Carrying on a dream
Prolific Chico promoter reinvigorates Paradise Performing Arts Center
“Norton called me one day and said, ‘Don, I want to talk to you about something.’”
At one point, Don DiBono’s voice choked slightly with emotion as he explained how he became the new official booking agent for the Paradise Performing Arts Center in response to the urging of his longtime friend, the late harmonica legend Norton Buffalo.
DiBono officially took the PPAC reins in February. It’s the latest venue the longtime local promoter has booked in a career that has taken him from the stage of his fondly remembered Chico nightclub, Cabos, in the 1970s, to his most recent stint booking events at Feather Falls Casino. He will be working at the PPAC alongside new Executive Director Annaliese Baker, with the assistance of his 23-year-old son, Billy DiBono, who recently joined his father’s Entertainment Services firm. The younger DiBono, besides being the drummer for popular local indie-rock band The Secret Stolen, is also a recent Chico State graduate with a bachelor’s degree focusing on business in the music industry.
DiBono first met Buffalo back in the late-1970s, when he booked Buffalo and his band The Stampede to perform at Cabos.
Buffalo, who died at age 59 of lung cancer last October in his newly adopted hometown of Paradise, was a huge fan of the PPAC. According to DiBono, Buffalo held about a dozen benefits at the center for various worthy local causes, with part of the proceeds often going to the PPAC itself.
Buffalo’s widow, Lisa, even donated to the PPAC half the proceeds from a posthumous benefit in November at the center that was initially organized to raise funds to help save Buffalo’s life.
It had been common knowledge that the PPAC had been struggling financially for some time, Di Bono said, and Buffalo had been keen to see that the beautiful, acoustically excellent, 750-seat venue did not have to close its doors.
“He said that he and I could make the Paradise Performing Arts Center work,” said DiBono. “Norton wanted to make it a success … Norton wanted to modernize it—he wanted to bring in more national touring acts.”
DiBono said he and Buffalo had been working on brainstorming ideas for making the PPAC thrive several months before he got sick.
“Norton would call me from Boston or wherever he was [on tour] as part of the Steve Miller Band,” DiBono said. “He would call theaters all over the United States—and they’d want to talk to him—and, really, what he would do is pick their brain on what would make a successful theater, like the type of management … and then he would call me and we’d discuss it.”
Since taking over at the PPAC, DiBono has booked two very successful shows there—Mike Albert’s “Ultimate Tribute” to Elvis Presley in January, which occurred shortly before DiBono actually became “official,” and the Feb. 21 show with country star Travis Tritt.
Next up will be widely known blues slide-guitarist Roy Rogers and his trio, The Delta Rhythm Kings, with openers Rick Estrin and the Nightcats, on April 30. And DiBono is currently working on securing Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, Paraguayan harpist/violinist Carlos Reyes (who DiBono said “totally stole the show” at the November PPAC fundraiser in Buffalo’s honor) and the Sons of Champlin (whom DiBono knows from his Cabos days).
“The parking is good, the acoustics are great, it’s all elevated seating—the sight lines are great,” offered DiBono of his new venue. “And it has a beautiful lobby. We’ve got to educate people that it’s only 15 minutes away—a short drive up the hill from Chico.
“This was Norton’s dream—to get the Paradise Performing Arts Center more regional, more on a national scale,” said DiBono. “So what I’m doing is trying to carry on his dream.”