When Truckee resident Richard Blair released “From the Streets of Truckee” this summer, he had no idea the songs on the album would become so popular.
The collection of tales about Truckee’s early history has been a hit, with dinner shows at the Cottonwood Bar and Restaurant selling out in both October and November.
With the help of a handful of musicians and actors, Blair will perform a third “From the Streets of Truckee” dinner show at the Cottonwood on Wednesday. The special dinner show includes actors taking on the roles of historical characters and performing brief skits in between songs as a narrator sets the stage.
The stories told include that of Theodore Judah, who engineered the first railroad over Donner Summit; a gunfight between Truckee’s first Sheriff Jacob Teeter and Deputy James Reed; Snowshoe Thompson’s volunteer effort to deliver mail across the Sierra Nevada in winter and a Boca brewery that sent beer to the World’s Fair in Paris in the 1880s.
“All I’m doing is just really passing it along,” Blair said during a Tuesday phone interview. “I’m just keeping the stories alive. That’s my whole goal here is just keep the stories alive.”
Truckee residents’ connection with their local history has been inspiring, the 62-year-old computer network manager added.
“And I swear to go a I had no idea it was going to be this popular with local folks,” Blair said. “They’re just like totally connected with their local history. They love celebrating it. They love seeing the people they know and hearing songs about the stuff that they see every day.”
A longtime guitar player and builder, Blair was inspired to continue writing songs looking at Truckee’s history after writing a few historical pieces and being encouraged to write more by Truckee resident Mary Lou Cooper.
“I just set out to start writing stuff about Truckee’s history and putting it together with the melodies that I was kind of working out in my head,” Blair said.
He researched the stories and turned them into short-form pieces. The dinner shows at Cottonwood arose from considering what to do for a CD release party.
“The whole thing just started snowballing after that and it turned into a show,” Blair said.
The 28-year Truckee resident counts the Grateful Dead, Buffalo Springfield and Bob Dylan among his musical influences. He describes his songs as folk, roots-rock and bluegrass.
“There’s a special connection between the history and the type of music it is,” Blair said, saying it fills a unique niche.
The third dinner show was barely advertised and sold out primarily through word of mouth, Blair said.
Following Wednesday’s show, Blair said he is unsure of what’s next for “Streets of Truckee,” although he expects the songs to live on.
The success of the album has offered him a musical direction. He’s working on new material, which has included tales of how people arrived in Truckee.
As much as the album and live shows have delved into Truckee’s past, Blair said he hopes it will also be part of the town’s future.
“We’re trying to create this ‘Streets of Truckee’ thing that will live on in Truckee,” Blair said.