Greenback Dollar

Lyrics: Hoyt Axton, Ken Ramsey
Music: Hoyt Axton, Ken Ramsey

Sandy Troy in his book "Captain Trips" quotes Tom Constanten as saying that in November 1961 Jerry Garcia played at the "Groovy Conclave" at the Chateau in Menlo Park:

"Jerry was playing acoustic guitar and singing songs like 'Matty Groves,' 'Long Black Veil,' and 'I Was Born in East Virginia.' He was very much into his folk thing, the oral tradition of folk music where songs are passed on and consequently there are different versions of the same tune. He did the Greenback Dollar version of 'I Was Born in East Virginia.'"
It is not entirely clear what Tom Constanten means by the 'Greenback Dollar' version of 'I Was Born in East Virginia.' No tape of this performance exists. East Virginia Blues contains a line "I don't want the greenback dollar" and was played by Jerry Garcia on at least one subsequent occasion. So I think Garcia must have sung a variant of that in 1961.

Clarence Ashley recorded a song under the title "Greenback Dollar" in 1933. It doesn't have any references to "East Virgina" though it shares a similar melody:
Once I loved a darling seaman
And he thought the world of me
Till another girl persuaded
Now he cares no more for me

I don't want your greenback dollar
I don't want your watch and chain
All I want is your heart darling
Won't you take me back again?

Many [straw] we made together
Down beside the deep blue sea
If it's in your heart to love another
In my grave I'd rather be

I don't want your greenback dollar
I don't want your watch and chain
All I want is my 32/20
Just to shoot out your dirty brain

Poppa says we cannot marry
Moma says he'll never do
If you ever learned to love me
I will run away with you
The song that is best known under the title "Greenback Dollar" (recorded by Hoyt Axton, the Kingston Trio and many others) bears very little relation to "East Virgina Blues":
Some people say I'm a no-'count
Others say I'm no good
But I'm just a natural-born travelin' man
Doin' what I think I should, oh yeah
Doin' what I think I should

Chorus
And I don't give a damn about a greenback-a dollar
Spend it fast as I can
For a wailin' song and a good guitar
The only things that I understand, poor boy
The only things that I understand

When I was a little baby
My mama said "Hey son"
"Travel where you will and grow to be a man
and sing what must be sung, poor boy"
Sing what must be sung

[chorus]

Now that I'm a grown man
I've traveled here and there
I've learned that a bottle of brandy and a song
The only ones who ever care, poor boy
The only ones who ever care

[chorus]

Some people say I'm a no-'count
Others say I'm no good
But I'm just a natural-born travelin' man
Doin' what I think I should, oh yeah
Doin' what I think I should

[chorus]

The only things that I understand, poor boy
The only things that I understand
I somehow doubt this is the song Jerry Garcia sang - it seems much more likely that he sang a closer variant of "I Was Born In East Virginia."


Futher Information
For more information on recordings see Matt Schofield's Grateful Dead Family Discography

 


Home | Find words/phrases| Find Song lyrics| Dead originals| Dead covers|