Las Vegas Sun

March 25, 2019

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Columnist Joe Delaney: New book a reminder of LV’s country ties

Joe Delaney's column appears on Thursdays and Fridays. Reach him at 259-4066 or [email protected]

Jim Halsey's letterhead reads simply, "Jim Halsey, impresario" ... As someone who has known Halsey for nearly half a century, I can attest to the fact that he richly deserves that title ... Halsey has just completed a book titled, "How to Make It in the Music Business," written with author-journalist John Wooley and published by Hawk Publishing and Halsey Books.

It is written for singers, songwriters, musicians and band members who want to have a successful career in the music business ... It tells the Halsey lifetime success story and includes more than 1,000 contacts you will need to succeed ... Highly recommended.

Halsey came to Las Vegas at the start of the 1970s, met with the late Walter Kane of the Howard Hughes hotels and presented a fresh concept for the Strip, "Country Music, USA" ... This was well before the National Finals Rodeo became a Las Vegas institution, with country music stars at every hotel during the period from Thanksgiving weekend until mid-December.

Roy Clark, who will headline at the Orleans March 15-18, and Mel Tillis, who recently starred there, were two of the country music stars who made their debut in "Country Music, USA" at the Landmark hotel in the early 1970s and went on to headline at various Strip hotels including the Desert Inn and Frontier.

The Oak Ridge Boys also made their LV debut back then at the Landmark, now a parking lot across from the Convention Center ... It was at the Landmark that they made the decision to go pop rather than continue doing country gospel songs ... Halsey and the Oak Ridge Boys are still together, nearly 30 years later, a rarity in show business.

Freddy Fender, Ferlin Husky, Johnny Paycheck, the late Roy Orbison, Ray Price and the late Tammy Wynette were some of the others who came here with Halsey and went on to become Strip favorites. They played Vegas year-round, not just during the NFR.

We were present in May 1974 when Clark was headlining at the Frontier and Halsey noted that Russia had a delegation at a conference in Seattle ... Aided by Kane and the Hughes organization, an invitation was sent to have the delegation to visit Las Vegas and catch the Clark show on the way back to Russia ... The Russians accepted the invitation.

In January 1976 Clark, the Oak Ridge Boys and Halsey arrived in Moscow for the first of 18 consecutive sold-out performances in various Russian cities ... The tour was videotaped and later presented as a special on PBS, airing nationally ... There was a second equally successful Russian tour in 1988 ... In addition, Halsey arranged for Orbison to be the first American artist to perform in a Bulgarian Festival behind the then Iron Curtain.

Joe Bonsall, the Oak Ridge Boys' deep bass voice these past 30 years, concludes his introduction to Halsey's book: "Readers, look real hard at the road ahead ... I guarantee there will be a crossroad around the bend. Look. Listen. Pay attention. Through the words in this book, you will find Jim Halsey standing there at the crossroad, ready to point the way ... Listen to him. Learn from him. He is the best of us."

Weekend wrap-up

Good news: The Ernie George Trio, including Gus Mancuso and Dr. Tom Ferguson, plus George on drums and vocals, now plays good jazz, 7:30-11:30 p.m. Saturdays at Paisano's restaurant ... Free show: Dr. Morton Greene's Magic/Comedy Showcase, open-mike style, Fridays at Boomer's ... See you Thursday.