A Grateful Dead drag tribute band are playing a show in protest at Tennessee’s recent drag ban

Bertha gig poster
(Image credit: Dee’s Country Cocktail Lounge)

The world’s first Grateful Dead drag tribute band are playing a show in protest at the state of Tennessee’s controversial recent ban, which forbids "adult cabaret" acts from performing in front of children. Bertha – named after the track of the same name, from the Grateful Dead's 1971 "Skull and Roses" album – will play at Dee’s Country Cocktail Lounge in Madison, TN on April 29.

The band describe themselves as an "all-star collective of femme, queer and allied East Nashville talent," and the event will raise money for Inclusion TN, a local  organisation supporting the LGBTQIA+ community. Tickets are $10 on the door, and the event will be hosted by popular drag country queen Marlene Twitty-Fargo. 

According to the band, Bertha's origins are both mystical and convoluted. 

"In the mid 1990’s, just after Jerry Garcia’s tragic and untimely demise, a deadhead janitor working at Area 51 gained access to top secret time travel technology and took it upon himself to retrieve Jerry’s severed middle finger at the moment he lost it in 1946," say Bertha. "He thought, if he could just get the DNA to the right scientists, cloning technology might one day be able to bring Jerry back. 

"Breakthroughs in the early 2000’s found that a compound in LSD could activate dormant genes to replicate sufficiently to grow a functioning human body in a lab. The theory was: if they could mix Jerry’s DNA with the original Owsley acid, it could create a Jerry clone that would reunite the Grateful Dead to continue their “long strange trip”. 

"Unfortunately, they mixed up the vials and the first seven clones were the bastard children of Jerry’s finger DNA and the infamous Brown Acid. These pitiful yet beautiful creatures were musical mutants, with the chops of their father but a physical form yet unseen in the jam band world – that of a woman. After being cast out of the lab, and the experiment shut down as a failure, these orphan queens each took the name Bertha in solidarity with one another and formed a band."

Tennessee's Senate Bill 3 and House Bill 9 ban performances deemed as male or female impersonation from taking place on any public property in the state, as well as in any location where people under the age 18 might be present.

Dee’s Country Cocktail Lounge Bertha poster

(Image credit: Dee’s Country Cocktail Lounge)
Fraser Lewry

Online Editor at Louder/Classic Rock magazine since 2014. 38 years in music industry, online for 25. Also bylines for: Metal Hammer, Prog Magazine, The Word Magazine, The Guardian, The New Statesman, Saga, Music365. Former Head of Music at Xfm Radio, A&R at Fiction Records, early blogger, ex-roadie, published author. Once appeared in a Cure video dressed as a cowboy, and thinks any situation can be improved by the introduction of cats. Favourite Serbian trumpeter: Dejan Petrović.