Scarlet Begonias

Originally Performed ByGrateful Dead
Original AlbumFrom the Mars Hotel (1974)
MusicJerry Garcia
Lyrics ByRobert Hunter
Phish Debut1983-12-02
Last Played1985-05-03
Current Gap2105
Last Update2015-06-19


The Grateful Dead performed their classic “Scarlet Begonias” 316 times, debuting it with the “Wall of Sound” on 3/24/74 at San Francisco's Cow Palace, two days before entering the studio for From the Mars Hotel. The original lyrics – littered with British place names and allusions to nursery rhymes, folks songs, and fables – accompany music at once delicate and rhythmic. For outstanding Dead versions, check out 5/25/74 Santa Barbara; 9/25/76 Capital Centre; 10/2/77 Portland, OR; 12/31/78 Winterland; 2/3/79 Indianapolis; 6/18/83 SPAC; or 12/10/93 with Branford Marsalis. For a deeper dive on the song, be sure to visit David Dodd’s Annotated “Scarlet Begonias.”

Grateful Dead, “Scarlet Begonias” -> “Fire on the Mountain” – 12/31/78, San Francisco, CA

Phish performed the tune on three known occasions three: at their first gig on 12/2/83; opening their first bar gig on 12/1/84 at Nectar’s (followed by Hendrix’s “Fire” and “Fire on the Mountain”); and opening the third set of the first show with Page on 5/3/85, paired with “Eyes of the World.” Phish's performances of "Scarlet" reflect a band well before it found its own footing and as such are notable as historical footnotes rather than for their musical prowess.

Phil Lesh & Phriends, “Scarlet Begonias” – 4/16/99, San Francisco, CA

However, all the members of Phish have performed the song with members of the Dead in more modern settings, with significantly more pleasing results. The most prominent was the first: Page and Trey with Phil Lesh & Phriends on 4/16/99 at the Warfield, which also featured Donna Jean Godchaux on vocals. Other instances with Trey include: the Comes a Time tribute on 9/24/05 at Berkeley’s Greek Theater, with Phil & Friends on 7/7/06 and 7/12/06, and with Furthur on 9/7/13 at the Lockn’ Festival. Four versions of “Scarlet” with Mike can be found during his performances with Mickey Hart's Rhythm Devils in 2006, including on 12/1/06 at the Warfield with Bob Weir. 10/26/14 – a night off before Phish’s three-night stand at San Francisco’s Bill Graham Civic Auditorium – featured Mike performing “Scarlet” with Phil Lesh & The Terrapin Family Band in San Rafael in the afternoon, while Jon Fishman & Friends took their turn on the tune that evening up the road in Petaluma.

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