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Workingman's Dead

Grateful Dead

Initial release : June 1970

Warner Bros. WS-1869

The fifth Grateful Dead album was a marked change in direction from the preceding spacey energy of Live/Dead and the more experimental early albums. Workingman's Dead is a return to traditional roots, exploring what Robert Hunter called 'traditional music augmented by the power of rock and roll.'


  • Uncle John's Band (Jerry Garcia / Robert Hunter)
  • High Time (Jerry Garcia / Robert Hunter)
  • Dire Wolf (Jerry Garcia / Robert Hunter)
  • New Speedway Boogie (Jerry Garcia / Robert Hunter)
  • Cumberland Blues (Jerry Garcia / Robert Hunter / Phil Lesh)
  • Black Peter (Jerry Garcia / Robert Hunter)
  • Easy Wind (Robert Hunter)
  • Casey Jones (Jerry Garcia / Robert Hunter)
Bonus tracks on 2003 expanded CD release;
  • New Speedway Boogie (Alternate mix) (Garcia / Hunter)
  • Dire Wolf (Live) (Garcia / Hunter)
  • Black Peter (Live) (Garcia / Hunter)
  • Easy Wind (Live) (Hunter)
  • Cumberland Blues (Live) (Garcia / Lesh / Hunter)
  • Mason's Children (Live) (Garcia / Lesh / Weir / Hunter)
  • Uncle John's Band (Live) (Garcia / Hunter)

    Hidden track

  • 30 sec radio spot

  • Jerry Garcia - lead guitar, pedal steel guitar, vocals
  • Bob Weir - guitar, vocals
  • Phil Lesh - bass, vocals
  • Pigpen (Ron McKernan) - keyboards, vocals
  • Bill Kreutzmann - drums
  • Mickey Hart - drums
Special thanks to
  • David Nelson - acoustic guitar on Cumberland Blues
The credits include;
  • Special thanks to John Dawson (it is not certain if this infers that he plays on the album)

  • Producer - Bob Matthews and Betty Cantor in association with The Grateful Dead
  • Engineer - Alembic
  • Equipment crew - Ramrod, Rex Jackson, S. Heard
  • Big Nurse - Jon McIntire
  • Executive Nanny - Sam Cutler
  • Lady in Waiting - Cosmic Gail
  • Guardians of the Vault - David and Bonnie Parker
  • Cover photo, art amd design - Mouse Studios w/ Toon N Tree
  • Recorded at Pacific High Recording Studio, San Francisco

Workingman's Dead is a return to the traditional roots of the Grateful Dead to the folk, blues and old-time music of the jug bands - but with a difference, the songs are all Garcia and Hunter compositions, creating something new rather than recreating the tradition.

It was also a move away from attempting to capture the sound of the live Grateful Dead in the studio. Garcia spoke about this change in an interview;

Workingman's Dead was our first true studio album, insofar as we went in there to say 'These are the limitations of the studio for us as performers; let's play inside those limitations.' That is we decided to play more or less straight-ahead songs and not get hung up with effects and weirdness. For me, the models were music that I'd liked before that was basically simply constructed but terribly effective - like the old Buck Owens records from Bakersfield. Those records were basic rock & roll: nice, raw, simple, straight-ahead music, with good vocals and substantial instrumentation but nothing flashy.Workingman's Dead was our attempt to say, 'We can play this kind of music - we can play music that's heartland music. It's something we do as well as we do anything.'
Various members of the Grateful Dead have credited Crosby, Stills and Nash with influencing the vocal harmonies of Workingman's Dead and American Beauty.

In another interview Garcia said of the time;

We were into a much more relaxed thing at that time. We weren't feeling like an experimental music group, but were feeling more like a good old band.
In another interview Garcia commented on the songs;
I liked all those tunes. I loved them all, to give you the absolute and unashamed truth. I felt that they were all good songs. They were successful in the sense you could sing 'em and get off and enjoy singing 'em. Uncle John's Band was a major effort, as a musical piece. It's one we worked on for a really long time, to get it working right. Cumberland Blues was also difficult in that sense.
The rear cover was upside down on the original release of the album.

The original rear cover design included the band with guns but this was vetoed by Robert Hunter;

I saw that photo, and that was one of the few times I ever really asserted myself with the band and said 'No - no picture of the band with guns on the back cover.' These were incendiary and revolutionary times and I did not want this band to be making that statement. I wanted us to counter the rousing violence of that time. I knew that we had a tool to do it, and we just didn't dare go the other way. Us and the Airplane: we could have been the final match that lit that fuse, and I went real consciously the other way.
The liner notes for the 2001 reissue of Workingman's Dead state that the bonus live version of Uncle John's Band is from the December 23, 1970 Winterland show. It is believed that this information is incorrect and that the song is from the October 4, 1970 Winterland show.

Related releases

Released on CD in 1987 by Warner Brothers 2-1889.

One single was released in conjunction with this LP;

Workingman's Dead was included with bonus tracks in the box set; The expanded CD release that formed part of the Golden Road box set was released as an individual item in February 2003. This CD release was remastered in HDCD and included extra tracks, an expanded booklet, rare photos, and new liner notes.

Live/Dead was included in the 3 CD box set;

Workingman's Dead was released in DVDAudio format; Workingman's Dead was released as a two LP on one cassette configuration; All tracks from Workingman's Dead were included on the digital release; Uncle John's Band and Casey Jones were included on; High Time and New Speedway Boogie were included on the Grateful Dead compilation; Uncle John's Band and Casey Jones were included on;
A number of the Workingman's Dead tracks have appeared on various artist compilations.

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