Watch Bobby Weir & Wolf Bros Debut Merle Haggard Cover In Columbus
“Workin’ Man Blues” was worked into “Viola Lee Blues” to start last night’s show at Columbus’ Mershon Auditorium.
Bobby Weir & Wolf Bros continued their fall tour last night at Mershon Auditorium in Columbus, Ohio. The band and The Wolfpack horns and strings bookended the first set with a “Viola Lee Blues” which featured a debut cover of Merle Haggard’s “Workin’ Man Blues” fit in between the initial two verses.
Merle Haggard originally released “Workin’ Man Blues” as a single in June of 1969 and within a month the song topped Billboard’s Hot Country Singles chart. It was then included on the A Portrait Of Merle Haggard album a few months later. Haggard was backed on the studio recording by guitarists James Burton and Lewis Talley, bassist Chuck Berghoffer and drummer Jim Gordon.
While Wolf Bros — the ensemble joining Weir that includes bassist Don Was, keyboardist Jeff Chimenti, drummer Jay Lane and pedal steel guitarist Barry Sless — had never performed “Workin’ Man Blues” until Tuesday night, Bobby is no stranger to the song. The Grateful Dead/Dead & Company guitarist played the Merle Haggard classic with both Billy & The Kids and the John Kadlecik Band in 2016 as per DeadDisc.
Bobby Weir also accompanied Dwight Yoakham on “Workin’ Man Blues” during a 2020 SiriusXM session. However, Weir was likely influenced to perform the song with Wolf Bros after joining Willie Nelson & Family featuring Waylon Payne for “Workin’ Man Blues” last Friday during the Outlaw Music Festival stop in Clarkston, Michigan.
After opening with “Viola Lee Blues,” the full ensemble swiftly moved into “Workin’ Man Blues” at the same tempo and rhythm. Weir capably sang the vocals of a version featuring stellar solos from Chimenti and Sless. The group transitioned back to “Viola Lee Blues” following the cover debut as Bobby helmed the second verse of the traditional tune. Bobby Weir & Wolf Bros brought the song to a close yet later would reprise “Viola Lee” to cap the first set.
Watch fan-shot footage of “Workin’ Man Blues” wrapped in “Viola Lee Blues” below:
The group played Grateful Dead favorites “Hell In A Bucket,” “Brown-Eyed Women,” “I Need A Miracle” and “Bird Song” as well as Weir solo cuts “Only A River” and “She Says” in addition to “Viola Lee” and “Working Man’s Blues” to form last night’s first set. Bobby led a take on Kris Kristofferson’s “Me And Bobby McGee” to get the second set under way before looking to the RatDog repertoire for “Two Djin” and playing a cover of The Beatles’ “Come Together” that featured an “Eleanor Rigby” outro. “What’s Going On” was fit into “Eyes Of The World” ahead of a run of “The Other One,” “Stella Blue” and “Going Down The Road Feeling Bad” to close the frame. A “Ripple” encore was tacked on for good measure.
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