Front man Michael Shapiro and his band Reckless in Vegas takes the stage with the power and force of a raging tsunami, lighting up the world like fireworks plunging into the night sky and shattering the darkness….He and band members Chris Nichols, Ryan Low, Jack Roth and an array of singers and dancers illuminate the stage of the Sahara in Las Vegas with modern versions of songs by artists including Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Elvis, Sonny and Cher, Frankie Valli, Neil Diamond, Johnny Cash and more. In other words, they are a fusion of the Rat Pack meets Green Day.

But aside from that Michael Shapiro is a singer/songwriter and musician who picked up his first guitar at age 13. At age 16 he had the opportunity to jam with Bruce Springsteen and the rest became history. He formed a band, released several CDs and began touring. He managed to play on the same stage with Cheap Trick and the Romantics. Eventually he formed Reckless in Vegas where he continues to write music with musical influences including that of Jimi Hendrix, Journey’s Neal Schon, Carlos Santana and the vocals of U2’s Bono.

What inspired you to do reckless?

Let’s start there.

It came to me in a vision. We were an original band. When I moved to San Francisco, I went to a relapse specific treatment center. It was a 7-month program. When I got finished with it, I decided to move to the Bay area. I sold my house in Portland Oregon. I started a band right away. We were doing original music. My neighbor coincidentally was a Grammy award nominated winning producer named Dan Shea. He happened to be my neighbor. We became friends. He agreed to produce our first EP that had five songs on it. He called me one day and he said “Michael do you know Neil Diamond’s Solitary Man?” I said yeah. He asked if I could play it. I said let me learn it and I went over to his house and I played it for him on the acoustic guitar.  He said now listen to this, and he played a song by the band Green Day and he goes you hear that treatment? And I said yeah and he goes I want to do that treatment to the Neil Diamond song. We will make a sixth song on your EP. That was in 2008. And we put that EP out and we toured. And I just lost my ass on every tour. We opened for Robin Trower, we opened for Peter Murphy, some decent names but I could just never make any money. In 2011 we did another EP with Sylvia Massey. She is a pretty well-known producer. She did Tool and Disturbed and Dishwalla, works with Johnny Cash, she was Rick Ruben’s drone engineer of choice. Incredible producer. Same thing we put a six song EP out all original. It just didn’t break through it didn’t make any money. 

In early 2012 our booking agent told us, look guys if you want to make money do a tribute act. I was playing with Mario Cipollina, he was the original bass player for Huey Lewis and the News. I went to the guys and I said “hey, what do you think about doing a Johnny Cash tribute?” They were in! So we learned 50 Johnny Cash songs. We were going to do them at rehearsals and right before we started, I just couldn’t reconcile with my inner artist. I’m an original songwriter. And I just thought well I can go out and make money doing this, but I just couldn’t do this. And I called the guys and said I don’t want to do it. Let’s come up with something else. The week after that, I was meditating every day at that period in my life. Pretty deep meditations. We were called Reckless in Vegas by the way with those first two original eps. I’m in the meditation. All of a sudden I see a stage and lights and the old school signage with Reckless in Vegas on it. I’m on stage with Mario and Ryan and there are dancers. We are playing our style of rock and singing Frank Sinatra wearing sharkskin suits. When I came out of the meditation and I wrote everything down and I called Dan Shay. By the way Dan Shay was Mariah Carey’s music director. He produced music for Jessica Simpson, Jennifer Lopez. I called Dan and I said do you remember the thing you did with the Neil diamond song? He said yeah. What do you think about doing that with old Vegas music? He said great get over here. I went to his house and sat in the studio for about an hour. We listen to all the music of Las Vegas lounge era acts. ’50s ’60s even the ’70s. We started working on arrangements and a year later we put out an album and we played the Sweetwater in Mill valley. We opened the first set doing acoustic versions of our originals. We had a little fan base in the area. We took a break, we put suits on and came out and debuted this music. The moment that I hit the first chorus of “I Can’t Take My Eyes Off Of You” and 300 people started singing along I knew that we had something. And that’s how it started.

I had no idea that you were a big druggie. Do you like to talk about that in interviews?

You know I think that there are a lot of people that are struggling. The solution is right there. People have to be ready. And a lot of times I don’t talk about my modality of choice, I don’t talk about AA or 12 step stuff just because there’s an anonymity in that. They say not to talk about that because heaven forbid I should relapse or heaven forbid I’m a total asshole we don’t want AA to be a representation of that. To me I talk about it because I want to give hope to people. I have worked with hundreds of men in recovery. I just talk about it as recovery. 

But you survived so that’s pretty good.

Yeah it’s been 16 years of sobriety October 1st. I struggled, I started making a lot of money in the late 90 and I started doing cocaine and I started smoking cocaine. I struggled so bad with it for 7 years . I blew all the money I had earned. All the money from my carpet cleaning company, my restaurant delivery company, my laundromat. I pissed it all away. I had maybe 400 Grand in the stock market. I pissed all of it away. All from drugs. And it was crazy for me because I couldn’t play music anymore. I couldn’t get through a song. I had to get a hit of that crack. I just knew I was 155 lbs , I weighed about 190. I was gone. My eyeballs were black. I was losing it. But I didn’t want to die. It’s a miracle what recovery can do for people. I’m all about the party. I like to be around people that drink normally. I don’t mind a little pot. I think cocaine is an evil drug. I think heroin is too dangerous. Life is about balance. We have a full bar in the house. My wife drinks. When people are struggling they need to know that there is a solution and that’s why I talk about it. I am a walking miracle. And I know countless other people too and they are just so beautiful when they get through to the other side. They say that religion is for people that are afraid to go to hell and spirituality is for people that have been to hell. We are all one, all of us. We’re all in harmony. If we could all get the ego bullshit and other influences out of the way, we all get along perfectly. It’s synergy. We all work together to achieve a goal. Recovery is the foundation of that. We are all recovering from something. We are the only species that will put desire in front of survival.

I have another project called Many Miles Away with Miles Schon. He is Neil Schon from Journey’s son. We recorded an album, it’s not out yet. We don’t know what to do with it. He’s pushing me during covid, it’s been finished and mastered. I’ve got some record label interest and I don’t want to do a release and he’s in a hurry. He’s younger than me and he’s in a hurry and I want to do this right. It’s audio work that I am most proud of. His guitar playing, he’s better than his dad, he is a virtuoso. We have been talking about PR and how to do this release. Maybe do a self-release.

Don’t do a self-release. Listen to me. Talk to Mr John Velasco. I know that you know him. Talk to him. 

Did Vegas come first or Reckless?

It actually did because I grew up here. When I was struggling with the drugs in 99 my mom said get out of Vegas, Vegas is your problem. I moved up to Portland and I did the same shit there that I was doing here. I did pull it together a little bit and tour and put an album out, but I just still struggled with it. Vegas is in my blood. My family moved to Las Vegas in 1955. My grandfather owned a hotel here on the strip called The Royal Nevada. He started United Coin which is now United Gaming. He started that with one of the first blackjack machines in the world. My dad moved here in 70, I was born in 70. I grew up here. It’s definitely in my blood. My grandfather influenced me in business. Show girls and Frank Sinatra and my dad was a rock and roll pot smoking hippie. He influenced me with rock and roll. I had those two influences musically. It was so unique and magical even though I didn’t recognize it until I moved away. Las Vegas is my roots. Even when I moved to the Bay area I felt very grounded. The name Reckless in Vegas came when I moved to California with a girlfriend from Portland. She woke up one morning and said “wow I just had a crazy dream.” I was in an all-girl band. I was playing your red Stratocaster and we were called Reckless in Vegas.” I went great dream I love the name I’m going to take that. 

Have you had your ultimate stage fantasy yet or are you still looking?

I have had a celebrity fantasy. That was when I was 15 and I got to play with Bruce Springsteen. At the time I wasn’t a fan and I didn’t appreciate or understand what was happening. I got to play Bruce Springsteen in a show and that’s really when I became a fan of him. Being on stage we have opened for Cheap Trick. Robin and the guys weren’t getting along because of all the publishing stuff that was going on. I toured with Peter Murphy. For me probably a stage highlight would be going around to different countries and touring this music. In Vegas really it is these guest artists that we bring. Local level celebrities. Every month we have a special female guest artist. And you never know what you’re going to get. We have that confidence and authenticity that we’re not really afraid to be found out for putting up a front is that I’ve encouraged each artist to not do what the last artist did. Don’t listen to our arrangements and copy what I’m doing, I want you to be here. I want you to show up and do what you do. Every single one of these guests have done that and it’s like they’re all different. They’re all magical in their own right. To cultivate that or support that has definitely been the highlight of this residency. It’s so neat to see these powerful goddesses go up and see what they do with our arrangements.

The official website for Reckless In Vegas may be found at