Saturday, July 25, 2009

1981 High Noon with Mickey Hart

High Noon was a Bay Area club band featuring Merl Saunders, Norton Buffalo and Mickey Hart. Their first appearance, under the name “Norton Buffalo and Merl Saunders” was at a benefit on May 22, 1981 at the Fox-Warfield Theatre, in San Francisco. That performance was discussed at length here. In the interests of completeness, here are the balance of their shows.

High Noon
Mike Hinton-electric guitar
Jim McPherson-guitar, keyboards, percussion, vocals
Norton Buffalo-harmonica, vocals
Merl Saunders-organ, synthesizer, grand piano, vocals
Bobby Vega-electric bass
Mickey Hart-drums
Vicki Randle-congas, percussion, vocals

Update: Since this post was originally written, a posthumous cd of Jim McPherson's music has been released. High Noon was formed partially as a vehicle for McPherson's songs, but since McPherson died an untimely death in 1985, the material languished for some decades. The cd is called A Promise Kept. Two of the songs on the cd, "Left Out In The Cold" and "Cross The Bridge," feature High Noon.

McPherson was a talented musician from the South Bay who played and recorded with a number of groups, including The Trolls, Stained Glass, Christian Rapid, Copperhead (with John Cipollina), Roadhog (with Robert Hunter) and the Merl Saunders band. For more about Jim McPherson and his music, see here; for Blair Jackson's appreciation of McPherson's music, see his article here.

June 25, 1981 Civic Auditorium, Santa Cruz
Jerry Garcia Band/High Noon

June 26, 1981 Fox-Warfield Theatre, San Francisco
Jerry Garcia Band/High Noon/Mike Henderson

July ?, 1981 "San Quentin Bike Show"
High Noon with Joan Baez
Lead guitarist Mike Hinton recalled this intriguing sounding event in the Comments, although I don't know exactly what it was. He recalls a number of other shows, as well. Due to gaps in the Grateful Dead's touring schedule, I have located them in July, but they could have been spread out at various times around the Summer of 1981.

July ?, 1981 The Oasis, Sacramento
High Noon

July ?, 1981 Cabo's, Chico
High Noon

July ?, 1981 The Golden Bear, Huntington Beach
High Noon

July ?, 1981 The Country Club, Reseda
High Noon/John Lee Hooker and The Coast To Coast Blues Band

July ?, 1981 The Belly-Up Tavern, Solana Beach
High Noon

July 25, 1981 Phoenix Theater, Petaluma
High Noon

July 28, 1981 The Stone, San Francisco
High Noon
Joan Baez sang “Diamonds and Rust”. I have a low quality audience tape.

July 29, 1981 Keystone Berkeley, Berkeley
High Noon

July 30, 1981 Keystone Palo Alto, Palo Alto
High Noon
A good audience tape circulates. Joan Baez sings several numbers.

August 6, 1981 Napa County Fairgrounds, Napa
Jefferson Starship/High Noon

August 9, 1981 Old Waldorf, San Francisco
High Noon
Joan Baez also performed at this show.

December 12, 1981 Fiesta Hall, San Mateo County Fairgrounds, San Mateo
Grateful Dead/Joan Baez/High Noon
High Noon had a different lineup for this show:
Mike Hinton-lead guitar
Jim McPherson-guitar, organ, vocals
Merl Saunders-organ, electric piano, piano, vocals
Chuck Rainey-bass
Mickey Hart-drums
with Bill Kreutzmann-percussion
Joan Baez-vocals

Chuck Rainey is a famous and excellent session musician. After a few numbers, Joan Baez and Bill Kreutzmann came out and the band backed her for a few of her well-known numbers. Later, Joan would be backed by the Grateful Dead, but that’s another post.

December 17, 1982 Pyramid Pins, Garberville
Mickey And The Daylights

This was a one-off, but it seemed to feature the High Noon crowd:

Barry Melton-lead guitar, vocals
Mike Hinton-lead guitar
Kathi McDonald-vocals
Merl Saunders-keyboards, vocals
Bobby Vega-bass
Mickey Hart-drums

As an odd footnote, the group seems to have begun working with Country Joe and ended working with Barry Melton.


  1. Note the spelling is "Mickey and the Daylites" according to the posters. See

    And it wasn't quite a one-off - a few years later there was another appearance of the band at Ranch Rock 86 on Sept 7, 1986. The lineup there was mostly the same. It had David Freiberg (keyboards and vocals) in place of Merl Saunders and added Dave Jenkins (guitar and vocals). On three songs, John Cipollina (guitar) also sat in. See

  2. Good catch on the spelling of "Daylites." I was aware of the 1986 shows, but it seemed a stretch to connect it to the High Noon shows.


  3. FWIW, just came across reference to a demo cut by High Noon at Prairie Sun Recording in Cotati sometime in the mid-1981 to mid-1982 time period.

    Jack McDonough, "Prairie Sun Plans Expansion," Billboard, May 8, 1982, p. 37.

  4. High Noon also played : San Quentin Bike Show [Joan Baez also fronted band for a couple of songs];Napa County Fair [opened for Jefferson Starship]; Cabo's [Chico, CA.]; The Oasis [Sacramento, CA.]; The Golden Bear [Huntington Beach]; The Country Club [Reseda]*John Lee Hooker and the Coast to Coast Blues Band opened the show; The Belly Up [?][San Diego}. I don't have the dates for those shows handy but i was there and played them. I would sure appreciate the opportunity to get audio copies of any shows. I was the lead guitar player.

  5. Michael, thanks for all the great information. It does seem unfortunate that High Noon was such an interesting band and seems to have been left by the wayside. I've got to think there are a lot of tapes out there gathering dust, waiting to be digitized.

    It looks like the Starship show in Napa (per Starshipbase) was August 6, 1981. The Belly Up is actually in Solana Beach, not too far from San Diego.

    What was the San Quentin Bike Show? It sounds awfully intriguing.

  6. I have unearthed a recording of the 12/12/81 High Noon set, recorded by Phil Jaret. It only has 2 songs. It is hard to believe that it is the entire set. The first song is (You Give Me) Fever. I do not know the name of the 2nd song but would be happy to provide someone with a copy to identify it.

  7. David I would check out the forums of a taper site like or Lossless Legs ( I'm sure someone would be more than happy to digitize the recording and get it circulating! I would love to hear that stuff!

  8. David, I was at the Dec 12 '81 show, and the High Noon set was definitely longer than 2 songs. They played about five extended numbers (my notes don't include song titles, sadly), and then Joan Baez and Bill Kreutzmann joined the band (Bill on percussion) and they backed Joan Baez for several numbers (I only recall "Diamonds And Rust").

  9. Michael Hinton posted this little vignette at Facebook: "Played all 3 [Keystone family] venues in 1981 w/Mickey Hart's band High Noon. Most memorable was when Jerry Garcia came backstage and shook my hand at The Stone. Mickey said "we actually got Jerry to leave his house!"" Based on your list, this had to have been 7/28/81.

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  11. Chuck Rainey, via Jake Feinberg's Facebook page:

    Playing with Mickey Hart for that one little period there. I think his band was called "Full Moon." I played bass on a couple of live shows and did some rehearsing. Joan Baez was around a lot. My wife was in school so we were up in SF all the time. Mickey needed a bass player so Merl asked me to play. Just about 2 or 3 times a month.”

    He gets the band name wrong, but anyway, FWIW.

    1. Thanks for this. The most interesting detail is that Rainey seems to recall having played more than one show. I only know Chuck Rainey playing on the Fiesta Hall Show (Dec 12 '81), but maybe there was another unknown gig around that time, or he filled in for Vega on some occasion.

      Rainey is a session dude, but an amazing player. If you can dig up a vinyl-only album called Fairyland by Larry Coryell (it hasn't been released on cd for some contractual reason), it will melt your brain. Just Coryell and Rainey playing in an electric power trio (with Bernard Purdie on drums), absolutely mind bending. I couldn't believe it when he was announced on stage with High Noon in San Mateo.

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