One Kind Favor/See That My Grave is Kept Clean

Lyrics: Blind Lemon Jefferson
Music: Blind Lemon Jefferson

This was played a few times by the Grateful Dead in 1966, and later by Jerry Garcia with Merl Saunders. It is normally credited to Blind Lemon Jefferson (as for the Garcia/Saunders version on "Live At Keystone"). But the version on "Birth Of The Dead" is credited to Jules Taub and Sam (Lightnin') Hopkins.

There is one kind favor I ask of you
One kind favor I ask of you
One kind favor I ask of you
That you see that my grave is kept clean

If you ever hear a church bell toll (note 1)
If you ever hear a church bell toll
If you ever hear a church bell toll
You may know by that I'm dead and gone

Well six white horses in a line
There's six white horses in a line
Six white horses in a line
Taking me to that burying ground

Now dig my grave with a silver spade
Now dig my grave with a silver spade
Dig my grave with a silver spade
And lay me down with a golden chain (note 2)

There is one kind favor I ask of you
One kind favor I ask of you
One kind favor I ask of you
That you see that my grave is kept clean
Notes
(1) might be "church bell tone"
(2) the version on "Keystone Encores" has "Mark the place where I was laid"


Grateful Dead Recordings
     Date Album
     Jul 1966 Birth Of The Dead (note a)
 
Jerry Garcia Recordings
     Date Album Recorded By
     11 Jul 1973 Keystone Companions: The Complete 1973 Fantasy Recordings Garcia/Saunders

Notes
(a) originally released as part of the Rhino box set The Golden Road (1965-1973)


Origins
The Blind Lemon Jefferson version (titled "See That My Grave Is Kept Clean") dates from 1927 and was on Harry Smith's "Anthology Of American Folk Music" and has been reissued on many compilations. It is similar to Jerry Garcia's version, though with some additional verses:
Well there's one kind favor I ask of you
Well there's one kind favor I ask of you
Lord it's one kind favor I'll ask of you
See that my grave is kept clean

It's a long lane, ain't got no end
It's a long lane, ain't got no end
It's a long lane, ain't got no end
And it's a bad [wind] that never came (note 3)

Lord there's two white horses in a line (note 4)
Well there's two white horses in a line
Well there's two white horses in a line
Will take me to my burying ground

My heart stopped beating, my hands are cold
My heart stopped beating, my hands are cold
Well my heart stopped beating, Lord my hands are cold
It was [long] what the good book, bible told

Have you ever heard that coffin sound
Have you ever heard that coffin sound
Have you ever heard that coffin sound
Did you know that the poor boy neath the ground

Oh dig my grave with a silver spade
Well dig my grave with a silver spade
Well dig my grave with a silver spade
You may lay me down with a golden chain

Have you ever heard that church bell song
Have you ever heard that church bell song
Have you ever heard that church bell song
Then you know that the poor boy's dead and gone
Notes
(3) Dave Van Ronk's version is "It's a long trail that has no turn" but that definitely is not what Blind Lemon Jefferson sings.
(4) I am not sure where Garcia learnt his version with six rather two white horses. Other recordings have two, as in Blind Lemon Jefferson's original. Matt Schofield has pointed out that six pall-bearers appear in many other traditional songs:
But when I'm dead and carried to my grave
A pleasant funeral let me have
Six highwaymen to carry me
Give them broadswords and sweet liberty

Six blooming girls to bear up my pall
Give them white gloves and pink ribbons all
When I'm dead they may tell the truth
There goes a wild and wicked youth

St James Infirmary
When I die I want six crap shooters to be my pallbearers
Three pretty women to sing a song
Put a jazz band on my hearse wagon
And rouse hell as we ride along

Streets of Laredo
Get six jolly cowboys to carry my coffin
Get six pretty women to carry my pall
Put bunches of roses all over my coffin
Put roses to deaden the clods as they fall
Another early version of this song, coming via the Appalachian folk traditions rather than the blues, is by Hobart Smith, recorded for Alan Lomax. (thanks to Lucius for this)
Well it's one kind favor I ask of you
One kind favor I ask of you
Well it's one kind favor I ask of you
Please see my grave is kept clean

It's a long lane ain't got no end
Long lane ain't got no end
It's a long lane ain't got no end
It's the longest lane that's ever been

Well it's three white horses in a line
Three white horses in a line
Well it's three white horses in a line
Gonna take me to my burying ground

Well dig my grave with a silver spade
Dig my grave with a silver spade
Well dig my grave with a silver spade
You will let me down with a golden chain

It's a long lane ain't got no end
Long lane ain't got no end
It's a long lane ain't got no end
It's the longest lane that's ever been

Oh dig my grave with a silver spade
Dig my grave with a silver spade
Oh dig my grave with a silver spade
You will let me down with a golden chain

Did you ever hear that trumpet sound
Did you ever hear that trumpet sound
If you ever hear that trumpet sound
You will know the poor boy's in the ground

It's a long lane ain't got end no end
Long lane ain't got end no end
Long lane ain't got end no end
It's the longest lane that's ever been

Did you ever hear a church bell toll
Did you ever hear a church bell toll
If you ever hear a church bell toll
You will know the poor boy's dead and gone
Another possible source is "Two White Horses In A Line." The earliest versions of this seem to post-date Blind Lemon Jefferson's recording, but have a lot in common. This is the version recorded by Joe Evans and Arthur McClain in about 1931:
There's two white horses in a line
There's two white horses in a line
There's two white horses in a line
Gonna carry me to my burying ground

My heart stopped beating and my hands got cold
My heart stopped beating and my hands got cold
My heart stopped beating and my hands got cold
It's a long lane I had to go

Did you ever hear the church bell toll?
Did you ever hear the church bell toll?
Did you ever hear the church bell toll?
Then you know that the poor boy's dead and gone

It's a long old lane ain't got no end
It's a long old lane ain't got no end
It's a long old lane ain't got no end
It's a bad old wind don't never change

Go dig my grave with a silver spade
Go dig my grave with a silver spade
Go dig my grave with a silver spade
You can lower me down with a golden chain

Did you ever hear the coffin sound?
Did you ever hear the coffin sound?
Did you ever hear the coffin sound?
Then you know that the poor boy's in the ground
Another variant of the song goes under the title "Sad And Lonesome Day" or "Lonesome Day." This was recorded by the Carter Family, Woody Guthrie, the Country Gentlemen and many others. A typical version is:
Today has been a lonesome day
Today has been a lonesome day
Today has been a lonesome day
And tomorrow's gonna be the same old way

They carried my mother to the burying ground
They carried my mother to the burying ground
They carried my mother to the burying ground
I watched as the bearers laid her down

Did you ever hear a church bell toll?
Did you ever hear a church bell toll?
Did you ever hear a church bell toll?
You may know by that she's dead and gone

Dig my grave with a silver spade
Dig my grave with a silver spade
Dig my grave with a silver spade
To mark the place where I may lay

Today has been a lonesome day
Today has been a lonesome day
Today has been a lonesome day
And tomorrow's gonna be the same old way
The Carter Family included the verse
There's one kind favor I ask of you
There's one kind favor I ask of you
There's one kind favor I ask of you
See that my grave is kept green (sic - see below)
One possible origin for this song is a Victorian romantic piece written by Gus Williams in 1876 called "See That My Grave Is Kept Green." Although it doesn't have much in common with Blind Lemon Jefferson's song, it does have the lines "This one little wish I ask of you, see that my grave is kept green." It was recorded in 1927 by Bela Lam and the Greene County Singers.
When I'm dead and gone from you, darling
When I'm laid a-way in my grave
When my spirit has gone to heaven above
To Him who my soul will save

When you are happy and gay no more
Thinking of days that have been
This one little wish I ask of you
See that my grave's kept green

Though the hours of joy now are passing
Yet how soon alas they will fade
Though your glances of love are now meeting my own
Fair sunlight will turn into shade

When from the world and its hopes I go
Leaving for ever the scene
Though others are dear, ah, will you then
See that my grave's kept green

Will you keep me love in remembrance
Though the voice of chiding be heard
Others may speak in censure or blame
Yet breathe no unkindly word?

Tell me you'll think of the happy past
Think of the joys we have seen
This one little promise keep for me
See that my grave's kept green

Chorus:
Oh the days will come to you darling
When no more on earth I'll be
Oh the days will come to you darling
When no more on earth I'll be seen
One sweet little wish darling grant me
See that my grave's kept green
See that my grave's kept green