In his book A Box of Rain Dead
, Grateful Dead lyricist Robert Hunter recalled the precise moment he wrote this song. Or at least he made up a great story about the precise moment he wrote this song. Hunter wrote:"Tennessee Jed" originated in Barcelona, Spain. Topped up on vino tinto, I composed it aloud to the sound of a jaw harp twanged between echoing building faces by someone strolling half a block ahead of me in the late summer twilight.
As David Dodd points out at Dead.net
, the most interesting thing about the Spanish origin story is that "Tennessee Jed" is pure Americana musically and lyrically. It even references a 1940s radio show titled Tennessee Jed
, which was sponsored ran from 1945 to 1947 on Wheeling, West Virginia's WWVA radio station. This bit actually went undiscovered until September 2001 when an eBay item caught the attention of Dead historians
Tip-Top Bread sponsored the radio, which almost certainly explains the "Tennessee Jed" line "when you get back you better butter my bread."