Scarlet Begonias

  • About

  • Lyrics

  • Mars Hotel Solo Lesson

  • Mars Hotel Transcription

  • 10/19/74 Solo Lesson

  • 10/19/74 Transcription

  • 5/8/77 Solo Lesson

  • 5/8/77 Transcription

  • 6/21/89 Solo Lesson

  • 6/21/89 Transcription


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.