You might have to pinch yourself when you first pull into Virginia City, Nevada. Did you drive into some kind of time tunnel or through some weird vortex on the way into town? Not exactly, but the 19th century springs authentically to life in the small city thanks to more than 100 members of the Virginia City Living Legends, founts of local history that dress in period garb and mingle with visitors, standing at the ready to tell tales of Virginia City's rough-and-tumble and intriguing heyday. If you have questions about the men who became millionaires thanks to Virginia City's fabled Comstock silver lode or want to know about Mark Twain's time here, just ask one of the Virginia City Living Legends dressed as a saloon girl, lawman, soldier, grizzled old miner or ne'er-do-well that you'll see all along C Street, Virginia City's main drag.
One place a Virginia City Living Legend might guide you to, especially if you're hungry or thirsty, is the Red Dog Saloon, a modern day pizza joint housed in a historic building from the 1800s that also happens to hold significance in the history of rock'n'roll. The Red Dog Saloon is the place where singer Janis Joplin first performed on stage with Big Brother & the Holding Company; joining the group was the catalyst for Joplin's meteoric rise to fame.
Virginia City's rock'n'roll legacy began in 1965 when San Francisco-based psychedelic group the Charlatans came to play at the just-opened Red Dog. The Charlatans spread the word back home that Virginia City was a cool place to play and hippie friendly and soon Big Brother showed up and settled in as the Red Dog's house band. Janis Joplin sat in in 1966 and when Big Brother left town, she went with them. The Bay Area music invasion was just beginning in Virginia City though and Jefferson Airplane, Quicksilver Messenger Service, Family Dog, It's a Beautiful Day and many other Haight-Ashbury luminaries made their way to the Red Dog Saloon.
Today the walls of the Red Dog Saloon are covered with posters, flyers, framed photos and other bits of pertinent rock'n'roll memorabilia from the era and saloon owner Loren Pursel is always happy to tell patrons about the good old days when he's not too busy. The Red Dog Saloon still offers live music in the evenings, and while Janis Joplin can only be there in spirit, you never know who might drop in to reminisce.
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