The Comstock House was a large brick hotel built on the west side of C Street after the Great Fire of 1875 and operated more or less continuously, following Virginia City in decline into the twentieth century. In early 1965, some San Francisco refugees living in Silver City bought the old structure, decorated it up, moved in upstairs, and went to San Francisco to look for a house band. There they found the colorfully dressed Charlatans, who were looking for their first gig and got it. From the stage of the Red Dog they introduced the world to psychedelic guitar band rock and roll -- the start of something big.
One of the participants created a simple system of colored lights triggered by the music: the first of many light shows that became the trademark of the era. In 1966 the house band was Big Brother and the Holding Company. Janis Joplin joined the band here and went on with it when it returned to San Francisco.
The impetus behind the hippie/psychedelic era in Virginia City waned, and the building was sold. It became Kitty's Long Branch and catered to the tourist trade for many years. In the 1990s Richard and Mary Harris re-opened the Red Dog, but it was better known for its pizza than for its music. They moved on in 2002 and the Red Dog went into decline once again.
Now Sue and Loren Pursel have reopened the historic saloon, adding pizza and specialty coffee as well as a full bar and performances by the top touring musicians of our time.
You can read more about the Red Dog's storied past by clicking the links below:
Perfect Sound Forever e-zine This slightly clueless article provides an enthusiastic and more or less accurate telling of the Red Dog tale (surely there was no actress named Lucious Bebe).
NPR article Ed Ward tells the Red Dog story from the perspective of his personal knowledge of the music scene and its participants. Still, he misspelled Chandler Laughlin's name.
The Wikipedia account
More from Wikipedia
The Red Dog in decline
Dan Hicks comes back to play in July, 2000
Dan Hicks in Virginia City again, this time at Pierce Powell's V&T Freight Depot
The Red Dog in further decline
Reno Gazette-Journal The Grand Re-Opening as reported in the Reno Gazette-Journal
Reno News & Review The Grand Re-Opening as reported in the Reno News & Review