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Origin: Deadheads and Suckers

GUEST,Millie the Mandolinist 09 Jul 03 - 12:01 PM
GUEST,.gargoyle 09 Jul 03 - 01:24 PM
Bardford 09 Jul 03 - 01:59 PM
Nigel Parsons 09 Jul 03 - 03:42 PM
Amos 09 Jul 03 - 03:57 PM
GUEST 09 Jul 03 - 04:13 PM
Rapparee 09 Jul 03 - 04:46 PM
raredance 09 Jul 03 - 09:54 PM
GUEST,Q 09 Jul 03 - 10:45 PM
Amos 09 Jul 03 - 10:46 PM
GUEST,Q 09 Jul 03 - 11:15 PM
Art Thieme 10 Jul 03 - 12:12 AM
Amos 10 Jul 03 - 12:45 AM
GUEST,Q 10 Jul 03 - 01:12 AM
GUEST,.gargoyle 10 Jul 03 - 08:22 PM
toadfrog 10 Jul 03 - 08:31 PM
GUEST,Q 10 Jul 03 - 09:39 PM
GUEST,Pete Peterson 11 Jul 03 - 08:45 AM
GUEST,Sharon Wilensky 19 Oct 14 - 05:10 PM
GUEST,Bob Coltman 19 Oct 14 - 05:31 PM
GUEST,JWB 05 Nov 17 - 10:12 AM
GUEST,Hootenanny 05 Nov 17 - 10:23 AM
GUEST,Bob Coltman 05 Nov 17 - 05:14 PM
JWB 07 Nov 17 - 05:56 PM
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Subject: 'Deadheads and suckers' History
From: GUEST,Millie the Mandolinist
Date: 09 Jul 03 - 12:01 PM

Growing up in Iowa City in the 70's I remember a lot of folks doing "Deadheads and Suckers" (Particularly Art Rosenbaum & Doug Freeman and Don Lange)Does any body know of any recorded versions of the song (any old Hill billy 78??) or what exactly is a "deadhead" - is it just a derogatory (sp) term or does it have some historic significance. Thanks Guys !!!!!


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Subject: RE: 'Deadheads and suckers' History
From: GUEST,.gargoyle
Date: 09 Jul 03 - 01:24 PM

The Randomhouse Dictionary of American Slang has nearly two full pages regarding "deadhead."

The most common usage is a person admitted free to a theater or concert....a non-revenue generating head-in-the-audience.

I personally associate it with public fans of The Greatful Dead and more specifically, the tie-dyed crowd of miscellaneous, merchants, scammers, drug-purveyors (acid), and free-loaders who trooped across country following the band with a St. Vitus Dance, pilgramage type fervor.

Sincerely,
Gargoyle


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Subject: RE: 'Deadheads and suckers' History
From: Bardford
Date: 09 Jul 03 - 01:59 PM

Millie- did a Google search on "Deadheads and suckers", and came up with this page: Folk Music Index , which has a couple of album references.

Being a paddler, I tend to think of a deadhead as an unseen underwater log which can rip the belly out of a kayak or canoe, (or paddlewheeler, or oil tanker, or log raft....)

Good luck,
Bardford


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Subject: RE: 'Deadheads and suckers' History
From: Nigel Parsons
Date: 09 Jul 03 - 03:42 PM

Seeing the Thread Title "Deadheads & Suckers" I was expecting some discourse on Roses, in which context:
Deadhead: remove blooms once they are wilting so that they do not take nutrition from the plant
Sucker: an additional stem or shoot rising from below ground level, often taking sustenance from the main plant with little chance of providing a healthy bloom

Nigel


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Subject: RE: 'Deadheads and suckers' History
From: Amos
Date: 09 Jul 03 - 03:57 PM

Deadheads are also those who take up freight space for free, such as airline pilots returning as passengers.

A


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Subject: RE: 'Deadheads and suckers' History
From: GUEST
Date: 09 Jul 03 - 04:13 PM

Deadheading is also driving your truck one direction and then returning without a load.


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Subject: RE: 'Deadheads and suckers' History
From: Rapparee
Date: 09 Jul 03 - 04:46 PM

"Sucker" was an old term for someone from Illinois, originally known not as the "Land of Lincoln" or the "Prairie State" but as the Sucker State.

I figured that the thread was about early Illinoisians and wondered what state was known as "Deadheads" -- besides those who follow A Certain Rock Group.


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Subject: RE: 'Deadheads and suckers' History
From: raredance
Date: 09 Jul 03 - 09:54 PM

The likely first recording of this song was by "Crockett Ward and His Boys" from Virginia (Okeh 45179). It was recorded on September 26, 1927. Ward and his "boys" (i.e. sons)later became the anchors of the Virginia based string band called the Bogtrotters. As the Bogtrotters they recorded "Deadheads..." again. See the Folk Music Index link above.

rich r


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Subject: RE: 'Deadheads and suckers' History
From: GUEST,Q
Date: 09 Jul 03 - 10:45 PM

rich r posted "Deadheads and Suckers" in thread 32107 (20 Mar 01): Deadheads and Suckers

Some lines (Outshine the sun) come from old gospel-spiritual songs. I would like a better explanation of the song. It seems to be parts of two songs, the last verses from a religious song related to Beulah Land.
Are deadheads those who refused to fight?

The reference to truckers deadheading applied first to railroading; the term appeared in print in 1911.


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Subject: RE: 'Deadheads and suckers' History
From: Amos
Date: 09 Jul 03 - 10:46 PM

Well, who has the lyrics?


A


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Subject: RE: 'Deadheads and suckers' History
From: GUEST,Q
Date: 09 Jul 03 - 11:15 PM

See the link, above. rich r posted the lyrics.


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Subject: RE: 'Deadheads and suckers' History
From: Art Thieme
Date: 10 Jul 03 - 12:12 AM

I did it for several years. Learned it from the late and great PAT DUNFORD. Pat learned it from WADE WARD.

Deadheads and suckers--how can you live,
How can you live, how can you live,
Deadheads and suckers how can you live
When good men are dying every day.

Light in the graveyard outshines the sun,
Outshines the sun, outshines the sun,
The light in the graveyard outshines the sun,
OLh, babe, don't you want to go?

Mighty happy meetin'--don't you want to go,
Don't you want to go, don't you want to go,
Mighty happy meeting---don't you want to go,
O, babe, lets us all go.

might've been more but that's all I recall right now.

PAT DUNFORD's was definitely my favorite version of this good song.

Deadheads and suckers are definitely negative value judgments on the people being judged. You might as well call them "assholes and bastards". Has nothing to do with the Grateful Dead or driving a truck empty back from a one way haul. These definitions are "now"----but the way they were used in the song was "THEN". It serves very little purpose to look at old songs and find modern terms housed therein.

Art Thieme

Art Thieme


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Subject: RE: 'Deadheads and suckers' History
From: Amos
Date: 10 Jul 03 - 12:45 AM

Well the lyrics are appreciated but they are generic enough that they really cast no light on what these aspersions mean -- although my guess would be "blockheads" and "parasites", probably with an old political context.


A


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Subject: RE: 'Deadheads and suckers' History
From: GUEST,Q
Date: 10 Jul 03 - 01:12 AM

Any evidence of this song before 1927? Except for the deadheads and suckers verse, the other four (see rich r posting, link above) are either fill, floaters or meaningless with reference to the first verse.
The first verse is meaningless as well, unless some event can be tied to these deadheads, blockheads, suckers, whatever.
In the other verses, some guy doesn't know what to do (rich r) or wants to go somewhere (Thieme).

As it stands, the lyrics are nonsense and the song is useless. The music apparently has been used for better lyrics- perhaps Mainer's, which have not yet been posted.


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Subject: RE: 'Deadheads and suckers' History
From: GUEST,.gargoyle
Date: 10 Jul 03 - 08:22 PM

Looks like a good song to me.

Sorry Art ? a date other than the 1970's, given by the originator ? and the lyrics helps out?here are a handful from dozens and dozens available.

deadhead n. 1. a person admitted free to a theater, sporting event, hotel, etc. 1841 Spirit of Times (Jan. 23) 564: The house?.was filled as far as $300 could fill it, barring "the dead heads." 1925 Robinson Wagon Show 136: Altogether we passed in about seventy-five "deadheads."

2. a sponger or loafer; DEADBEAT 1847 Nat. Police Gaz (Feb. 20) 186: The usual local loungers of a fillage tavern?"Dead heads!" said the stranger, motioning his head derisively towards the trio at the stove. 1889 Barrere & Leland Dict. Slang 298: Dead-head (American) one who stands about at a bar to drink at the expense of others.

7. a dull or lazy individual; (specf.) a person who is present at a meeting, party, or the like, but who does not participate or contribute. 1929 Bookman (July) 525: I'm no deadhead, brother, and I'm always good for a job on the C.&M.

Sincerely,
Gargoyle


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Subject: RE: 'Deadheads and suckers' History
From: toadfrog
Date: 10 Jul 03 - 08:31 PM

Yet another definition is, or was, a camp follower of the Grateful Dead. They used to swarm in my neighborhood whenever there was a concert, and they overlap quite a lot with the above definitions. Some doubtless great guys, but in mass with a propensity to mooch, steal, and live out of cars.


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Subject: RE: 'Deadheads and suckers' History
From: GUEST,Q
Date: 10 Jul 03 - 09:39 PM

Abe Lincoln was called a Sucker (from the Sucker State) in a song from 1860. (American Memory).
First verse of this political lyric-

Honest Old Abe

Ye Democrats list to my story,
Ye Douglasites all give me heed;
Though your Candidate's running for glory,
He's not making very good speed.
But out on the wide rolling prairie
A tall SUCKER has taken the course,
Who will wind up the race in a hurry
And distance your Stubby-tailed horse.

There also is a song from 1855, "The Sucker State, respectfully dedicated to all Suckerdom." Also American Memory

Blood suckers was already an expression in the 19th century.
Sucker in the sense of a dupe is 18th century. Suck- to pump. "The file sucked the noodle's brains, the deep one drew out of the fool all he knew." From The Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue, 1811; perhaps taken from The Scoundrel's Dictionary, 1754.

None of this helps with the "song," however, since the connotations of the words in the first verse are unknown.


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Subject: RE: 'Deadheads and suckers' History
From: GUEST,Pete Peterson
Date: 11 Jul 03 - 08:45 AM

Over 35 years ago I heard Art Rosenbaum and Allan Block sing this at a concert in CT; it made an impression (had never heard of Crockett or Fields Ward or Wade Ward at the time!) and Art said "I dedicate this song to my landlord." Definitely preceded the Grateful Dead, just as Joyce had little or no influence on Shakespeare.


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Subject: RE: Origin: Deadheads and Suckers
From: GUEST,Sharon Wilensky
Date: 19 Oct 14 - 05:10 PM

I learned this song from Art Rosenbaum in 1965 or 66. At that time he said that deadheads and suckers are two types of fish.


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Subject: RE: Origin: Deadheads and Suckers
From: GUEST,Bob Coltman
Date: 19 Oct 14 - 05:31 PM

Verses #2 and #3 are standard gospel stanzas. They don't relate to the interesting Verse #1 that gives the song its title.

From my first hearing years ago, and from the timing of the Crockett Ward recording, just a decade after the war, I have been pretty sure the 1st verse had a WWI context.

"Deadheads and suckers, how can you live,
When good men are , dying every day?"

Don't you think this seems obviously a slam on 1. deserters? Or 2. men who ducked out of, or didn't sign up for combat?

Bob


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Subject: RE: Origin: Deadheads and Suckers
From: GUEST,JWB
Date: 05 Nov 17 - 10:12 AM

I learned a version from Chris Turner of Providence, RI. It has a verse similar to one in the Crockett version, but the rest hasn't shown up here yet.

The chorus is the same as above.

Police and the high sheriff come riding after me (3x)
When good men are dying every day.

40 days in the jailhouse, I don't wanna go (3x)
When good men...

Pulled out my pistol, my big 44 (3x)
When good men...

Police and the high sheriff go falling down (3x)
When good men...

We jammed to this song two days ago at Fiddle Hell in Massachusetts.


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Subject: RE: Origin: Deadheads and Suckers
From: GUEST,Hootenanny
Date: 05 Nov 17 - 10:23 AM

A friend of mine came back from a trip in the Appalachian area where he was told that Deadheads and Suckers referred to tobacco growing, picking off the dead heads on the plant and the suckers which were either insects, worms or caterpillars of some sort which would ruin a crop.


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Subject: RE: Origin: Deadheads and Suckers
From: GUEST,Bob Coltman
Date: 05 Nov 17 - 05:14 PM

Two likely explanations occur to me as background for this song:

1. In the Depression (which hit the rural south in the early 1920s, years before the nation as a whole) those opposing Roosevelt and the New Deal might feel angry enough to despise "layabouts," "loafers" - hence deadheads - and those who took "freeloader jobs" on the public purse under the W.P.A. - hence bloodsuckers, or suckers.

OR

2. If the song is older, it could go back to WWI and refer to those who dodged war service - hence "When good men are dying every day."

3. It might be a combination of the two, if the "good men are dying" chorus phrase came from a lost WWI song that got attached to a Depression song.

These might be some worthwhile directions to pursue in tracking down this song's roots.

Bob


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Subject: RE: Origin: Deadheads and Suckers
From: JWB
Date: 07 Nov 17 - 05:56 PM

Bob, I agree with you on the soldier explanation for the chorus lyric -- that just makes sense to me. I wonder if another graft produced the version I know: an outlaw song with a soldier song. I know it's a fraught exercise to deduce the time period of a traditional song from its lyrics, but it's tempting in this case to read about the cops "riding after" our protagonist and imagine a mounted posse.

The definitions of "deadhead" that Gargoyle posted above on 7/10/03 are all 19th century vintage. Perhaps the song predates WWI... Since both deadhead and sucker were in use by the 1860s, it might even be of Civil War provenance.

There is another definition of "sucker" that hasn't been mentioned: a con artist's mark, a victim of a scam, as in "There's a sucker born every minute."

Jerry


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