Casey Jones (song)

"Casey Jones" is a song by the American rock band the Grateful Dead. The music was written by Jerry Garcia, and the lyrics are by Robert Hunter. Hunter stated in a 2015 interview with Rolling Stone that "Casey Jones" didn't start out as a song, it just suddenly popped into my mind: "driving that train, high on cocaine, Casey Jones, you better watch your speed." I just wrote that down and I went on to whatever else I was doing, and some time later I came across it and thought, "That's the germ of a pretty good song."[1] The song first appeared on the Dead's 1970 album Workingman's Dead. Subsequently, it was included on a number of their live albums.[2]

"Casey Jones"
Song by Grateful Dead
from the album Workingman's Dead
ReleasedJune 14, 1970
RecordedPacific High Recording Studio
San Francisco, California
GenreBlues rock, country rock, Americana
LabelWarner Bros.
Composer(s)Jerry Garcia
Lyricist(s)Robert Hunter
Producer(s)Bob Matthews
Betty Cantor
Grateful Dead

The Grateful Dead played "Casey Jones" in concert on a regular basis from June 1969 through October 1974. After that, they continued playing it live, but less often. In total they performed the song in concert more than 300 times.[3]

"Casey Jones" is about a railroad engineer who is on the verge of a train wreck due to his train going too fast, a sleeping switch man, and another train being on the same track and headed for him. Jones is described as being "high on cocaine" (the song even makes a double entendre of advising Jones to "watch his speed"). It was inspired by the story of an actual engineer named Casey Jones. The engineer's exploits were also sung of in an earlier folk song called "The Ballad of Casey Jones", which the Grateful Dead played live several times.

The Grateful Dead's song bears no resemblance whatsoever to the actual train wreck, nor do most versions of the traditional song. Despite numerous songs mentioning Casey Jones, there has never been a song that tells the story accurately (although Johnny Cash's version of the traditional song comes closer than most).[citation needed]

"Casey Jones" has received significant airplay on progressive rock, album-oriented rock, and classic rock radio stations over the years, and so is one of the Dead's songs that is more recognizable by non-Deadheads.[4]

The song was released as a downloadable track for the game Rock Band on March 4, 2008.

Cover versionsEdit

Notes and referencesEdit

  1. ^ Browne, David (March 11, 2015). "Robert Hunter on Grateful Dead's Early Days & 'Sacred' Songs". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on 14 March 2016. Retrieved 22 October 2016.
  2. ^ "Grateful Dead Family Discography: Casey Jones". Retrieved 22 October 2016.
  3. ^ Scott, John W; Dolgushkin, Mike; Nixon, Stu. DeadBase XI: The Complete Guide to Grateful Dead Song Lists, 1999, DeadBase, ISBN 1-877657-22-0, p. 131, 159-160
  4. ^ Dodd, David. "The Annotated "Casey Jones"". The Annotated Grateful Dead Lyrics. UCSC's Division of the Arts. Retrieved January 12, 2008.
  5. ^ Keller Williams album for REX charity Archived 2008-06-11 at the Wayback Machine,, May 15, 2008, Retrieved May 7, 2008.