Playing In The Band

Lyrics: Robert Hunter
Music: Bob Weir/Mickey Hart

A staple of Grateful Dead concerts from its introduction in 1971, and more recently played by Ratdog, Furthur and Phil Lesh & Friends. It started life as an instrumental known as "The Main Ten" (after the song's time signature), with lyrics added later - though the version with lyrics on "Rolling Thunder" is still titled "The Main Ten". And there's some indication that the band still referred to it as 'Ten' for some time after: at Beat Club in Bremen in April 1972, Bob Weir says "Donna, you want to come and sing on this? - 'Ten'"

Bob Weir introduced it in a concert with Wolf Bros in 2021:

"This one I wrote a long time ago. Actually David Crosby came up with the seminal lick. [plays lick]. He came up with this. And then he left. We were out at Mickey's barn. So Mickey said "make a song out of that". Next day I had it."
Despite that I've only ever seen the music credited to Weir and Hart and never to Crosby.
Some folks trust to reason, others trust to might (note a)
I don't trust to nothing, but I know it come out right (note d)
Say it once again now, whoa I hope you understand
When it's done and over, Lord, a man is just a man

Playing, playing in the band (note b)
Daybreak, daybreak on the land

Some folks look for answers, others look for fights
Some folks up in tree tops, just looking for their kites (note c)
I can tell your future, whoa just look what's in your hand
I can't stop for nothing, I'm just playing in the band


Standing on a tower, world at my command
You just keep a-turning, while I'm playing in the band
If a man among you, got no sin upon his hand
Let him cast a stone at me for playing in the band


Playing, like a wave upon the sand
Daybreak, while I'm playing in the band
(a) in the version on "Rolling Thunder", Bob Weir sings "... others trust to sight"
(b) on 7 May 1980, in Barton Hall at Cornell University, Bob Weir sang "Playing in the barn" consistently throughout the song
(c) in Robert Hunter's lyrics in "Box Of Rain", he has ".. just to look to see the sights." That's also what Bob Weir sings on "Skull & Roses." But by the time of the studio recording on "Ace", and thereafter in live performances, he had changed the line to "... just looking for their kites."
(d) in a very early rehearsal tape, Weir sings "but I know it work out right".

Four pages of hand-written lyrics were put up for auction in 2002. Thanks to Jesse Jarnow for sending me a copy of the page from the catalogue. The words are hard to make out (with lots of crossings out etc). But these are the verses I can (partially) decipher:
Need a place [crossed out]
Place where you can stand
Place where you can wonder why
While playing in the band

Need some ground between us
Place where we can stand
Place where I can see you
While playing in the band

Open up your window
Fly on out your door
People been forgetting
Just what we come here for

Tell you once again now
Take you by the hand
Run down to the river
Got to get back in the band

Some folks play for [?]
Others play for gold
Some just play for [crossed out]

Everything you play for
Bound to turn to sand

You can take my window
Even take my door
[Put it down to bring you]
But please don't take my floor

Need a place to fall on
Place where I can stand
Tell you what's so [fine] about
Playing in the band

Standing in the [closet]
Waiting for the sun
Look at my position
I know it's time to [run]

I could tell your fortune
How it comes to [?]
Ain't no call to [waste the] time
[Judging] from the [past]

Only hope is [reason]
Take her by the hand
You can usually find her
Playing in the band

Grateful Dead Recordings

Other Dead-related Recordings

Other Recordings

Further 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 see Greatest Stories Ever Told
For online chords and TAB see
For sheet music, see:
          Grateful Dead Anthology Volume 1 (piano arrangement)
          Grateful Dead Authentic Guitar Classics Volume 2 (guitar TAB)
          Hundred Year Hall songbook (guitar TAB)


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