Curtain closes on Wild Bill’s career

Published 10:29 am Monday, May 23, 2016

Ahoskie native Charles William “Wild Bill” Cooksey was a beloved street performer during a portion of his entertainment career in Las Vegas. He is shown here with two fans from Canada. | Photos from Wild Bill Cooksey’s Facebook page

Ahoskie native Charles William “Wild Bill” Cooksey was a beloved street performer during a portion of his entertainment career in Las Vegas. He is shown here with two fans from Canada. | Photos from Wild Bill Cooksey’s Facebook page


LAS VEGAS, NV – Whether performing inside in front of a sold-out audience or soliciting “Honks” from passing motorists outside on the Las Vegas strip, “Wild Bill” Cooksey was among the beloved characters in this city that never sleeps.

The Ahoskie native was known on the Vegas Strip as a self professed motivational speaker, TV and radio broadcaster, musician, and caricaturist, among other things. He kept the Vegas crowds thoroughly entertained until his death on April 9. He was 71.

Charles William Cooksey was born Sept. 23, 1944 to the late William and Marjie Cooksey, former owners of Cooksey’s Florist in Ahoskie.

Billy, as he was known by his Ahoskie High School classmates, was a musician and performed in a local band, The Impalas, with several AHS classmates.

Following high school, Cooksey attended Wake Forest University. His love for music and entertainment led him to Las Vegas where he entertained thousands on the Strip and made many friends through the years.

Cooksey wore many hats in the entertainment field. He was a one-man band, motivational speaker, educator, producer, broadcaster, author, and mentor.

His energy for life earned him the name of “Wild Bill.” In 1976, he broke the Guinness World Record for playing music continuously (18 hours and 16 minutes of playing of an instrument by a one man band) on stage at the Silver City Saloon and Casino in Las Vegas.

Cooksey married the love of his life, Janae Manion, in 1988. They were partners in work, love, and life until her death in 2005. Cooksey continued to perform on the Las Vegas Strip until his death.

A memorial service celebrating his life was held on May 8 in Las Vegas.

Information about Cooksey comes from his Ahoskie friend, Becky Jones, who was in contact with other friends in Las Vegas.

Cooksey, founded USA Media Consultants – a publishing, placement, and promotion business and performed interviews with notables such as Las Vegas mayor Oscar Goodman, and Donald Trump when he opened his Las Vegas hotel, Trump International. Vegas entertainers such as George Burns, Tony Bennett, Dolly Parton and Tom Jones were also interviewed by Cooksey.

Cooksey performed as a musician, comic, caricaturist, journalist, and publicist in several Las Vegas resort properties, to include Bally’s, Mandalay Bay, Venetian, Riviera, and Caesar’s Palace, among others. At one time he was the opening act for a famous Vegas performer – Freddy Fender.

For the past few years he had moved from the Las Vegas stages to the outside as a well-known street performer. There he passed his exuberance for life onto the tourists and natives of Las Vegas on a daily basis as a street performer.

In 2007, Cooksey recorded many songs, including “I’ll Climb That Mountain” as an inspirational anthem to people he wanted to motivate on their journeys in life. He described the song as the story of a man, a dream, a world record, a lesson of life and a song written many years before the writer truly understood what the words really meant. Below is the inspirational verse and chorus of Bill’s song:

Sittin’ Here Again Feelin’ Sorry For Myself

When Others Have A Greater Need

I Should Be Thankful For The Talents God’s Granted Me

And A Willingness To Succeed

Sometimes Everything Just Seems To Go Wrong

It’s Natural To Want To Give In

But You Can Solve Any Problem Big Or Small

Just Find A Place To Begin


I’ll Climb That Mountain

I’ll Make It Someday

Even Tho’ I May Stumble and Fall

Somewhere Along The Way

I’ll Never Stop

Til I Reach The Top

Hold My Head Up In The Clouds And Say

“Thank You, Jesus, For Helping Me To Climb That Mountain Yesterday!”

Videos of Cooksey’s Las Vegas street performances can be found on YouTube at Wild Bill USA.

In a post earlier this year on his Facebook page, Cooksey exemplified the robust zest for life that he possessed: “Friday nite was filled with glowing, smiling eyes of little innocent children ALL totally thrilled that in the hustle and bustle of Mom and Dad rushing up and down the Strip absorbing all the sights…that some strange looking ole guy with a funny hat, sitting down would point right at them and go HONK HONK just as they passed in front of him! Kids don’t miss a thing! And they surely know how to value what they love! People will say to other adults YOU’RE ACTING JUST LIKE A KID! But not true! For if everyone acted like a kid, this world would be totally different! Imagine the peace and laughter without years of stressed out baggage that turns adults into monsters. And tho kids may have a dispute or even get angry over a matter…ten minutes later, they are back playing in the sandbox again together. And if you ask them what they were arguing about, they’d say, ‘WHAT? I DON’T REMEMBER!’ LOL. So let’s all resolve to really act like little kids again. Put on just a diaper, have a pacifier in your mouth (not a cigarette), hold tight to your Teddy Bear AND THEN WALK DOWN THE STRIP! I guarantee people will make you laugh ‘cause they’re laughing at you! And don’t be offended when a tourist from Toledo says CAN I TAKE A PICTURE WITH YOU? LOL honk honk!”

Wild Bill Cooksey possessed a childlike glee and wonder that most people lose when they become adults.

There are plans in the works to erect a statue that will stand on the streets of Las Vegas of “Wild Bill Cooksey” that will exemplify the joy that street performers give to passers by in the city.