May 1, 2017

Truckin' 1970-1974 (Guest Post)

Truckin’ and Truckin’ Jams: 1970-1974

By snow and rain

Despite its relative popularity for general audiences, I’ve always felt that Truckin’ was strangely underappreciated. Sure, it was one of the Dead’s biggest hits, but I don’t think it’s really ever gotten its due as one of their signature songs and better jam launchers. Inside the Truckin’ jams (and the places that they led to) are some of my favorite Dead moments. While I admit to sometimes zoning out during the verse/refrain part of the song, I am invariably hooked by the time I reach the “GET BACK TRUCKIN ON!!!!” part and on into the crescendo that climaxes with what I call the “Truck-splosion.” I think of it as the part of the song where the big rig gets to the top of the hill and starts to roll on down the other side.

Often played to open shows as a stand-alone single in its early days, Truckin’ became a sort of jam table-setter, getting the band into a loose rocking blues riff. It reflected the band’s mood each night – sometimes the jam was charged with energy, sometimes it was quiet and spacey. Truckin’ was paired with the Other One as early as October 1970, with smooth segues as both are in roughly the same key. The song really had its roots in the “Nobody’s Fault but Mine” blues riff, which the band played a couple of times in 1970, but didn’t play again until fall ’72, when the Nobody’s jam became a pretty standard follower to the Truckin’ jam, sometimes with lyrics, sometimes not. Truckin’s E minor pentatonic jam mode segued easily into other blues jams too, as well as some of the Dead’s bigger jams like Eyes of the World, Dark Star, Mind Left Body and Spanish jams — pretty much all their best stuff.

So I wrote this out to make note of some of the most historic and enjoyable versions and unusual segues. Hope you enjoy. Additions and corrections always welcome.

Writing the Song

Perhaps the most self-reflective song in the band’s repertoire, one of the things that I like most about Truckin’ is that it was born out of, and is inextricably tied to, the Grateful Dead’s experience as a touring band. It’s an autobiographical song, and the verses were reflections on real events that happened out on the road. As Phil Lesh wrote in his book, “We took our experiences on the road and made poetry: all the cities fusing into one…the loneliness of street life…the omnipresence of drugs… Get back truckin’ on – that’s all we knew.”

Truckin’ was originally a Harlem dance step in the ‘20s and ‘30s, referred to in blues songs like Blind Boy Fuller’s “Keep on truckin’ mama, truckin’ my blues away.” (Hot Tuna also recorded a version of “Keep On Truckin’” on their album Burgers.) 
The Mills Blue Rhythm Band also recorded a jazz foxtrot called Truckin’ in 1935: “All over town you’ll see them truckin’ along…everybody’s truckin’.”

Robert Crumb was inspired by the old blues song to draw his comic “Keep On Truckin’” in 1968. Hunter may refer to Crumb’s big-footed men in the line “keep truckin’ like the doo-dah man” (though he later said, “Oh, that’s just from that [Stephen Foster] song ‘Camptown Races,’ that goes “doodah, doodah.” I wasn’t thinking about anybody in particular. Just that gambler on his way home from the game with a pocketful of tin.”)  The Dead would later use their own similar image of a big foot ready to stomp on Europe on the cover of the Europe ’72 album:

Robert Hunter went with the band on their March 1970 tour to write them a road song. (There’s a Lost Live Dead post about the timeframe in which the Dead wrote Truckin’.)

In a 1986 Relix interview, Hunter recalled, “I wrote that song in several different cities, starting off in San Francisco. I finished it up in Florida. I was on the road with the band and writing different verses in different cities, and when we were in Florida I went outside and everybody was sitting around the swimming pool. I had finally finished the lyrics, so I brought them down and the boys picked up their guitars, sat down, and wrote some rock ‘n’ roll changes behind it.”

And from a recent Hunter interview with David Browne
Q: Truckin' also was completed on the road with the Dead, wasn't it?
A: Yeah, I think it was in Florida, and I had been writing it for some time. I think I finished it there — it was not a song I just dashed off. And then I gave it to them. They were all sitting around the swimming pool, the guitars there, and they did a good job on it. I wrote all the lyric. "Sometimes the light's all shinin' on me" — I think that's Phil. It took me a couple of months to write and it maybe took 'em about half an hour to put it together.

In the Signpost to New Space interview, Garcia remembered, “The early stuff [Hunter] wrote that we tried to set to music was stiff because it wasn’t really meant to be sung. After he got further and further into it, his craft improved and then he started going out on the road with us, coming out to see what life was like, to be able to have more of that viewpoint in the music, for the words to be more Grateful Dead words. Truckin’ is the result of that sort of thing. Truckin’ is a song that we assembled: it wasn’t natural, and it didn’t flow, and it wasn’t easy, and we really labored over the bastard, all of us together…
It comes out of nothing specific, but it’s really a lot of like the way it is, the pace of it and the flow of it and the kinda-like fast thoughts that you have as things are happening around you; the ideas in it are right-on in that sense. I like Truckin’ a lot, Truckin’s one of my favorites.”

The Chuck Berry influence in Truckin’ is strong, particularly from a song like School Days that Truckin’ seems to be patterned after.
Hunter said, “There was no lyrical change when the song got to the band… The music was always like a Chuck Berry thing; they did it a little differently than I wrote it, put a different accent in. The ‘sometimes the light’s all shining on me’ part is definitely Grateful Dead.”

Garcia talked specifically about the “sometimes the light’s all shining on me” line:
“You can see it happen if you hang around backstage. If you go to a concert you see there’s the on-stage part with the bright lights, the show, loud music, people screaming, all that stuff happening. And then you’re backstage between sets and there’s all kinds of milling crowds and people going, “hey man, hey man,” stuff coming at you and weird shit and you’re having to duck and get out of the way and lie and talk fast – all these things to just be able to preserve a little composure, just so you don’t have to be constantly putting out. That’s just a way of saying that thing; I mean it’s a beautiful way of saying it.”

According to Hunter, the recording wasn’t easy: “It was fed to Bobby a line at a time when we got to the studio, with me telling him how to pronounce it. He’d go in and put a line down, then go back in and work out how to pronounce the next line.”

It would always remain a hard song for Weir to sing. Weir later complained to David Gans, “Truckin’ is kind of a tongue twister. Hunter wrote it that way out of spite! He just put it together so it’s impossible to sing. It’s not a matter of not remembering the words so much as not being able to get ‘em out sometimes.”

The verses about being “busted down on Bourbon Street” refer to the Dead’s recent New Orleans drug bust on January 31, 1970, when the city narcotics squad raided the Dead’s hotel after a show and arrested most of the band. The Dead didn’t come back to New Orleans for ten years.

The lyrics also refer to other cities the Dead had just played – “truckin’ up to Buffalo,” and a couple cities in Texas they’d passed through (though ironically, the song mentions somewhat spurious reasons not to play those places: Dallas has a mysterious “soft machine,” Houston is “too close to New Orleans,” New York “just won’t let you be,” and of course on Bourbon Street you just get “set up” and “knocked down.”) Of course, a lot of this is for the sake of the rhymes and ease of singing, rather than an accurate blow-by-blow account of the tour.

Hunter’s also said that in the verse about sweet Jane (“she lost her sparkle, you know she isn’t the same”) he was parodying a ‘40s toothpaste commercial:
Poor Millicent, poor Millicent,
She never used Pepsodent
Her smile grew dim
And she lost her vim
So folks don’t be like Millicent
Use Pepsodent!

(See the Annotated Grateful Dead Lyrics for more possible allusions in the song.)
Some of the Dead spoke about the song in interviews for the 1997 documentary Classic Albums: Anthem to Beauty.

Bob Weir: “There was a romance about being a young man on the road in America, and you had to do it! It was a rite of passage. And at the same time, it was the material that you drew from to write about. We were starting to become real guys, and really enjoying the hell out of it. We toured more or less four to six months out of the year. It was our bread and butter – we weren't selling that many records. And we had a lot of fun out on the road, got into a lot of trouble... We left some smoking craters of some Holiday Inns, I'll say that, and there were a lot of places that wouldn't have us back. All of this is absolutely autobiographical, all the stuff in Truckin’.”

Mickey Hart: “It was autobiographical. We told our story in song. I knew that the words were strong. They were powerful, they were depicting real events in real people’s lives, and they became part of the fabric, part of the history of our day. People could sing it and know there were events directly connected with it.”

Robert Hunter: “This was written over a long period of time. I had lots and lots of verses – I thought that we could keep adding to Truckin’ over the years, but the funny thing is, once you get it down, it is down. You don’t go back, you don’t revisit it.”

I particularly like Hunter’s idea of it as a living song, though I’m not too fond of his idea for a new verse:
Once in a while, the music gets into the street
Fifty old ladies bug every cop on the beat
They’re putting the lock on Lindley Meadow and Kezar
Beginning to look like we can’t play in the park

Of course, there’s Bobby’s alternative lyric changing sweet Jane’s fate in the ‘80s (“Ever since she went and had a sex change, all her friends can say is ain’t it a shame”), but that’s another story…

Truckin’ was released as a single in a hastily edited three-minute version as a concession to Warner Brothers, and it reached #64 on the pop singles chart, the Dead’s most successful single until Touch of Grey in 1987.

An alternate mix of the studio version is a filler track here:
It features lead guitar through the whole song that wasn't used on the album track, and the ending groove goes on longer til Weir finishes it with an impromptu 'Frozen Logger.'


The band went through a lot in 1970 – from the bust in New Orleans to the famous northeastern tour in the spring, to the “Festival Express” mini-tour across Canada in late-June. Criss-crossing the country to play the Fillmore East, the Capitol Theater, a couple shows in England...even Hawaii (twice!). It was also a very creative period, with new songs and acoustic sets being rotated in regularly. Truckin’ was a way of life for the Dead, and it sounds appropriately authentic in the available recordings.

Truckin’ was played at least 28 times in 1970. Fitting its acoustic origins, the Dead started playing the song in their acoustic sets; but in October it became an electric song, and within the month they were already starting to stretch out the ending jam a bit. The song’s loping, bluesy groove is very similar to New Speedway Boogie (both songs also included Nobody’s Fault jams, a natural fit), so it’s small wonder that New Speedway was dropped just a month after Truckin’ was introduced to the live set.

August 18, 1970, Fillmore West – First recorded Truckin'*

We only have a so-so audience recording of this historic show, which opens with the first-recorded Truckin’, played acoustically, and also features the first versions of Ripple, Operator and Brokedown Palace.

Bob’s voice is deep and soulful, the harmonies are sweet, and Pigpen sounds tasteful on piano. Bob says “garlands of neon” and “Detroit, Chicago, New York” instead of “arrows of neon” and “Chicago, New York, Detroit.” It’s interesting to hear slightly unusual cadences on certain lines. Really nice harmonies from Jerry especially.

* See the JGMF blog for a discussion of the previous night’s set list, which also included Truckin’. It appears that 8/17 was the first live Truckin’, while 8/18 remains the first for which we have a recording.

September 18, 1970, Fillmore East – First version on a SBD recording

Another nice acoustic version, this is the next-to-last to be played on acoustics. Bob is now singing “Chicago, New York, Detroit,” but still sings “garlands of neon.” The better quality of this recording significantly enhances the nuances of the acoustic sound (though the mix keeps changing).

The last-ever acoustic version was played a couple days later – the mix is smoother here, with Pigpen more clear on piano:

October 4, 1970, Winterland – First electric Truckin’ (fragment)

It’s a real shame that we only have a fragment of what is apparently the first plugged-in version of Truckin’, performed on the night Janis Joplin died in Los Angeles. The surviving portions of Truckin’ and the rest of the show come from a live KSAN broadcast. The tape starts in the middle of the “been thinking, I got to mellow slow” part and cuts off about 30 seconds later with an unfortunate DJ voiceover. Bummer, because the part of the song that survives sounds pretty great. (A complete multitrack may exist in the Vault, though.)

October 10, 1970, Colden Auditorium, Queens College, Queens, N.Y. – First complete electric Truckin’

The second electric Truckin’ is only available on a muddy audience recording, but the recording quality is the only drawback of this solid show. The Truckin’ opener is a perfect example of the the band’s more intense approach during this period. They’ve dropped the acoustic sets and are coming out more aggressively from the start. The song still isn’t very well jammed out, but you see glimmers of what’s to come in the last two minutes of the song – with Jerry noodling around in that familiar myxolydian groove that would become such a mainstay of the band’s big jam segments in years to come.

October 23, 1970, McDonough Arena, Georgetown U., Washington, D.C. – First Truckin’ segue (First Truckin’> Other One)

This show from a hot night at Georgetown University features the historic first-ever Truckin’> Other One combo that would become one of the band’s calling cards. Cary Wolfson’s audience recording captures the energy of the night very well, and is reasonably well-balanced despite being a little fuzzy. The Truckin’> Other One segue is truly remarkable given that it’s the first one ever. There is no break for drums and no Phil bomb to introduce the Other One, just a seamless continuation from Truckin’ jam into Other One jam that sounds perfectly organic. Listen to this one.

October 30, 1970, Gym, S.U.N.Y., Stony Brook, N.Y. – First (only?) time played twice on the same day

Electric Truckin’ played at both the early and late shows. The first clocks in at around 10 minutes and gets pretty spicy, making it the most jammed-out pure Truckin’ so far. The late show version is noticeably looser and shorter. Neither of them segue into anything.

November 5, 1970, Capitol Theater, Port Chester, N.Y. – First Truckin’> Drums> Other One

Notable as the first Truckin’ to segue into Drums. However, the main riff clearly changes abruptly from Truckin’ to the Other One a few measures before the start of Drums. These important Capitol Theater shows are audience recordings, and we’re damn lucky to have these tapes. Through the rest of the year, Truckin’ was most often played as a standalone song, but several times would segue into the Other One.

November 8, 1970, Capitol Theater, Port Chester, N.Y. – First Truckin’> Dark Star

This is the first of only four times that a Truckin’ jam segued into Dark Star (the other three were all in ’72). It’s not much of a segue --- more along the lines of the Eyes> Estimated variety, where the second song begins just after the final beat of the previous one. They played Truckin’ at every show during this four-night run at the Capitol Theater. This is one of the first times that I know of where they repeat the final refrain (“Truckin’, I’m a-goin’ home, woah, woah baby…”) a second time after the jam.


Truckin’ was played at least 67 times in 1971 (about 80% of the shows that year), and it didn’t change much through the year. It could appear anywhere in the show, either to start a set, or near the end of the show before the final Not Fade Away, and was most often a standalone song (played over 40 times by itself). The Dead frequently used it as the show-opener, so it often served as a short warm-up, typically kept fairly brief, about eight minutes or less. With the ending jam usually only a couple minutes long, it always feels like they’re pulling up short for the vocal reprise or a quick ending.  

When it did segue, it was almost always into a Drums>Other One (this pairing was played only 17 times this year; other times the Other One had its old Cryptical intro). There were a few other unusual segues in 1971:
4/6/71: Not Fade Away>Truckin’ (a smooth transition to close the show; fiery Truckin’)
4/13/71: Truckin’>drums>Good Lovin’ (opening the show; Truckin’ is unremarkable)
4/15/71: Truckin’>Not Fade Away (not as good as it looks)
5/30/71: Truckin’>Lovelight (an abrupt switch after Truckin’ dies down)
Best of all, this one:

January 21, 1971, Freeborn Hall, U. of California, Davis, Ca. – First pairing with Smokestack Lightning

A recently discovered audience tape. One highlight of the show is the unique Smokestack Lightning>Truckin' in the first set. Smokestack is pretty quiet and laid-back, but they switch right into Truckin', and Pigpen plays harmonica all through Truckin'! Very unusual, and worth hearing. (They may segue into Dire Wolf from Truckin' too, but a tapecut makes that unclear.)
The Truckin’>Smokestack Lightning combo wouldn’t be played until 4/9/83, and they were paired rather frequently later in the ‘80s.

October 19, 1971, Northrup Auditorium, U of Minn., MN – First Truckin’ with Keith Godchaux

A nice energized version from Keith’s first show with the Dead. Not especially jammed out, but Garcia now has the chance to play off an exuberant Keith. Pigpen can be heard on organ in the earlier ’71 versions, but he wouldn’t return until December.
A rehearsal version from 9/30 also exists with Keith on tentative organ, which fortunately he dropped for this song on the tour:

October 26, 1971, The Palestra, U of Rochester, Rochester NY – Truckin’ > drums > Other One

In the fall Truckin’ occasionally got up to ten minutes long, for instance on 10/26 and 11/14. This version is the longest of 1971 I believe, and one of the best – Other One hints sneak into the stretched-out jam, and they skip the vocal refrain before tumbling into the Drums>Other One. (This copy is rather muffled, but the show was released on the Download Series vol. 3.)
The fine but a little more subdued ten-minute Truckin’ from 11/14 was also released on the bonus disc to Road Trips 3:2:

In late ’71 Weir also occasionally started introducing Truckin’ as their hit single, for instance on 11/20, 12/5, and 12/10: “It soared straight to the top of the charts in Turlock, California – that’s a fact, it was #1 in Turlock.” (The rest of the Dead find this hilarious, especially on 11/20 – Garcia calls Weir “Mr. Show-biz.”) He’d keep doing this the next year, as preserved on Europe ’72.
"Hey listen, is there anybody here from Turlock tonight? When you're in love, the whole world is from Turlock, right?" (12/12/72)


The year Truckin’ took off. The tempo picked up from the slower Truckin’s of early ’71, and the ending jams quickly became more expansive and torrential. Almost any version from this year is a standout, so the choices here are very selective. In the fall they finally dropped the annoying reprise chorus after the jam – it was often skipped, and the last one sung that year was on 11/24/72.
Truckin’ was played 60 times in ’72, out of 86 shows (70% of the shows). Truckin’ was still frequently used to open sets, but gradually drifted to a second-set slot, only appearing in seven first sets in ’72. At the start of the year they alternated standalone Truckin’s and Truckin’>Other Ones, but Truckin’ was played by itself less frequently as the year went on. In the end fewer than twenty standalone Truckin’s were played in ’72, versus 35 Truckin’>Other Ones (some with drum solos, some without).
In September ‘72 they played He’s Gone>Truckin’ for the first time (on 9/9 and 9/10) and liked the combination, returning to it a couple times in November ‘72 and frequently in ’73. (A solitary Truckin’>He’s Gone was also played on 7/22, but it’s not a true transition; as Truckin’ winds down Garcia flirts with Wharf Rat for a bit, but Truckin’ comes to a stop for a couple seconds before Garcia starts He’s Gone.)

March 26, 1972, Academy of Music, NYC – Truckin’ > drums > Other One

Truckin’ had been creeping up in length in the few previous ’72 versions, but here it finally breaks out in the first huge Truckin’ jam. Truckin’ reaches 17 minutes before the drum break in a long jazzy Truckin’/Other One passage that introduces the ’72 jams to come. Released on Dave’s Picks 14.

April 8, 1972, Wembley Empire Pool, London, England

A great example of a standalone, set-opening Truckin’ from this tour. Thick double-keyboard sound, high energy, fantastic playing. It ends all too soon.

April 11, 1972, Newcastle City Hall, Newcastle, England – Truckin’ > Other One

One of the giant Europe ’72 Truckin’s – nearly 20 minutes including all the jams before the drums>Other One! Some super-rich, thick, gooey vintage E72 jazzy stuff in here, and a very underrated jam from this tour. Dig the Footprints theme pushed by Phil in the post-Truckin’ jam.

April 16, 1972, Aarhus University, Denmark – Killer Truckin>Other One jam

This used to be mislabeled as Truckin> Caution…I don’t know why. In any case, it is an awesome, must-hear Truckin’> Other One jam for sure, one of the best and most unusual of the tour.

April 17, 1972, Tivolis Gardens, Copenhagen, Denmark – Video (currently missing from youtube)

A good standalone version, though not the equal of the mighty 4/16, this is notable mainly because of the widely-circulated video.

April 26, 1972, Jarhunderthalle, Frankfurt, West Germany – Truckin’ > drums > Other One

A sparkling high-energy version that jams into the Other One; released on Hundred Year Hall.  

May 11, 1972, Rotterdam Civic Hall, Netherlands – Caution>Who Do You Love?> Truckin’

The only time they did this pairing. Truckin’ closes a classic jam sequence; Pigpen is very clear on organ in this version.

May 26, 1972, The Strand Lyceum, London, England - Truckin'> jam> Other One

An amazing intense jam bridging the way to the Other One. One of the greatest passages from what is probably the best single show from E72. Released on Europe '72.

July 18, 1972, Roosevelt Stadium, Jersey City, NJ – Truckin’> Dark Star

Sick Truckin’ jam that just drips with a nice spacey segue into Dark Star.

August 12, 1972, Sacramento Memorial Auditorium, Sacramento, CA – First Other One> Truckin’

First time they turned the dynamic duo around, Truckin’ comes after a tasty Other One>Black Peter>Other One sandwich. It’s not really a segue (there’s a pause after the Other One), but interesting to hear them in reverse order. Truckin’ is 12 minutes long and the jam is fully charged up after a short but very cool Other One reprise/verse two. A standout version.

September 10, 1972, Hollywood Bowl, Hollywood, CA – He's Gone> Truckin'

The second He’s Gone>Truckin’, after the previous night. Jerry starts in on some really terrific jamming about 5 and a half minutes in and doesn't look back.

September 21, 1972, The Spectrum, Philadelphia, PA – He’s Gone> Truckin’

An intense, inspired jam – but it’s increasingly awkward for Truckin’ to just come to a stop.

September 26, 1972, Stanley Theater, Jersey City, NJ – Truckin’> Jam> Other One jam> Baby Blue

A good example of a really seamless Truckin’>Other One jam makes for 30 minutes of GD magic. From 10-12 minutes they funkify the rhythm significantly, opening up space for heavy improvisation by all parties. Do I hear a tiny hint of Me and My Uncle in there? Things start to mellow about 15 minutes in, with Keith making little jazz runs, and the music gets notably calmer before Phil steps up and introduces an ascending lick and we’re tossed into jazz/Other One jam territory—a chill Miles Davis/Herbie Hancock-inspired jam that picks up steam and charges toward a nasty Tiger jam and a rare ’72 Baby Blue. Awesome. A five-star Truckin’ jam in my opinion.

October 2, 1972, Springfield Civic Center Arena, Springfield, Ma. – Truckin’> Nobody’s jam> drums> jam> Morning Dew

Seems like Jerry must have hinted at Nobody’s during the Truckin’ jam sometime before this show, but this is considered the first Nobody’s Jam since June 13, 1970, and it’s a nice little capper on a really nice Truckin’ jam before moving on to a big jam segment that ends up in Morning Dew. Truckin’> Nobody’s would become pretty common in ’72-73.

[NOTE: Nobody’s Fault but Mine jam is often listed merely as “jam” on the available sources for late-’72. Sometimes the Dead veer into a bluesy post-Truckin’ jam without turning it into Nobody’s Fault.]

October 26, 1972, Music Hall, Cincinnati, OH – Truckin’> Nobody’s jam> Dark Star

The Truckin’> Nobody’s jams were getting really nasty in fall of ’72, and this one’s a perfect example, where the two songs really become one jam. The Nobody’s part is probably the highlight of this suite, and the breakdown provides the perfect bridge between Truckin’ and what is ultimately a pretty mediocre Dark Star for the era. (The mix here is bass-light, drum-heavy.)

October 30, 1972, Ford Auditorium, Detroit, MI

A monster 15-minute standalone version to start the second set, in Bear’s excellent audience tape.

November 17, 1972, Century II Convention Hall, Wichita, KS – Truckin’ > Other One

All the direct Truckin’>Other One jams (without drums) are nice, but this one is intense and focused, up there with the better ones. Released on Dave’s Picks 11.

December 15, 1972, Long Beach Arena, Long Beach, CA – Truckin’> Dark Star> Morning Dew

The Truckin’ jam leads to unfamiliar territory in the last minute with Phil dropping big electronic thuds all over the arena and the band off in deep space blues just before the amazing Dark Star appears. Required listening.

December 31, 1972, Winterland – Truckin’ > Other One > Morning Dew

The Truckin’ is over 14 minutes, everyone is tight and zeroed in on jamming, slowly weaving into a classic Other One. Only the start of an amazing jam suite to finish the year.


In 1973, Truckin’ was played 48 times out of 72 shows (66% of the shows). Its position as a second-set suite song became fixed – it only appeared in the first set once (on December 4, a strange and hasty show), and it was only played as a standalone song one last time (on February 17, a laid-back version with the vocal reprise at the end).
1973 would see Truckin’ paired with all kinds of things on both ends – most commonly, it came out of He’s Gone, and went into the Other One (with or without a drum break).
Truckin’>Other One – 11 times
He’s Gone>Truckin’>Other One – 12 times
He’s Gone>Truckin’>anything else – 10 times
There were also nine Truckin’>Eyes of the World combos, mostly in March and September. The fall tour saw Truckin’>Wharf Rat paired four times as well (Truckin’ also came out of Wharf Rat once, on June 10). A variety of other songs came out of Truckin’ as well (mentioned below), and December even saw a couple Truckin’>Stella Blues. Nobody’s Fault appeared in Truckin’ over a dozen times, mostly in the fall – it was sung a few times that fall, but was usually an instrumental.
Again, with so many great versions of Truckin’ in ’73, this is a very selective list of some notable performances. Though many Truckin’s from this year are more laid-back than the ’72 variety (particularly when they go straight into Nobody’s jams), the big Truck-splosions also get more ferocious this year.

February 9, 1973, Roscoe Maples Pavilion, Stanford University, Palo Alto, CA – Truckin’> Eyes of the World> China Doll (first Eyes, first China Doll)

The first show of ’73 and it is fairly evident that the band intends to mix it up a bit this year. Truckin’ is paired with the first version of Eyes of the World. Transition is on-a-dime perfect. This is followed by the first ever China Doll. What a show.

February 19, 1973, International Amphitheatre, Chicago, IL – He’s Gone> Truckin’> jam>Phil and Billy>Other One

Very nice He’s Gone>Truckin’ transition here. The Truckin’ jam is pretty rockin, but the heart of this is a very nice Phil-led jam before Phil and Billy. A classic ’73 jam sequence.

March 16, 1973, Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum, Uniondale, N.Y. – Dark Star> Truckin’> Morning Dew (first of both segues)

The emergence of Truckin’ out of Dark Star is surprising and a little awkward but still fun. Truckin’> Dew is spectacular.

March 24, 1973, The Spectrum, Philadelphia, PA – He’s Gone> Truckin’> Spanish jam> Dark Star

Considered the first Truckin’> Spanish jam amid a HUGE He’s Gone> Truckin> Spanish> Dark Star. They call it Spanish jam but that only really applies to the last few minutes of it where it segues into Dark Star. The preceding 30 minutes is all “Truckin’” according to most track listings, but I’d call it Truckin’> Nobody’s jam> Jam> Phil and Billy> Jam> Spanish jam> Dark Star. The jam after Truckin’ may be one big deferred Dark Star – this always felt to me like they were heading directly for Dark Star after Truckin’, but wound up taking a few surprise detours before getting there. A thing of beauty no matter how you slice it.

March 26, 1973, Baltimore Civic Center, MD – He's Gone> Truckin'> Weather Report Suite Prelude> Wharf Rat

An absolutely stellar Truckin’ jam that goes way out into space before settling into the WRS prelude. Beautiful and classic sequence from an amazing month of shows.

May 26, 1973, Kezar Stadium, San Francisco – He’s Gone> Truckin’> Other One

A very energetic, Keith-dominated Truckin’ with a sweet jam that slips into the Other One.

June 9, 1973, RFK Stadium, Washington, DC – He’s Gone> Truckin’> Playin’ in the Band

Nice transition from He’s Gone into Truckin’, followed by an INSANE Truckin’ jam that goes in unexpected directions and gets very hot, followed by a little Phil/Billy, a mellow jam, a Here Comes Sunshine tease, and finally PITB. First Truckin’> PITB (and one of only four ever).
The following night also had a short but extremely zippy Truckin’ that uniquely races out of Wharf Rat:

June 22, 1973, PNE Coliseum, Vancouver, BC – He’s Gone> Truckin’> Nobody’s jam> Other One

The jam after Truckin’ ranges far and wide, with a Nobody’s jam that leads into some Phil/Billy and a long bass solo that opens up a long, lovely jam of many moods before the Other One sneaks in. One of those big ’73 jams that’s tracked differently on every copy.

July 28, 1973, Grand Prix Racecourse, Watkins Glen, NY – Truckin’> Nobody’s jam> El Paso

Plagued with sound problems, the band perseveres, driving the jam forward first into Nobody’s, then into a spacey breakdown, and finally into El Paso – a first.

July 31, 1973, Roosevelt Stadium, Jersey City, NJ – Truckin’> GDTRFB

Awesome jam into Goin’ Down the Road for a great combo of highway songs. Features a hot Phil and Billy-led segue and a very subtle Good Lovin’ tease just before GDTR begins.

September 7 and 8, 1973, Nassau Coliseum, Uniondale, NY 

A couple unusual evenings for Truckin’. On the first night, Keith plays organ in the jam, which I believe he only did a couple times this year and sounds a little odd. On the second night, Truckin’ is hotter and struts to a finish…but instead of a drum break, Garcia starts up Not Fade Away, the first time the songs had been paired since April ’71.

September 15, 17, and 20, 1973, Various venues – Truckin’> Nobody’s jam> Eyes of the World w/ Fiero and Ellis

The addition of Martin Fiero and Joe Ellis on horns for many of the shows played in September ’73 gives the band an almost Blues Brothers feel. Not really my cup of tea, but worth it for the novelty. The jamming is still hot on these versions, but the horns don’t really seem to add much to the dynamic. They step all over the song and don’t interact with the band well, like they’re on a separate track, coming into their own a bit more when it’s time to solo. They’re very bad in Truckin’ in the first show, are a little more together on the 17th, and on the 20th they step back and are less intrusive. On the rest of the tour, they don’t play on Truckin’. Keith plays organ on the 9/17 Truckin’.

October 21, 1973, Omaha Civic Auditorium, Omaha, NE – Truckin’> Wharf Rat (first)

Fairly sloppy and relatively short Truckin’ jam for the era concludes with a fine transition into Wharf Rat. Very nice playing by Bob in particular, who seems to be angling for the Other One. They would do the Truckin’> Wharf Rat combo three more times on the fall tour.

October 27, 1973, Indianapolis State Fair Coliseum, IN – He’s Gone> Truckin’> Nobody’s jam> Wharf Rat

Keith busts out the organ for part of the Truckin’ jam again, a rare occurrence. A very hot version; Phil sticks out in the huge Truck-splosion.

October 29, 1973, Kiel Auditorium, St. Louis, MO – Truckin’> Spacey jam> Other One

Soon after the Truck-splosion, the band breaks it down completely, morphing into a light, free-form thing that seems a little aimless for a bit before driving forward into one of those wonderful 1973 jazz-infused space jams.

November 14, 1973, San Diego Sports Arena, San Diego, CA – Truckin’> Nobody’s jam> Other One> etc…

A second-set-opening Truckin’ from a stand-out period in the Dead’s history. This one is notable for launching an amazing, multi-tiered Other One sandwich that must be heard by all serious heads. There is a wonderful, eight-minute jam portion between Truckin’ and TOO. Released on the 30 Trips box set.

November 21, 1973, Denver Coliseum, Denver CO – Truckin’> Nobody’s Fault but Mine> GDTRFB

Notable for its relatively energetic Truckin’ jam, the fact that Jerry actually sings a verse of Nobody’s, which happened more over the next year, and the seamless transition into GDTRFB. Good stuff. Released on Road Trips 4:3.
The bonus disc also features the fine Truckin’ from the previous night in Denver:

December 2 and 4, 1973, Boston Music Hall, Boston, MA and Cincinnati Gardens, Cincinnati, OH – Truckin’> Stella Blue (first and second)

The Boston show is from Dick’s Picks Vol. 14. One of the finest sets of the year; the Truckin’ is pretty sleepy but includes a quiet, delicate Nobody’s jam where Garcia teases New Speedway Boogie (about ten minutes in). The Truckin’>Stella Blue combo was repeated at the next show, 12/4 in Cincinnati (but – unusually – as part of the first set of a truncated show). 12/4 is on the bonus disc from the Winterland ‘73 box set.

December 19, 1973, Curtis Hixon Convention Hall, Tampa, FL – He’s Gone> Truckin’> Nobody’s Fault> Other One

Classic sequence from a classic show. This is Dick’s Picks Vol. 1 for good reason. A really smooth He’s Gone> Truckin’ transition and of course the killer Nobody’s fusion jam bridging Truckin’ and the Other One. This show is in many ways the climax of that late-‘73 jazz period and you can really hear it in this Truckin’ into Other One jam, with some very nice layers of Keith and Bobby interplay behind Jerry’s spacey riffs.


They’re all noteworthy after a certain point. This is many people’s favorite year for Truckin’, for the fierce Truck-splosions and the gigantic jams. The playing in Truckin’ tends to get more loose and scattered as the year goes on, though.
Truckin’ was played 21 times in ’74, out of 40 shows (little more than half the shows). Its placement became much more unpredictable – it only came out of He’s Gone six times, and only went into the Other One five times. Now it no longer started sets, but frequently initiated jam sequences, heading into themed jams, deep spaces, or unpredictable places. Songs that followed Truckin’ included Wharf Rat (five times), Eyes (four times), Goin’ Down the Road (twice), and a few one-offs (listed below). Nobody’s Fault was played seven times this year (Jerry sang it three times), until its last appearance on July 29.

February 22, 1974 – Winterland, San Francisco, CA – Truckin’> Nobody’s Fault> GDTRFB

This is a powerful Truckin’ with a pretty swinging Nobody’s Fault (with vocals) that sounds more like Wang Dang Doodle than most other versions. The jam eventually winds down into GDTRFB. (The following night at Winterland also has a nice Truckin’ that veers quickly into the Other One.)

May 17, 1974, PNE Coliseum, Vancouver, BC - Truckin'> Nobody's Fault But Mine> Eyes of the World 

The microphones go out in Truckin' (or Weir forgets a verse), so the Dead play an instrumental verse. The playing is sharp - after the crescendo they veer into a long Nobody's Fault with vocals, which eventually breaks into Eyes after a brief chaos breakdown.
From the uneven show a few days earlier in Reno, the Truckin' is very hot with a distorted Keith standing out on piano. It's shorter though, heading quickly to the Other One after a couple minutes of Nobody's Fault jamming.

May 19, 1974, Portland Memorial Coliseum, Portland, OR – Truckin’> jam> Mind Left Body jam> Not Fade Away

Flat-out awesome Truckin’/Nobody’s attack into a gorgeous Mind Left Body>NFA jam. One of the best parts of one of the year’s best shows. (David Gans has described this jam at length.)

May 25, 1974, Campus Stadium, UCSB, Santa Barbara, CA – Truckin’> Nobody’s jam> Space> Let it Grow

The Dead tear Truckin’ apart like a band at the height of its powers and then rip into a brief but blistering Nobody’s jam that descends into a spicy little groove before entering pretty deep space, ending up in Let It Grow.

June 16, 1974, Iowa State Fairgrounds, Des Moines, IA – Truckin’> Nobody’s jam> Wharf Rat

A very special jam following Truckin' - it's not quite 6/28, but it is a very unique jam, containing many themes (named and unnamed) including Nobody's Fault and the Mind Left Body jams. As usual in '74, Phil carries this one to some wicked heights, and Garcia absolutely shreds this one up with his fuzz tone also. Jaw-dropping stuff, one of my very favorite moments of this great year. Released on Road Trips 2:3.

June 20, 1974, The Omni, Atlanta, GA – Truckin’> Jam> Eyes of the World

This sequence is an earful. A highly-rated Truckin’ is a bit sloppy through the song part and kind of lazy to develop. But it tightens up at the right moment and Jerry rides the slow groove directly into a Nobody’s-type jam, and then back into another Truckin’ crescendo sequence at about 8:30 minutes in and then rides a Nobody’s jam out into space, complete with heavy bass and a vicious tiger jam. Certainly one of the longer Truckin’s, depending on how you time it. The heavy space rock stuff is really pretty awesome and an example of what made ’74 so special.

June 26, 1974 - Providence Civic Center, Providence, RI – Truckin’> Other One jam> Spanish jam> Wharf Rat  

Jerry Moore’s audience recording is a little hissy (and very clappy) but is a nice recording overall, and the excitement is palpable as Truckin’ gets underway. (As the jam begins right after Bob's final scream, you can hear Jerry playing the melody to Hideaway, the Freddie King tune – a pretty clear quote.) The rhythm section really keeps this one moving along and Jerry has a highlight moment or two before they even get to the nine-minute mark. Strong stuff indeed! And the crowd reaction is cool. It’s amazing how well the rhythm section comes across on the audience recording. They slow it down into a more traditional Nobody’s jam kind of thing, and Keith makes sure the song retains an authentic barroom feel even as they enter a more intense Other One style jam in the eleventh minute and then descend into a short bass solo. Phil slips in a couple of cheeky false starts to begin the Other One. A brief Other One jam leads to one of the best Spanish Jams of the year. This one is always worth a re-listen: the post-Truckin’ jam is so unique, I keep expecting to hear Miles Davis step up to the mic. Could be a track from "On the Corner." Released on Dick’s Picks Vol. 12.

June 30, 1974 – Civic Center, Springfield, MA – US Blues> Truckin’> Eyes of the World

The only US Blues> Truckin’ (to my knowledge), and it’s a real transition that works pretty well. Funny that they never did it again. And a fully-realized, 13+ minute Truckin’ – this one’s mellow and restrained, without a big crescendo, but stays in a slinky groove with hints of Nobody’s Fault, until it slowly dissolves into Eyes.

July 21, 1974, Hollywood Bowl, Hollywood, CA – Playin’ in the Band> Wharf Rat> Truckin’> Nobody’s jam> Playin’

An energetic, bopping Truckin’ that zips through a quick crescendo and Nobody’s jam before diving back into a wonderful Playin’. Short but notable for the rare Truckin’ placement inside a larger Playin’. Great audience tape.

July 31, 1974, Dillon Stadium, Hartford, CT – Truckin’> Mind Left Body jam> Spanish jam> Wharf Rat

There’s something special about this version that’s apparent from the very start—like Jerry’s toast had a little extra butter on it tonight. The band sounds very loose, and they do go off the rails a bit during the crescendo jam, but all’s well that ends well, and that’s exactly what happens here, with some really funky jams that go off in all sorts of directions before finally settling into the Mind Left Body jam. Whatever Jerry took that night, I want some. Must-hear material. Released on Dave’s Picks Vol. 2.
The version two nights earlier in Landover, MD is pretty loose and short, mainly notable for the last full Nobody’s Fault of 1974, which Jerry sings and transitions into an Other One. Released on the bonus disc to Dick’s Picks Vol. 2.

August 5, 1974, Philadelphia Civic Arena, Philadelphia, PA – He's Gone > Truckin' > Jam > Other One Jam > Space > Jam > Stella Blue

Parts of this and the next night are on Dick’s Picks Vol. 31, including this entire monster jam suite from He’s Gone through Stella Blue. One of the best-ever jams out of Truckin’: this has to be one of the all-time great Truck-splosions, followed by a sick little Nobody’s jam that quickly evolves into a kind of Other One space. Great energy that spawns a huge 30-minute jam.

August 6, 1974 – Roosevelt Stadium, Jersey City, NJ – He's Gone> Truckin'> Spanish Jam> Other One

Parts of this show are on Dick’s Picks Vol 31, but not this second-set jam suite. It’s not quite a heavy hitter like the previous night, but this one is still very nice – no explosion tonight, instead a swerve into space that leads ultimately into a Spanish jam.

September 9, 1974, Alexandra Palace, London, England – Truckin’> Wharf Rat

After a storming crescendo, the jam subsides into a slinky groove with Nobody’s Fault hints, which breaks up into a loose, stinging frenzy on the way to Wharf Rat. Released on Dick’s Picks Vol. 7, where the post-Truckin’ jam was named the “Wood Green Jam.”

September 14, 1974, Olympia Halle, Munich, Germany – Truckin’> Mind Left Body jam> Wharf Rat

Major vocals flub, but it’s Germany, so who cares? They more than make up for it with the mid-song jam, the big wind-up, and the post-jam, which goes very purposefully and gracefully out into space, then catches flight, with Jerry turning corner after corner, and everyone else just trying to keep up. Then a gorgeous little Mind Left Body jam and then a soft landing onto Wharf Rat. This is an underrated show. Sounds incredible on the audience recording.

September 18, 1974, Parc des Expositions, Dijon, France – He’s Gone> Truckin’> drums> Mind Left Body/Caution jam> Ship of Fools

Most of the big time action lies in the Mind Left Body/Caution jam that follows, but the Truckin' jam itself has some groovy playing as well. Truckin’ seems a little subdued and unfocused, but after a drum break they slip into some nice choppy, jazzy jamming, then quickly hit the brakes for a surprise Ship of Fools. Released on the 30 Trips box set.

September 20, 1974 – Palais des Sports, Paris, France – Truckin’> Eyes of the World

Phil offers up a crazy intro to start off this groovy Truckin’. Nice fat bass sound to get things going. Definitely a trippy sound, whatever it is they were on that particular evening. Jerry definitely seems to be making some adjustments for his condition, as it were. The band’s off-kilter and Weir’s guitar is inaudible, so naturally they drift into deep space feedback and a Tiger jam.

The next version a month later at Winterland saw the Dead getting back to form after the scattershot Europe tour. After a long spacey set, they find their boogie shoes again with a solid if unspectacular Truckin’ that goes into GDTRFB.

October 19, 1974, Winterland – He’s Gone> Truckin’ jam> Caution jam> Drums> Space> Truckin’> Black Peter

Three nights later, from the GD Movie Soundtrack, this is a wild version. Truckin’ springs out of He’s Gone, but instead of starting up the song proper, they jam out the intro for a couple minutes and then abruptly jump into a sweet Caution jam that goes off into a drum break and a 10-minute space that gradually returns to a speedy Truckin’. The song itself is almost an afterthought, but they close it with a big crescendo and a short but sweet little jam before Garcia turns the corner into Black Peter. The only split Truckin’? Don’t miss this one.

Truckin’ was played once in ’75, at the 9/28/75 Golden Gate Park show with an amazing, unique ’75-style outro jam (released on the 30 Trips box set). 
It didn’t return to the repertoire until two years later, closing the show at Raceway Park, Englishtown on 9/3/77 (a rusty, bludgeoning version released on Dick’s Picks 15). Truckin’ went back on the road after that…but that’s a story for another day!

(For a list of the most popular versions, see Heady Version.)