MUSIC BOX: For The Greater Good

By on November 1, 2016

The Wort and Rotary party down for a cause on their 75th anniversaries.

My, how the dresscode has changed at the Wort...

My, how the dresscode has changed at the Wort…

JACKSON HOLE, WY – A casual stroll through the hallway that parallels the remodeled Silver Dollar Bar and Showroom paints a vibrant gambling parlor atmosphere in the 1940s and 50s through a montage of black and white photos. Enter the barroom and you can’t help but notice the bar built by a German cabinetmaker using 2,032 uncirculated Morgan Silver Dollars from the Denver mint. Music became a stronghold as well, hosting bands of the day like Rusty Draper, Webb Pierce, Ray Weeps, Sons of the Golden West and later, Doc Watson and Willie Nelson. This weekend, the town’s historical hub will pay tribute to the glory days.

“As a 20-year-old, I was enthralled with it,” said Bill Briggs, multi-instrumentalist and co-founder of the Jackson Hole Hootenanny, in a 2006 PJH interview. Briggs began visiting the valley in the summer of 1952. “Country-western was played by all kinds of top-notch bands. I would go listen to the bands warming up in the afternoon.”   

Not just for those searching for a watering hole (though the bar did open at 9 a.m. in the old days), the Wort was truly the center of social activity in old-time Jackson. Nearly every group in town had their meetings and parties there. This included the Rotary Club of Jackson Hole, which, along with the Wort, is celebrating 75 years. To observe this landmark anniversary, the 55-room Wort Hotel is hosting two special event nights in the bar—a past and present employee appreciation party on Friday and a 75th anniversary gala and casino night on Saturday.

Both nights will feature country-soul and folk-rock band Bootleg Flyer. The Miller Sisters, Justin Smith, and Dave McCann are true veterans of the Silver Dollar and have played the mainstay venue hundreds of times over the years. The band spans a range of musical territory, covering Tom Petty, The Rolling Stones, Etta James, Pharrell Williams, Wilco, and Otis Redding along with some fiery originals. A spirited group, it’s a good bet that the quintet will be dressed in their best 40s garb.

For Friday’s employee appreciation, the bar will be serving Silver Dollar classic cocktails with complementary beer, wine and food as well as offering raffle prizes and giveaways. If you stick around, consider grabbing a room at the throwback rate of $75, good for Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

As for Saturday’s 75th anniversary gala and casino night, a $75 ticket will include dining, drinks and dancing plus “funny money” for gambling. All proceeds to benefit the Rotary Foundation’s scholarship program. Other activities include a live auction for paintings by Amy Ringholz and Nancy Cawdrey, raffles for Aulani Disney Resort Trip for four and a Ray McCarty painting, and a contest for Best Dressed 1940s gambler.

The Wort celebrates its 75-year legacy this weekend.

The Wort celebrates its 75-year legacy this weekend.

Wyoming’s gambling history as it relates to Jackson is a fascinating dig. One choice factoid is from 1899, when anti-gambling interests finally succeeded in passing a law in Wyoming that enabled any married woman whose husband spent his earnings on games of chance or intoxicating drinks to give the owner of the business that served him a written notice saying the establishment was no longer allowed to let her husband drink or play. If the establishment did so anyway, she could sue.

Though it states on the Wort’s website that “gambling has always been unlawful in Wyoming,” it was actually outlawed by the state’s 1901 legislature with the McGill Act. In 1904, Sheridan began licensing gambling establishments in blatant disregard of the statute and by 1905, the law was enforced in only five out of Wyoming’s 13 counties. In many places gambling tables were simply moved into the backrooms where it was said that crooked gamblers replaced the honest ones. Gambling was almost legalized again in 1935, around the same time Nevada legalized gambling in Las Vegas, but then-governor Leslie Miller vetoed the bill.

These days, the only forms of legal gambling in the Cowboy State are pari-mutuel wagering, which is what you’ll find at Wyoming Downs horse racing track and the two tribal casinos, which offer limited types of casino gambling. Charitable games of bingo and raffles are also on the menu, along with what the state defines as “social gambling,” which you’ll see at the Wort this weekend if you attend.

Past and present employee appreciation party, 6 to 11 p.m. Friday, November 4, free, and the 75th anniversary gala and casino night, 7 p.m. to midnight Saturday, November 5 at the Wort. Music by Bootleg Flyer both nights.

Aaron Davis is a singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, studio engineer, member of Screen Door Porch and Boondocks, founder/host of Songwriter’s Alley, and co-founder of The WYOmericana Caravan Tour.

161102music_planetpicks

161102music_planetpicks-2FRIday

Bo Elledge
(Town Square Tavern),
Bootleg Flyer
(Silver Dollar)

SATurday

Bootleg Flyer
(Silver Dollar), Whiskey’s Alibi (Million Dollar Cowboy)

SUNday

Stagecoach Band (Stagecoach), WYOBASS
(Town Square Tavern)

TUESday

Open Mic
(Virginian Saloon)

 

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About Aaron Davis

Aaron Davis is a decade-long writer of Music Box, a singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, member of Screen Door Porch and Boondocks, founder/host of Songwriter’s Alley, and co-founder of The WYOmericana Caravan.

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