Brother Dan Palmer flat-lined in 2009. He was on the brink of death and a team at Carson-Tahoe Health in Carson City kept him alive. The road to recovery was tough, as he had end-stage liver disease, and he lived the next six years isolated from family and friends waiting for a donor. His career as a musician was on hold.
“That obviously, for me, halted everything,” Palmer said.
He recorded what he thought would be his last album shortly after and spent six-and-a-half years waiting for a miracle. In 2015, Palmer received the transplant that gave him new life. While working to get back on track, the pandemic pushed his dreams back even farther. Now in 2023, he finally feels like he has momentum and things are in the right place. He now has a residency (gigs booked in advance) at a few area establishments, and he’s planning a tour and new album.
“I’m in a good spot right now and I believe I’m on an upward swing,” he said. “I flat-lined in 2009 and I’m just now getting back on my feet.”
The Carson City musician is known for his repertoire of songs. He’s like a living, breathing juke box ready to play 1,000 songs off the top of his head with his Fender Acoustasonic Telecaster guitar. He brings a ton of energy and puts his heart into each performance and it’s what he wants to do more than anything, he said.
“Music is my heart, it’s where it’s always been,” he said.
LIFE AFTER 2009
Palmer said his road to recovery was long and lonesome. After his close call in 2009, he moved to California because there was no liver center in Nevada.
“I left 40-plus years of business, family — my life,” he said.
He went through hepatitis-C treatment, which he said caused the end-stage liver disease, and he went through three comas but remained stable through each one. He ended up in Florida waiting for a liver transplant. Because he was immunocompromised, he tried to stay isolated.
“We were out on our own, but four years later I came home with a new liver,” he said.
Shortly after that he started a livestream online: The Brother Dan Show. That gained a lot of attention for Palmer and allowed his friends from all over the world to tune in. The show started airing on stage at A to Zen in Carson City. It moved to Palmer’s house during the pandemic and ended up at the Bank Saloon when things started to open up. Now the show is on hiatus, but it will return, Palmer said.
LOCAL MUSIC RESIDENCIES
Palmer performs a show on Thursdays through Saturdays in the area. On Thursdays, he alternates between two places: Gina’s Good Life Music & Lounge at the Nugget in Carson City, and then he plays at Stockman’s Casino in Fallon. On Fridays and Saturdays, he’s at the Grand Lodge Casino in Incline Village, where Palmer grew up and went to high school.
Jill Stewart, marketing director for the Grand Lodge in Incline Village and Stockman’s in Fallon, said they enjoy having Palmer because he is versatile and opens to a wide demographic. He has something for everyone, she said.
“He’s kind of personable and creates a lively atmosphere on the casino floor,” she said. “He has good energy and enthusiasm, and we love having him here.”
Palmer takes pride in his professionalism, and how he takes care of all aspects of the business. He does his own booking and marketing. At the gigs, he takes care of sound and the lights. He said he shows up on time, dressed properly, and he enjoys visiting and schmoozing with the guests when he’s not on stage.
“He’s super easy to work with and laid back. He’s great and we’re thrilled with what he gives us. Very professional,” Stewart said. “He’s a class act, is the best way to put it.”
Part of the reason Palmer said he took the job at Gina’s was to play with Craig Fletcher. Fletcher, a local musician who went to Mexico for the winter, said he’s looking forward to playing with Palmer when he returns in March. Fletcher said he’s impressed with how many songs Palmer has memorized.
“To have that strength like that, very few people can do that,” he said.
Fletcher said it brings a different challenge when he gets to play with Palmer, and it encourages him to keep up with him.
“He’s got all of that shine too and personality and the ability to just talk to people,” Fletcher said. “As far as an entertainer goes, he’s very personable and his repertoire of songs — yeah I dare anybody to get close to what he can do.”
With Palmer’s residency, he can focus on his music. With contracted work through May, he is not busy hustling for his next gig. He said he has his writing journey ahead of him for his next album. He said since his transplant, everything has been good and it’s hard to create songs out of the happy times. But he has the bad times bottled up inside of him waiting to come out. But he is worried because it’s going to take him to a dark place.
“I have this long journey; six-and-a-half years of surviving on the transplant waiting list, of pain and struggle and heartbreak and loss,” he said as he struggled to find the words. “Even now talking about it, I get choked up. That’s where I have to go to write. I need to go there because there is a whole lot inside me in this jumble of s*** that I’ve been through that is going to come out. I think it’s going to be a largely cathartic experience for me.”
Palmer said he’s afraid of letting out all his emotions, and he wants to make sure it comes out in a positive way.
“I need to find a way to let it come out in a palatable way,” he said. “A way that’s going to help things and not just puke out a bunch of s***. I’ve got to shape it and mold it so it’s just a positive that comes out of all this pain and these things.”
Europe is no foreign land to Palmer, as he’s been there three times. He said those first tours cost him quite a bit of money. The first time he was there for a month, busking inside of bars and getting to know people. The second time he came back and had more connections, so the trip cost half as much. The third time he broke even.
“The next one back I was going to make money,” he said. “But that’s when I flat-lined and couldn’t go back.”
He’s planning his next trip expecting to lose money the first time, but he’s hoping he’ll break even the second time at least. He’s aiming for summer 2024, so he can attend the Olympics to watch his niece, Krysta Palmer, compete for a medal in diving. He will plan his tour either before or after the games for one big trip.
LOVES THE AREA, MUSIC
Palmer said there is nothing he would rather be doing than playing music. When he is not on stage, he is at home playing his guitar. He said he loves living in Carson City and appreciates the beauty the area has to offer.
“I’ve traveled all over the world, and I’m still drawn back to this place,” he said.
He said it’s the kind of place that has a little bit of everything, but not a lot of anything.
“I just can’t think of a better place to live in the world,” he said.
Going forward he just wants to live out his dreams of playing music and living a healthy life.
“I’m just really happy to be where I’m at and it’s awesome,” he said. “Life is really good.”
SEE BROTHER DAN LIVE
Brother Dan alternates playing Thursdays between Gina’s Good Life Music & Lounge at the Nugget in Carson City, and Stockman’s Casino in Fallon. He will be in Carson City on Thursday, March 2, and he will be in Fallon on Thursday, March 9.
He spends Friday and Saturday nights at the Grand Lodge Casino in Incline Village.
For updates and more info, visit www.brotherdanpalmer.com