If Craig Canter lived a routine life, he’d still be selling hats in Philadelphia.
However, the 6’2″ former high school athlete didn’t want a routine life. He liked a good time, independence, excitement and he was willing to work hard to earn a living doing whatever jobs came his way–other than selling hats (a family business).
Talk to Craig about his 20-plus East Coast working years and you’ll hear about his days as a doorman in New Jersey and, in Philadelphia, as a bartender, co-owner of a bar called Bigalows, successful cable TV salesman, owner of a limousine company called “It’s my Limo”, a real estate salesman, a cable TV host (The Sonny and CC Show in which CC loved to play goofy characters), a radio host (playing Neil Diamond records/songs) and yes, a singer.
Canter can tell lots of stories about his working years. Yes, he once worked in a restaurant owned by a mobster. Yes, his own bar closed when the owner of the property to whom Canter paid rent regularly was not, in turn, making mortgage payments to the bank. The bank foreclosed.
Canter was always a music lover, so his bar introduced a number of bands to Philadelphia’s South Street. One of the band members heard Canter singing casually and told him he sounded like Neil Diamond and should keep singing.
Canter remembered the remark and some years later embarked on a singing career. He held one Neil Diamond concert for friends and family and had 400 audience members. He also impersonated Neil Diamond in an all-star show. Yes, Canter held on to his day jobs, but at night, when asked, he was a knowledgeable and versatile crooner.
Twenty years ago, a friend suggested Canter should bring his talent to Las Vegas. The bachelor adventurer finally agreed. In Las Vegas, he auditioned for an MGM Lounge show featuring impressions of superstars and was hired–as Neil Diamond. Again, Canter kept his day job as well. One of his first day jobs in Las Vegas was as a lifeguard at the Stardust Resort & Casino. “I was probably the oldest lifeguard in town, but I always loved swimming and I had my certification,” he says with a grin. As time went on, Canter again became a limousine driver and soon was Director of Operations for his limousine company. That job kept him so busy, his singing had to go on the back burner.
The life of a limousine boss eventually became a burden, so Canter opted to go back to just being a daytime driver and nighttime singer, and that’s where we find Canter today.
He is a limousine driver for Resorts World, ferrying high rollers and celebrities. (“You’d be surprised at how many celebrity phone numbers I now have.”) On Monday nights he sings from 7:30 to ll in the Piazza Room at the Tuscany Suites and Casino. On Fridays, he sings at La Casa Cigar Music Lounge from 8:30 to Midnight. In between he may sub as Dean Martin in a California Rat Park Show (he has two upcoming dates for that show) and he is available for private parties as well. (A private party had hired Canter for Thursday after this interview.)
“I feel very lucky,” says Canter. “I don’t advertise, but I get steady work.” Canter says his favorite music is from the 70s, but he likes jazz as well. He sings with a band or he sings with tracks, whatever the job requires. He always recognizes any musicians he hires (he loves musicians) and he often will bring lighting with him. “Restaurants and lounges tend to be dark” he says, “and the audience deserves to see the singer and the musicians, so I bring my own light.”
Canter says that along the way, he has done what most young men do (yes that includes girlfriends), but he never married, though now that he is older, he says his days of wandering have narrowed to one local lady, Kim Lewis. The two are often audience members for other local singers.
On stage, Canter is a bit of an “everyman,” commenting on the day’s news (he’s a big sports fan), doing imitations, singing audience requests, whistling (yes, he can whistle), moving to the music and welcoming his audience members with a sincerity that is rare. He knows music from many eras and enjoys an occasional laugh at himself as well. If other singers are in his audience, he invites them on stage. And yes, on occasion, Canter does sing Neil Diamond songs.
Canter says that singers and musicians in Las Vegas are seldom paid what they are worth in terms of talent, but because of their passion for music–they are all here and are grateful to be working–including that guy from Philly.
Below: Craig Canter from his piano room: