Starting Out

Gary Raffanelli & Sandy Selby

Starting Out

A Short Biography

Gary Raffanelli was born and raised in Richmond, California on March 22, 1952. Sandy Selby was born and raised a little further south in Berkeley, California on December 5, 1952. They were first made aware of each other in 1968 at the May Festival in Kensington, California. They did not talk to each other at this time though, Sandy barely even noticed Gary that day. She was busy noticing, Paul George, the drummer in his band, The Vandells instead. Gary sang with his band at local venues throughout central California. Five years would pass before they would meet again in 1973.

Sandy enjoyed music and had entertained plans for a singing career at some point, but had concentrated mostly on school and had almost completed her nursing degree in early 1973. Gary had continued to concentrate mostly on music during this time, singing and recording since 1966 with The Vandells. The group folded in January 1970 after a tour of Hawaii, Guam, The Phillipines, Taiwan and Japan. Gary then put together a dance band with his then girl friend. The group enjoyed success for a few years but in late 1972 the group disbanded and Gary once again was looking for another partner in which to start a new group. Someone to help draw in bigger audiences.

In the first week of February 1973, Gary met Sandy by accident. He had stopped into his hometown music store (Scalise Music Center) in Richmond, California to pick up some music supplies. Gary mentioned he was thinking of expanding his band with another girl singer. The store owner, Tony Scalise, mentioned to Gary that a mutual friend of theirs had been in with the phone number of a young woman who wanted to sing professionally. Gary gave Tony his telephone number and within an hour Sandy called him. She said she was interested in auditioning for him and they set up a meeting for the following day. But Sandy wanted to see Gary first. So that night Sandy showed up at one of Gary performances with her mother.

It ended up that Sandy liked what she saw and they kept the appointment to have her audition the next day and the rest is history. Sandy was the third and final auditionee. They started out small, doing local shows around California, but ended up having their names emblazoned in huge letters across such celebrated marquees as Harrah's Tahoe and The MGM Grand in Reno, Nevada by the early 1980s.

One of their first engagements together in 1973 was at Tia Maria's Restaurant in Concord, California. From there they began touring nation wide and were even booking into Canada. The dates kept getting better and better. In December 1975 they had an audition at the Eldorado Hotel & Casino for a one night engagement, but they were not hired. It took another six months before they made it to Northern Nevada. The forth of July weekend in 1976 was their grand opening at the Biltmore Lodge in Lake Tahoe, Nevada.

From there they started playing in the smallest lounges such as the Fitzgeralds Casino in Reno with a one nighter. Over the next few years they ended up playing many, if not all, of the lounges in Reno and Las Vegas- finally settling in for a long stay at The Lion's Den at the MGM Grand Hotel & Casino (Now the Reno Hilton) starting in 1979 and continuing until 1998. At their start they called themselves Common Ground and have been known by various names over the years, such as Gary and Sandy's Common Ground and Raffanelli & Selby. Currently they prefer to be called Gary Raffanelli & Sandy Selby.

Over the years, Gary and Sandy built up a strong following wherever they appeared. This was due to their professionalism, style of music and their ability to touch an audience with their overwhelming appeal. In the years I have known Gary and Sandy I have never heard anyone say anything but positive things about them. Gary and Sandy have been long time favorites on the touring circuit since the mid-1970s. They love their audiences and it shows, in turn the public loved them. They have sang material as diverse as top forty hits made popular by other artists, to show tunes such as Over The Rainbow and have, on occasion, sang original material that Gary has written. They even sang the National Anthem for six million people! They have been named Best Lounge Act, Best Pop Duo and Sandy has received Best Female Vocalist award honors.

In many ways Gary and Sandy are legendary on the touring circuit. They have played in Atlanta, Atlantic City, Hawaii, Dallas, San Francisco, Denver, Phoenix, Miami, Nashville, Kansas City, Los Angeles and the list goes on and on. If you have a chance to see them you will not be disappointed.

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