Dark Hollow

Lyrics: Bill Browning
Music: Bill Browning

Played by the Grateful Dead in acoustic sets in 1970 and again in 1980, with a couple of electric performances in 1971. The versions differ a little (thanks to John Krulish for pointing this out to me). This is the 1980s version of the lyrics, with changes noted:

I'd rather be in some dark hollow (note 1)
Where the sun don't ever shine
Than to be in some big city
In a small room with a girl on my mind (note 2)

Chorus
So blow your whistle freight train
Take me far on down the track
I'm going away, I'm leaving today
I'm going but I ain't coming back

I'd rather be in some dark hollow (note 3)
Where the sun don't ever shine
Than to see you another man's darling
And to know that you'll never be mine

[chorus]

I'd rather be in some dark hollow
Where the sun don't ever shine
Than to be home alone, knowing that you're gone
Would cause me to lose my mind

[chorus]
I'm going away, I'm leaving today
Well I'm going, but I ain't coming back
Notes
(1) on the version on "Bear's Choice," Weir reverses the order of the first and last verses. He also pronounces it "dark holler" throughout - which was the way the title is spelt in early versions of the song - see below.
(2) on "Bear's Choice", Weir sings "... with you on my mind"
(3) Weir sang this verse in the 1980 version on "Reckoning" but not in the early 1970s versions

Grateful Dead Recordings
     14 Feb 1970 Bear's Choice (History Of The Grateful Dead Vol 1)
     19 Feb 1971 Three From The Vault
     29 Apr 1971 Ladies And Gentlemen ... The Grateful Dead
      ? Oct 1980 Reckoning
     23 Oct 1980 Reckoning (note 4)

Furthur Digital Downloads and CDs

Ratdoglive CDs and downloads

Bob Weir Solo Acoustic Live!

Weir-Robinson-Greene Trio Live!
 
Other Recordings
     2011 The Wheel: A Musical Celebration of Jerry Garcia Jesse McReynolds, David Nelson et al

(4) additional version issued as a bonus track in the box set Beyond Description (1973-1990)

Roots
The first verse of "Dark Hollow" is part of a traditional song East Virginia Blues, and a similar verse also appears in the song Little Birdie. Garcia sang both of these songs in pre-Dead days.

The Grateful Dead versions are credited to Bill Browning. He recorded it on the 'B' side of his single "Borned With The Blues" in 1958 (see Terry Gordon's discography). The lyrics in the Bill Browing version are very close to what Weir sings, with some small differences:
I'd rather be in some dark hollow
Where the sun don't never shine
Than to be at home alone, just knowing that she's gone
That would cause me to lose my mind

Chorus
So freight train blow your whistle
Take me far on down the track
I'm going away, I'm leaving today
I'm going but I ain't coming back

I'd rather be in some dark hollow
Where the sun don't never shine
Than to be in some big city
In a small room with her on my mind

[chorus]
This version of the song was a minor hit for Jimmy Skinner (to be found on the cassette of his 20 greatest hits) and was a favourite of Del McCoury, who first sang it as a member of Bill Monroe's Blue Grass Boys, which may be the source for Weir's version. It was also recorded by Mac Wiseman and others.

Clarence Ashley recorded a song called "Dark Holler" in 1929 that shows its close links to East Virginia Blues:
I was born in old Virginia
South Carolina I did go
There I courted a pretty little women
But her age I did not know

Well her hair was brown and curly
And her cheeks was rosy red
On her breasts she wore white lilies
For the tears that I have shed

When I'm asleep I'm dreaming about you
When I wake I have no rest
Ever moment seems like an hour
All the pain rolls through my breast

I'd rather be in some dark hollow
Where the sun don't ever shine
Than for you to be some other man's darling
When you ain't no longer mine

Papa says I must not marry
Papa says it'll never do
But little girl if you are willing
I will run away with you

For I'd rather be in some dark hollow
Where the sun don't ever shine
Than for you to be some other man's darling
When you ain't no longer mine

When I'm asleep I'm dreaming about you
When I wake I have no rest
Every moment seems like an hour
All the pain rolls through my breast

Futher Information
For an online discussion of the lyrics to this song see the deadsongs.vue conference on The Well.
For more information on recordings see Matt Schofield's Grateful Dead Family Discography
For online chords and TAB see www.rukind.com

 


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