Jerry Garcia – Sugaree

I remember this song on the radio in the seventies. Of all places, it was played a lot at our local skating rink. It’s high on the list of my favorite songs. It wasn’t the best song written by Garcia and Hunter but I can listen to it at any time. Probably the first Dead…or close to a Dead song I ever heard. The song has stuck with me my entire life.

Jerry Garcia played most of the instruments on this album except drums and Dead drummer Bill Kreutzmann handled those. Sugaree was on the Garcia album released in 1972. He had teamed up with other players in the past but this was his first solo album. The song peaked at #94 on the Billboard 100 in 1972. I always liked the vague lyrics to this song. I first thought it was about death… you can take it a lot of ways.

The Grateful Dead did this live many times…Jerry Garcia and Robert Hunter wrote this song. The Dead made their reputation live. They got very little radio play and didn’t sell many albums, but they are one of the top-grossing concert acts of all time.

Like the Allman Brothers, they formed a family atmosphere with their crew and it extended to their audience. From the early Kool-Aid acid tests to later on allowing the audience to tape their shows drew their audience closer. They would later give them their own section to record in…while other bands like Led Zeppelin would send people to bust their tape recorder or head. Garcia commented: Well, my feelings are, the music is for the people…I mean after it leaves our instruments it’s of no value to us, ya know what I mean? it’s like, ya know…what good is it? So it might as well be taped, my feeling is that..and if people enjoy taping it and enjoy having the tapes to listen to, that’s real great. “

They never played the same show twice. They would take songs in different directions and Garcia has said that he couldn’t play something twice the same. He just wasn’t built like that. That made every show unique…not that every show was great. The Dead has admitted they had their share of bad ones.

On Deadheads following them around the country: “Well, it’s obviously very important to them. And more than that, it’s giving them an adventure. They have stories to tell. Like, “Remember that time we had to go all the way to Colorado and we had to hitchhike the last 400 miles because the VW broke down in Kansas.” Or something like that. Y’know what I mean? That’s giving them a whole common group of experiences which they can talk about. For a lot of people, going to Grateful Dead concerts is like bumping into a bunch of old friends.”

Bill Kreutzmann…if you get a chance read his book Deal: My Three Decades of Drumming, Dreams, and Drugs with the Grateful Dead. I covered it here a while back. It’s an education in the rock world…or the Dead world of the 60s through the 90s. If you are offended by drugs, sex, and great music…pass it by.

Robert Hunter: “Sugaree was written soon after I moved from the Garcia household to China Camp. People assume the idea was cadged from Elizabeth Cotten’s ‘Sugaree,’ but, in fact, the song was originally titled ‘Stingaree,’ which is a poisonous South Sea manta. The phrase ‘just don’t tell them that you know me’ was prompted by something said by an associate in my pre-Dead days when my destitute circumstances found me fraternizing with a gang of minor criminals. What he said, when departing, was: ‘Hold your mud and don’t mention my name.’

“Why change the title to ‘Sugaree’? Just thought it sounded better that way, made the addressee seem more hard-bitten to bear a sugar-coated name. The song, as I imagined it, is addressed to a pimp. And yes, I knew Libba’s song, and did indeed borrow the new name from her, suggested by the ‘Shake it’ refrain.”

Bill Kreutzmann Drummer for the Dead: The album, Garcia, was cut at Wally Heider Studios in July 1971 and released by Warner Brothers the following January. There are a lot of songs on there that became Grateful Dead mainstays, in addition to “Deal”—we’re talking about straight-up classics like “Sugaree,” “Loser,” and “The Wheel.” Also, “Bird Song” is on there, which, to this day, is one of my all-time favorite Dead songs and one of my absolute favorite songs to play live (along with “Dark Star” and “The Other One”).

When I want musicians I’m playing with to learn any of those songs, I give them the Garcia versions. They’re just so good. I had a really great time making that album. Dealing exclusively with Jerry was the most effortless thing in the world. I didn’t have to do anything other than be myself. And play.

Cocaine was our special guest throughout those recording sessions, but you’d never be able to tell because everything was very laid back. I have no idea how we were able to do that, because cocaine isn’t exactly known for its relaxing properties. Maybe it was just the dynamic between us that made it all so … easy.

Sugaree

When they come to take you down
When they bring that wagon round
When they come to call on you
and drag your poor body down

Just one thing I ask of you
Just one thing for me
Please forget you knew my name
My darlin Sugaree

Shake it, shake it Sugaree
Just don’t tell them that you know me

You thought you was the cool fool
Never could do no wrong
Had everything sewed up tight
How come you lay awake all night long?

Just one thing I ask of you
Just one thing for me
Please forget you knew my name
My darlin Sugaree

Shake it, shake it Sugaree
Just don’t tell them that you know me

You know in spite of all you gained
you still have to stand out in the pouring rain
One last voice is calling you
and I guess it’s time you go

Just one thing I ask of you
Just one thing for me
Please forget you knew my name
My darlin Sugaree

Shake it, shake it Sugaree
Just don’t tell them that you know me

Shake it up now, Sugaree
I’ll meet you at the Jubilee
If that Jubilee don’t come
Maybe I’ll meet you on the run

One thing I ask of you
Just one thing for me
Please forget you knew my name
my darling Sugaree

Shake it, shake it Sugaree
but don’t tell them that you know me
Shake it, shake it Sugaree
Just don’t tell ’em that you know me

Author: Badfinger (Max)

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

23 thoughts on “Jerry Garcia – Sugaree”

  1. I think Sugaree is about a pair of outlaws who are partners in crime, and they are either involved as escaped slaves or possibly captured spies. Sugaree ran into a serious problem with the law, and there is a plea from someone close to her, most likely a male coconspirator who would appreciate not being dragged down with her. Sugaree was apprehended and she is being taken away in a cart as it seems that she has already been judged guilty of her crime and soon she will be executed while her partner is standing in the crowd watching the proceedings. The guy is terrified, so he asks her or rather begs her not to spill the beans and implicate him after she is taken away in the paddy wagon to be questioned. Besides being partners, they are also lovers, and he would like her to use her ‘charms’ (shake it, shake it, shake your butt you sweet thing) and not give up any information on his whereabouts. The tables have turned for Sugaree and she has good reason to worry and no recourse other than to accept her fate.

    Like

    1. That is an interesting concept and it fits! At first, I thought it was about death because of
      When they come to take you down
      When they bring that wagon around
      but yours fits better.

      Like

    1. Yea man it’s something about it…I think it has a slight reggae sound but the sound he got on his guitar was outstanding. That was when he was using that Strat named Gator I believe.

      Like

  2. I never heard it on radio, but I wouldn’t have half-minded. A pretty decent little song… what a talent Jerry was in writing and with the guitar. With the dedication of their fans, the grateful Dead really were unique.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I have heard so little from the Dead, but the little I have heard I really like including this song. García has just a breezy voice and the instrumentals are in keeping with that lucid and clear conveyance of message.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Most of Garcias stuff noodles along, as if in a cloud of something… Always so easy to kick back and let wash over you. Love his ‘It Must Have Been The Roses.’ ‘Wake Of The Flood’ is Dead best as well.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I’ve liked that tune right away when I heard it for the first time. Even the Dead’s live version at under 10 minutes is rather humane!😆

    I only started to explore the Grateful Dead and Jerry Garcia about four years ago, even though I had known their name forever.

    How did you put it the other day, I really tried to like them! And I certainly did enjoy some of their songs, especially the ones under 10 minutes!

    My biggest challenge with the Dead is I can only do jam rock for a limited amount of time. Then I tend to get antsy as the songs keep going on and on and on. And you finally think you’re in the home stretch, there’s yet another solo!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yea I like a lot of their live but two of their albums I zero in on. American Beauty and Working man’s Dead.

      This solo album he just seems so relaxed and on it.

      I’ve come to respect them much more through the years.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Once again our tastes are similar. When I explored the Dead at the time, I was also mostly drawn to these two albums. “Sugar Magnolia”, “Truckin'” and “Casey Jones” are among the favorites from these two records.

        The Dead were a very unique band. They truly gave it all to their fans. Who other than Springsteen does 4-hour shows?

        Liked by 1 person

      2. We do have similar tastes. Check out a song called US Blues the studio version… I think it’s something you would like.

        Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: