The Recording Of A Dr. John Cover Featuring Members Of The Allman Brothers & Grateful Dead

Donna Jean Godchaux, Duane Allman, Butch Trucks and Jaimoe recorded “I Walk On Guilded Splinters” with Johnny Jenkins.

By Andy Kahn Aug 22, 2023 12:21 pm PDT

Prior to joining the Grateful Dead, vocalist Donna Jean Godchaux-MacKay was a part of several recording sessions, perhaps most notably contributing to hit songs by the likes of Elvis Presley (“Suspicious Minds”) and Percy Sledge (“When A Man Loves A Woman”), among many others.

Born Donna Jean Thatcher in Florence, Alabama on this date in 1947, her session work often took place in nearby Muscle Shoals, Alabama. Recording as Donna Thatcher, during that era she linked up with fellow vocalists Jeanie Greene, Mary Holliday and Ginger Holliday, calling themselves Southern Comfort.

Southern Comfort also got work with the Capricorn Records label that was based in Macon, Georgia and closely associated with The Allman Brothers Band. Donna and Southern Comfort contributed to guitarist Johnny Jenkins’ debut album, Ton-Ton Macoute!, which Capricorn released in 1970.


Others who appeared on the album included The Allman Brothers Band’s Duane Allman on guitar and dobro, Butch Trucks on drums, Berry Oakley on bass and Jaimoe on percussion. The opening track was a cover of “I Walk On Guilded Splinters,” which Dr. John included on his 1968 debut album, Gris-Gris.

Duane Allman added dobro to “I Walk On Guilded Splinters” with Trucks playing drums and Jaimoe adding timbales. Bass on the track was played by Robert Popwell, electric guitar by Pete Carr and piano by Paul Hornsby. Jenkins provided vocals and electric guitar as well.

Duane’s brother and bandmate, keyboardist Gregg Allman, recounted the recording in his memoir, My Cross To Bear, writing:

“Duane, Berry, Butchie, and Jaimoe all appeared on an album by Johnny Jenkins called Ton-Ton Macoute! My brother played his ass off. His dobro work on ‘Walk On Gilded Splinters’ was just flat-out evil, man, and that’s why we still do that song to this very day.”


In a 1970 interview, Jenkins expressed reservations about his at-the-time newly released debut album. Speaking to The Great Speckled Bird, Jenkins – who was an early champion of Otis Redding – stated:

“Well, actually at the time we set up this album thing, I was all tied up, and the guys were free in the studio, so I’d just overdub my voice, and they would already have the rest of the sound down. They’d retrack it, you see? It was already set up for me when I went to the studio.

“I wasn’t there with the guys when they were making the rest of it, you know. More blues would be my style if I had been there. Actually, it would be ALL BLUES because that’s my feeling, you know-the blues. This psychedelic idea came through the guys at the studio, you know—it goes along with what’s happening in the world today, you know? But really, you can’t make a person what he’s not, you know. A fellow has to give out what’s inside him.

“I feel more at home with the blues, strictly blues. That’s me. I don’t know how you’d classify the blues, how you’d talk about the blues. It’s a mixed thing, man. It’s about the hardship of a man, I feel, the past of a man. He never had a million dollars and wasn’t born with a silver spoon in his hand. Like a guy who’s never owned that jive, man, it’s hard for him.”

Also in 1970, Donna Thatcher married keyboardist Keith Godchaux and together they moved to California. Speaking to the Good Ol’ Grateful Deadcast podcast, Donna recounted her time as a session singer and transition to California:

“[Southern Comfort member] Jeanie Greene and I were the only people with long hair in Muscle Shoals, and we had our beads and our peace sign, and our headbands and long hair and all that. We were the only people. So we got really stared at a lot, because we were so different. It was then that I heard the name the Grateful Dead. And I remember going: ew, that’s terrible! Who would name their band the Grateful Dead? That’s awful. And I, of course, thought that they must be just the deepest, darkest, weirdest people in the world. I had no thoughts or intentions or anything of ever being a part of that situation. But I did want to go to California really, really badly.

“And so after five years of a real lucrative career here in Muscle Shoals, I had to tell [Atlantic Records producer] Jerry Wexler, ‘I’m leaving the group and I’m going to California.’ And it was not really for another musical direction. It was an adventure — I wanted a new adventure in my life, and I picked up and went to San Francisco. And that’s when everybody loved the Grateful Dead.”


Two years later, Donna Jean Godchaux and Keith Godchaux were both full-fledged members of the Grateful Dead. The Godchaux era continued through February 1979 when the couple amicably parted ways with the group. Keith Godchaux died in a car accident in July 1980.

A sample of Johnny Jenkins’ recording of “I Walk On Guilded Splinters” was a key component of Beck’s 1993 hit song, “Loser.” Jenkins, who left the music business for many years, released a second album in 1996. Two additional albums followed prior to his death from a stroke in 2006 at age 67. Jenkins was posthumously inducted into the Georgia Music Hall Of Fame in 2012. Donna Jean Godchaux was inducted into the Alabama Music Hall Of Fame in 2016.

On her 76th birthday today, listen to Donna Jean Godchaux with her Southern Comfort companions, along with members of the Allman Brothers Band cover Dr. John’s “I Walk On Guilded Splinters” with Johnny Jenkins below:

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