As story tells it and rumors has it...

By Benford "Buffalo" Standley




After two years on the road with Merle Haggard working with him on his documentary

and his work with me on my documentary on the Father of Country Music, I needed to leave the road and hang with my kids in Paso Robles.  When I mentioned to Merle

that I was going to live in Paso back in 2006, he said, "Hey...What is the name of the

old Saloon there?"   I said, "Hmmmm,  Pine Street Saloon."   He said, "Yep that's

it...I remember it from my days traveling out of  Bakersfield." 


Hag was always complaining that there are so few Saloons left, now's there only

theaters and big concert arenas.  He would say, "I'm a bar band and I am running

out of places to play."


On the Department of Parks and Recreation Historic Resources Inventory regarding

the Pine Street Saloon building it says, "This two story structure is one of the oldest buildings in down town Paso."  In fact plaque on the Saloon has: 1860 circa


Rumor has it that in the late 1800's twas a raw wild west section of town down Pine

Street,  where cattle men drove herds into town, where cowboys partook of refresh-

ments in one of the 15 saloons.  There were 3 banks in town during these times. 


On Pine Street, also known  as "skid row" every Saturday there were horse races

as entertainment for cattlemen, ranchers and town folks.  It is said that these were

going on during the days that Jesse and Frank James were hanging out in town, unknown to most people and they were seen at the dances and around town...



In 1888 J. Campbell operated a saloon at 1236-1238, the original site of the Pine Street Saloon before the 2003 San Simeon Earth-quake.  For many years back then it served as a saloon, a billiard parlor and a card room.  It was one of the oldest brick structures in Paso Robles.  South and right next to the building at 1234 Pine St. where now the famed Pine Street Saloon is kicking up dust nightly,  the brick building that housed the first Pine Street Saloon  was completed CIRCA: 1887/1892.


"In 1971 Pat French bought the bar, when it had the only beer license and was called the Red Door.  Ms. French and Jim Johnson, the local sheriff's deputy, began collecting the mirrors, beer signs and other memorabilia that now cover the walls of this popular landmark and civic treasure."


In 1980 Pine Street went through a remodeling session and at a time the name was changed from the Red Door to what is now known as "The Pine Street Saloon".  In 1996, the Saloon started serving liquor from a full bar.  In 2001 the Saloon moved next door to its current location at 1234 Pine Street.

Right next to Ray's Card Room is the original Pine Street Saloon, just

to the right is the wood structure that is now the Pine Street Saloon

where you see the truck on the far right parked in front of the Saloon.

The two story redwood building, with the "Western False Front", which at the time, was for sure not "False" in that it was built during the

true days of the wild west.  What we call "false" now was right out of the wild west in a time of cowboys, stage coaches, and the Pony



Back in those early days it had a narrow balcony at the second floor level.  "Old records give some indication that the first floor was used

as a saloon, and the second floor a boarding house, and as story again tells... a Bordello.  You can just see the ladies of the night out on

the balcony luring  the cowboys and ranchers up to their rooms...sometime in those early days it housed the Cosmopolitan Hotel and a

saloon.  In the 1890tys it was known as the Young Hotel.  It was a popular hotel where delicious food was served at reasonable rates. 

In 1960 it became the Estrada Bar.  But, now and maybe forever known as the Pine Street Saloon.

The Pine Street Saloon has had a very interesting list of pickers and grinners, actors and characters belly up

to the bar, shake a leg, or actually ride their horse into the Saloon...

Now this is a old timey Saloon buckaroos


Name how many Saloons you see this happen

in the 21st Century...



Ron French

Proprietor of the famous Pine Street Saloon


A long running patron of the Pine Street Saloon

and friend of Pat French was Chief Fallen Rock


Below is a list of some outlaws & characters including Chief Fallen Rock,

that have been belly-up to the bar at the Pine Street Saloon...

so the story goes

Jesse James rumor has it and hear say

Frank James visited Paso several times

Merle Haggard great memories of Pine St Saloon

Nicolas Escarpio rode with Poncho Villa

Mel Gibson actor/producer/director

Sam Elliot actor

Robert Mitchum actor

Glen Campbell songwriter, music star, session guitar

Sandy Koufax baseball star

Ramblin' Jack Elliott the legendary

Gary Busey the one and only

Robert Carradine of the Carradine dynasty

Kacey Musgraves huge present rising country star

Bernie Taupin songwriter partner with Elton John

Chris Felver author/photographer/filmmaker

Jack Tempchin Eagle's song writer

Chief Fallen Rock patron for years with great stories

Louie Ortega Grammy Award winner

Paula Nelson Willie Nelson's daughter

Connie Nelson - ex wife of Willie Nelson

Kenny Lee Lewis Steve Miller Band's lead guitar

Nick St. Nicholas bass player for Steppenwolf

John Andrew Parks songwriter/performer

Tennessee Jimmy Harrell local country performer

Tony James tv and music star

Norm Sancho from Jack Tempchin's band

Rick Rosa bass player Neil Young

K.M. Williams legendary blues player

Travis Howard Miranda Lambert songwriter

Greg Kinnear movie actor

Lauren Francisca Internet star

Bryan Lloyd great one man show on keyboards

Michael Tozzi guitar and harp player




Rising fast Country Star Kacey

Musgraves at Pine Street Saloon

Travis Howard, hit song writer for

County Mega star Miranda Lambert

Kenny Lee Lewis lead guitar for Steve

Miller Band for 30 years, and Internet

sensation Laura Francisca

Jesse James as he looked when hiding out in Paso in 1868-69,

or thereabouts


Called the last of the "old-time beverage-purveying establishments of a bygone era in a town that once boasted dozens of such places."



Bernie Taupin and Norm Sancho

Bernie is Elton John songwriter/partner


Louie Ortega, Eliza and Ramblin' Jack Elliott

two Grammy Award winning artist...

Nicolas Escarpio

who rode with Poncho Villa



Louie Ortega, Kenny Lee Lewis, who has been playing lead guitar for the Steve

Miller band for the past 30 years and the great John Andrew Parks on the right

Paula Nelson Band, and yepper that is the

daughter of the one and only Willie Nelson



Jack Tempchin, Eagles' hit songwriter of

Peaceful Easy Feeling, Already Gone and more

photo Richard Bastian

Robert Carradine, John Andrew Parks,

Louie Ortega, and Bryan Lloyd

James Dean walking down 12th St. with

Pine Street behind him...start the rumor



Connie Nelson (ex Mrs. Willie Nelson) Paula Nelson, Kerry Swallum, of Willie

Nelson's Luck Films and filmmaker/author/photographer Chris Felver on right

photo Richard Bastian

Merle Haggard, who told Benford he hung out some at Pine Street

Saloon years back and his pal Benford Standley, producer/writer/carnie



Nick St. Nicholas

bass player for Steppenwolf

The one and only Gary Busey boards the Pine Street Saloon Lemo

for a ride back to kiddin'!!!!

photo Richard Bastian

Robert Carradine, actor/musician

of the great Carradine movie dynasty


Matt Kettmann in his article in Smithsonian Magazine talked about his six-man entourage embarking on what he called "the most authentic and

doable old-school tour of the West Coast" and saying, "Our visits to a handful of Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo county’s longest continually

ale-slinging establishments would indicate that ghost stories may be as old as the saloons themselves."  A number of times in the Smithsonian

talked about the Pine Street Saloon and stories owner Ron French told them "his security cameras were picking up a presence...but was it a

mere illusion or something more ghostly," Matt asks...


The Smithsonian Magazine articles goes on to say:


First opened by Ron’s mother, Pat French, in 1971, the Pine Street Saloon ditched its old location in 2002 to move into the circa 1865 building

next door. That was just in time to avoid the massive Paso Robles earthquake of 2003, which knocked down their old brick building but only

tilted their new wooden structure. French, it turns out, might just be the most hospitable saloonkeeper on the planet, having refurbished the

upstairs brothel rooms into a boardinghouse of sorts to accommodate overly inebriated guests and purchasing a limousine to drive such

patrons home for free, so long as they’re within Paso Robles’ city limits. more: 


Chris Felver, filmmaker/photographer/author

Amy Estrada from A-town, now writing songs in Nashville & Chuck

Ward, in Georgett Jones Band, daughter of George Jones & Tammy Wynett

Tennessee Jimmy Harrell



Movie shot at Camp Roberts in 2002

and cast and crew stayed in Paso Robles

Greg Kinner, in We Were Soldiers

and hung at Saloon with Mel and Sam

Mel Gibson, Sam Elliott and Greg Kinner hung out at the Pine Street

Saloon while outside of town filming the movie "We Were Soldiers"



Chris Kenner also in We Were Soldiers and at Saloon

Mike Tozzi

Super model Elanie Lee and Buffalo Benford



Rick Rosas, Bass for Neil Young's

Crazy Horse Band

Norm Stephens, played lead guitar for Merle Haggard,

Lefty Frizzell and Hank Thompson

Cass Warner, filmmaker Granddaugher of one of

the founders of Warner Brothers, Jack Warner


Paso Robles has a rich history entwined in the


Jesse and Frank James

taken in the mid 1870's

With all the movies, dime novels, articles and books written about Jesse James and his now

famous James Gang from back in his day to now, have all created a great and legendary tale and

makes Jesse and Frank James two of the most famous outlaws in American history.  Jesse and

Frank's uncle Drury James, is one of the founders of Paso Robles, and bought into the town and

ended up owning the hot springs, in that he thought the town would make a great health resort.  The

story goes Drury  was passing through on  a cattle drive to sell cattle to the gold miners in San

Francisco and stopped off the rest and lay in the hot springs on Spring Street, and was so amaze

at how it healed him from his saddle sores that the idea begin to develop in his mind.


It is said that Jesse James took shelter with his Uncle, who hid the outlaw under the alias “Scotty”

from the militia, sheriffs and bounty hunters at his Paso Robles hotel and his ranch where Jesse

and Frank worked as Vaqueros, and later on started hanging in the Pine Street Saloons...the time

recorded in a number of tales is in 1868 to 1869.


A number of stories tell of Jesse and Frank James coming to town to attend dances and horse races...

we can only assume and take the "dime novel liberty" to imagine that Frank and Jesse James did in

fact come into the bar at the present location of Pine Street if not for a beer or a shot of something a

little stronger, or even to frolic with one of the girls in the brothel upstairs, and substantiate the rumor

that they had come to this saloon that has been passed down for decades.  In 1885, Jesse is shot in

Nashville.  After a gun fight with the militia that had come to his mom's house he decided to head to

the West Coast to hide out.  Brother Frank James, his brother, took the train, and Jesse took a

steamer around the Horn from New York, because of his gun shot to the lungs the train or horse

back would have been too hard on the ailing outlaw.

His Uncle hid out the outlaw Jesse and his brother Frank, and story goes that Jesse came a few times a week to the hot springs from his uncle's ranch, and healed his gunshot wound in the hot sulfur waters that had been healing springs for thousands of years to the Salinan

Indian Nation who lived near. Then came the Spanish and the Catholic Church and established Casa del Paso de Robles.  In 1813, after

running the Indians off, they built a shelter over the springs.

After a year or so in Paso Robles it is told that Jesse and Frank were getting a little wild around town, and there was some saying they had figured out who Jesse was and because of Drury's status in the town no one did anything, but he thought best to get them out of town...

so he personally took them to San Francisco where he bought them both steamer tickets around Cape Horn to New York, before it was discovered he was hiding the famous outlaw James brothers.  Years after Frank James returned several times to Paso Robles, though

hard to find much information on his times here...


A number of articles on the saloon action on Pine Street during these late 1800s, which was the exact time that  Jesse James and his brother Frank were hanging out in Paso Robles.   Have no doubt that Jesse and Frank James hung out on Pine Street...and no doubt that

their uncle and founding member of Paso Robles spent time on the famed Pine Street.


Want to know some more about the Street that was known as "Skid Row" and did you hear about the tunnels under Paso?  What brought James Dean to Paso Robles before is final

ride here to town...want to know some more of the geology and stories about subterranean

underground rivers of sulfur, gold and minerals running hot and cold in Paso, stories of

Clint Eastwood and Marilyn Monroe, Barbara Streisand and stories untold about the great

Salinan Tribe that settled the area before the Spanish even knew what a Catholic was, or

a sword, or car shows and wine...    READ MORE ON PINE AND SPRING STREET


By Buffalo Benford

Drury James, uncle of Jesse and Frank

James, cattleman, rancher, and the man

that had to vision to take the hot springs

and turn Paso Robles into a health resort.

Research from and Thanks to:


Depart. of Parks & Recreation Historic Resources Inventory

El Paso Robles Area Historical Society

Number of pictures above taken by Richard Bastian

Main Street Association

Pioneer Museum

Self Guided Walking Tour of Historic Buildings

Daniel Blackburn

Paso Robles Business Directory

And the 30 or so people that I got stories from...