September 29, 1989
It could have been any other Friday night at Matt’s Saloon in Prescott, Arizona. The beer was flowing, the band was playing and everyday folks were celebrating the start of a hard-earned weekend.
Oh yeah, and Bruce Springsteen was there.
No E Street Band, no Patti Scialfa, just an unannounced visit from The Boss and a few of his buddies, who had come from Los Angeles to northwest Arizona on their motorcycles. Springsteen bellied up and ordered a beer.
Wearing a leather vest and a bandana around his neck, Bruce was enjoying drinking and talking with the regulars, according to Utah’s Deseret News and Denny Orr, rhythm guitarist for that night’s entertainment, The Mile High Band. Soon word got out and the crowd jumped “from seven or eight people to 80 or 90 in 10 minutes,” Orr said. “It went nuts.”
Before long, Springsteen was on stage, playing with the band. Orr remembered seeing the rock star enter Matt’s and “the next thing I knew, he said, ‘Come on, boys. Let’s jam.’”
Bruce played with the band for about an hour, leading the guys through a bunch of rock and roll classics, including Elvis Presley’s “Don’t Be Cruel,” Chuck Berry’s “Sweet Little Sixteen” and the road-running gem, “Route 66.” He also sang “I’m on Fire” – one of the seven Top 10 singles from his 1984 blockbuster, Born in the U.S.A. – with The Mile High Band.
According to Orr, the band also asked him to play “Pink Cadillac” with them, but Bruce said he couldn’t remember the words to his own hit song.
The impromptu jam session wasn’t even the coolest thing that happened because of Springsteen’s visit. While at the country-western bar, Bruce had overheard the barmaid’s sad story. Brenda “Bubbles” Pechanec had incurred some serious bills because of a medical issue.
Even after leaving the bar that night, that tale must have made quite an impression on Springsteen. About a week later, a letter was delivered to the saloon, addressed to “Bubbles.” In the envelope might have been the biggest tip ever given to a barmaid. Bruce had sent her a check for $100,000 to take care of her hospital expenses.
The Boss had blown into town, rocked the house and left behind a legendary story.