On The Road Again

Lyrics: Traditional
Music: Traditional

A song played by the Dead in 1966 (and before that in Mother McCree's Uptown Jug Champions), then dropped until it was reintroduced for a spell in the early 1980s, primarily in acoustic sets. It was sung by Garcia in the 60's and Weir in the 80's. These are the lyrics sung by Bob Weir:

Would not my fat girl tell you the reason why? (note 1)
Fat girls will even do things on the sly
Look for your dinner to be good and hot
She never even put a stew-bone in the pot

Chorus
She's on the road again, sure as you're born
Natural born eastman on the road again (note 2)
She's on the road again, sure as you're born

Friend comes by, says he's looking for his hat
Wants to know where's your husband's at
Say I don't know, he's on the way to the pen
Come on pretty momma let's get on the road again

[chorus]

I went to my house, my front door was locked
Went round to the window, found my window was locked
Jumped right back, I shook my head
Big old rounder in my folding bed
Shot through the window, broke the glass
Never seen that little rounder run so fast

[chorus]
Notes
(1) this line is difficult to decipher from the recordings. It's more clearly "fat girl" on the Dead Ahead video than on the Reckoning CD (and both were recorded during the same run of shows in 1980). This fits with what Garcia sang in 1966 - and seems to be a bowdlerisation of the Memphis Jug Band's version which has "black girl"
(2) there's often confusion about what's sung here: is it I believe it's either See the research by Gorgen Antonsson which explains the background to these phrases.


Jerry Garcia's version from the '60s is pretty similar:
Well I went to my fat girl, I'll tell you why
Fat girls even do things on the sly
Look for your soup to be good and hot
She never even put a soup-bone in the pot

Chorus
She's on the road again, sure as you're born
Natural born eastman on the road again
She's on the road again, sure as you're born

I went to my door, and my door was locked
I went to my window and my window was locked
Jumped right back, I shook my head
Great big rounder in my folding bed
Shot through the window, broke the glass
Never seen that little rounder run so fast

[chorus]

Well your friend comes to your house, in his Stetson hat
Wants to know where's your husband's at
Say I don't know, he's on the way to the pen
Come on pretty momma let's get on the road again

[chorus]
The Dead's version is based closely on that of the Memphis Jug Band, recorded in 1928 - with some changes for political correctness! This is what Will Shade sang:
Wouldn't that black woman tell you the reason why
Black woman even do things on the sly
You look for your supper to be good and hot
She never put a neck-bone in the pot

Chorus
She's on the road again, sure as you're born
Lord a natural easeman on the road again
She's on the road again, sure as you're born
Lord a natural easeman on the road again

I went to my window, my window was propped
I went to my door, my door was locked
I stepped right back, I shook my head
A big black nigger in my folding bed
I shot through the window, I broke the glass
I never seen a little nigger run so fast

[chorus]

Your friend comes to your house, [?indecipherable?] hat
Let your moma know know where your husband's at
Says I don't know he's on the way to the pen
Come on moma let's get on the road again

[chorus]
Grateful Dead and Related Recordings
     Date Album
      Jul 1964 Mother Mcree's Uptown Jug Champions
      1966 So Many Roads (1965-1995)
     30 Oct 1980 Reckoning and Dead Ahead (video/DVD)
      7 May 1981 The Tomorrow Show (DVD)
      7 Aug 1982 Dick's Picks Vol 32


Roots
There's a full article on the Memphis Jug Band on the Roots Of The Grateful Dead site.

"Natural Born Eastman"
I am grateful to Gorgen Antonsson in Stockholm for clearing up the mystery over "natural born easeman"
"A favorite mysterious lyric in a favorite mysterious song has always been in Furry Lewis' "Kassie Jones":
Had it written on the back of my shirt
Natural-born _______, don't have to work
"I was never sure what the blank was. Eagle? That didnt' make sense, but I didn't investigate. Then, I hit this in Nick Toches' "Country: The Twisted Roots of Rock 'n' Roll":
Furry Lewis' 1928 'Kassie Jones' held an intriguing couplet: [quotes lines with phrase "Natural-born eastman, don't have to work."] Twenty years before, when there were neither blues records nor country records, folkorist Howard W. Odum collected a song that was later published in the 1925 book he wrote with Guy B. Johnson, "The Negro And His Songs.
'I got it writ on de tail o' my shirt:
I'm a natu'el bohn eastman, don't have to work'
In Jimmie Rodger's 'Blue Yodel No. 9,' recorded in 1930, the same couplet appears, with slight changes (Rodgers is not a natural-born eastman, but a Tennessee hustler).
"Toches goes on to note that Gene Autry did the phrase, but was a "do right daddy". Harmonica Frank Floyd was a "rockin' chair daddy".

"In typical form, Toches gives no explanation of "eastman" and left me puzzled. I went to the "Dictionary Of American Regional English" and looked up eastman. It said:
"among black speakers, old-fashioned ...A man who lives on money earned by a woman."
"As examples, it gives "The 'Eastman' is kept by the woman among whom he is universally a favorite." Odum's song is also cited, as is another definition.

"Similar information can be found in the pages devoted to "Casey Jones" in Paul Oliver's "Songster and saints" (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1984). P. 243-245 discuss Furry's version:
"Though it was recorded by white singers including Fiddling John Carson, Riley Puckett and Uncle Dave Macon, only one black singer in the 1920s - Furry Lewis - recorded it. *Kassie Jones*, a two-part ballad, drew on *I'm a Natu'al Bohn Eastman* (as collected by Odum before 1911) ..." (p. 243) and "The Eastman, or 'easeman' was a hustler who lived by his wits and most often, as a pimp." (p. 245)"