Friends, family and community members will remember a philanthropist and influential figure in Northern California music this weekend.
Peter Barsotti, who died June 23 after battling leukemia, was known locally as the longtime owner of the Iron Door Saloon in Groveland and regular supporter of community programs. He was 64.
His reputation extended beyond the county line, however, as he also worked for decades alongside legendary San Francisco concert promoter Bill Graham.
Barsotti’s family will hold a public memorial from 1 to 3 p.m. Saturday at Mary Laveroni Community Park in Groveland.
“He was a maverick,” said Chris Loh, Barsotti’s son-in-law, who runs the Iron Door today, later adding he “created a higher standard for music in the area.”
Barsotti bought the Iron Door with his first wife, Bettike, in 1985 with the vision of providing a place where people of all ages and from around the world could visit on the way to Yosemite. They transformed the self-proclaimed “oldest saloon in California” into the restaurant and venue it is today.
He retired in the Groveland area in 2000, moving to his Spinning Wheel Ranch. Bettike Barsotti, who also had an association with Graham dating back to the 1960s, died in a car accident shortly after.
Born July 2, 1947, in Berkeley, Barsotti used his promotion experience to broaden the musical offerings at the Iron Door, making it one of the most thriving in the Mother Lode. He brought acts like Eddie Money, Taj Mahal, Country Joe McDonald and many other stars to the area.
Barsotti’s professional accomplishments read like the display wall of rock music memorabilia collector. He worked with his brother Bob as a music producer and creative director for thousands of productions by the iconic Bill Graham Presents. He was involved with shows like the first Lollapalooza Tour, Day on the Green, Horde Tour, Squaw Valley Music Festival and the Grateful Dead’s annual New Year’s Eve concerts.
“He taught me endless things about running music, running entertainment,” Loh said. “He would come up with the most insane ideas where you’d say there’s no way this would work. … He was a genius.”
Barsotti also used that knowledge and connection base to help with causes, working behind the scenes to secure acts for fundraisers benefiting school programs and other youth-oriented causes locally and around Northern California.
His wife, Deborah, said many people knew him as a big personality in rock ‘n’ roll promotion. But much of Barsotti’s time and effort were spent on philanthropic projects in recent years.
He sat on the board of directors for Bill Graham Foundation, which supports arts, education and other programs, and the board for the Vichara Buddhist monastery in Coulterville.
He also helped a number of local fundraising for education programs, and his family is requesting donations be made in his memory to music education through the Bettike Foundation, P.O. Box 866, Groveland, 95321, for arts education in the Big Oak Flat-Groveland Unified School District.
“Not everybody knows about how much of his time was spent in a philanthropic way,” Deborah Barsotti said.
She recalled the two of them working together with a middle school in Oakland called Explore. She was in charge of a music therapy program, and he used some of his connections to help set up interactive concerts for the students. They also occasionally brought students to their ranch between Groveland and Yosemite for music camps.
Before his death, Deborah said, they were starting to talk about ways to support music and arts education in Groveland.
“I think that was one of the really special things about Peter,” she said of his philanthropic spirit.
Along with his wife, he is also survived by his children, Dharma, Jessica, Corinna, Matthew, and Jasper, as well as his father, Mario, and brothers, Steven, David, Bob and Mark.