Original Artist: Grateful Dead
Original Album: Grateful Dead (1971)
Historian: Chris Bertolet (bertoletdown)
This rollicking tune about a troublesome dame is an early Grateful Dead classic that, like many songs in the Dead canon, served as a touchstone for the band’s evolving style. “Bertha” came out of the gates as a driving country number in 1971, only to settle back into the Dead’s mellow jazzscapes in 1973, then emerged as a full-tilt rocker in the late seventies (when it was commonly mated with The Rascals’ “Good Lovin’”).
Phish is known to have covered “Bertha” at three of their earliest gigs: 11/3/84, 12/1/84, and 3/16/85. Apart from Trey’s earnest Jerry Garcia impression, they are rather unremarkable performances, but they are nonetheless historically notable.
Though Phish hasn’t performed “Bertha” in several decades, Trey has taken the vocal lead on several performances of the song in other contexts. He sang it at the 4/16/99 Phil Lesh & Friends show as Page accompanied on keys, and performed it several times thereafter with Lesh, including at the highly-regarded 10/20/07 Glens Falls, NY gig. Trey has also performed “Bertha” twice with Los Lobos: on 8/11/99 at Higher Ground, and again on 5/31/02 during Los Lobos’ opening slot for Trey in Las Vegas.