It is with great sorrow that I must report the passing of Richard “Doc” Halstead. Doc suffered a heart attack at the Northridge in Penn Valley over the holiday weekend.
He was a homegrown Nevada City boy, raised in his father’s drug store on Broad St. and schooled at Mount St. Mary’s in Grass Valley. He served with the marines as a medic in Vietnam, hence the nickname “Doc”. We met sometime in 1969, although I don’t recall the exact date or circumstances. He was an aspiring folk singer, and along with fellow musicians Charlie Williams, Bob Carson and Bodie Bogeman started a band called The Dogbar Sickle Company. They made a few demo tapes of original songs and played at what few gigs were available in Nevada County in those early days, but the band broke up in 1970.
After that, he teamed up with the ensemble that would become the first incarnation of the Carrie Nation band, shown here with (L toR) Charlie Williams, Troy Woodman, Debbie Reese and Arthur Mommi. This photo was taken the day before Doc, Charlie and I left for Atlanta, Georgia to expand our musical horizons.
Atlanta was the happening place for music in 1972, thanks to The Allman Brothers Band. We lived with Charlie’s uncle Greg, a trappist monk who was running a rehab center on Peachtree Street (the Haight St. of Atlanta). After a few weeks, Greg found us a two-room cabin outside of town where we could live rent-free until we got our bearings in the new environment. We performed a few times as a trio in Underground Atlanta, and found employment at an onion packing plant for two bucks an hour. We convinced fellow Nevada City musicians San French (keyboards), Bill Smart (bass), and Arthur Mommi (guitar) to come back east to start a new band. San and Arthur didn’t stay long, but the rest of us were determined to find our fortune in Dixie.
We moved into a roach-infested duplex after that, where Doc and I wrote “Empire Mine”, an ode to the early goldseekers of Nevada County. I eventually moved out and got a job as a forklift driver at Owens Corning Fiberglass in Fairburn, but we always stayed in contact.
In 1973 I was in a near-fatal car accident. Doc and Charlie were my only family there, and helped me through the worst of it. After I was released from the hospital, I moved in with Doc in the Ben Hill neighborhood. While I had been convalescing in traction, the boys had finally put together the band we had been searching for. Carrie Nation went on to become a popular act in Atlanta, opening for big names like Humble Pie, James Cotton, and Jojo Gunne. The band toured all over the South during 1974 and ’75.
As luck would have it, we met up with one of Doc’s old classmates, Dave Furano, who was running much of Bill Graham’s touring operation. Dave convinced us to return to California, and arranged for us to appear at Winterland as the opening act for Elvin Bishop and Kingfish. We played clubs and concerts all over Northern California, but success eluded us. Acting on bad advice, Doc was kicked out of the band, and things just went downhill from there until Carrie Nation broke up in 1977.
But Doc never held it against us, and we remained friends. He went on to tend bar at Duffy’s, and managed the equestrian center in Penn Valley. We became roommates again when I was working at the Northwoods Clubhouse at Tahoe Donner and he was once again in the horse business.
After that, he went on the road with Winterland Productions, selling overpriced t-shirts and other band paraphernalia. He lived in Nashville for a time, but returned to Nevada County where he sold real estate and helped to revive the Penn Valley Rodeo.
In recent years, Doc was always a guest at our Thanksgiving dinner. This year, it was just the three of us. We reminisced about those “good ol’ days”, and he and Mary Ann swapped stories about their heart surgeries. Anymore, I always treat these occasions like they could be our last. It’s no secret that we led hard lives, and as we grow older the bills are coming due. But As Doc said that night, “If I had it to do over again I wouldn’t change a thing.” Damn straight. We lived through some extraordinary times, and a better friend I’ll never have. I wouldn’t trade that for all the gold in Fort Knox.
Farewell, old friend. You will be missed.
At right – A “selfie” taken by Doc with Mary Ann’s I-pad in our dining room on Thanksgiving night.
Update: 12/3 Services will be held Friday, Dec. 6, 10:30am, at the Hooper Weaver Mortuary, 459 Hollow Way, NC. Phone no. (530) 265-2429.
Earlier this year, Dakota Sid Clifford recorded “Empire Mine” on his latest album…
I just heard about Doc from Bill;y at California Organics. I was there when the band was in it’s heyday and Doc was always my favorite and a good friend though I seldom saw him in recent years. I’d like to do a special on Doc and the band on KVMR. Contact me.
I’ll miss Doc. He was a great man, hard worker, funny, honest, talented.
I’m happy to have known him and worked with him.
I never got to spend that much time with Doc, even though we ran in the same circles. But what I do know is that every one of my friends loved him, and that’s the highest praise of all.
One way or another, we’ll all meet again. See you later, Doc.
Caption for the photo:
Signature hat and weapon of choice; an old guitar and a gravelly voice.
He sang to the heavens, and now he is gone,
Long lives the man who gives us his song.
Thanks Bob for another colorful vignette of local history experienced in the first person. As a newcomer to Nevada County I can speak for all recent arrivals that reading your contributions expands our local horizons and, even if vicariously, let’s us partake of the years that made our community what it has now become. Such knowledge is bonding.
That’s exactly what I was thinking when I read Bob’s tribute to Doc.
Thanks Bob for this wonderful story I remember the day we sang songs out on the patio at High Street right before you all took off to Georgia. I remember it so well because it did not seem real that you guys would be gone…You all had and still hold a special place in my heart and past and “Silver Shells” is still one of my favorites.
Hi Troy (and Bob, of course) ~ I’ve got as many cobwebs as the next old hippie but I seem to remember one morning at High St. when Bob crawled out of his attic room and he and I sat down at the piano and, with his lyrics and my piano part, we banged out a primitive first version of Silver Shells? (“Mom, won’t you meet my friends…”). I’m sure it was redone later on. Anyone remember?
Yeah, I got the idea from Neil Young’s song “After the Gold Rush” and a seashell mobile that used to hang in our living room at High St. San supplied the music. Carrie Nation’s later version is featured in the Winterland video.
Thanks Bob…that morning is etched in my memory of those days and it was always an honor for me to have shared a musical moment with you.
What a great story…..the seashell mobile at High Street! Love that….”to see me, they have traveled far” xo
Here’s an old post I did about the band, with a link to the Winterland video…
I was able to view the video from this concert after creating a free 3-day pass on Concert Vault. I’ll forward this to info to others at NCTV to pursue possible re-broadcast locally.
I also was able to view some things on Concert Vault…I want to say Wolfgang? It was pretty neat.
Bob, the math questions are getting harder…lol
Bob, in addition to the tribute to Doc to be aired on KMVR, if video exists of Doc, NCTV might be a good venue for that. There’s no charge for the actual broadcast, but if editing is required/desired there could be some labor charges….just a thought.
The only video we know of is the Winterland show, and that belongs to Bill Graham. There was another tape the band made back in Atlanta, I think it was the local PBS station or some public access. They used to play it on TV back there, but since it was done in 1974 (or ’75?) no one had a VCR to record it. Those tapes may or may not exist, and I don’t know how to find them.
Okay. Will investigate re-broadcasting of the Winterland show. Another suggestion: Consider broadcasting a slide show (including audio) using pictures and memories of Bill’s friends.
The slide show sounds like a much better idea; there was so much more to Doc than his early music days, and certainly more than one concert date would depict. IMHO
I agree Chris. And others are privately saying the same. The board and staff at NCTV are eager to facilitate this. We can pursue this after Friday’s services.
I knew Doc for 4 short years while being the drummer with Carrie Nation. He was a wonderful, creative, fun loving and sensitive man. I am deeply saddened by his passing. My only regret is not having the opportunity to have known him as well as some of you. Still, in the short time we were together, we had some great times and made some beautiful music together. I will cherish those memories forever. My deepest sympathy and condolences to all of his immediate and extended family. May Doc rest in peace and in my heart forever.
Doc’s family has requested that in lieu of flowers that a donation be made to the Penn Valley Community Rodeo Association.
What was the story behind the band name “Carrie Nation”? I’ve long since forgotten….
Juan & All~ Again, forgiveness for cobwebs, but I have a pretty clear memory of Charlie W. & I hangin’ out … either at Spring St. or High St. and Charlie had just picked up a book from one of his relatives that was an old police handbook on street drug lingo: horse for heroin; grass,pot,weed etc, for MJ and so forth. It was from the 50’s. We looked up the slang for cocaine and low and behold one of the words ~ besides snow and white angel was Carrie Nation.
Don’t know if the band name was cemented right then and there, but cocaine was popular in the day and I’m pretty sure that’s where the name originated. I’d love to get with Charlie on that and re-affirm my memory. Any comments?
Juan – The historical Carrie Nation was famous for emptying bars of their inventory. We used to do that too. In fact, there were occasions when we had to evacuate the club before the management could tally up our bar tab, sometimes exceeding our meager pay. Remember that scene in the Blues Brothers movie when the boys had to skip out from the country-western bar? That was us.
Thanks for the memories and photos. Today is the 80th anniversary of the repeal of prohibition – the bar doors were re-opened!
The Twenty-first Amendment (Amendment XXI) to the United States Constitution repealed the Eighteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which had mandated nationwide Prohibition on alcohol on January 17, 1920. The Twenty-first amendment was ratified on December 5, 1933. It is unique among the 27 Amendments of the U.S. Constitution for being the only one to repeal a previous Amendment, and for being the only one to have been ratified by the method of the state ratifying convention
Ha! Speaking of CN and bars…I will never forget one night I was in the kitchen cooking at High Street (remember that cool big white stove, wood burner and grill? I could crank out pancakes for all the boys in not time flat!)
Anyway, I went outside for something and there was San French and Paul Derho breathing so hard from running up the hill from down town. They were in the Crazy Horse and some “red necks” came in and started harassing them….they wanted to cut their long hair off! By the time they ran all the way up the hill they were so winded they just fell to the ground flat on their backs trying to catch their breath…So funny….but scary back then….lol
Continuation of the above tale: Paul & I were offered an escape out the back way of the Horse by good ole Ray Dalugge and we high tailed it back to High St. on foot. After we caught our collective breath, we hopped into my red ’49 Chevy pick-up and rolled back by the Horse and there, in the, Alpha parking lot, the ‘necks were waiting for us to come out of the bar. We gave them a rebel yell and a finger salute and raced back to High St: Hippies-1 Rednecks-0!
This is some hard news ,Bob . You know the rich history I was lucky to have with our wonderful and great friend , Doc . Although I have not seen him in many years he will Always remain in my greatest memories . Your comment about “Bills coming Due” is so true . I miss you as well , Bob, and hope everything si alright with you . I wish you were on Facebook like Doc was then we could stay a bit closer , if only by the crazy electronic air mail . Be well old friend ! I am still going strong with playing music and I see you are still strongly invested in your Art and Comics as well . This is a good thing ! I hope to do a trip out there (Back Home) in the Spring and will surely look you up . Rest in Peace ,Doc ..
Well, I Think San must have forgotten the facts:
We were very concerned about the quantity of bars in Downtown Nevada City and the fact that most of them were open for business at 6 am, usually full of local patrons consuming product on their way to work.
So in honor of Carrie Nation the axe wielding leader of the temperance movement
a name and image was born.
Charlie~ I stand thoroughly corrected…and thanks for the info. Like I said, cobwebs… sorry for spreading any mis-information.
Just on the curious side…was there ever a booklet that you had from a relative with the said info in it?
Haa, great stories all!
Yea, I looked her up- famous Prohibitionist who resorted to vandalism to get her point across. Carrie Nation. It all makes sense now!
Hey San, I need to move the heavy old upright piano of my childhood from Greenhorn to Banner Mtn…any (good) ideas?
Juan~ Yes, gimme a call @ 265 4227 and I can probably make some suggestions.
San, It was High St, and Yes, there was a book……..
and yes, yes, yes,
GOOD TIMES WERE HAD BT ALL
Chas~ Thanx. This means I’m not all the way gone. Those were the days my friend:-). Hope you are well & good.
I work in the Research Group at the Empire Mine State Park and would like to include the lyrics of Doc and your song, “Empire Mine” in our archives. We like to collect all things Empire and the would be a refreshing change from miners’ obituaries. Many thanks for the consideration.
When I was a young man just twenty years old
I traveled out west to search for the gold
My body was strong and my mind knew no fear
I’d never known illness any day of the year
Rode the Sierra in search of a claim
But everything’s taken, every place is the same
I don’t take no chances, I don’t cross no lines
So I ended up here in the Empire Mine
The work it is hard and the pay it is low
And the air ain’t too good in the shaft down below
And always I wonder as I slowly descend
Am I ever gonna see daylight again
Johnny once told me some day I’ll depart
For I will not die here in the cold and the dark
They laid him to rest in a box made of pine
For he lost his life in the Empire Mine
Now I am forty and my right leg is lame
I can’t hardly see and I’m goin’ insane
I fear every moment for it might be my last
That’s all I’ve to show for twenty years past
I hear San Francisco’s a pretty nice town
They’re getting rich from the gold that we found
Someday I’ll go there and leave this behind
If I don’t die first in the Empire Mine
copyright 2013 RL Crabb/Doc Halstead