As Dead Elvis: Vegas’ unsolved mysteries

What mystery from this city’s past would make a good episode of one of those cold-case shows?

Something on Wardell Gray. Although his death was ruled an accident, the buzz surrounding the demise of this acclaimed tenor saxophonist hasn’t entirely died down since his body was discovered on the outskirts of town, way back in 1955.

Considered a hot talent, Gray, who had played with the likes of Benny Goodman and Count Basie, was in Las Vegas with bandleader Benny Carter to open the Moulin Rouge, then the first casino-hotel in town that was owned by blacks and was celebrated for the interaction of all races in its audience. He had attended rehearsals regularly and by most accounts was ready for the opening of the Moulin Rouge on May 25, 1955, when he failed to show up. The next morning his body was found in a weed patch on the outskirts of town, where he was dead from a broken neck. It was ruled an accident, and no autopsy was ever performed.

However, fans of Gray—and of a good mystery—have wondered for years what could have happened. A mob hit? A jealous lover? A drug deal gone bad? Was he in the wrong place at the wrong time? Whatever the case, the circumstances would make for a good screenplay.

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