Tuesday, July 4, 2017


The 1974 song is pastiche Americana.

I'm affected by the lyric "chicken shack" buried deep-in towards the end. It's highly personal. Around 1964 or so -- before I went to school -- my older brother and I "ran away" together one summer morning. I was just following him -- being led astray -- but fully complicit. Our destination was a local bar/restaurant which we knew as "The Chicken Shack." Other locals knew it as The Unicorn Tavern in Middleton, Wisconsin. At the time, the place had a rustic, log cabin look -- rather like the rural taverns/restaurants you'd find Up North. Maybe we had eaten a fish fry there once with our parents and were enthralled by the fish ponds (people would call them koi ponds these days). Anyways, I need to ask my 80-year mother about what happened. We did get punished. The Chicken Shack was on a very busy street, but in those days we only had to cross one relatively quite street and then trek through an old farm field to get there. There used to be an old barn in that field and we'd climb up to the second story and pee out one of the barn doors. That was fun too. That barn is long gone now along with the Chicken Shack.

Another family lived behind us in those days. They were the quintessential large Catholic family with one kid in every other grade spanning a decade or two. One of their middle kids (about 10 years older than me) ran away to San Francisco during the Summer Of Love. He came home five or so years later. I always avoided him. He had hair down his back, didn't drive, and went shoeless in summers. I did talk at length with him on the bus one day. The last time I saw him was 1977; he was dancing by himself at a Grateful Dead show in Madison. He's gone now too.

U.S. Blues was a Jerry Garcia/Robert Hunter collaboration. I think the phrase "shake the hand that shook that hand" is a clever temporal sleight of hand. Full lyrics after the jump.

Red and white, blue suede shoes, I'm Uncle Sam, how do you do?
Gimme five, I'm still alive, ain't no luck, I learned to duck.
Check my pulse, it don't change. Stay seventy-two come shine or rain.
Wave the flag, pop the bag, rock the boat, skin the goat.
Wave that flag, wave it wide and high.
Summertime done, come and gone, my, oh, my.

I'm Uncle Sam, that's who I am; Been hidin' out in a rock and roll band.
Shake the hand that shook the hand of P.T. Barnum and Charlie Chan.
Shine your shoes, light your fuse. Can you use them ol' U.S. Blues?
I'll drink your health, share your wealth, run your life, steal your wife.
Wave that flag, wave it wide and high.
Summertime done, come and gone, my, oh, my.

Back to back chicken shack. Son of a gun, better change your act.
We're all confused, what's to lose?
You can call this song the United States blues.
Wave that flag, wave it wide and high.
Summertime done, come and gone, my, oh, my.

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