Nashville glam rocker becomes a casino king

Tuesday, March 2, 2010 at 9:20pm
Staff Reports

John Flanagan, who cut his honed his craft at Belmont, is crowned the new voice of Foxwoods Resort after winning nationwide talent search.

The 22-year-old, who just three weeks ago played a free Rock Showcase gig at Belmont's Curb Events Center, beat out hundreds of hopefuls in a 'Wonder of it All' contest in his hometown of Boston to earn the resort casino gig and a $25,000 prize.

“This is the most exciting day of my life,” he sent to his Twitter followers after he won. It was a bit more subdued than his artist statement before the Belmont show, which referred to the “thrill of his dynamic stage presence.”

At least Flanagan has a healthy sense of self.

In the finals competing against nine other bands, ranging from jazz-pop to funk to a cappella, he channeled his inner-Freddie Mercury to deliver a memorable performance and a hyper-modernized take on the iconic “Wonder of it All” jingle, originally crooned by American jazz musician John Pizzarelli.

Pizzarelli is the performer he will replace at Foxwoods.

“This is the most exciting day of my life,” said Flanagan on Sunday. “To be recognized by a place like Foxwoods for doing something that we love is a great honor, and we’re really excited to embark on this journey with them. Having our music featured in commercials for North America’s largest resort casino is beyond our wildest dreams.”

In addition to being the new voice of Foxwoods, Flanagan and his band received a year-long promotional contract and a $25,000 grand prize package, including top-of-the-line music equipment, a Foxwoods VIP Package, studio time, an advertising schedule, and more.

The band, which first met and began collaborating at Belmont University, include Ryan Ochsner (lead guitar), Daniel Shifflett (bass guitar), Jared Mitchell (background vocals), Ross Bridgeman (keys), and Mike Redmond (percussion).

The finalists performed in front of a live audience and a panel of celebrity commentators including basketball luminaries Jo Jo White and Daryl Dawkins, CFO of Def Jam Records, Joe Borrino, NYC’s DJ Big Premiere, Celtics Dancers, and Fox 61's Jeff Valin, who emceed the event.

No stranger to the stage, Flanagan moved to Nashville in 2005 and immediately began playing to large crowds as lead vocalist of rock outfit, The Gilly. However, seizing the opportunity for growth, he left The Gilly in pursuit of corporate gigs, and has played venues from Georgia, Texas, and Oklahoma to Seaside, Ore.

In the past year Flanagan has focused his energies while off the road on stocking his arsenal of original material both independently and with co-writers. Currently in production, his 6-song EP is due for release later this year.

The search for the new voice of Foxwoods began in November 2009, when a call for submissions resulted in hundreds of hopefuls recording and submitting their takes on the legendary jingle. The top 50 online vote recipients were then narrowed down to 10 by a team of Foxwoods marketing and advertising executives, who also made up the judging panel the evening of the finals.

The live audience also played a role in determining a winner of the talent search, thanks to a text messaging campaign that made up for 25 percent of the voting process.

North America’s largest casino, Foxwoods Resort Casino is located in the rolling hills of southeastern Connecticut and is easily accessible from Boston, New York, Hartford and Providence. Owned by the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation, Foxwoods features six casinos with more than 7,200 slots, 380 table games, the only WPT World Poker Room™ in New England, High Stakes Bingo, and Ultimate Race Book