Otis On A Shakedown Cruise

Lyrics: Grateful Dead
Music: Grateful Dead

Dennis McNally mentions the Dead singing a song titled "Otis On A Shakedown Cruise" in his book " A Long Strange Trip", though no recording under this title seems to be in circulation:

On returning to the Bay Area [in early 1966] they had a couple of gigs at the Matrix ... In addition to Chuck Berry, the jug material, Pig's blues tunes, and the originals, they'd added a couple of covers ... and three more originals: "You Can't Catch Me", "The Monster" and "Otis On A Shakedown Cruise." (p120)
Rock Scully also includes references to this song in his book "Living With The Dead":
"They'd written a song a year earlier, "Otis On A Shakedown Cruise", a 2 1/2 minute rock 'n' roller that was the B side of the first independently released single (as the Warlocks)." (p44)

"We do quite a few demos in '66 (the above [ie "Don't Ease Me In" and "Stealin'"] plus "Otis On A Shakedown Cruise", an original country rocker, and the old country traditional "Silver Threads And Golden Needles")." (p60)

"There [Coast Recording, on Bush Street] we do a bunch of demos including "Early Morning Rain" (with Phil singing lead), "Silver Threads And Golden Needles," and a take of "Otis On A Shakedown Cruise."" (p61)
There's also a Rock Scully quote from an interview with Blair Jackson, referring to their time in LA in 1966:
"They had a couple of originals, like Otis on a Shakedown Cruise, which was this wonderful song that I think Pig and Jerry mainly put together. There must be tapes of it around somewhere. We were going to put it on as the B-side of Don't Ease Me In."
Finally, there's an (unsourced) quote from Garcia:
"I think we started it in San Francisco, but we worked it up in L.A. It was kind of an R&B thing that had changes that worked a little bit like Get Off My Cloud or Louie Louie, maybe a little more complicated. It was a straight- ahead 4/4; it wasn't a shuffle, which was unusual for us in those days, 'cause we played mostly shuffles. It was a pretty good tune, but we threw it out at some point - maybe when Mickey joined the band - because we went on to other stuff."
All this makes it seem likely that "Otis On A Shakedown Cruise" was the title of a song we know under another name. One that fits the bill is You Don't Have To Ask. This was recorded along with "Stealin'" and "Don't Ease Me In" during the Scorpio Sessions in 1966. And in the performance on 19 May 1966 it sounds as if Bob (?) says "Otis" immediately after they finish "Good Lovin'." Another band member (Phil?) says "Otis?" and they almost immediately go into "You Don't Have To Ask." (Thanks to John Sarjeant for spotting this)

While this seems pretty plausible, other possibilities include You See A Broken Heart, Standing On The Corner or Keep Rolling By - or even perhaps Down So Long.

Some of the recording information Rock Scully mentions doesn't fit into what else is known - the reference to "Otis On A Ahakedown Cruise" being the B side of a single issued by the Warlocks, for example. But we don't know the full picture of the Grateful Dead's early studio recordings. There had, for example, been nothing known about a 1966 studio recording of "Silver Threads and Golden Needles" until Bear and David Lemieux included a copy on Rare Cuts And Oddities in 2005.


 


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