Kings of the Silver Dollar
Tuesday nights + The Wort = One Ton Pig
Every Tuesday night, The Wort Hotel’s Silver Dollar Bar hosts One Ton Pig. The group of seasoned performers jam out on their self-described “fun, dance-worthy, down-and-dirty, outlaw-country, bluegrass, and Americana” music.
The playful sounds of One Ton Pig beckon to anyone walking past the doors of the Silver Dollar Bar at The Wort Hotel. It’s a Tuesday night, and the establishment is filling fast with fans of the eclectic valley band. You’ll see people on bar crawls around Jackson every night of the week, but the Tuesday crowd at the Silver Dollar is a regular group.
Pink and blue lights cast an inviting hue over the historic bar, which features 2,032 uncirculated 1921 silver dollars inlaid in its top. People have pushed their tables together and turned their chairs toward the dance floor. The wait staff wear band T-shirts and bob their heads to the music, serving up drinks and dishes that are a step or two above your average bar fare. It isn’t long before the band shifts into a cover of “Goin’ Down the Road Feelin’ Bad” and dozens of dancers crowd the small dance area. Men and woman take turns twirling one another, swinging back and forth, around and around.
Cowboys in jeans and boots swing women in blouses with lace, while men in button-up shirts dip and twirl with women in flowing dresses. A young woman does a hippie dance by herself, and a young man who told me he’s from Texas and his partner tear around the dance floor with a Latin flare, moving faster than anyone else.
People come to the Silver Dollar on Tuesdays to dance, says Wilson resident Ryan Mestaugh, his dreadlocks pulled back and tied. “It’s just a really great dancing atmosphere. There’s a big difference between here and the other bars."
Ralph Boyack has been dancing at the Silver Dollar every Tuesday for about as long as One Ton Pig has been the house band, or more than five years. Dressed in jeans and boots, Boyack and a friend take to the dance floor time after time, swinging to the wide range of musical styles the band moves through. After they play original tunes that strike a bluegrass chord, a rendition of “The Thrill is Gone” packs the floor for another go-round. One Ton Pig is a jam band of sorts, forging blues, funk, jazz, and other roots music into its own style—or, as they describe it themselves, “fun, dance-worthy, down-and-dirty, outlaw-country, bluegrass, and Americana.”
Boyack sits on a stool at the end of the bar and wipes sweat from his brow. He can dance to anything, he says. “I’ll [even] swing to hip-hop—as long as it’s got rhythm.” He picked up most of his dance moves in Jackson Hole, mainly at the Stagecoach Bar on Sundays. He hits the Silver Dollar on Tuesdays and dances most other nights at the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar.
Dancing has taken center stage at the Silver Dollar since the bar was added to the hotel in 1950. In a 1967 article heralding Jackson Hole as a “year-round fun spot,” the Chicago Daily News said the Silver Dollar and other bars offer “some of the swingingest entertainment between Chicago and San Francisco.” And it had better be upbeat: When Willie Nelson played the Silver Dollar in the 1960s, the local crowd reportedly didn’t like his music because they couldn’t dance to it.
One Ton Pig knows its fans want to dance, says guitarist/vocalist Michael Batdorf, so band members draw on their musical backgrounds to mix it up. They can move from a traditional song like “Red-Haired Boy” to a techno beat, adds vocalist and mandolin player Tim Farris.
Improvisation keeps it interesting. “That’s the beauty of playing every week,” Farris says. “We know the song and where it begins and where it ends, but it’s the middle [that’s unplanned]. It’s fun to find your way back not really knowing.”
One Ton Pig is lucky to call the Silver Dollar home, Batdorf says. “We’re playing in a piece of history, and hopefully we can become a part of that.”