Friday, 13 July 2012

The World of Las Vegas

A few weeks ago whilst writing about Elmer Plinger, the song-poem stylist better known to his fans as Dick Kent and Buddy Raye I mentioned another project that he had been involved in, namely an obscure album by Ken “Nevada” Maines titled The World of Las Vegas: Night Club Music Las Vegas & Country Western. This album, which I discovered via  was causing me some concern, chiefly because although Elmer was credited as vocalist on Shooting of Governor Wallace (Jack – Bobby – Martin Luther Too), the only track I had heard, it clearly was not him singing.

So, in search of an answer to this conundrum a copy of the album was located, purchased and its delivery was feverishly anticipated.

And what a find! The World of Las Vegas is easily one of the oddest albums I have ever heard, on a par with the late, great Joe Meek’s oddball masterpiece I Hear a New World. It’s just about the most schizophrenic recording I own: 12 tracks which veer between elevator muzak, Shatner-esque madness and crazed, reverb-drenched space-age operettas. It’s genuinely nuts. And to prove this today I present for you three of the more insane tracks from the album, Shooting of Governor Wallace (Jack – Bobby – Martin Luther Too), Phase “1-2-3” (which seems to be some sort of comment on Richard Nixon and his policy on Viet Nam) and the brilliantly-titled “Oy-Vey” What a Dream. Incidentally, all three tracks come from the 'country side' of the album: goodness knows on what far-off planet any of these three songs would be considered country!

At least now I can explain how Elmer Plinger managed to become linked with the Governor Wallace track. The credits on the album are, to say the least, a bit hit and miss. The back cover has the following credit:

Vocalist “Aftra”
Elmer Plinger (Buddy Ray)

Which has, understandably, led pervious bloggers to assume that Buddy/Elmer was the vocalist on the whole album; however a quick squint at the labels of the disc reveal that Elmer (as Buddy Ray, rather than his more usual Buddy Raye) is only credited on two tracks: Hello to You on side one and You Made a Fool Out of Me on side two, both of which also appeared on a 45 (Smile 110; the version of You Made a Fool Out of Me on the 45 is slightly different with an extra, uncredited, female vocal intro). The back cover reveals some (but by no means all) of the ‘talent’ involved in this production, as well as Ken’s penchant for misusing speech marks. Aftra, incidentally, refers to the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, a union representing professional actors, dancers, singers, and broadcasters. I assume Ken included this credit as a way of showing that his performers were all being paid union rates for their work. But who knows? Unsurprisingly there is no date anywhere on the record, but the assasination attempt on Governor George Wallace took place in Maryland in May 1972, which means that this album (and the subsequent 45s) must have been recorded and released after then.

So who exactly was Ken “Nevada” Maines? Honestly, I don’t really know. I can tell you that he also self-published a 28-page booklet, Easy Money Racing Secrets, in 1972, and that two of his World of Las Vegas compositions were re-recorded with new lyrics for single release - That Fly Belongs to Me backed by Dollar Signs (which appears on the album as $$$ "Signs") was issued as a 45 by Smile Records (the same company that issued the album) as Smile 111, credited to Lanz Miles and Group – but that’s about it. There is a folder, held by the University of Nevada, which contains lyrics and song sheets to some of Ken’s work, including a couple of songs (My Name is Love and My Little Polish Rose) which do not appear on The World of Las Vegas. I know too that a man by the name of Kenneth B Maines, a professional gambler, died in Las Vegas aged 93 in 2005 but I’ve no idea if this is our Ken. If anyone knows anything else about the elusive Mr Maines please do get in touch.

So for now, enjoy a trio of the more crazed tracks from the Ken “Nevada” Maines album The World of Las Vegas.


  1. I love this record! I picked it up years ago for 75 cents and it blew my mind. I was not prepared for how truly bizarre it was.

  2. I have this album also, only because, my dad, Bob Hammer, plays organ on it. I will ask him about Ken Maines. This is definitely not one of his proudest musical achievements to say the least!

    1. Hi Pete, thanks for the comment. If your father does have any memories of his involvement with this recording I do hope you can share them with us. I love this album and your dad's organ work is one of the key elements.

    2. I should probably add that Pete's father, Bob Hammer, worked as an organist with various show bands in Las Vegas and previously played with Gene Krupa, Woody Herman and Charlie Mingus. Bob adds some lovely, jazzy flourishes to the mostly-instrumental Las Vegas side of the album, although his organ work would be replaced by some rather peculiar lyrics when two tracks (Dollar Signs and That Fly belongs to Me) were released as a 45, credited to Lanz Miles.


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