Contact Us

26 Years Ago: Bruce Springsteen Leaves $100,000 Tip in Arizona Bar

Bruce Springsteen
Hulton Archive, Getty Images

With no album or tour, 1989 was a down year for Bruce Springsteen, and the majority of his public appearances involved sitting in with friends in bars on the Jersey Shore. But on Sept. 29, he made national news by giving an impromptu performance at Matt’s Saloon in Prescott, Ariz.

Springsteen was passing through the sleepy town, which is about 100 miles north of Phoenix, with a few friends on their motorcycles en route to the Grand Canyon. The Prescott Courier’s original report says that he arrived at Matt’s at 2PM and ordered a beer. He also struck up a conversation with bartender Brenda “Bubbles” Pechanec, who told him that she had been married eight times and was facing a slew of bills for cancer treatment.

He then turned to the musicians, a local country-and-western group called the Mile High Band, and said, “Come on, boys, let’s jam.” Springsteen led them through some early rock classics — including Chuck Berry’s “Sweet Little Sixteen,” Elvis Presley’s “Don’t Be Cruel” and the standard “Route 66″ — and his own “I’m on Fire.” The band called out Springsteen’s “Pink Cadillac,” but he refused because apparently he couldn’t remember the words. At one point, he told the crowd, “I’m here in Prescott to take Bubbles away and be her ninth!”

Unfortunately, as word spread that a major rock star was in town, the scene at the tiny bar became ugly. “It was mad city,” said Denny Orr of the band. “It went from seven or eight people to 80 or 90 in 10 minutes. Then it went nuts.” A few days later, Steve Brennan of the Courier called it “chaotic” and “downright rude,” and noted that it was “easy to see why stars of Springsteen’s caliber shun impromptu appearances after being a witness to Friday’s events,” although he admitted to being “mesmerized as much as anyone else by Springsteen’s presence.”

The scene soon became too much for Springsteen. After about an hour, he left the stage and got back on his silver-and-blue Harley. However, Bubbles, who reportedly helped him get through the mob, made quite an impression on him. A week later, she received a check for $100,000 to cover her medical expenses.

Bruce Springsteen Albums, Ranked Worst to Best

This Day in Rock History: September 29

Subscribe to Ultimate Classic Rock on

Next: Top 10 Bruce Springsteen Songs

Recommended For You

Around the Web

Best of Ultimate Classic Rock

Leave a Comment

It appears that you already have an account created within our VIP network of sites on . To keep your personal information safe, we need to verify that it's really you. To activate your account, please confirm your password. When you have confirmed your password, you will be able to log in through Facebook on both sites.

Forgot your password?

It appears that you already have an account on this site associated with . To connect your existing account just click on the account activation button below. You will maintain your existing VIP profile. After you do this, you will be able to always log in to http://ultimateclassicrock.com using your original account information.

Please fill out the information below to help us provide you a better experience.

(Forgot your password?)

Not a member? Sign up here

Sign up for Ultimate Classic Rock quickly by connecting your Facebook account. It's just as secure and no password to remember!