Tom Ingram. Founder and Producer of Viva Las Vegas

Tom Ingram, Founder and Producer of Viva Las Vegas

Tom Ingram has been a music lover since he was very young. It was his love of music that led him into working as a DJ prior to creating his own music festival in the United Kingdom called Hemsby Rock ‘n’ Roll Weekender. After moving to California 1996, Ingram turned his love of rockabilly music into a weekend long music festival in the mecca of showbusiness, Las Vegas Nevada.

The 2018 edition of Ingram’s brainchild, Viva Las Vegas, will be the 21st rockabilly showcase presented by the Briton. Bands from all over the world will converge on Sin City for the event, and more than 20,000 fans will turn out for the three-day event.

Now the world’s largest rockabilly festival, Ingram continues to grow his event each year through hard work and his love of music. It has been a long road for the music promoter, one that he is continuing to travel.

Tell us about Viva Las Vegas and what makes it the world’s largest rockabilly festival?

Viva Las Vegas is coming into its 21st year, and it has grown year on year. I never set out to have the largest Rockabilly Weekend in the world, but that is what it has become. I think my knowledge of the scene and music makes a big difference. I can still get excited by new bands or being able to book some of the originals. I also work hard at it by using every promotional tool possible: flyers, print, radio, tv, online and of course social media. I stay on top of it and take care of most of it myself.

Tom, you are a truly rockabilly fan, from where does this passion come?

I have been a fan of 50s music since I was about 13 or 14-years old. I don’t know why it happened. I can credit a couple of radio shows in the UK at the time such as Roger Scott’s Cruising which I listened to on Radio Victory in Portsmouth, England. The whole rockabilly scene became my life as I started to DJ and organize shows around London. I started at 18-years old by renting the hall at the back of a pub. I would DJ and a friend would take the money on the door for me.

Can you unveil some novelties or key points you are planning for the Viva Las Vegas 2018?

Viva Las Vegas 2018 looks as if it will be equally as popular as the 20-year anniversary show we had in 2017. Jerry Lee Lewis will be a highlight for sure. On Friday night, I am getting as many of the 1950s Sun recording artists as I can to do one last big Sun Records show. This will be a special night.

What is the most challenging part of your work?

The most challenging part of my work is that it is not a 9-5 job. I live the event all day, every day. I wake up in the night thinking about it, worrying about it. Everywhere I go I meet people who go to it or know of it, and so I am always talking about it. I value these conversations as I can find out what people really think and what improvements I can make.

What was your most rewarding professional experience?

Definitely the most rewarding part has been meeting so many of the original 1950s acts and then being able to book them. Obviously, the big ones, Jerry Lee Lewis, Chuck Berry and Little Richard stand out as being highlights.

How do you find inspiration?

I have a simple rule: would I pay to go to this event? If my answer is no, then I have to change who I am booking. Being a fan of the music and having gone to rockabilly weekends for so many years, I have a good idea of what people like. So, my inspiration comes from my own excitement.

Tell us how Viva Las Vegas began and what some of the highlights have been?

I had been organizing rockabilly weekends in the UK very successfully, but when I decided to move to California, I wanted to do weekenders in Vegas. I had a partner for the shows in the UK. He owned one-third and I owned two-thirds. As soon as I moved to the USA, he promptly did an illegal share dealing with the accountant, and ripped me off for the event. Then went around telling people I was stupid trying to do a rockabilly show in Vegas. I had intended on doing it under the same business, so he would have owned one-third of Viva Las Vegas. Instead, he stole the event in the UK and left me here with no money and no income. So, I had to get a job. I did and started putting together VLV at the same time.

Were you ever influenced by other entrepreneurs?

I never really considered myself an entrepreneur or businessman. I was just doing what I enjoyed. I was learning as I went without influence from anyone else.

How is a day in your life?

I get up early and cycle to Seal Beach and back, about 11 miles. Then I go to the office and work on the event. I try and finish by 5pm, so that I have a home life as well. I would not say my life sounds exciting.

What makes you smile?

Being with my children. Good comedy shows, which are normally British, and going to soccer matches.

What scares you?

My biggest scare now is retirement. I am 56 and don’t have enough money put aside, yet.

What is your greatest achievement?

Viva Las Vegas is probably my biggest achievement. At one point I also owned 50 apartments, but divorce reduced that to eight.

What is your secret talent?

My secret talent that I don’t really go around telling people about, is at age 40 I started doing Taekwondo and reached 3rd degree black belt.

Which historical figure do you most admire?

Elvis Presley. Not only did he have the imagination to do what he did musically, but he took the risk of taking black music and making it his own.

Any hobbies?

Yes, my hobbies are; acting, photography, film making, taekwondo and movies.

What’s your favorite vacation spot?

My favorite vacation spot is St. Tropez in the south of France.

What are you never without?

I am never without a handkerchief, my cellphone and my plan of food for the day.

What are two of your favorite quotes?

This is a tough one as I generally make up my own quotes on the spur of the moment, but if I have to pick two;

“Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.”
Bernard M. Baruch

“If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.”
Mark Twain

Here is one of mine: “My greatest nightmare is to be lying on my deathbed regretting all the things I wanted to do but never tried to.”

How do you define success?

For me, defining success is simple, because it is doing something every day that you enjoy. If you can make money from it, then that is a bonus.

What advice would you give to anyone starting a new business?

My advice would be take risks, but be careful with money. Don’t over extend yourself. And when the business starts to make money, keep it in the business to fund growth. Don’t go and buy expensive cars or anything else, unless the business can really afford it. By keeping money in the business, it enables you to not need to get loans.

Viva Las Vegas 2018 will be held April 19-22, 2018 at The Orleans Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada. The event will feature rockabilly bands from around the world all in one place for an amazing weekend of music. For more information about Viva Las Vegas or Tom Ingram, visit



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