WHEN IT’S RAGTIME IN NEVADA. We were crashing and banging in the coffee shop across from the Legislature and I said, “Harry Reid wants us to go green.” The boys laughed. “He wants to outlaw prostitution.” I had them rolling in the aisles. Gary pipes up, “Nevada ought to promote what it has–hookers, hustlers, UFOs.”
This cogent thought bubbled in my brain through the night–an unsurpassed piece of local wisdom. I thought about the wise old men who had tutored me–the old crooners. And I thought about Ragtime Bob who brought trad jazz to Virginia City in the 50s. He told his ragtime friends about the many saloons, each with its dilapidated upright piano, just perfectly out of tune. He tried to a hold a trad jazz festival. He went to all the Virginia City saloon keepers for funds. He got not a nickle–had no more success than would Harry Reid with his notions of a green Nevada.
The assorted ragtime minstrels came anyway, drank up all the liquor in Virginia City and left Darch with the bill. He took his festival to Toronto Canada where it launched the Canadian trad jazz revival. Virginia City became a mecca for jazz musicians on their off night in the Reno show bands. Then in ’76 the Reno musicians went on strike just as the old one-man casinos were getting bought out by the corporations. The new bean counters saw that music makes no money and closed most of the show rooms and lounges. Virginia City lingered on as a ragtime and jazz mecca for another decade or so.