Original review, complete with photographs.
Even though we're now a couple days into 1998, the coyotes, jackalopes, and three legged deer in the desert around Jackpot, Nevada must still be shaking their collective heads about all the commotion on New Years eve at Cactus Pete's Casino, where America performed a spectacular New Year's Eve concert.
And they must also wonder how any of these noisy human celebrators even found Jackpot, for it took an all out geography lesson to discover that Jackpot is: #1. In the USA #2. in northern Nevada and #3. right on the Nevada/Idaho border ...... just a mile or two from Nowheresville and next to the Matterhorn.
One could easily identify with a Lewis and Clark pioneer type adventurist in trying to reach Jackpot. First it was an easy one hour flight from Seattle to Boise, but then it was on the actual Oregon Trail to Twin Falls dodging Idaho spuds falling from flatbeds, and then an Evil Knievel jump across the Snake River Canyon, with a final grueling haul to legendary gunslinger Diamond Jack's hole in the wall hangout now called Cactus Petes. Jackpot also was alleged to be the place that inspired that now famous song about a nameless horse in a desert (who ran with the local three legged deer???). ........ well maybe at least.
Cactus Pete's was a happening place at New Years with 300 HIGH ROLLERS invited to lose big money with generous donations to the Cactus Pete's general golden fund. Plus, the population of Jackpot soared from about one hundred (including all Jackalopes) to several thousand with a flood of PARTY HARDY Idahoans and Nevadians that came to town to "kick it."
America actually performed four concerts, two on Dec. 30th, and two on New Year's Eve. The last two concerts included the final performance of nearly a couple hundred in 1997, and the very first one of 1998.
Here are the highlights..............
The Gala Showroom is a cozy miniature version of a Vegas or Reno showroom, and every seat in the house is fairly close to a front row seat.
The management of the showroom was extremely excited to "finally get America here," and had their "History" CDs ready for autographs. A former manager of the showroom, who we had the pleasure to sit by in the last performance, said she used to try to stuff the ballot box for America when they voted on which groups to invite! YOU GO GIRL!!
Gerry noted watching all the high rollers landing behind Cactus Petes in their Leer jets ........ and later informed the crowd that the movie "California Dreamin" (which America did the title soundtrack) immediately became a major blockbuster hit .................. that is ............... went directly to Blockbuster video!
Gerry also mentioned that just before the concert, the guys had finally agreed to another "H" name for the new CD, called "???????" (see previous post for contest about this ...... and Kelly will give answer soon). (Note from Steve: The new name that Gerry mentioned was "Hanson" which was a big joke!)
Dewey mentioned to the crowd that "Another Try" was one of the first songs that America worked on with the famous "5th Beatle" producer George Martin, and then said that now it's officially Sir George Martin. Gerry responded, "I always called him Sir!"
Dewey and Gerry had difficulty choosing the "Lonely People" award, finally concluding that nobody in cozy Jackpot could possibly be lonely due to its size!
America gracefully overcame a disaster of near Titanic proportions as one of Brad's bass guitar strings broke, and Brad had to play with only three strings. According to Gerry, "thank heavens Jackpot isn't in the boondocks and our sound people were able to go to the local Guitars R Us" ............. as another bass guitar was brought to the stage several songs later.
Actually, it was a borrowed guitar from Paul Revere and the Raiders, or as Gerry put it, "Paul McCartney Revere and the Raiders." Even the most fanatic Beatle fans haven't heard yet that Paul M. joined the Raiders! :) :) :)
After the first night, Kelly and her husband Steve, Barb and her husband Gary, and I were eating "breakfast" at 3am, and heard the first few chords of "Sister Golden Hair."
No ........... it wasn't America performing for the 3rd time that night ....... it was a group called the Redstones playing the graveyard shift at the casino. They ably followed "Sister" with "Ventura Highway" to our delight.
On the afternoon of New Years Eve, we went for a walk through Jackpot and the Jackpot National Forest with Dewey. The forest consists of about thirty scrubby pines and a few birch trees, one tumbleweed .................. and a deer leg (proves the three legged deer rumors/theories we heard from the locals). And we also admired a nearby mountain called the Matterhorn (no kidding). Maybe Jackpot is in Europe after all as we first suspected????? We also visited Jackpot's local mall, called the General Store, which featured all the beef jerky and pepperoni sticks a person could eat.
On the town limits of Jackpot is a Mountain Time Zone sign as one enters, and a Pacific Time Zone sign as one leaves. This prompted Dewey to comment that we could celebrate New Years TWICE in Jackpot by just moving up the road!!! That's why Jackpot is sooooo special ......... twice the fun.
In fact, that's why the movie "Groundhog Day" was likely filmed right in Jackpot if my sources are correct. :)
Later, Kelly discovered a lucky slot machine called "Three Roses" and Gary found one called "Hat Trick," but both machines were reluctant to share the wealth! We also looked in vain for a "Horse W/No Name" slot .......... with but without any luck!
But ............ the biggest highlight was the New Year's Eve performance , and the crowd was ready to have fun with party hats, horns, kazoos, noisemakers, leis, and several hundred balloons.
Dewey and Gerry looked frequently at their watches, and at midnight, Gerry began playing a piano intro to Auld Lang Syne and Dewey led the crowd in singing ........ while Woodz added a real America flair to this traditional song on lead guitar.
Did anyone know the lyrics????? I think not!!! (especially since Dewey and Gerry left the lyrics on our table) And of course, nobody noticed!!
Meanwhile, hundreds of balloons were brought into the Gala Palace, and were bounced around repeatedly, popped, and even sat on. Gerry used his guitar to whack several balloons floating in the air WHILE playing "Sister," and Dewey accompanied with a horn covered with stars and confetti. It was a wild scene ....... that surely made the coyotes outside Jackpot howl a much longer than usual!!
Simultaneously, outside of Cactus Petes at the Jackpot Times Square, a lighted tumbleweed rolled down an extra tall cactus in the local version of the New York's Times Square celebration.
It was over all too soon and time to hit the dusty trail home, but New Years in Jackpot, Nevada with America will never be forgotten .............. and the all the fond memories of that special western town.
As always, thanks to everyone in America ............ and to Gary, Barb, Steve and Kelly for being so gracious and fun.
Written by Rick Wahlgren
Last Revised: 28 January 1998