emerald City performed at a silent auction where men and women in the audience serenaded each other with "Call Me Maybe" and "Best Of My Love." Whether they were sitting or standing, people danced, bobbed their heads or tapped their fingers to the music. The band's trumpeter and saxophonist weaved among the audience during the set, and during each of their solos, they drew cheers and fist pumps from both tiers of the venue.
It was no different from Emerald City's very first performance as a band, which was also packed with popular songs. Dean “Deno” Taglioli says it was on a Sunday night at a club called Memphis on Sept. 4, 1983.
During that time, they covered songs like "Maniac" by Michael Sembello, "Too Shy" by Kajagoogoo and "All Night Long" by Lionel Richie. The band was made up of nine members, with Taglioli as the front man and lead singer.
"They had a tremendous following and always packed the place," says former Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Drew Pearson via email. "No dance floor was needed -- folks just got up and danced to the music wherever they happened to be."
Thirty-five years later, Emerald City is still covering songs of all genres at events of all kinds. The band is now made up of 12 members -- five singers and seven members on rhythm and horns. Their resume boasts thousands of weddings and corporate events, performances at every single House of Blues venue across the country, and a set at the White House for the sitting president -- twice.
But how did Emerald City, a cover band that performs at weddings and charity events, become one of the most recognizable house bands in Dallas?
Well, they never stopped playing after that first gig. Shortly after their Sunday nights playing at Memphis, Taglioli says Emerald City started performing at hotel clubs Monday through Saturday nights, and the number of gigs only grew from there.
“Within a week or two from that first performance, we got lines around the building,” he says. “And it was Sunday nights.”
After years in hotels and clubs, the band made its TV debut with a performance on a local sports show called Sunday Night Showtime in 1992. In 1994, they were asked to be the house band for a regional show called Sports Waves, and in '96, they became the house band for a talk show called NET Talk Live!
Taglioli says some of the band's biggest gigs were fundraisers for Kidd Kraddick, the late syndicated radio show host of Kidd Kraddick in the Morning. During the summers in the mid-2000s, the station hosted KISS FM's annual concerts with headliners like Mariah Carey, *NSYNC and Jessica Simpson. For a few years, Emerald City Band was the opening act.
“From starting where we started, which was at a small club, and ending up doing shows at amphitheaters for 20,000 people,” Taglioli says, “that was really a great motivating factor for us.”
The escalating recognition meant Emerald City became known as more than a cover band.
“They’re the house band of Dallas,” says Kelly Hunter, an Emerald City fan. “They are the Dallas party band.”
Hunter started listening to Emerald City when she was in high school and she says the first time she saw them was at a bar on Lower Greenville. “They still play the favorites that I wanted to hear from them in the ‘80s, and yet they're playing brand new stuff right now, too,” she says.
Hunter is the vice president of Shiroma Southwest, the public relations company that represents the city of Addison. Addison is home to Kaboom Town, one of the largest Fourth of July celebrations in the country. For at least the last 10 years, Hunter says, Emerald City has headlined the celebration, and there’s a good reason why.
"There are no throw-away moments," Hunter says. "Once Emerald City starts playing, people stay to dance, and they're having a great time."
Many Emerald City fans agree -- former Dallas Cowboys player Ed "Too Tall" Jones says "their music is timeless," and Del Harris, vice president of the Texas Legends, says "they have great energy and music as they add their own touch."
Scott Murray, CEO of Murray Media, says their vocal and instrumental talent never gets old, and "that's key to any group that wants to be around as long as Emerald City has been around."
Maher Maso, former mayor of Frisco, had Emerald City perform at his wife's birthday party. Maso says the band "loves what they do," and that's what continues to make them relevant.
"Emerald City Band always does a great job fusing current pop hits with the classics," he says. "More than just being fantastic musicians, they have an energy and passion for what they do that keeps the crowds engaged."
Their covers range from R&B to country to pop, and the current list of tunes totals more than 230 -- and that's just what's on the website. Taglioli credits the musicians in his band for being able to perform each one, and that good performances “start with having really good musicians.”
“You’ve got to understand the styles, because what a musician played in the '40s is different than Motown in the '60s, and it's different than what's played today,” Taglioli says. “You have to be flexible and you have to know your instrument.”
Emerald City's performances can range anywhere from an hour to four hours, and it takes a lot of rehearsals and time onstage to make each one better, Taglioli says. It pays off: Their mashed-up songs make it feel like you're listening to a never-ending party.
But at some point, the demand for performances began to pile up, and the bookings started to overlap. To fix this, Taglioli created three offspring bands “in the spirit of Emerald City.”
“When people called and I was booked, they said wanted a band like mine,” Taglioli says. “They weren't calling me looking for a country band or an ‘80s band. They were looking for an Emerald City Band with an Emerald City experience.”
The other bands are called Limelight, Downtown Fever and Party Machine, there's a new group called Elevation coming this fall. The bands are choreographed and perform songs in the same way as the original Emerald City -- the difference is that they can be booked at lower rates and travel easier than the 12-piece band.
"These other bands lend themselves to price flexibility so that we can service the community," Taglioli says. "We are able to provide an Emerald City quality product at a price range for whatever that person might be interested in."
Taglioli wouldn't say how much performances cost for Emerald City Band or for its offshoot operations, and he says it's because "every gig is different." What Taglioli takes into account is the travel time and the length of time spent playing at each event, and that has a tendency to make the price fluctuate for each client.
While Emerald City Band is now a successful business, Taglioli says that wasn't his initial plan. To him, the goal was just to play music.
"I have so much passion and so much love for the music," he says. "I love to entertain people. I love to see people dance. I love people that come up to say that they're having the time of their life."
Emerald City's band members no longer perform events exclusively to Dallas partygoers. In fact, they've flown all over the country to perform in cities like Atlanta, Detroit, Chicago, Las Vegas and Los Angeles. But despite their fame and notoriety for cover songs, Taglioli says that 35 years later, he still loves to perform at events in the city that started it all.
"It's really been one event, one club, one fundraiser, one wedding at a time," he says. "But it all started in Dallas."