Songs Of Their Own | Tumbleweed Wanderers – China Cat Sunflower

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To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Grateful Dead, JamBase teamed with Telefunken to produce the Songs Of Their Own 50-day tribute series featuring a daily cover of a Grateful Dead original song and culminating with our grand finale 50th video premiering the day of the final Fare Thee Well show in Chicago on July 5. We started the series with a list of 100 Grateful Dead original songs (exclusively their tunes, not covers they often played) and asked many of our favorite artists to record cover versions either at the JamBase office in San Francisco, at one of the many venues around the Bay Area, at Telefunken’s Connecticut studios and beyond. No song was allowed to be covered twice, and today’s participants Tumbleweed Wanderers took a ride with “China Cat Sunflower.”

The first Songs Of Their Own selection from the Grateful Dead’s 1969 album Aoxomoxoa, the whimsically illustrative lyrics to “China Cat Sunflower” were written by Robert Hunter. Sung by co-composer Jerry Garcia, it debuted live on January 17, 1968 at the Carousel Ballroom in San Francisco. Early on “China” frequently saw action alongside “Dark Star” and “The Eleven” but eventually was followed by the traditional “I Know You Rider” – the first occurrence happening on September 30, 1969 at the Cafe au Go-Go New York City. A now classic pairing, The Dead would go on to play the “China>Rider” combination over 500 times, becoming two of the most played songs in the band’s career (at least one rare exception being the March 9, 1985 show when “Cumberland Blues” filled the “Rider” role).

At the March 16, 1973 concert the segue out of “China” incorporated elements of Simon & Garfunkel’s “The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy)” and until late 1974 the “Feelin’ Groovy Jam” often bridged the two songs. Steadily in the band’s rotation save for a lull in the mid-1970s, “China Cat Sunflower” was last played to open the second set (as it often had) at the second to last Grateful Dead concert on July 8, 1995 at Chicago’s Soldier Field.

Bay Area locals Tumbleweed Wanderers rolled by the JamBase office this week to set up and record their session. Lead vocal duties were shared by the trio of bassist Greg Fleischut and guitarists Jeremy Lyon and Rob Fidel who each handled a verse. Rounded out by keyboardist  Patrick Glynn and drummer Nick Cobbett, the group came through with a rip roaring rendition of “China Cat Sunflower.”

Watch all of the Songs Of Their Own entries including Max Creek, Jackie Greene, Strangefolk, Midnight North, Anders Osborne & Luther Dickinson, Keller Williams and more via the YouTube Playlist below.

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