Musicians mourn loss of musical hub Friar Tuck’s |

Musicians mourn loss of musical hub Friar Tuck’s

Robert HugginsA woman sniffles as she watches Wednesday's fire destroy a quarter-block of downtown Nevada City.
ALL | GrassValleyArchive

Live, from Nevada City! Music – seven nights a week for more than 20 years.

When Friar Tuck’s Restaurant & Bar owner Greg Cook first took out a business license in the early 1970s, there were only “the last of the real frontier bars” in Nevada City where musicians played, one musician recalled Wednesday.

The Crazy Horse Saloon and Duffy’s Success, where Cirino’s Restaurant is now, were about the only venues where musicians could play on a regular basis, said musician Mikail Graham.

Back then, Friar Tuck’s was much smaller than it was before a fire early Wednesday morning destroyed it, he recalled.

“It was just a real quaint little place, just a few tables, musicians sitting on a little stool,” said Graham, whose family has been in Nevada County since the 1800s. The ceiling was covered in “monk-like” burlap, he said.

Over the years, the restaurant with music every night grew popular and took over the space next door, Graham said. “When it was remodeled, it was a huge change.”

The place became Nevada City’s hub for live music.

“Friar Tuck’s is the only continuous live music club that’s been here all those years,” said Graham, who’s played guitar with locals Ivan Najera, George Souza, John Girton and Tom McDonald.

One musicians described the loss of the venue as “devastating.”

“Everyone’s taken it for granted in Nevada City,” said guitarist Gregory Leupp, the Wednesday night act who has played there since 1980. “It is a drag for the musical community.”

Leupp joined other regular solo musicians in describing Cook as a dominant force in creating Nevada City’s music scene. Other restaurant and bar owners followed Cook’s lead with live music.

But only Cook regularly offered live music “where you walk in and have dinner and hear music” any night, Leupp said.

John Girton, a guitarist who played there Thursday and Sunday nights, noted that Friar Tuck’s “employs quite a few musicians. It was kind of a home for a lot of us.”

The music was usually about four hours a night, he said.

“It was just a real part of the community,” Girton said. “People would just come by and hang out. Musicians come in and jam there.”

Another sign of Cook’s support of the live music scene was the built-in PA system, so musicians “didn’t have to drag it in,” Girton said.

Peter Wilson, a guitarist and contemporary folk singer, said there were a number of musicians who thought of Friar Tuck’s as a regular gig.

“The schedule there has been for years that on Monday there are various artists; Friday and Saturday, too; a rotation of about 10 solo acts, myself included,” Wilson said.

On Sundays and Thursdays, it was always Girton, Wilson said.

Tuesday is Souza, and Wednesday is Leupp.

“Friar Tuck’s has been a mainstay for people earning a living doing that,” Wilson said.

“It’s a total tragedy for musicians,” he said.

“It’s really strange,” Graham said about the fire. “I’m in a daze. We’re just lucky it didn’t take out most of the town.”

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around Grass Valley and Nevada County make The Union’s work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Your donation will help us continue to cover COVID-19 and our other vital local news.


Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.

User Legend: iconModerator iconTrusted User