The charm and nostalgia of an iconic Nevada institution, cold beer, burgers with special “ghost” sauce, and live country music?! I’m in! On Saturday December 9th, we drove south to Goodsprings, Nevada to the Pioneer Saloon. We arrived to a crowd of cowboys that had come over from the NFR, National Finals Rodeo. I asked cowboy Brian from Ohio how he had discovered the Saloon. He said in 2013 the Pioneer Saloon celebrated its centennial, and the 100-year anniversary was publicized across the country. “I attend the Rodeo annually, and now an afternoon at the Pioneer Saloon is a tradition,” he said.
The Pioneer’s dining room is a memorial to Carole Lombard and Clark Gable. Back in 1942, Clark Gable sat in the bar for three days waiting for word on his missing wife. Carole Lombard’s plane tragically crashed at Double Up Peak near Mount Potosi, and there were no survivors. Although Clark Gable lived on–even marrying twice more–Carole Lombard was his true great love. Upon his young death at 59 years old, he was interred next to Carole Lombard.
After our meal, we slipped into the adjacent bar. A lively crowd of all ages was drinking and dancing. When cowboys hit the dance floor, they never disappoint! They glide across the floor spinning, two-stepping, and dipping their partners effortlessly. Although cowboy dancing is a display of strength and masculinity, there is also a sense of respect and gentleness in their movements. The whole crowd brought a sense of joy and camaraderie to the dance floor. The High Blue Cactus Band was everything one could hope for! They crooned out all the goodies from Josh Turner to Chris Stapleton! Lead singer Seth Turner is from South Dakota, but having lived in Nevada for 29 years, he claims native status. He told me he loves the Pioneer Saloon, and the band also plays other venues including one in Boulder City every Tuesday. Seth’s voice is definitely as smooth as Tennessee whiskey, and the energy radiating from the band was infectious. Their enthusiasm and excitement left no doubt that they love what they do. The band’s chemistry was palpable. They fed off of each other’s energy, creating a seamless musical journey.
There are some bullet holes in the wall from a poker game in 1915. According to the story told at the bar, the poker dealer caught a player cheating and shot him. The shooter was not arrested or charged, as this was considered a reasonable act under the circumstances–Viva Las Vegas!
Before we departed, we had the pleasure of meeting Doug, who shed some light on his “Asshole” T Shirt! The Pioneer Saloon is owned by Stephen Staats, whose nickname is “Old Man Liver.” Stephen started a promotional club named the Asshole Association. After he purchased the Pioneer Saloon, he heard that some people were referring to his clientele as “those assholes.” Some time later, he asked every patron of the bar bring in a toy for children-in-need at Christmas. The response was huge, and that’s how the Asshole Association was created. A hundred dollars gets you a lifetime membership! You’ll receive discounts and specials as well as a meet-and-greet with the owner and a shot of whiskey! Doug’s arm tattoos include the Asshole Association membership club as well as numerous other Las Vegas casinos and landmarks. He let me know that Old Man Liver is a “diversified individual,” selling whiskey, hot sauce, and even a book he wrote, What My Dad Taught Me. Every year all proceeds from the Asshole Association go to a different designated charity.
In closing, let me say that a drive to Goodsprings is totally worth it! For a fun afternoon with good food, a great crowd, and live country music, Pioneer Saloon should be your “go-to!”
Previous articles on the Pioneer Saloon published on Living-Las-Vegas.com:
“The Pioneer Saloon: A Fun Biker Bar, Even for those who don’t ride” by Linda Lou (May 5, 2009)
“Thoughts: From Chocolate to John Gotti” by Diane Taylor (May 28, 2023)
And some more historical perspective, published by the Nevada Magazine April 2013.