Scarlet Begonias

Scarlet Begonias

Robert Hunter wrote “Scarlet Begonias” for his wife, Maureen. It was first performed by the Dead on March 23, 1974, at the Cow Palace in San Francisco. Soon after, it was released on the “From the Mars Hotel” album in June 1974. The final performance was on July 2, 1995 at Deer Creek Amphitheater near Indianapolis. “Scarlet Begonias” was played a total of 316 times between 1974 and 1995.

“Scarlet Begonias” began as a relatively short song. The studio version is just over 4 minutes, and the debut version (at Cow Palace) clocked in at just over six minutes. Over time the song became a vehicle for extended improvisation, usually including interplay between Donna’s vocal scats and Jerry’s guitar improvisation. In 1974 alone, there were twenty-eight performances, some of which were nearly twelve minutes long. The longest (pre-Fire) version comes from August 4, 1976, in Jersey City, New Jersey, clocking in at fifteen minutes.


Lyrics: Robert Hunter
Music: Jerry Garcia

As I was walking round Grosvenor Square
Not a chill to the winter but a nip to the air
From the other direction she was calling my eye
It could be an illusion, but I might as well try
Might as well try

She had rings on her fingers and bells on her shoes
And I knew without asking she was into the blues
She wore scarlet begonias, tucked into her curls
I knew right away she was not like other girls
Other girls

In the thick of the evening when the dealing got rough
She was too pat to open and too cool to bluff
As I picked up my matches and was closing the door
I had one of those flashes I had been there before
Been there before

Well I ain't often right but I've never been wrong
It seldom turns out the way it does in the song
Once in a while you get shown the light
In the strangest of places if you look at it right

Well there ain't nothing wrong with the way she moves
Scarlet begonias or a touch of the blues
And there's nothing wrong with the look that's in her eyes 
I had to learn the hard way to let her pass by
Let her pass by

The wind in the willows playing Tea for Two 
The sky was yellow and the sun was blue
Strangers stopping strangers just to shake their hand
Everybody is playing in the heart of gold band
Heart of gold band

Mars Hotel Solo Lesson

Solo Transcription (Mars Hotel)

10/19/74 Solo Lesson

10/19/74 Transcription

scarlet begonias 10-19-74

5/8/77 Solo Lesson

5/8/77 Solo Transcription

6/21/89 Solo Lesson

6/21/89 Solo Transcription

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