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.

    1. you’ll probably never see this because i found this 7 year old comment only now, but i thought it would be worth the slim chance that you’d be able to send any audio copy of this set, however short, i would be so grateful... my late father was on guitar, Mike Hinton. my email is if you or anyone else ever reads this and has ANY tapes of High Noon performances!!

    2. unk, all the Comment threads are always alive here. Given that the blog effectively begins in 1965, what's seven years? I'm not a Tapes guy, but I know there are a lot of High Noon tapes out there. I saw High Noon a number of times, and heard a bunch of tapes (and Merl Saunders too)--your dad was a terrific guitar player. As you probably saw, he even left a comment on this thread, too (

      thanks for being in on this enterprise. I hope you find a lot of cool tapes.

  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.

  10. 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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  12. The Archive has the San Quentin News. Here is what they have about the San Quentin Bike Show.
    Annual Bike Show Held At
    By EZ Williams and Robert Endy
    After a lot of work, several setbacks and the inevitable
    headaches of planning such an event, the powerful rumble
    of Harleys created an awesome sound rolling through the
    sallyport gate Nov. 8 to kick off the annual San Quentin
    Bike Show.
    And if the 30-or-so Southern California bikes sitting on
    the lower yard were not a wonder in themselves, consider
    the accompanying entertainers: Joan Baez, Norton Buf-
    falo, Nightfood, and High Noon — all here to help make a
    special day for San Quentin cons. "

    1. The transcription is sketchy but here is what i can find of the review...
      "...time to get the sound equip-
      ment ready for use. As a result,
      many frustrated cons left be-
      fore the music ever started.

      San Quentin’s own rock-
      and-roll band, Fat Cat, was
      scheduled to open the show, but
      due to the lockdown, only three
      members of the band could
      make it.

      guitar and Bob Varricchio on
      The cons on hand then got a
      real treat when Norton Buffalo
      introduced a special guest.
      Donning her acoustic guitar
      and flawless voice, Joan Baez
      took center stage and pro-
      ceeded to envelope the lower
      yard in a blanket of warr^
      JOAN BAEZ, "WELL I'll BE DAMNED. . .'
      The music finally got under-
      way shortly past noon with
      Mickey Hart’s band, High
      Noon, jumping into some
      dynamite rhythm and blues.
      High Noon is a composite of
      top bay area musicians,
      brought together from well-
      known bands.
      Norton Buffalo again made
      magic with his harp, while
      Grateful Dead drummer Mic-
      key Hart supplied the beat.
      Just back from tour with
      George Benson, Vicki Randall
      helped out on percussion and
      vocals. Rounding out this
      multi-talented band was Merle
      Sanders on keyboards, Mike
      Hinton and Jim McPherson
      each on guitar, and Bobby
      Vega held the pace on bass
      mellow sounds.
      Baez did three songs, in-
      cluding the popular
      “Diamonds and Rust,” to an
      overwhelmingly enthusiastic
      crowd. She seemed unbothered
      by the typical verbal abuses
      she received from a few cons in
      the audience, singing her heart
      out to the large majority of
      very appreciative spectators.
      She finished with a colorful
      little tune called “Do Right
      Woman,’’ then turned the stage
      back over to High Noon— who
      boogied on into their final jam
      of the day.
      There was about an hour in
      between bands, as cons, cops
      and freepeople all chipped in to
      ready the stage for the next
      group of performers. The News
      took this opportunity to rap
      the roar crescendoed to a point
      of uncompromising force.
      Then, as if someone some-
      where dropped a checkered
      flag, clutches were released
      and the 1981 Bike Show ended
      amid the roar that marked its
      beginning some six hours ear-
      Year in and year out, the bike
      show consistently provides the
      cons with some of the best en-
      tertainment and socializing
      possible. This year was no ex-
      ception and plans are already
      in full swing to insure that next
      year’s show keeps up the trad-
      While waiting for the show to
      begin, the News talked with one
      of the chief convict organizers,
      Tortuga, who said he and fel-
      low convict Silver did most of
      the leg work — with a lot of help
      from other convicts who
      wanted the show to come off.
      Tortuga also said that Lenard
      Barela did most of the coor-
      dinating on the streets with the
      other outside bikers who came
      to the show.
      Tortuga and the rest of the
      inside organizers extended a
      special thanks to Lt. Brown,
      Activities Coordinator Clar-
      ence Wilson and the other staff
      members who helped this
      year’s show become a reality.
      After three foot-stomping
      renditions, the band made
      room for three members of Fat
      Cat, who joined in one whale of
      a jam session. The 10-minute
      jam was thunderously
      applauded by the many rock
      fans present. Helping out High
      Noon were Phil Burdick on
      drums, Bill Faught on lead
      with some of the musicians and
      get their feelings about the
      music they shared with the
      Ms. Baez, who commented
      that she couldn't remember if
      she's played here before,
      explained to the News how dif-
      ficult it is to get professional
      quality musicians to play for
      seemed to lift the crowd with
      every song. "

    2. "Nightfood,a Bolinas-based
      band, featured the beautiful
      harmonizing of Carol Joy Har-
      ris and Cici Dawn, which was
      accented by the radical
      saxaphone sounds of Tony
      Della Valle. Dave Murray and
      Brant Shenkarow provided the
      1 t
      free, anywhere.
      When asked what inspired
      her to come in and sing for a
      bunch of cons, she stated that
      Norton Buffalo casually in-
      vited her to join in the fun, and
      she gladly accepted.
      When Norton was asked what
      keeps bringing him back to the
      bastille, he jokingly replied,
      “The drugs are better in here."
      He then explained realisit-
      cally , “Listening to good music
      takes my mind away from all
      the jive. For me it's an escape,
      an escape that I try to get ac-
      ross to the cons.’’
      Closing the musical fes-
      tivities for the day,
      Nightfood— last here for the
      Labor Day Show— took the
      stage in front of an increas-
      ingly growing audience. This
      band filled the air with their
      whimsical style of mellow
      country-rock- jazz tunes, which
      beat on bass and drums, re-
      spectively, while Brian Lemco
      provided the steely sounds of
      lead guitar.
      As the band worked their
      way through their first couple
      of songs, a Della Valle sax solo
      with some smokin’ riffs,
      brought cheers from the
      When asked how they would
      describe the style of music the
      band plays, Carol and manager
      Bob Dill came up with “a ver-
      satile mixture of rhythm and
      blues, country rock, Motown,
      reggae, swing and good old
      rock and roll. '’
      Judging from the cheers of
      the crowd, it might safely be
      said that the cons were even
      more receptive to this band.
      The presence of their two
      lovely lead singers, Carol Joy
      and Cici, could have had
      something to do with it.
      It seemed the fun had just
      begun, then it was over.
      The stage was cleared; per-
      formers chatted casually as
      they made their way up the in-
      dustries ramp towards the exit
      gate; bikers and ol’ ladies
      mounted their chrome ponies.
      Then came the thunder.
      It started as a mild roar, but
      as more engines kicked over..."

  13. This is the direct link to the original scans. Instead of the wonky transcript. Plus pictures!

    1. David, thanks so much for this amazing historical research.

  14. my husband and I (SUAVE SOUND) did the sound for the San Quentin show. one of the most memorable in my career. It was odd from the start. First they did not tell us in advance that we could not wear jeans because the inmates did and if a riot broke out the guys with the guns aimed for the jeans. So after a delay they found me a damn orange caltrans jumpsuit to wear. Great as if I wasn't feeling nervous enough and trying to just blend in with the guys, now I was going to stick out like a sore thumb! Then we drive our truck into a courtyard where the guards proceed to unload everything and go through EVERY piece of gear, even as precise as opening up a Roland space echo that belonged to Norton Buffalo. In one item one guard found what looked like a little piece of dirt, brought it to another guard's attention, mentioned it looked like a piece of hash. "Is that all you found?" "Yes, what should i do with it? The other guy took it from him and through it in the dirt. Apparently, a sound crew coming in for a recent show there got busted with cocaine and had the entire truck and contents confiscated and crew arrested so they were on "High Alert" It took them forever to go through our sound gear, then THEIR crew (inmates I believe) loadewd our stuff onto one of their flatbed trucks and took it into the yard. Next thing, we needed to get our wrists stamped with a special stamp that could only be read by some reader. It took awhile fro them to bring the stamp to the gate. SO most of the delays setting up the sound mentioned actually were delays BEFORE we even started setting it up! There was nothing except for a set of stanchions like you find in a bank separating the stage from the inmates. I remember the daunting sight if the sharpshooters walking up on the catwalk, but it did not make me feel any less nervous. If I needed to talk to Bill and he was out front by the mixing board I would make him come to me, i wasn't leaving that stage! When Joan Baez showed up at least I felt slightly less nervous, not being the only female in that yard. While the show was going on an inmate struck up a conversation with me and showed me a t-shirt he had made and it seemed like he wanted to give it to me, i thought as a gift, but then i realized he wanted to SELL it to me, I told him I didn't have any money, (they kept our wallets at the gate) but he gave it to me anyway After the show when we were trying to leave, there was a long delay at the gate while they scrambled to find the stamp reader to let us out of the yard. By the time we had our van reloaded with the sound gear and drove to the gate, they were going to make us unload it completely because they did not have anybody watch while we loaded it to make sure we were not transporting any hidden inmates in the van. We explained how tightly packed the van was that nobody could possibly fit in there, they took a look inside and let us go. What a day!! I would post a picture of the T-shirt but can't seem to.

  15. A couple of studio cuts of them playing Fire on The Mountain and a song called Mad have circulated on Lossless Legs today.

  16. This comment has been removed by the author.

  17. Here is what I have for the High Noon dates

    May 22, 1981 Fox Warfield Theatre San Francisco CA Grateful Dead/Holly Near/Proto High Noon

    June 25, 1981 Civic Auditorium, Santa Cruz CA JGB/High Noon [Thursday]
    June 26, 1981 Fox-Warfield Theatre, San Francisco JGB/High Noon/Mike Henderson [Friday]

    July 18, 1981 Phoenix Theatre Petaluma CA High Noon [Saturday]
    July 28, 1981 The Stone, San Francisco CA High Noon [Tuesday]
    July 29, 1981 Keystone Berkeley, Berkeley CA High Noon [Wednesday]
    July 30, 1981 Keystone Palo Alto, Palo Alto CA High Noon [Thursday]

    August 5, 1981 Oasis Ballroom, Sacramento CA High Noon [Wednesday]
    August 6, 1981 Napa County Fairgrounds, Napa CA Jefferson Starship/High Noon [Thursday]
    August 7, 1981 Next Stage Saloon Hayward CA [Friday]
    August 9, 1981 Old Waldorf San Francisco CA High Noon/Ramblin Jack Elliott [Sunday]

    November 8, 1981 "San Quentin Bike Show” High Noon with Joan Baez [Sunday]
    November 13, 1981 Sebastopol Vet Memorial Aud Sebastopol CA High Noon/W.B.B.H./Billy C Farlow [Friday]
    November 14, 1981 Cabos Chico CA High Noon [Saturday]
    November 15, 1981 Keystone Berkeley, Berkeley CA High Noon [Sunday]
    November 17, 1981 The Country Club, Reseda CA High Noon/John Lee Hooker [Tuesday]
    November 18, 1981 The Golden Bear, Huntington Beach CA High Noon [Wednesday]

    December 12, 1981 Fiesta Hall, San Mateo County Fairgrounds, San Mateo Grateful Dead/Joan Baez/High Noon

  18. i was at the following shows:
    December 12, 1981 Fiesta Hall, San Mateo County Fairgrounds, San Mateo Grateful Dead/Joan Baez/High Noon
    May 22, 1981 Fox Warfield Theatre San Francisco CA Grateful Dead/Holly Near/Proto High Noon
    June 26, 1981 Fox-Warfield Theatre, San Francisco JGB/High Noon/Mike Henderson [Friday]