Roadhog

Album: not released (1973)

Songfacts®:

  • Robert Hunter will always be most remembered as the Grateful Dead's lyricist, but he also got around quite a bit doing solo stuff and flitting through various other bands. One of those bands was named Roadhog, and this song was their signature tune.

    In his book of collected lyrics, A Box of Rain, Hunter wrote: "Ted Clare's croaking voice claimed lead honors on this tune, the signature song of the band Roadhog, which also included Rodney Albin, Jeffrey Dambrau, Shelley Ralston, Bill Summers, Jim MacPherson, and myself - three nights a week at the Green Earth Café on Market Street [in San Francisco]."

    Roadhog, and Hunter's participation in the band, were something of a mystery even to hardcore Deadheads for a long time. The band didn't start really making their presence known until 1976, when they started touring.

    Hunter released a couple albums under Round Records a bit prior to that time, and much of Roadhog's setlists was made up of that material. The song "Roadhog," however, was never released.
  • White Gum found out that Hunter registered a copyright for the song (along with many of tunes form his solo album Tales of the Great Rum Runners) in 1973. The explanation for this discrepancy in timelines is found in the 25th issue of the Dead fanzine Dark Star (December, 1980: "Sometimes The Cards Ain't Worth A Dime... If You Don't Lay 'Em Down: The Robert Hunter Interview #3"), in which Ken Hunt asked Hunter about the band.

    Hunter explained that he'd started playing in the "band that became Roadhog" ten or twelve years earlier (which would place the beginning all the way back to between 1967 and 1969). The band had originally been called the Liberty Hall Aristocrats and was headed by Rodney Albin.

    Albin may not be a household name, but according to Hooterollin' Around, he definitely left his mark: Albin started the first folk club in the South Bay area of Los Angeles County, California.

    Hooterollin' Around continues: "Rodney Albin's name was hardly known amongst Deadheads at the time, and even those who knew of him hardly realized his impact, but he was an absolutely critical figure in the history of Jerry Garcia and Robert Hunter, and the Haight-Ashbury as a whole."

    Hunter initially played with the band under the name of Lefty Banks because he wasn't confident enough in his ability to perform live and didn't want to hurt the reputation he'd cultivated as the Dead's lyricist.

    The band had fun with this fake identity. At a Berkley fraternity party they announced that "Lefty" was going to perform "Must Have Been the Roses." One of the kids at the show was blown away by how much Lefty sounded like Robert Hunter.
  • Lyrically, the song doesn't delve into any of the mysticism or psychedelic poetry of the Dead's music. It's just a fun, half-sensical song about a traveling outlaw. The line, "I've got four bald tires and a few crossed wires" pretty much sums up the character of the tune.

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