September 29, 2009

Early Dead Covers

I've put together a list of the first known performances of the Dead's cover songs in the '60s and '70s.

These are listed by the order first performed; but in many cases the Dead played a song in rehearsals, sometimes for years, long before playing it live. Often they'd drop a song and then bring it back years later - in those cases I provided both dates.

This is as complete as I could make it. There are, though, a lot of things I did NOT include:
- original songs. These are covered here:
- songs only performed in 1966. That year has a unique repertoire that deserves an article of its own - if a song didn't make it past 1967, I didn't list it. See:
- covers done after 1979. There are lots of these, of course, but someone else can handle them better than I could.
- instrumentals. (These might include the Foxy Lady jam on 4-21-69, the Close Encounters jam on 1-22-78; the various jams on Darkness Darkness or Tighten Up or Feelin' Groovy in 1970; teases like the 3-28-72 Sidewalks of New York or the 4-21&24-78 Stayin' Alive; or tuning ditties like Funiculi Funicula, etc.) I did make a couple exceptions to this.
- songs only performed in the acoustic sets of '69/70; I've already listed those in a previous post. But I did note a couple that 'broke out' into electric sets as well.
- songs only performed with guests (such as the 12-10-69 Black Queen, and other songs only done with Elvin Bishop, Jorma Kaukonen, or Bo Diddley) - since these are already linked in my guest-appearance listing.

Aside from these exceptions, I'm sure I missed a few songs, so corrections are welcome!

I also noted, where possible, the recording the Dead were covering (which is not always by the original songwriter; sometimes the song is much older than the artist they took it from). and the Lyric & Song Finder are of inestimable help in these kinds of searches.

(Note that in early '66, dates are tentative and frequently wrong. For instance, the old "3/12/66" show is now thought to be 3/19/66; Lemieux provided a setlist for the actual 3/12/66 - the first half of it is what's circulating as the second set of 5/19/66, and the second half is what's known as 2/25/66. But he turned out to be wrong about redating the 5/19/66 set, so that puts his "3/12/66" date in doubt as well! And much of what's been released from early '66 has no date at all. There's also no telling just how early the songs of early '66 were introduced to their repertoire. In short, though I'll order the songs by the 'standard' dates for convenience, everything I list from early '66 should be thought of as just "early '66 sometime" with no chronology implied.)

I Know You Rider [traditional; no specific source] - studio recording November '65 (on Birth of the Dead CD); first live recording Jan '66 or 2/25/66 (after '66, was dropped until 9/30/69) (track 17)

We have several covers played at our earliest taped Dead show:

Death Don't Have No Mercy [Rev. Gary Davis, 1960] - 1/8/66

King Bee [orig. Slim Harpo, 1957/Rolling Stones, 1964] - 1/8/66 (after '66, was dropped until 2/11/69)

I'm a Hog For You Baby [Coasters, 1959] - 1/8/66 (also 3/25/66; after '66, was only played on 4/6/71)

La Bamba [Richie Valens, 1959] - studio instrumental 2/23/66 (labeled as Good Lovin'); live 11/11/70 in a medley with Good Lovin'; then not heard til 1987

Who Do You Love [Bo Diddley, 1956] - recorded in a March '66 studio demo; a snatch of it is played in the 11/11/70 jams; Pigpen then sings a bit of it in the Caution jams on 4/14 and 5/11/72.

We then have a set of undated recordings, from various shows in January-April:

Viola Lee Blues [Cannon's Jug Stompers, 1928] - Jan '66 (track 16 is the earliest; also played 3/19/66) - see also the first rehearsal from January:

Good Morning Little Schoolgirl [orig. Sonny Boy Williamson/Junior Wells, 1965] - ??/66 (track 5 - with You Don't Love Me, which was also played 12/1/66)

Don't Ease Me In [Henry Thomas, 1928] - ??/66; studio recording June '66 (on Birth of the Dead CD); also live 7/16/66 (after '66, was dropped until 3/20/70; after '70 acoustic sets, dropped until 9/16/72; after '75 hiatus, dropped until 2/7/79).
I will spare you all the links for this one.

New Orleans [Gary Bonds, 1960] - 2/12/66; revived 8/29/69 (also played 6/6/70, 11/8/70)
(This is debatable since the 2/12/66 rendition barely matches the song, but they probably played it other times that year.)

Midnight Hour [Wilson Pickett, 1965] - Jan/Feb '66 (also 3/19/66)

Beat It On Down the Line [Jesse Fuller, 1961] - ??/66 (also 3/19/66)

It's A Sin [Jimmy Reed, 1958] - ??/66 (also 3/19/66; after '66, was played on 10/10/68, otherwise dropped until 4/5/69)
(I believe the blues instrumental played on 2/23/66 is also It's A Sin, but with no lyrics, can't be certain.)

The release of the Rare Cuts & Oddities CD proved quite a surprise, unearthing songs that no one knew had been covered so early:

Not Fade Away [orig. Buddy Holly, 1957/Rolling Stones, 1964] - early '66 (on Rare Cuts); 2/19/69; next heard as a false start on 4/23/69; finally introduced into Dead's sets on 12/21/69

Walking the Dog [Rufus Thomas, 1963] - early '66 (on Rare Cuts); revived 3/21/70 early show (also played 11/9/70; then disappears until 1984)

Big Railroad Blues [Cannon's Jug Stompers, 1928] - early '66 (on Rare Cuts); revived 6/24/70 (also done 9/7/69) (This was a drunken 'oldies' show with Garcia & Hot Tuna - it also has Twist and Shout, which was murdered by the Dead on one of the ??/66 reels.)

Promised Land [Chuck Berry, 1964] - early '66 (on Rare Cuts); revived 5/29/71 (poor AUD)

Our next dated show gives us several more covers:

Cold Rain & Snow [traditional; Obray Ramsey, 1961] - 2/25/66 (played through '67, then dropped until 5/31/69)

Next Time You See Me [Junior Parker, 1957] - 2/25/66 (after '67, was dropped until 9/27/69)

On the Road Again [Memphis Jug Band, 1928] - 2/25/66 (played again 12/1/66; after '66, was dropped until 1980)

We have quite a few new songs & covers at our next show, 5/19/66 - several of them wouldn't become Dead standards until 1969:

It Hurts Me Too [Elmore James, 1958] - 5/19/66

It's All Over Now, Baby Blue [Bob Dylan, 1965] - 5/19/66 (after '66, was dropped until 4/6/69)

Sittin' On Top Of The World [orig. Mississippi Sheiks, 1930/Bill Monroe, 1957/Carl Perkins, 1958/etc.] - 5/19/66 (after '66, next heard on 3/26/68, then resurfaces 4/15/69) (Check out the comment: "We never did that one very good even when we were doing it.")

New Minglewood Blues [Noah Lewis Jug Band, 1930] - 5/19/66 (after '66, was dropped until 4/26/69, was then rarely performed until '76 - six times in '70 and two in '71)
4/26/69 is N/A on the Archive, but the other '69 performance is here:

Silver Threads & Golden Needles [orig. Wanda Jackson, 1956/Springfields, 1962/others] - 5/19/66 (also on Rare Cuts; after '66, was dropped until 4/26/69)
Next available performance:

Good Lovin' [Olympics, 1965/Young Rascals, 1966] - 5/19/66 (also on Rare Cuts; after '66 was dropped until 5/7/69) (Jerry sings this and the next two on 8/29 and 9/6/69)

7/3/66 is our next show with a bunch of new covers - note that the Archive link is screwed up since the songfiles list the 3/25/66 setlist! It plays the right show, though.

Dancing in the Street [Martha & the Vandellas, 1964] - 7/3/66

He Was a Friend of Mine [traditional; Mark Spoelstra, 1965] - 7/3/66

Big Boss Man [Jimmy Reed, 1960] - 7/3/66 (after '66, heard once in 1967, then dropped until 6/27/69) ("an old song")

These three songs can also be heard at our next show:

Nobody's Fault But Mine [Blind Willie Johnson, 1928] - 7/16/66 (also played 12/1/66; after '66 was dropped until 5/14/70 & 6/13/70 as a jam within New Speedway; then was dropped again until 10/2/72 when it became part of the post-Truckin' jam)

Our next few shows don't offer anything new setlist-wise, but towards the end of the year we find some new covers in 11/19/66. (This show could actually be from 3/17/67, but for now I'll leave the traditional date.)

Same Thing [Muddy Waters, 1965] - 11/19/66 (also played 11/29/66 and 3/18/67; then not heard again until 12/31/71; reintroduced in '90s)
(The version dated 9/16/66 is actually from 11/29/66.)

Hi-Heel Sneakers [Tommy Tucker, 1964] - 11/19/66 (not heard again until 8/3/69) (a Hartbeats show, which also has the last It's A Sin until the 6/18/74 jam)

Smokestack Lightning [Howlin' Wolf, 1956] - 11/19/66 (after 3/18/67, next heard on 3/3/68, then 5/7/69, and only ten Pigpen performances thereafter) (partial) (with Elvin Bishop)

Me and My Uncle [John Phillips, author; no specific source recording] - 11/29/66 (after '67, was dropped until 4/27/69)
4/27/69 is a Dick's Pick, but the next performance is here:

Big Boy Pete [Olympics, 1960] - 11/29/66 (also done 9/6/69, 12/31/69, 3/1/70, 9/20/70)

I Just Want To Make Love To You [Muddy Waters, 1954] - 11/29/66 (the only performance until 1984)

Deep Elem Blues [numerous country versions; no specific source known] - 12/1/66 (then dropped until 3/20/70)

Morning Dew [orig. Bonnie Dobson, 1962; numerous covers, no single source] - 3/18/67
(The Dew on turned out to be from late '68.)

Turn On Your Lovelight [Bobby Bland, 1961] - 7/23/67 (studio rehearsal) (at end, cut off) (complete)

We Bid You Goodnight [traditional; Joseph Spence & Pindar Family, 1965] - 3/16/68 (also played instrumentally in some Alligators on that tour, for instance 2/24/68)
(The version here was actually from 3/31/68:

Death Letter Blues [Son House, 1965] - 10/30/68 Hartbeats (only performance)

Hey Jude [Beatles, 1968] - 2/11/69 (also done 3/1/69)
Hard to believe, but both versions have been officially released.

Hard to Handle [Otis Redding, 1968] - 3/15/69

Green Grass of Home [Porter Wagoner, 1965] - 5/31/69
(Significant as the first of the pedal-steel songs; for details on other country covers the Dead introduced in 1969, check my acoustic-sets post.)

Mama Tried [Merle Haggard, 1968] - 6/21/69 (This show also has the debut of Slewfoot.)

Seasons of My Heart [George Jones, 1955] - 8/2/69 (also done 11/2, 12/31/69, and a few times in 1970)

Searchin' [Coasters, 1957] - 8/29/69 (also done 11/8/70, and with the Beach Boys 4/27/71)
(The Dead do a few oldies at this show: New Orleans>Searchin', and a Jerry-sung Good Lovin' that has an alternate intro sounding a lot like La Bamba, which has the same chords. Note that 8/29 and 9/6/69 are the last Good Lovin's that Jerry sings, before Pigpen takes over.)

It's All Over Now [orig. Valentinos, 1964/Rolling Stones, 1964] - 9/6/69 (also done 11/20/70)
(9/6/69 also catches the Dead in an oldies mood, as they bring out a couple rare covers like this one and Big Boy Pete.)

Monkey & the Engineer [Jesse Fuller, 1961] - 12/19/69 (usually an acoustic song, it was done electric a few times)

The Race Is On [George Jones, 1964] - 12/31/69 (done acoustic & with NRPS in 1970; then dropped until 3/19/73)

Dark Hollow [Bill Browning, 1958; & others] - 2/14/70 (usually an acoustic song, but it was done electric a couple times in 1971) (the first electric Dark Hollow - and the last Viola Lee)

Two Trains Running [Muddy Waters, 1951] - this is just a verse or two sung by Pigpen in the Lovelights on 2/27/70 and 12/15/71 (19 minutes into Lovelight) (in the Lovelight reprise, after I'm A Man - the only performance of that one other than 3/25/72 with Bo Diddley)

It's a Man's World [James Brown, 1966] - 4/9/70
(This show also has the mysterious "Cowboy Song".)

Frozen Logger [numerous versions; no specific source known] - 5/7/70 (also done 6/21/70, 12/26/70, and 8/25/72) (in the Intro)

Ain't It Crazy/The Rub [Lightnin' Hopkins] - 5/15/70 (first played by Mother McCree's jugband in 1964; played acoustic in 1970 & electric in early 1971) (first electric version)

Big Railroad Blues [Cannon's Jug Stompers, 1928] - 6/24/70 (acoustic; was also played by Garcia & Hot Tuna 9/7/69; later played electric) (first electric version)

El Paso [Marty Robbins, 1959] - 7/11/70 (Poor AUD. This show also has the only So Sad, an Everly Brothers cover.) (First electric version. Jerry says, "Here's where Weir gets his wish, at the expense of everybody.")

Goin' Down the Road [traditional; no single source recording] - instrumental 10/10/70, song 10/11/70

11/8/70 is famed for its rare covers:

Around & Around [Chuck Berry, 1958/Rolling Stones, 1964] - 11/8/70

Mystery Train [Junior Parker, 1953] - 11/8/70 (only time played)
My Babe [Little Walter, 1955] - 11/8/70 (only time played)
(Also the rare New Orleans>Searchin', reprised from 8/29/69.)

Me & Bobby McGee [orig. Kris Kristofferson; Janis Joplin, 1970] - 11/29/70 (first played in NRPS set 11/6/70)

Johnny B Goode [Chuck Berry, 1958] - 1/22/71 (previously done by Garcia & Hot Tuna 9/7/69, and by Weir & Hot Tuna 12/31/70)

Sing Me Back Home [Merle Haggard, 1967] - 4/5/71 (starts out as onstage practice)

Oh Boy [Buddy Holly, 1957] - 4/6/71 (only electric performance; some later acoustic versions) (along with I'm a Hog For You Baby)

Second That Emotion [Smokey Robinson, 1967] - 4/8/71 (only played seven times that month)

Get Back [Beatles, 1969] - 10/21/71 soundcheck (Jerry sings; only time performed until 1987)

Hideaway [Freddie King, 1961] - 11/7/71 (also done in the studio 4/2/75)

You Win Again [Hank Williams, 1952] - 11/14/71

Run Rudolph Run [Chuck Berry, 1958] - 12/4/71 (only played seven times that month)

I Washed My Hands In Muddy Water [orig. Stonewall Jackson, 1964] - 12/5/71 (only Dead performance)

Big River [Johnny Cash, 1957] - 12/31/71 (along with Pigpen's last Same Thing, and the last Dancin' in the Street until 1976)

3/25/72 was notable not only for the Bo Diddley set but for several unique covers. Highlights were released on a Dick's Pick, but a terrible AUD is on the Archive:

Are You Lonely For Me Baby [Freddie Scott, 1966] - 3/25/72 (only Dead performance)
How Sweet It Is [Marvin Gaye, 1964] - 3/25/72 (only Dead performance)
(This show also features Pigpen's last Smokestack Lightning; it was later revived in 1984.)

Bo Diddley [you know who, 1955] - 3/25/72 (also done 5/23, 7/16, and 8/22/72; and a short bit on 11/11/70)

Rockin' Pneumonia [Huey Smith, 1957] - 5/23/72 (also done 5/24, 6/17, 9/3, and 10/23/72)

Tomorrow Is Forever [Dolly Parton & Porter Wagoner, 1969] - 9/24/72 (Donna covers Dolly; played ten times)

You Ain't Woman Enough [Loretta Lynn, 1966] - 2/15/73 (Donna covers Loretta; played 15 times that year)

It Takes a Lot to Laugh [Bob Dylan, 1965] - 6/10/73
That's Alright Mama [orig. Arthur Crudup/Elvis Presley, 1954] - 6/10/73
(Unique Dead performances; Garcia did these in his sets with Saunders, but decided to bring them out for the Allmans.)

Wang Dang Doodle [Howlin' Wolf, 1961] - 10/23/73 soundcheck (Jerry sings; only time performed until 1983)

Blue Suede Shoes [Carl Perkins, 1955], Working Man Blues [Merle Haggard, 1969] - 12/1/73 soundcheck
(Blue Suede Shoes was repeated in the 12/12/73 soundcheck)

Peggy-O [traditional; no specific source] - 12/10/73 (Download Series; also played 12/12/73)

Rip It Up [Little Richard, 1956], Thirty Days [Chuck Berry, 1955] - 12/12/73 soundcheck

Let It Rock [Chuck Berry, 1960] - 6/23/74 (only Dead performance)

Samson & Delilah [Rev. Gary Davis, 1960] - 6/3/76 (this copy runs at the right speed)

Got My Mojo Workin' [Muddy Waters, 1960] - 4/22/77 (also done 10/21/78)

Jack-a-Roe [traditional; no specific source] - 5/13/77

Iko Iko [orig. James Crawford, 1954/Dixie Cups, 1964; & many others, no specific source] - 5/15/77

Werewolves of London [Warren Zevon, 1978] - 4/19/78

Ollin Arrageed [Hamza el Din, 1978] - 9/14/78 (usually only played with Hamza el-Din, but a couple notable exceptions are the 11/18 and 11/23/78 spaces)

Gloria [Them, 1964] - 11/9/79 (jam in the He's Gone outro)
(Gloria was not sung with lyrics until the '80s)

C.C. Rider [traditional; no specific source] - 12/1/79 (comes out of another Gloria jam)

That's as far as I'll go.... I hope this was useful!

For another listing of the early Dead covers that lasted the longest in their repertoire, see:


  1. I'd like to post a correction to Big Boss Man -
    I wrote: "after '66, was dropped until 6/27/69" - but since then, I've remembered that it was played on 9/3/67! (It was introduced as "an old song".)

    So I wanted to make this comment to show that more errors may be lurking in here - also to show how contingent a list like this is on knowing about all the shows & setlists of the early days - so easy to miss something!

    A lot of this type of info is incorrect anyway because we have so many missing shows...for all we know, they played Big Boss Man steadily throughout 1967....but they probably did drop it for a while before mid-'69.

  2. I found another mistake....
    Big Boy Pete wasn't new in 1969, it was a revival - our first performance comes from 11/29/66.

    At some point I'll fix up this post and add the original artists who did these songs - they should be mentioned in a post like this....

  3. great post! I have been checking out 66-69 lately and its great to hear how they evolve. I listened to some 90's The Same Things. No disrespect, but Pig may have been rolling in his grave during those performances. Same with 80's lovelights.

  4. I've commented in my "1967 Tapes" post that the Morning Dew from 1/14/67 is not from that date, or even from '67; it seems to my ears to be late '68.
    So our first live Morning Dew is actually 3/18/67.
    It's just a minor point though - since they recorded it for their album in Jan '67, clearly they must have been playing it live; we just don't have the "real" earliest Dews.

  5. What about "You aint woman enough"; Loretta Lynn cover?

    1. Oops! Clean forgot about that one; thanks.
      First performed 2/15/73, and played 15 times that year.

  6. There's one song that I've never seen listed as a Dead cover -- David Bromberg's "Sharon". Did anybody ever hear the Dead playing it? If not, why not? The Dead certainly knew the song, since five of them (Garcia, Phil, Bill, Keith & Donna) are on the studio recording of it.

    1. No, I never heard of the Dead playing it. It's quite an un-Dead-like song, so I don't think they'd even consider playing it outside of the Bromberg session.
      The Dead were also quite familiar with several Crosby songs - from the PERRO sessions, and from the March '75 rehearsals with him - but never played those live either, for similar reasons.

  7. This post has also been corrected & updated, with original artist info added.

  8. A note on "Big River" - though it first appears in a Dead show on 12/31/71, Garcia & Weir had played it acoustic (with Garcia singing) a year earlier in the 11/21/70 Boston WBCN-FM show. One wonders if it had also been played in other lost acoustic sets that year.
    For some reason, after its NYE '71 appearance the song then went on hiatus through most of the Europe '72 tour.

  9. I'd always thought that the Dead's version of "Iko Iko" came from the Neville Brothers, but thinking about it, I don't really have a firm basis for that assumption.

    Great blog, by the way. The Dead have been on the periphery of my musical interests for a couple of decades, but just in the last month or two something clicked and I'm not only listening with new years, but really digging into whatever I can find to read about them, especially the early years. This blog is an incredible resource. I enjoy your acute ear and eye, and I really appreciate all the work you've put in.

    Just as a suggestion, what doing a post on The Dead and The Band? Lots of interesting cross-pollination, and some contact and some jamming, but also a real contrast in styles and ethic.

    1. The recent post on "Garcia's Record Collection" has Garcia & Hunter talking about the Band, in the 1969-70 section... Other than mentioning their shows together, Festival Express & Watkins Glen, I don't think I have that much to say on that topic. (If someone else wants to write a few words, though, feel free....)

    2. I might try to write something and send it your way. I've read a lot about The Band, and written about them a little bit previously. I'm intrigued by Hunter's mention of the effect of Robertson's songs, and by the similarities in the influences, repertoire and their timelines. But then they're also polar opposites in terms of performance ethic--The Band didn't really do much improvisation live, except for Garth's extended into to "Chest Fever." Two very different but kind of parallel paths through the history of rock and roll from the late 50s through the 90s, crossing over at a few points.

    3. There was a songwriting influence from the Band to the Dead, for sure - you can draw a straight line from things like The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down to Brown Eyed Women, Mississippi Half-Step, etc. Not much of a shared musical connection, though - the Band were not much of a jam band! More into tight live performances... When they added horns for their December '71 live shows, the result was the Rock of Ages album. When the Dead added horns for the Sept '73 tour....well, nobody's made an album out of those shows yet!

      You may know, there were several additional Dead/Band songs at the start of the 7/28/73 "encore set," along with the Around & Around, NFA, Mountain Jam & JBGoode w/ the Allmans that circulate as part of the Dead's show. The Band started out the set, and Garcia & others play with them on "Have You Ever Been Mistreated," "Da Di De Day," and "Let Me Wrap You In My Warm & Tender Arms." Well worth hearing as a loose Dead/Band hybrid.

  10. I found a comment in Lesh's book Searching for the Sound about 'Turn On Your Lovelight': "a showstopper that we all jumped on when we heard James Cotton do it when he opened one of our shows at the Fillmore." (p.94)

    Phil's memory about when songs were introduced to the Dead's sets is understandably not too reliable (he misdates Caution by a year; and also suggests the band started playing Big Boss Man & Schoolgirl during their Sausalito Heliport rehearsal days in late-'66/67, when they'd already been playing those months earlier). James Cotton had opened for the Dead at the November '66 Fillmore shows, but the Dead didn't actually start playing Lovelight until summer '67, as far as we know.

    Nonetheless, I think Lesh's claim that they got the song from Cotton's version is indisputable. Take a listen, and you can hear the resemblance:

  11. A useful compilation of Dead cover debuts from '66 to the end:

    I've also made a much more comprehensive list of the Dead's cover songs: