by Sam DeLeo
Joe Behm knows how to throw a party.
When he worked in Frisco in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, he helped launch “Music on Main St.,” which has become one of the town’s biggest events. “It was a real community celebration, and it had never been done there before,” said Behm, now director of marking and community affairs for Fortune Valley Hotel and Casino in Central City.
He brought this same enthusiasm for music promotion to the gaming towns a couple of years later, though it was not immediately reciprocated. Behm took a job with the Central City Casino Association in 1992 shortly after gaming was legalized, and his first order of business was to get another street party organized, one with first-class music.
“Suddenly, everyone was really worried,” said Behm, “the police department, the Chamber of Commerce, the casinos. They’d never seen anything like this done before.” Adding to Behm’s nervousness was the fact he’d booked The Beat Farmers, a popular ’80s country rock band fronted by legendary and lovable lush, the late Country Dick Montana.
“The concert gets under way, and, after a few songs,” said Behm, “there’s Country Dick on stage guzzling beer from an unmentionable orifice of a giant blow-up doll of a sheep. The police chief comes up to me and says, ‘Joe, that’s not legal.’” Behm explained it off as “part of the act,” and the chief compromised by saying he’d let it go as long as it didn’t happen anywhere off stage. God rest your soul, Country Dick.
The concert, however, was a hit, and Behm scheduled more outdoor shows to take place on top of the parking-garage roof to Harvey’s Wagon Wheel Casino, the former occupant of the Fortune Valley casino space. “It turned out to be a great venue,” he said. “We had a huge tent to protect against weather and we started pulling in big-name bands.”
Bringing their acts to Harvey’s rooftop garage stage were Firefall, Poco, Dave Mason, Little Feat, Dave Alvin of The Blasters, John McEuen of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, The Fixx, Gin Blossoms, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, Juice Newton, Nicolette Larson and Leon Russell, to name a few. There were always surprises in store for both the bands and the audiences (though nothing again on the scale of Country Dick’s blow-up sheep.)
“We did whatever it took,” said Behm, remembering the time he had a friend drive Larson from Stapleton Airport to Central City in a pick-up truck. “He was extremely excited about the opportunity to pick up Nicolette Larson. He got his truck all cleaned and shiny for the trip. After Larson got to Central City, she says to me, ‘I have to tell you, Joe, I didn’t think I’d be getting picked up at the airport in a pickup truck.’” Leon Russell also once quipped to Behm, “I never thought I’d start my career in a garage and end on top of one.”
Behm eventually brought in other types of entertainment to Harvey’s, such as the Chippendales male revue. “You would see three generations — grandma, mom and daughter — all there together,” said Behm.
But music has always been his passion. It remains one of the favorite aspects of his job at Fortune Valley. “Luckily, we’ve been able to experiment,” said Behm. “We’ve brought in zydeco bands, and you’ve never seen a party until you’ve seen a zydeco party. Our movable floor actually moved!”
Lately, Behm has focused more on roots music at Fortune Valley, such as rockabilly and honky tonk. The constant for Behm has always been good music — whatever the genre — and, of course, providing his guests a good time: “We had fun back then and we have fun now. I think it’s always about having fun.”
What Joe Behm is listening to
As director of marketing at Fortune Valley Hotel and Casino,
Joe Behm relishes his role to promote and book musical acts. Here are some of his favorite records:
In current rotation:
- Wilco, “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot”
- Robert Earl Keen, “The Rose Hotel”
- Jimmy Buffett, “Take the Weather with You”
- U2, “No Line on the Horizon”
For a desert island:
- U2, “The Unforgettable Fire”
- Neil Young, “Harvest Moon”
- Louis Prima, “The Best of Louis Prima”
- Van Halen, “Van Halen”
~ by Sam DeLeo