Country music and gambling go hand in hand. Las Vegas has been a source of inspiration for many musicians, whether they're down on their luck or hitting the big time. All sorts of musicians, from crooners like Elvis and Sinatra's Rat Pack to Lady Gaga, have touched on the glamor of the casino. There are already countless lists of gambling inspired songs, so let's take a look back at some of the most iconic country songs inspired by Las Vegas, and the stories behind them.
5. "Ooh Las Vegas" - Gram Parsons & Emmylou Harris
"Ooh Las Vegas" is one of those songs that has woven itself into the rhinestoned fabric of the glittering city. Gram Parsons of the Byrds and the Flying Burrito Brothers wrote the song with his wife Gretchen. It was featured on his posthumous album recorded with Emmylou Harris, Grievous Angel. "Ooh Las Vegas" has since become a classic. In a few words, it sums up a Vegas night, where losses are followed by strong drinks. Following Parsons' premature death at just 26, Emmylou continued to sing "Ooh Las Vegas" with members of the Hot Band. Gram's song about Crystal City has since been covered by many artists, including Cowboy Junkies and Orville Peck.
4. "A Good Run of Bad Luck" - Clint Black
Recorded in 1994, this song follows the ups and downs of falling in love entirely through gambling metaphors. This catchy feel-good song was a number one hit on the country charts. Its popularity is due in part to the movie Maverick. The song appears on the soundtrack of the Western comedy, in which the singer has a cameo. Black included the song on No Time to Kill, an album that spawned four number ones.
3. "In the Jailhouse Now" - Jimmie Rodgers
"In the Jailhouse Now" tells the story of just about how badly it can go for a gambler. Rodgers sings about his friend, Gamblin' Bob, who finds himself locked up for cheating at cards. Bob might be great at shooting dice, but with no one to pay his bail he's left in a sticky situation. The singer shouldn't judge him too quickly though, as he soon finds himself locked up too, following a night on the tiles with a girl named Susie. Most people will recognize this early novelty song for Rodgers' signature yodel. Rodgers recorded the original version of the song on February 15th, 1928, alongside Ellsworth T. Cozzens on banjo. He also recorded a lesser-known follow-up, called "In the Jailhouse Now -No. 2." This time it's his pal Campbell who finds himself in the can after fighting and gambling. Countless artists have recorded covers of In the Jailhouse Now, including Webb Pierce, Johnny Cash and Merle Haggard.
2. "Big in Vegas" - Buck Owens
"Big in Vegas" tells a story that became a recurring motif for Owens-fame. A young musician, against the wishes of his mother, tries to make a name for himself in Vegas. The entertainment industry is a cutthroat place for some, where musicians can ply their trade for a lifetime without recognition. In Buck's song, the singer is desperate for fame, but his hopes are waning. He's already 'played every honky tonk and smokey bar', but at least he still has his dreams. Buck Owens released "Big in Vegas" in 1969 as the first single from the album of the same name. It reached number five on the country singles chart. The tone of the song has echoes of Buck's biggest hit, "Act Naturally," recorded six years earlier. While Las Vegas is the inspiration for this song, Buck Owens is most famous for pioneering the Bakersfield sound, in California. Buck recorded a video for "Big in Vegas," which aired on his one-of-a-kind Hee Haw TV series.
1. "The Gambler" - Kenny Rogers
We couldn't do this rundown without mentioning this Kenny Rogers hit. "The Gambler" is one of the most iconic country songs about gambling of all time. Songwriter Don Schlitz penned the song in 1976, when he was just 23 years old. Perhaps he was wise beyond his years, as the song offers some sage advice. As the story unfolds, our protagonist is traveling by night on a train, when the mysterious gambler approaches him. In return for a final sip of whisky, he is offered the following advice, that still rings true for many a dice-roller in Vegas: You've got to know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em, Know when to walk away, know when to run. You never count your money when you're sittin' at the table,There'll be time enough for countin' when the dealin's done. "The Gambler" earned Rogers a number one country hit thatcrossed over to the pop charts, climbing to number sixteen. It would also bring Rogers a Grammy award in 1980, for best male country vocal performance. Bobby Bare and Johnny Cash recorded versions of the song too, but Rogers certainly landed the winning hand.