Cold Rain And Snow

Lyrics: Traditional (note 1)
Music: Traditional

One of the songs played from the earliest days of the Grateful Dead. Jerry Garcia mixed up the order of the verses, but this is the basic structure:

Well she's coming down the stairs, combing back her yellow hair (note 2)
And I ain't gonna be treated this-a-way
And I ain't gonna be treated this-a-way

Well she went up to her room and she sang a fateful tune (note 3)
And I'm going where those chilly winds don't blow
Winds don't blow
And I'm going where those chilly winds don't blow

Well I married me a wife, she's been trouble all my life (note 4)
Run me out in the cold rain and snow
Rain and snow
Run me out in the cold rain and snow
(1) the original LP credited it to "McGannahan Skjellyfetti", the pseudonym used for group Later releases of the album credited it to "Trad. Arr. by Garcia/Weir/McKernan/Lesh". When the original credit was pointed out to Jerry Garcia, he said "It should say 'arranged by Grateful Dead.' If it doesn't, it's an oversight on the part of Warner Brothers."
(2) Phil Lesh sometimes sings "... auburn hair" with Phil & Friends
(3) in some versions, it sounds as if Jerry sings "...sang a faithful tune." But he clearly sings "fateful" in the early studio versions, and that is closer to the traditional versions of this song. Indeed, in some early versions (eg 16 July 1966), Jerry sang "... where she met her fatal doom"
(4) Phil sings "I married me a wife, I love her more than life" with Phil & Friends

Grateful Dead Recordings
     Date Album
     studio Jun 1966 Birth Of The Dead (note a)
     studio Jun 1966 Birth Of The Dead (instrumental) (note a)
      3 Jul 1966 30 Trips Around The Sun
     30 Jul 1966 The Grateful Dead: 50th Anniversary Edition
     studio 1967 Grateful Dead (first album)
     22 Oct 1967 Anthem Of The Sun (2018 bonus disc)
     2 Nov 1969 Dave's Picks Volume 43
     12 Dec 1969 Dave's Picks Volume 10
     26 Dec 1969 Dave's Picks Volume 44
      3 Jan 1970 Dave's Picks 2019 Bonus Disc
     18 Jan 1970 Download Series Vol 2
     24 Jan 1970 Dave's Picks Volume 19
      2 Feb 1970 Dave's Picks Volume 6
     15 Apr 1970 30 Trips Around The Sun
     28 Dec 1970 30 Days Of The Dead (2010)
     21 Feb 1971 Workingman's Dead (50th Anniversary Edition)
     29 Apr 1971 Ladies And Gentlemen ... The Grateful Dead
     22 Oct 1971 Dave's Picks Volume 3
     26 Oct 1971 Download Series Vol 3
      7 Dec 1971 Dave's Picks Volume 22
     26 Mar 1972 Dave's Picks Vol 14
     17 Apr 1972 Europe '72 - The Complete Recordings
     24 May 1972 Steppin' Out with the Grateful Dead: England '72 (note b)
     25 Aug 1972 Dave's Picks Volume 24
     3 Sep 1972 Dave's Picks Bonus Disc 2023
     28 Feb 1973 Dick's Picks Vol 28
     29 Oct 1973 Listen To The River: St Louis '71 '72 73
      2 Dec 1973 Dick's Picks Vol 14
     20 Oct 1974 Steal Your Face
      9 Jun 1976 Road Trips Volume 4, Number 5
     14 Jun 1976 June 1976 Box Set
     17 Jun 1976 Dave's Picks Volume 28
     28 Sep 1976 Dick's Picks Vol 20
      4 Nov 1977 Dave's Picks Volume 12
      3 Feb 1978 Dick's Picks Vol 18
     11 May 1978 Dick's Picks Vol 25
      7 Jul 1978 July 1978: The Complete Recordings
     26 Dec 1979 Dick's Picks Vol 5
      9 Dec 1981 Dave's Picks Volume 20
      6 Apr 1982 Road Trips Volume 4, Number 4
     12 Oct 1983 In And Out Of The Garden
     20 Apr 1984 Dave's Picks Volume 35
     12 Oct 1984 30 Trips Around The Sun
     27 Apr 1985 Dave's Picks Vol 49
      1 Nov 1985 Dick's Picks Vol 21
      3 May 1986 30 Trips Around The Sun
     26 Mar 1987 Dave's Picks Volume 36
     31 Dec 1987 Ticket To New Year's (video/DVD only)
      3 Apr 1988 30 Days Of The Dead (2021)
      4 Jul 1989 Truckin' Up To Buffalo (DVD & CD soundtrack)
     13 Jul 1989 RFK Stadium 1989 Box
     14 Mar 1990 Spring 1990 (The Other One)
     28 Mar 1990 Spring 1990 (The Other One)
     16 Sep 1990 Dick's Picks Vol 9
     14 Jun 1991 View From The Vault II (video/DVD & CD soundtrack)
Other Recordings
     Date Album Recorded By
      1989 Fresh Tracks In Real Time Tom Constanten
      1992 Nightfall Of Diamonds Tom Constanten
      1995 Eternity Blue Henry Kaiser (note c)
      2000 Grateful Dreams Tom Constanten
      2002 88 Keys To Tomorrow Tom Constanten
     16 Jun 2004 Mick's Picks, Volume 3 Jefferson Starship (with Tom Constanten)
     2005 Deadgrass Deadgrass
      2006 Moved To Stanleyville Tom Constanten and Ken Foust
     2015 The Promised Land Sagol 59 & Ami Yares
     2016 Songs To Fill The Air (WFMU Pledge Drive) Chris Forsyth and the SMB
     2019 Dead Air The Gladstones
     2019 Phantom Ships With Phantom Sails Live Dead '69

(a) originally released as part of the Rhino box set The Golden Road (1965-1973)
(b) also on the box set Europe '72 - The Complete Recordings
(c) originally from the album "Hope You Like Our New Direction"

On the Grateful Dead's first LP it is credited to McGannahan Skjellyfetti, the pseudonym used for group compositions. But on more recent re-issues of the album it is credited as "Trad. Arr. Garcia/Weir/McKernan/Lesh". When Garcia was asked about the original credit, he said:
"It should say "arranged by Grateful Dead." If it doesn't, it's an oversight on the part of Warner Brothers. I'm an old folkie. I've always hated that. As far as I know we don't get publishing royalties for that. We didn't write it.
Jerry Garcia has said he learnt the song from Obray Ramsey's 1960s album "Folksongs From The Three Laurels." In a 1967 interview with Larry Miller, he said: "the song is a traditional's a [framework] ballad taken from Obray Ramsey, and earlier from Rufus Crisp I think."

Garcia expanded on this in a 1967 interview with Ralph Gleason:
"Cold Rain and Snow is a fragment that I learned from a banjo player named Obray Ramsey, a traditional singer from someplace like Indiana [actually North Carolina]. It's in the same kind of mode as it originally was, but the melody is different. And we've added a harmony line and of course it's us, it's our rhythmic structure and our ideas."
In a 1991 interview for Banjo Newsletter, Garcia was asked whether his banjo style had influenced the orientation of the Grateful Dead:
"No, not really. Only in so far as my banjo playing reflects my whole taste in music to some extent. So yeah, there's some cross-pollination there, but it'd be really hard to take the Grateful Dead and say, 'Well, this part of it is attributable to Garcia's banjo playing.' I can't think of anything, off hand, with the possible exception of our version of Cold Rain And Snow. It owes a lot to banjo. I think I even got the tune from a banjo player: Obray Ramsey, or somebody. Some old-time banjo player."
(thanks to Jesse Jarnow for pointing me to that

Ramsey's lyrics were:
Well I married me a wife, she gave me trouble all of my life
Ran me out in the cold rain and snow
Rain and snow, oh Lord
Ran me out in the cold rain and snow

Well she came down the stairs, combing back her long yellow hair
And her cheeks were as red as the rose
As the rose
And her cheeks were as red as the rose

Well I did all I could do, trying to get along with you
And I'm not gonna treated this a-way
This a-way, oh Lord
And I'm not gonna treated this a-way

Well she came in the room, where she met her fatal doom
And I'm not gonna treated this a-way
This a-way, oh Lord
And I'm not gonna treated this way
Ramsey's LP notes credit Cecil Sharp, who collected the first verse only from Mrs. Tom Rice at Big Laurel, NC August 18, 1916. That version has "Made me work in the cold rain and snow" rather than "Run me out ..."

Patrick Blackman has done a lot of research on the origins of the song, and includes a quote from liner notes written by John Cohen for the Smithsonian Folkways album "Dark Holler: Old Love Songs and Ballads", which includes a Dillard Chandler recording of "Cold Rain and Snow":
"Berzilla Wallin, who also sings the song, explains: 'Well, I learned it from an old lady which says she was at the hanging of - which was supposed to be the hanging, but they didn't hang him. They give him 99 long years for the killing of his wife... I heard the song from her in 1911. She was in her 50's at that time. It did happen in her girlhood ... when she was a young girl... She lived right here around in Madison County. It happened here between Marshall and Burnsville; that's where they did their hanging at that time - at Burnsville, North Carolina. That's all I know, except they didn't hang the man.'

"The initial verses of this song resemble Grayson and Whitter's 'Never As Fast As I Have Been', Buell Kazee's 'Sporting Bachelors' and the song in Alan Lomax's Folk Song USA titled 'Sporting Bachelors'"
Blackman concludes that the song was a ballad written about a murder that actually happened in Madison County, probably in the 12870's, albeit incorporating some references to other traditional songs.

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 online chords and TAB see


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