Wharf Rat

Lyrics: Robert Hunter
Music: Jerry Garcia

Old man down (note 1)
Way down, down by the docks of the city (note 2)
Blind and dirty
Asked me for a dime, a dime for a cup of coffee
I got no dime, but I got some time to hear his story

My name is August West
And I love my Pearly Baker best, more than my wine
More than my wine (note 3)
More than my maker, though he's no friend of mine

Everyone said
I'd come to no good
I knew I would
Pearly, believed them
Half of my life
Spent doing time for some other fucker's crime (note 4)
The other half found me
Stumbling around, drunk on burgundy wine

But I'll get back on my feet someday
The good lord willing, if he says I may
I know that the life I'm living's no good
I'll get a new start, live the life I should
I'll get up and fly away
I'll get up and fly away

Pearly's been true
True to me, true to my dying day, he said
I said to him
I said to him, I'm sure she's been
I said to him, I'm sure she's been true to you

I got up and wandered
Wandered downtown, nowhere to go but just to hang around
I've got a girl
Named Bonny Lee, I know that girl's been true to me (note 5)
I know she's been, I'm sure she's been true to me
(1) Hunter's lyric book has "Wharf rat down" but Jerry never sang that.
(2) Jerry sometimes sang "... down by the docks of the river"
(3) Jerry sometimes missed out these two lines, for example in the version on "Ladies And Gentlemen ..." (28 April 1971). Thanks to Ed Abahoonie and Mike Scheier for pointing this out
(4) there are several recordings where it sounds as if Jerry sang "... some motherfucker's crime," though it's very hard to tell. (thanks to John Sarjeant for pointing this out)
(5) the sheet music wrongly has this as "Named Benny Lee ..."

Grateful Dead Recordings
     Date Album
     19 Feb 1971 Three From The Vault
     26 Apr 1971 Grateful Dead (Skull & Roses)
     28 Apr 1971 Ladies And Gentlemen ... The Grateful Dead
     23 Aug 1971 Road Trips Number 1, Volume 3
     14 Nov 1971 Road Trips Number 3, Volume 2 (bonus disc)
     21 Mar 1972 Dave's Picks Vol 14 (bonus disc)
     26 Mar 1972 Dave's Picks Vol 14
      7 Apr 1972 Steppin' Out with the Grateful Dead: England '72(note 6)
     24 Apr 1972 Rockin' The Rhein(note 6)
      3 May 1972 Europe '72 - The Complete Recordings
     10 May 1972 Europe '72 - The Complete Recordings
     25 May 1972 Europe '72 - The Complete Recordings
      3 Sep 1972 Dick's Picks Vol 36
     15 Nov 1972 Dave's Picks Volume 11 (filler)
     10 Nov 1973 Winterland 1973 - The Complete Recordings
     21 Nov 1973 Road Trips Volume 4, Number 3
      2 Dec 1973 Dick's Picks Vol 14
     23 Mar 1974 Dick's Picks Vol 24
     16 Jun 1974 Road Trips Number 2, Volume 3 (bonus disc)
     26 Jun 1974 Dick's Picks Vol 12
     29 Jul 1974 Dave's Picks Volume 2 (Bonus disc) (note 7)
     31 Jul 1974 Dave's Picks Volume 2
      4 Aug 1974 Dick's Picks Vol 31
      9 Sep 1974 Dick's Picks Vol 7
     20 Oct 1974 Grateful Dead Movie (CD only)
      9 Jun 1976 Road Trips Volume 4, Number 5
     10 Oct 1976 Dick's Picks Vol 33
     31 Dec 1976 Live At The Cow Palace
     11 May 1977 May 1977 Box Set
     17 May 1977 May 1977 Box Set
     22 May 1977 Dick's Picks Vol 3
     25 May 1977 Dave's Picks Volume 1
     28 May 1977 To Terrapin: Hartford '77
      8 Jun 1977 Winterland June 1977 - The Complete Recordings
      7 Oct 1977 Road Trips Volume 1, Number 2
      5 Feb 1978 Dick's Picks Vol 18
     10 May 1978 Dick's Picks Vol 25
     31 Dec 1978 The Closing Of Winterland (DVD & CD)
      9 Nov 1979 Road Trips Volume 1, Number 1
     30 Dec 1979 Road Trips Vol 3, No 1 (bonus disc)
      6 May 1980 Road Trips Volume 3, Number 4
      4 Sep 1980 Download Series Vol 7
      6 May 1981 Dick's Picks Vol 13
     31 Dec 1987 Ticket To New Year's (video/DVD only)
      1 Apr 1988 Road Trips Volume 4, Number 2
      7 Jul 1989 Crimson, White and Indigo (DVD & CD)
     15 Mar 1990 Terrapin Station (Limited Edition)
     21 Mar 1990 Spring 1990 (The Other One)
     28 Mar 1990 Spring 1990 (The Other One)
     20 Jun 1991 Download Series Vol 11
(6) also on the box set Europe '72 - The Complete Recordings
(7) also made available for download on 30 Days Of The Dead (2011)

Recordings from dead.net Tapers Section

"The Dead" Concert Recordings

Ratdoglive CDs and downloads

Robert Hunter Concert Recordings

Phil Lesh and Friends Digital Download Series

Furthur Digital Downloads and CDs
     Date Album Recorded By
     1991 Deadicated Midnight Oil
     1996 Fire On the Mountain Reggae Celebrates the Grateful Dead (Michael Rose)
     1999 Swingin' To The Grateful Dead Steve Marsh et al
     2001 Built To Grass Grass Is Dead
     2005 Jerry Jams, Jerry Cares Swampadelica
     2010 Spun Lauren Pennington
     2013 Keys Keller Willams
     2013 Surrender Jon Wayne And The Pain

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 information on references in the lyrics see David Dodd's Annotated Grateful Dead Lyrics
For David Dodd's discussion of this song on dead.net see Greatest Stories Ever Told
For online chords and TAB see www.rukind.com
For sheet music, see:
          Grateful Dead Anthology Volume 1 (piano arrangement)
          Garcia/Hunter Songbook (vocal line and chords/TAB)


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