Merle Haggard and the Grateful Dead… not exactly a match made in Heaven, right?
Actually, it is.
I stumbled upon a hidden gem of the rock band covering Merle Haggard’s 1968 #1 hit “Mama Tried” at Woodstock back in 1969. The video is shot on vintage film and was part of a small portion of recovered film from the festival, most of which had been lost due to rain and weather destroying it the night it was shot.
On their own account, the band hated this specific performance.
“There were about a hundred people on stage with us, and everyone was scared that it was gonna collapse. On top of that, it was raining or wet, so that every time we touched our guitars, we’d get these electrical shocks. Blue sparks were flying out of our guitars.”
It rained so much, in fact, that their performance time kept getting pushed back and eventually, because their equipment was so heavy, the stage sank into the mud and could no longer rotate.
The band actually covered the song quite frequently, playing it live a grand total of more than 300 times, and they even recorded it for their 1971 live album, Skull & Roses.
Despite everything possible going completely wrong, they still managed to put together a stellar performance of an iconic hit.