The Cuckoo (Jack Of Diamonds)

Lyrics: Traditional/(Robert Hunter?)
Music: Traditional/(Robert Hunter?)

Played by Jerry Garcia and David Nelson at the College of San Mateo in San Mateo on 10 November 1962. Garcia introduced it as a Clarence Ashley song, and it follows Clarence Ashley's version pretty closely.

Bob Weir also sang the first verse at a Ratdog concert on 2 September 2001 (thanks to Jonathan Rabhan for confirming this).

Oh the cuckoo she'a pretty bird
She wobbles as she flies
She don't never holler cuckoo
'Til the fourth day of July

Gonna build me log cabin
On the mountain so high
So that I can see Willie
As he goes on by

Jack of Diamonds, Jack of Diamonds
I know you of old
You done robbed my poor pockets
Of my silver and gold

I've played cards in England
I've played cards in Spain
I bet you ten dollars
I'll beat you again

Oh the cuckoo she'a pretty bird
She wobbles as she flies
She don't never holler cuckoo
'Til the fourth day of July
Robert Hunter sang a version both solo and with the Dinosaurs, which normally appears in setlists as "Jack of Diamonds". This is one version (he sang the verses indifferent order on other occasions). I'm not sure where the additional lyrics come from - possibly written by Hunter himself?. They don't seem to appear anywhere else.
Oh the cuckoo, pretty bird
She wobbles as she flies
She don't never holler cuckoo
'Til the fourth day of July

Jack of Diamonds, Jack of Diamonds
I know you, know you of old
You have robbed, you have cheated
You have taken the gold

Seven sisters, nine bright shiners
All the stars hang down and cry
On my way to greener pastures
If you go, why not I

Now the leaves are falling
Bend down, I can't see the sun
Come and sit beside me
And look at what you've done

Hold the line back, hold the leader
Don't ever let your whip hang down
Where's a pine box when you need it
Jack of Diamonds, take your place in town (note 1)

That's all, now my leaves are falling
Got to bend down, I can't see the sun
Come over here and sit beside me
We're gonna talk about what we've done

Gonna build me a log cabin
In the mountains so high
So that I can see the Jack of Diamonds
As she goes riding by

Jack of Diamonds, Jack of Diamonds
I know you, I know you of old
You have robbed, you have cheated
You've divided, conquered the floor

Hold the line back, hold the leader
Don't ever let your whip hang down
Where's a pine box when you need it
Jack of Diamonds, gonna take your place in town
Hunter sometimes sang an additional verse
All the while, hear my plea
I have served you till I bleed
All the while, you served me too
All the while I prayed for you
Notes
(1) on at least one occasion Hunter sang "Jack O'Roses, take your place in town"

Origins
As noted above, Garcia's version follows Clarence Ashley's version pretty closely. It isn't clear to me quite where that comes from. Versions of the traditional folk song "The Cuckoo" often start with a verse like "The cuckoo she's a pretty bird, she sings as she flies". I've no idea where this was turned into "she wobbles as she flies".

Equally, there are traditional songs titled "Jack Of Diamonds". These are often described as being popularised by Blind Lemon Jefferson. But his is a different song with the repeated line "Jack of Diamonds is a hard card to play".

Ramblin' Jack Elliott's version of 'Jack of Diamonds' includes the verse "Jack of Diamonds, Jack of Diamonds, I know you of old" but thereafter has little in common.

I'd be very interested to hear from anyone who can shed light on the origins.



Further Information
For more information on recordings see Matt Schofield's Grateful Dead Family Discography

 


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