Hearts May Break but the Music Plays On

ROCK SPRINGS – A local resident  has been sending folks back in time for over 10 years. On Monday, Elvis will be back at Bunning Park.

Little did local resident Bill Valdez and his band Valdez and Co know that when they started playing Elvis songs for friends and family it would turn into an annual tradition approaching 15-years-old. Each year residents gather to look at old cars and listen to the band, not only pay homage to the King of Rock and Roll, but many songs and artists from that era.

Last year the atmosphere surrounding the event turned from getting a great show from Valdez and Co. to giving back to Valdez. Heart problems sidelined Valdez and the event last year. He went through three different heart procedures with the support of a community who rallied around him. One year later, Valdez is ready to hit the stage again.

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“This is my way to thank Sweetwater County,” he said emphasizing all the support he has received throughout all his years here.

One of the most important things this year for Valdez is to get the seniors of the community out to the event.

Two years ago a bus from the Castle Rock nursing home broke down on their way to the event. Valdez said he started getting calls when he was on the stage performing from these seniors. He remembers feeling horrible as they told him how disappointed they were they could not see the show.

Valdez said for many of the seniors, especially the ones in the nursing homes, this is one of the only event they can make it out to and look forward to. He said missing last year really showed him this.

“Not seeing the smile on the older faces,” is what he missed most.


First memories of Elvis

As a young boy, Valdez fell in love with the music of the era but Elvis stood out to him.

“I was raised on AM radio,” he said recalling listening to a small radio with his mother. “Whenever Elvis came on all she wanted to do was dance.”

Elvis continued to make her dance into her 80’s.

Elvis seems to have the most “where were you when” questions. Almost everyone can tell you where they were when he died. The same is true about his appearance on Ed Sullivan. Valdez was mesmerized.

“I thought to myself my god I’ve never heard anyone sing like that,” Valdez said. “He was a movie star with a voice.”


Memories of Elvis from the stage

His love for the music grew and soon he was the one playing the music. His travels led to Lake Tahoe where he performed many nights a week.

He recalled working the night shift one night as the casino was getting ready for an Elvis concert. Valdez said people from all over the world started flying in. He explained once it was announced you could literally hear the jets start coming in.

Valdez recalled watching Colonel Parker preparing for his arrival, decorating the stage and putting teddy bears all over the place. Finally, he remembers watching him play.

“When he sang one of those slow gospel songs you could hear a pin drop.” – Bill Valdez.

Valdez was not the only ones who was influenced by Elvis at the casino. Valdez worked with many artists there and recalled conversations with both Tom Jones and Bill Medley (of the Righteous Brothers). They spoke to him about Elvis and how inspired they were by him.

While he never met Elvis, Valdez met many people who were around him. Shortly after Tahoe, Valdez made it here to Rock Springs. He recalls playing at the Outlaw when a bus carrying Elvis’ Band, headed to Nevada, was snowed in. He said he was able to play with J.D. Sumner and some of the guys during this which was a dream come true.

The band stayed at the Outlaw for three days as they waited for the roads to be opened. Valdez said things got a little tense as the days passed, recalling one of the members questioned why the hell they even went through Wyoming to begin with. After a three-day stay, the roads were finally cleared and they were back on the road.


Monday’s show and possible future 

As Valdez prepares to put on his show at Bunning Park, he told SweetwaterNOW there will be a little surprise. Because of his health issues, he said he will have a special guest helping him sing several songs. He said he plans on having all the old cars there for people to help put that nostalgia in the air as well.

Valdez also wanted to thank all the volunteers who are helping decorate the stage, donating to the event and setting up for the event.

While he would not say if this would be his final year, Valdez said it is getting close.

“I don’t have a lot of gas in the tank,” Valdez said.


Fourth of July 

This is not the only event Valdez has started in the community. For many years, Valdez has played at the annual Fourth of July celebration in Rock Springs. Valdez said this came about after he was approached by several local firefighters, led by former Rock Springs City Councilman Billy Shalata, and asked if he would play in honor of Sept. 11.

Valdez said it gives him and the rest of the community a chance to celebrate the first responders on the front lines here. He said a lot of times, the true heroes of our community go unnoticed.


Final message to you, the fans

Overall, Valdez believes in the music and the power it has. Again, he said it is his way of saying thank you.

“The  biggest gratisfaction for me is bringing back memories for people,”  Valdez said. “You’re going to see somebody who loves music and has been playing for over 55 years.”