In UNLV jacket unveiling, Brandon Flowers is a Runnin’ Rebel with a cause

Himself a rock star, Brandon Flowers of The Killers is an expert in who is and is not a rock star.

“They were the first rock stars in my life, the starting five of the ’89 Rebels,” Flowers said in a phone interview Monday afternoon. This was two days after donning a customized letter jacket with “UNLV” stitched in small letters on the left front breast and the names of that starting five listed on the back during a performance Saturday at Reunion Park leading to the Final Four at AT&T Stadium.

Flowers took the stage appearing to wear a common UNLV letter jacket. But when he turned facing away from the audience, the back showed the message “Never Forget” and names familiar to any college hoops fan: Johnson, Augmon, Butler, Anthony and Hunt.

This quintet represented the first true heroes for Flowers, who was born in Henderson and spent most of his youth growing up in Southern Nevada (he also lived in the Utah bergs of Payson and Nephi as a kid) and is a graduate of Chaparral High School.

“It was like if my sister saw Stacey Augmon at the movies or at the mall or wherever it was, we talked about it at school all day the next day,” Flowers said, adding that his decision to have that jacket made and invoke those famous surnames was a “light-bulb moment.”

“We were asked to play this gig at the Final Four and be part of the whole March Madness campaign. … It just came to me, y’know?” Flowers said. “It was an exciting thing for me. Larry Johnson was the first sports figure I followed, and that whole team had a big impact on my life. I followed (Johnson) all the way to the NBA with the (Charlotte) Hornets and (New York) Knicks. It was a nice way to commemorate that team and that time.”

Flowers opted to focus on music and work at such jobs as a bellman at Gold Coast instead of enrolling in college, but The Killers’ connection to UNLV remains manyfold. In its infancy, the band rehearsed in a performance room at the UNLV College of Fine Arts. Just last week, drummer Ronnie Vannucci was honored as the school’s College of Fine Arts Alumnus of the Year.

Flowers’ original idea to recognize the most famous UNLV team ever blossomed when he asked a band rep to contact UNLV’s athletic department, where a small letter jacket was plucked from the school’s stash.

But the jacket was not small enough for a guy who is a giant in contemporary music.

“UNLV sent us the smallest letter jacket they could find, and it was still huge on me,” Flowers said, laughing. “So I found a guy in Dallas to kind of chop it up and make it fit me. They sent us the old Rebels logo and the letters to have embroidered on the back, so they were very cooperative.”

What is to happen to the jacket now?

“I haven’t thought about it yet. I try to keep all my jackets in a nice, safe place,” Flowers said, chuckling again. “But if UNLV wants it and wants to display it, I’d be down.”

On Friday night, Flowers was at a Don Henley concert in Dallas and spotted Greg Anthony in the audience.

“I thought of saying something to him, but I kept my distance,” Flowers said. “I did not want to ruin the surprise.”

Flowers might wear the jacket again. But the scene has to be right.

“I don’t know, maybe I’ll wear it again if I see a Rebels game and eat at Metro Pizza before,” he said. “You know, sort of show it off.”

It would be a move befitting a rock star.

I Came To Believe performed by Brandon Flowers and Dawes
Brandon Flowers

I Came To Believe performed by Brandon Flowers and Dawes

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Johnny Cash - Out Among the Stars (With Brandon Flowers, Father John Misty & Local Natives)

 

Ronnie Vannucci is already working on his new solo record with Big Talk.

And now they’re on Instagram too: http://instagram.com/bigtalkmusic

NCAA March Madness commercial featuring The Killers 

Brandon Flowers is already working on his new solo record.

Brandon Flowers is already working on his new solo record.

Lost Albums chosen by Ronnie Vannucci : Dawes - Stories Don’t End. NME, February 25

Lost Albums chosen by Ronnie Vannucci : Dawes - Stories Don’t End. NME, February 25

Brandon Flowers on the influence of The Smiths. Q Magazine, February 2014

Brandon Flowers on the influence of The Smiths. Q Magazine, February 2014

Ronnie Vannucci joined the band 12 Volt Sex during a memorial concert for deceased musician Gary Wright at Triple B’s on Monday, January 13, 2014.
“Last week, I got the worst text message I’d ever gotten in a long time.” Vannuci said. “Gary was such an influence on me, both as a musician and also as a person, so I was honored when the guys in 12 Volt asked if I wanted to play.”

Ronnie Vannucci joined the band 12 Volt Sex during a memorial concert for deceased musician Gary Wright at Triple B’s on Monday, January 13, 2014.

“Last week, I got the worst text message I’d ever gotten in a long time.” Vannuci said. “Gary was such an influence on me, both as a musician and also as a person, so I was honored when the guys in 12 Volt asked if I wanted to play.”