I Know You Rider

Lyrics: Traditional
Music: Traditional

Played from the very earliest days of the Dead to the last. More recently played by The Other Ones, by Bob Weir with Ratdog, and by Phil & Friends. Almost invariably seguing out of China Cat Sunflower.

Chorus
I know you rider, gonna miss me when I'm gone
I know you rider, gonna miss me when I'm gone
Gonna miss your baby, from rolling in your arms

[verse 1]
Lay down last night, Lord, I could not take my rest
Lay down last night, Lord, I could not take my rest
My mind was wandering like the wild geese in the West

[verse 2]
The sun will shine in my back door some day
The sun will shine in my back door some day
March winds will blow all my troubles away

[verse 3]
I wish I was a headlight on a north-bound train
I wish I was a headlight on a north-bound train
I'd shine my light through the cool Colorado rain

[chorus]

[chorus]
Early versions also included the following verse
[verse 4]
I'd rather drink muddy water, sleep in a hollow log
I'd rather drink muddy water, sleep in a hollow log
Than stay here in Frisco, be treated like a dog
The pattern of verses above emerged from around 1970. Earlier versions were as follows: (thanks to Eric Levy for his research):
Warlocks demo, 1965 and Scorpio sessions, 1966:
Chorus, Verse 1, Chorus, Chorus
1966 live version:
Chorus, Verse 1, Verse 3, Verse 4, Verse 2, Chorus
Nov 1969 live version:
Chorus, Verse 1, Verse 2, Chorus, Chorus
Feb 1970 live version:
Chorus, Verse 1, Verse 2, Verse 3, Chorus, Chorus
May 1970 live acoustic version:
Chorus, Verse 1, Verse 2, Verse 3, Chorus, Verse 4, Chorus

Grateful Dead Recordings

Recordings from dead.net Tapers Section

"The Dead" Concert Recordings

Ratdoglive CDs and downloads
 
Phil Lesh and Friends Recordings
     18 May 2006 Live At The Warfield

Phil Lesh and Friends Digital Download Series

Furthur Digital Downloads and CDs

Weir-Robinson-Greene Trio Live!

Bob Weir Solo Acoustic Live!

Mickey Hart Downloads

Related Recordings


Roots
Some of the lines is this song, such as "Sun gonna shine in my back door someday" date back a long way. But it seems that the song as we know it has its origins in a version included in Alan Lomax's book "American Ballads and Folk Songs" in 1934. The notes to the song say "An eighteen-year old black girl, in prison for murder, sang the song and the first stanza of these blues." Alan Lomax added a number of floating verses from other sources and named it 'Woman Blue.'

Credit for the resurrecting it is claimed by Bob Coltman. He says:
"I resurrected and debuted the song. I followed the tune given in Lomax, roughly but not exactly, changed the song from a woman's to a man's viewpoint, dropped two verses, and was its first arranger, voice and guitar in a heavy drag downbeat, sort of an early folk-rock sound.

"I sang it a lot in folk circles around Philadelphia, in concerts, around Boston, mostly at the legendary Old Joe Clarke's, and in Dartmouth Outing Club hiker/climber/skier circles, which took me around New York State and New England circa 1957-60. I also sang it in the west, in Wyoming/Tetons "Teton Tea Parties" and on the West Coast, especially in San Francisco and Los Angeles, late summer-early fall '59. Then I went in the Army (sorta like prison) and everything went on hold."
This is the song as it appears in Alan Lomax's book:
WOMAN BLUE

"Great Gawd, I'm feelin' bad!
Ain' got de man I thought I had."
     --From The American Songbag.

An eighteen-year-old black girl, in prison for murder, sang the tune and first stanza of these blues.

[verse 1]
I know you, rider, gonna miss me when I'm gone
I know you, rider, gonna miss me when I'm gone
Gonna miss yo' li'l mama, baby, f'um rollin' in yo' arms

[verse 2]
I's going' down de road where I get better care
I's going' down de road where I get better care
I b'lieve I'll go, baby, I don' feel welcome here

[verse 3]
An' I laid right down and tried to take my res'
An' I laid right down and tried to take my res'
But my min' kep' ramblin' like the wil' geese in de Wes'

[verse 4]
Did you ever wake up and fin' yo' rier gone?
Did you ever wake up and fin' yo' rier gone?
Put you on a wonder, wish you never had been bo'n

[verse 5]
I knows my baby, he's boun' to love me some
I knows my baby, he's boun' to love me some
He throws his arms aroun' me like a circle 'roun' de sun

[verse 6]
Jes' as sure as de birds fly in de sky above
Jes' as sure as de birds fly in de sky above
Life ain' worth livin', honey, ain' wid de man you love

[verse 7]
I'm goin' to de river, set down on a log
I'm goin' to de river, set down on a log
Ef I can' be yo' woman, sho gonna be yo' dog

[verse 8]
Take me back, take me back, baby
Take me back, take me back, baby
I won' do nothin' you don' lak, baby

[verse 9]
I'll cut yo' wood, I'll make yo' fire
I'll cut yo' wood, I'll make yo' fire
I'll tote yo' water f'um de Fresno bar

[verse 10]
De sun gwine shine in my back do' some day
De sun gwine shine in my back do' some day
De win' gwine rise, baby, an' blow my blues away

The Grateful Dead verses relate as follows:
     I know you rider ... Lomax verse 1
     Lay down last night ... Lomax verse 3
     The sun will shine ... Lomax verse 10
     Wish I was a headlight ... Non-Lomax verse (see below
     I'd rather drink muddy water ... Lomax verse 7

Bob Coltman's version has much more of the Lomax version, but re-arranges the order of the verses, and changes the lyrics slightly:
[Lomax verse 1]
I know you rider, gonna miss me when I'm gone
I know you rider, gonna miss me when I'm gone
Gonna miss your man, baby, from rollin' in your arms

[Lomax verse 3]
I laid down last night, babe, tried to take my rest
I laid down last night, babe, tried to take my rest
But my mind kept ramblin' like wild geese in the west

[Lomax verse 5]
I know my woman bound to love me some
I know my woman bound to love me some
'Cause she throws her arms round me like a circle round the sun

[Lomax verse 7]
I'm goin' down to the river, set down on a log
I'm goin' down to the river, set down on a log
If I can't be your man, honey, sure won't be your dog

[Lomax verse 9]
I cut your wood, baby, and I made your fire
I cut your wood, baby, and I made your fire
I tote your liquor babe, from the Fresno Bar

[Lomax verse 6]
Just as sure as the birds fly high in the sky above
Just as sure as the birds fly high in the sky above
Life ain't worth livin' if you ain't with the one you love

[Lomax verse 2]
I'm goin' down the road, get some better care
I'm goin' down the road, get some better care
I'm goin' back to my used-to-be rider, for I don't feel welcome here

[Lomax verse 10]
Sun gonna shine in my back door some day
Sun gonna shine in my back door some day
Wind gonna rise up, blow my blues away

[note: misses Lomax verses 4 and 8]
It seems as if the song spread widely round folk circles, and found its way to Jerry Garcia via that route, perhaps from Joan Baez. A list of early recordings is as follows:
Date Recorded by Title 
1960 Tossi Aaron I Know You Rider 
1960 Joan Baez I Know You Rider (Released in 2001 as bonus track on re-issue of first album)
1963 Judy Henske I Know You Rider 
1963 The Kingston Trio Rider 
1963 The Big Three Rider 
1964 Alice Stewart Woman Blue 
1964 Vince Martin and Fred Neil I Know You Rider 
1964 Gale Garnett I Know You Rider 
1965 Judy Roderick Woman Blue 
1965 The Grateful Dead I Know You Rider 
1966 The Byrds I Know You Rider (Released in 1996 as bonus track on re-issue of Fifth Dimension)
1966 Big Brother and the Holding Company I Know You Rider (Released in 1984 on a live recording from 1966)
1966 John Renbourn I Know You Rider 
1968 James Taylor Circle Round The Sun 
1970 Hot Tuna I Know You Rider 

(Note: David Crosby is said to have recorded a version in 1963 for a solo album produced by Jim Dickson, but that doesn't seem to have been released)
This is Tossi Aaron's version, recorded in 1960:
[Lomax verse 1]
Well, I know you rider, you're gonna miss me when I'm gone
Oh yes, I know you rider, gonna miss me when I'm gone
Gonna miss your ever-loving mama, from rolling in your arms

[Lomax verse 2]
Well, I'm going down the road where I can get more decent care
Oh yes, I'm going down the road where I can get more decent care
Going back to my used-to-be rider, 'cause I don't feel welcome here

[Lomax verse 6]
Just as sure as the birds fly, fly in in the sky above
Just as sure as the birds fly, fly in in the sky above
Life ain't worth living when you ain't with the one you love

[Lomax verse 10]
But the sun's gonna shine in my backyard someday
Oh yes the sun's gonna shine in my backyard someday
And the wind's gonna rise up, and blow my blues away

[Lomax verse 1]
Well, I know you rider, you're gonna miss me when I'm gone
Yes, I know you rider, you're gonna miss me when I'm gone
Gonna miss your ever-loving mama, from rolling in your arms
Joan Baez's version was recorded about the same time:
[Lomax verse 1]
I know you rider gonna miss me when I'm gone
I know you rider you're gonna miss me when I'm gone
Gonna miss your pretty mama from rollin' in your arms

[Lomax verse 5]
I love you rider and I know you must love me some
I love you rider and I know you must love me some
You put your arms around me like a circle 'round the sun

[Lomax verse 3]
I lay down last night and I tried to take my rest
I lay down last night and I tried to take my rest
My heart was a-ramblin' like wild geese in the West

[Lomax verse 7]
Goin' to the river I'm gonna sit down on the log
I'm goin' to the river I'm gonna sit down on the log
If I can't be your honey, well I'll sure gonna be your dog

[Lomax verse 10]
Sun's gonna shine in my back yard someday
Sun's gonna shine in my back yard someday
The West wind's gonna rise up and blow my blues away
Another early version was Judy Henske in 1963:
[Lomax verse 1]
I know you rider gonna miss me when I'm gone
I know you rider gonna miss me when I'm gone
Gonna miss your sweet-lovin' woman rollin' in your arms

[Lomax verse 10]
Well the sun gonna shine 'round my back door some day
I said the sun's gonna shine 'round my back door some day
And the wind from the river's gonna blow my blues away

[Non-Lomax verse]
It takes a red-headed man to make a long-time woman feel bad
It takes a red-headed man to make a long-time woman feel bad
Oh it makes me remember 'bout that long slow rollin' I had

[Lomax verse 1]
I know you rider gonna miss me when I'm gone
I know you rider gonna miss me when I'm gone
Gonna miss your sweet-lovin' woman rollin' in your arms
The Kingston Trio recorded a version in 1963:
Chorus
Well, I know you, Rider, gonna miss me when I'm gone
Well, I know you, Rider, gonna miss me when I'm gone
You're gonna miss your daddy rollin' in your arms

[Lomax verse 10]
Well, the sun's gonna shine on my back porch some day
I said, the sun's gonna shine on my back porch some day
Then the wind from the river's gonna blow all my troubles away

[chorus]

[Non-Lomax verse]
Well, I ain't got a nickel, no, I ain't got a lousy dime
Well, I ain't got a nickel, no, I ain't got a lousy dime
But I got a long way to go 'fore the end of my time

[chorus]

[Non-Lomax verse]
It takes a hard hearted woman to make a long time men feel bad
It takes a hard hearted woman to make a long time men feel bad
'Cause it makes him remember the long hard road that he's had

[chorus]
Mama Cass with "The Big Three" (her, Tim Rose and James Hendricks) recorded a version in 1963 under the title "Rider":
[Lomax verse 1]
I know my rider gonna miss me when I'm gone
I know my rider gonna miss me when I'm gone
I know she's gonna miss me from rolling in her arms

[Lomax verse 4]
Well did you ever wake up and found your rider gone?
Well did you ever wake up and found your rider gone?
Well put you on a wonder and wish you'd never been born

[Lomax verse 10]
Sun's gonna shine in my back door some day
Sun's gonna shine in my back door some day
Winds gonna rise and blow my blues away

[Lomax verse 9]
I'll build your fire, you know I'll cut your logs
I'll build your fire, you know I'll cut your logs
I'll be a loving baby but I ain't gonna be your dog

[Non-Lomax verse]
Well dawn's coming early, night's gonna fade away
I said dawn's coming early, night's gonna fade away
Ever see your rider coming, baby, 'bout the break of day

[Lomax verse 1]
I know my rider gonna miss me when I'm gone
I know my rider gonna miss me when I'm gone
I know she's gonna miss me from rolling in her arms

I know my rider gonna miss me when I'm gone
When I'm gone, when I'm gone
When I'm gone
The version recorded in 1964 by Vince Martin and Fred Neil is:
[Lomax verse 1]
I say I know you rider miss me when I'm gone
I say I know you rider miss me when I'm gone
Won't have nobody now, mama, roll 'round in your sweet lovin' arms

[Lomax verse 7]
Lovin' you baby, easy as fallin' off a log
Lovin' you baby, easy as fallin' off a log
I can't make love to you, mama, ain't gonna hang around and be your dirty dog

[Non-Lomax verse]
Early one mornin', rider, and it won't be long
Early one mornin', rider, and it won't be long
You gonna call my name now, baby, sweet lovin' daddy gonna be long gone

[Lomax verse 1]
I say I know you rider miss me when I'm gone
I say I know you rider miss me when I'm gone
Won't have nobody now, mama, roll 'round in your sweet lovin' arms
Judy Roderick recorded a version in 1965 under the title "Woman Blue":
[Lomax verse 1]
I know you rider, gonna miss me when I'm gone
I know you rider, gonna miss me when I'm gone
Miss your loving woman from rolling in your arms

[Lomax verse 7]
Loving you baby is as easy as falling off a log
Loving you baby is as easy as falling off a log
[If] I can't be your woman, baby I'll be your dog

[Lomax verse 9]
I'd cut your wood and, baby, I'd tend your fire
I'd cut your wood and, baby, I'd tend your fire
I'd even haul your whiskey up from Fresno bar

[Lomax verse 3]
I lay down and I tried to take my rest
I lay down and I tried to take my rest
My mind it keeps rambling like wild geese in the west

[Lomax verse 10]
Sun's gonna shine on my back door someday
The sun's gonna shine on my back door someday
Wind is gonna rise, it's gonna blow my blues away

[Lomax verse 1]
I know you rider, gonna miss me when I'm gone
I know you rider, gonna miss me when I'm gone
Miss your loving woman from rolling in your arms
James Taylor recorded a version on his first album in 1968 under the title "Circle Round The Sun":
[Lomax verse 5]
Now, I love my baby, and she's bound to love me some
Yes, I love my baby, and she's bound to love me some
Now, she throws her arms around me just like a circle around the sun

[Lomax verse 3]
I lay down last night just to try to take my rest
I said I lay down last night, Lord, I was trying to take my rest
But my thoughts they just kept wandering just like them wild geese in the west

[Lomax verse 10]
Now I know that sunrise, sunrise, it's gonna shine in my back yard someday
I said I know that sunrise, sunrise, sunrise, it's gonna shine in my back yard someday
And that wind's just bound to rise up, gonna blow, blow all my blues away

[Lomax verse 5]
I love my baby and she's bound to love me some
Hear me say that I love my baby, and she's bound to love me some
Now, she throws her arms around me just like a circle around the sun

"I wish I was a headlight"
None of these versions have the "I wish I was a headlight" verse that the Grateful Dead sing. The earliest references I can find for that are a recording by Karen Dalton's in 1962 under the title "Blues Jumped The Rabbit" and one by Judy Henske in 1964 titled "Blues Chase Up A Rabbit". Both those songs seem to derive from Blind Lemon Jefferson's "Rabbit Foot Blues" recorded in 1926, but that doesn't include the "wish I was a headlight" verse. Some versions of "Chilly Winds" (eg John Stewart's) include the verse, but these seem to date from later. It isn't clear to me where Karen Dalton (or Judy Henske) got it from, or indeed how it found its way into the Dead's version.

Karen Dalton's version:
When the blues jumped up a rabbit
Rabbit he ran a mile
Poor little rabbit
Crying like a new-born child

Wish I was a headlight
On some western train
I'd shine my light
On cool Colorado rain

[etc]
Judy Henske's version:
Oh I wish that I was a headlight
Shining on the eastbound train
I'd shine my little light
On cool Colorado rain
Other versions of "Blues Chase Up A Rabbit" have it slightly differently (and less like the Dead's version):
I wish I was a headlight
On some lonesome southbound train
I'd follow you baby
Wouldn't be back again
John Stewart's version in "Chilly Winds":
Wish I was a headlight
On a west bound train
I'd shine my light on
Cool Colorado rain
Out where the chilly winds don't blow
Note that between these versions and the Dead's, all the points of the compass are covered (north, south, east and west)!


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
For sheet music, see:
          Without A Net Songbook (piano arrangement)

 


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