The El Rey Club, Searchlight, NV

The El Rey Club, Searchlight, NV
The El Rey Resort & Casino, Circa 1957-1962

Friday, November 15, 2013

Cover Story, Part One: The Name Game

This is the first in a four-part series of posts leading up to the reveal of the book's cover.  In my life as an entertainer I hear quite actually hundreds of questions about the creative process.  I'll try to detail in full the thoughts that went into the final cover and all the drafts.

I had several ideas for a cover in the years since I started working on this book.  Of course, the cover had to match the title and I had as many or more ideas for a title.

After considerable deliberation I decided to go with something that featured "king" in the title.  At least the majority of the titles I came up with had "king" in there.  "El Rey" means "the king" and Willie Martello considered himself to be a king in the Vegas area.  For the longest time the working title was simply The King with a full title of The King: The Story of Willie Martello and the El Rey Club (or simply The King).  I thought that would end up as THE title until Steve Fischer, author of the wildly popular book, When the Mob Ran Vegas, convinced me that "THE KING" would likely get people to think it was a book about Elvis and then be disappointed.  I agreed and decided if I were to keep "king" in the title it needed to be tweaked.

Photo courtesy Nevada State Museum
[J. Florian Mitchell Collection]
My original cover design.
A very B-A-D mock-up made at home.
©Andy Martello & Just A Martello Books

Long before I found THE title I found a KILLER photo at the Nevada State Museum.  I knew I wanted it in the book and on the cover.  The image you're seeing is a VERY rough idea I made myself to serve as inspiration for a real graphics designer and to have something to show potential agents or publishers.  I love the stoic look on Willie's face, the runway seemingly going off into infinity as if to suggest Willie and his casino are eternal, a story for the ages.  I also liked such a sober photo with such a strong title.  No King is without his problems and it appears this King had some problems in his kingdom.

This is NOT what ended up and the cover.  this was just the first in a series of concepts that led to what you'll all be reading very soon.  At the time I thought I'd ask Jerry Schafer to write a foreword, but he contributed so very much to the book I asked Mark Hall-Patton (Pawn Stars) to write one.

Eventually I settled upon The King of Casinos: Willie Martello and the El Rey Club as the title.  No Elvis confusion and "king" was still in there.  Plus that title spoke to both the casino which I believe was a template for modern Vegas resorts and Willie himself who thought he was the King of Casinos.

Stay tuned to see the evolution of the cover for The King of Casinos!

There is still time to donate and help fund this project.  there are still many great thank-you gifts available for the casino collectors out there.  However the time to get your name listed in the special thanks is running out.  Donate today and become a part of history!

The research & collecting of photos and memorabilia from the El Rey Club never stops! Please contact me at 702-465-5604 or email me at if you have stories or memorabilia to share.

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