Grateful Dead – Truckin’…Drug Reference Week

What in the world ever became of sweet jane?
She lost her sparkle, you know she isn’t the same
Livin’ on reds, vitamin see, and cocaine,
All a friend can say is “ain’t it a shame?”

This wraps up Drug Reference Week. Thanks to all for reading and commenting…I hope you have enjoyed it.

This is the first Grateful Dead song I remember hearing. I heard it before I knew who the Grateful Dead were… the line Busted, down on bourbon street, set up, like a bowlin’ pin stuck with me. The line happened in real life for the band.

Every member of the Dead except Pigpen and Tom Constanten (who left the band immediately after the New Orleans incident) was included in the bust, along with several members of their entourage and some local associates.

Along with the others… Owsley Stanley, then a tech for the band as well as a well-known LSD producer…was arrested.


Grateful Dead

All of the 19 people caught in the raid were booked for possession of some combination of marijuana, LSD, barbiturates, amphetamines, or other dangerous non-narcotic drugs. It carried a penalty of 5 to 15 years in prison.

New Orleans police seem to fear that their good town will become the next Haight-Ashbury.

After posting bail money, the Dead were almost out of funds. They added an extra show in New Orleans and persuaded Fleetwood Mac to stay for the additional performance as well.

At the gig, a hat was passed around the audience to collect some additional cash for legal expenses. Most of the charges from the New Orleans bust were eventually dropped…but the Dead got a great sound out of the ordeal!

The song was written by Jerry Garcia, Robert Hunter, Phi Lesh, and Bob Weir.

Truckin’ peaked at #64 in the Billboard 100 in 1971.

Jerry Garcia: “They had great fun with us, the southern cops. They had just what they wanted: hippies. Oh, boy.”


From Songfacts

The ’60s was a time for traveling and discovering your place in the world. Sometimes what you found was an empty existence that just keeps repeating itself day to day. Having to deal with everyday life when you were always waiting for some kind of revelation to expand your consciousness was often depressing. The Grateful Dead sang of acceptance of banality and the drive to continue their search for epiphany.

One verse in particular: “What in the world ever became of sweet Jane, she lost her sparkle. Well you know she isn’t the same. Living on reds, vitamin C and cocaine? All a friend can say is ain’t it a shame.” seems to refer to the endless desperation that overtakes some people. They turn to drugs to provide meaning in their lives. This of course fails and spirals their lives into deeper depression. Drugs are for enhancing a good time spent with good friends. They cannot provide answers to the meaning of life. The previous verse speaks to commonplace usage and the consequences of accepting illegal activities as a normal part of your life. You often get “busted” by the police. 

Grateful Dead members Jerry Garcia, Phil Lesh and Bob Weir are the credited writers on this track along with their lyricist Robert Hunter.

The line, “Busted, down on Bourbon Street” refers to an incident on January 31, 1970 when members of the band were arrested in a drug bust that netted 19 people in New Orleans. The group was in town to play two shows at a club called the Warehouse, and the raid happened the morning after their first show at the French Quarter hotel where they were staying. Lesh, Weir and drummer Bill Kreutzmann were all arrested along with crew members and fans of the band who had joined them at the hotel.

The story made the front page of the New Orleans Times-Picayune the next day, and drew national attention, with Rolling Stone running an article on the incident. Owsley Stanley, a Dead associate known for his pioneering work with LSD, was also arrested and labeled the “King of Acid” in the Times-Picayune piece. According to the Rolling Stone article, the band paid for bail and legal fees for all 19 arrested.


Truckin’ got my chips cashed in. keep truckin’, like the do-dah man
Together, more or less in line, just keep truckin’ on.

Arrows of neon and flashing marquees out on main street.
Chicago, new york, detroit and it’s all on the same street.
Your typical city involved in a typical daydream
Hang it up and see what tomorrow brings.

Dallas, got a soft machine; houston, too close to new orleans;
New york’s got the ways and means; but just won’t let you be, oh no.

Most of the cast that you meet on the streets speak of true love,
Most of the time they’re sittin’ and cryin’ at home.
One of these days they know they better get goin’
Out of the door and down on the streets all alone.

Truckin’, like the do-dah man. once told me “you’ve got to play your hand”
Sometimes your cards ain’t worth a dime, if you don’t lay’em down,

Sometimes the light’s all shinin’ on me;
Other times i can barely see.
Lately it occurs to me what a long, strange trip it’s been.

What in the world ever became of sweet jane?
She lost her sparkle, you know she isn’t the same
Livin’ on reds, vitamin see, and cocaine,
All a friend can say is “ain’t it a shame?”

Truckin’, up to buffalo. been thinkin’, you got to mellow slow
Takes time, you pick a place to go, and just keep truckin’ on.

Sittin’ and starin’ out of the hotel window.
Got a tip they’re gonna kick the door in again
I’d like to get some sleep before i travel,
But if you got a warrant, i guess you’re gonna come in.

Busted, down on bourbon street, set up, like a bowlin’ pin.
Knocked down, it get’s to wearin’ thin. they just won’t let you be, oh no.

You’re sick of hangin’ around and you’d like to travel;
Get tired of travelin’ and you want to settle down.
I guess they can’t revoke your soul for tryin’,
Get out of the door and light out and look all around.

Sometimes the light’s all shinin’ on me;
Other times i can barely see.
Lately it occurs to me what a long, strange trip it’s been.

Truckin’, i’m a goin’ home. whoa whoa baby, back where i belong,
Back home, sit down and patch my bones, and get back truckin’ on.
Hey now get back truckin’ home.


Author: Badfinger (Max)

Power Pop fan, Baseball fan, old movie and tv show fan... and a songwriter, bass and guitar player.

16 thoughts on “Grateful Dead – Truckin’…Drug Reference Week”

  1. That’s one of the tunes from the Dead I truly like. I had ignored them for the longest time. Finally, a few years ago, I started exploring some of their music. I was primarily drawn to their earlier work. I didn’t exactly turn into a Deadhead, even though I was kind of claiming it on the blog at the time – it was primarily meant to be a joke.

    What I didn’t know about “Truckin'” is the whole background story, which is intriguing. I also had not picked up on the drug connection.

    Once you start thinking about it, there are actually a good number of songs that reference drugs, and you included great examples in your series. I just never bothered going through that exercise.

    When I noticed you are doing the series, the first tune that came to mind is “The Needle and The Damage Done”, one of my favorite Neil Young tunes. I figured out how to play that one on acoustic guitar and on good days can pull it off reasonably well!

    John Lennon’s “Cold Turkey” was next. Another tune I randomly remembered this morning is “Heroin” by The Velvet Underground. And, hey, even The Beatles have drug references in some of their tunes. For example that smoke on the bus that put Lennon into a dream in “A Day in the Life”…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The two albums of the GD that people key on is Workingman’s Dead and American Beauty… A lot of the radio songs came off of those two.

      They are an interesting band.

      The reason I didn’t do the Young song or more Beatles is because I already did them before on regular posts. I try my best not to repeat…although I did on that Humble Pie song because he mentions so many! lol and it was a long time ago when I posted that one.

      Yes there are so many I could have kept going on and on with it. Thanks for reading them and I hope you liked it.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Mary and I were in San Francisco visiting my brother in ’96 or ’97 and decided to go see Haight-Ashbury. Under the street signs there was a young couple having an argument and the girl was spitting on the boy. Peace love dope!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for the recommendation.

      I have! I watched that one a little while back. It was done well. I would have never guessed Sammy Hagar and him were friends…it was a cool show.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Yep, the truck driver traveled all over the USA: Chicago, New York, Detroit, Dallas, Houston, New Orleans. Neon lights, card games in the truck stop, overnight stays in the equally dreary motels, cocaine to survive the stress.

    Liked by 1 person

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