Long As She Has Been Doing It Right

In the early days of the telephone, quite often you may have needed help from the operator who was a real person, hopefully having feelings about your dilemma and possibly showing you some sympathy, so you could connect your call.  Ron ‘Pigpen’ McKernan a harmonica, keyboard and blues vocalist in the Grateful Dead asks for some assistance in “Operator” the song that he sings, singing his heart out to try to get some help, so that he can locate a lover that has gone missing.  She left him, she’s gone off the grid riding “the Midnight Flyer” (a bus out of Portland), and he thinks she is headed down south, perhaps to Baton Rouge. He can’t think of a number to use and the technology is not cooperating, as it’s flooding in Texas, all the poles have gone down in Utah.  The operator does not help him and he is told that what he seeks is “privileged information”.

Operator was recorded on the American Beauty album, in 1970.  Operator captured the past as it circled back to the origins of The Grateful Dead when they were a cross between Jug Band, Folk, easy-going Rock-N-Roll and the Blues.  In the early days of this band, Pigpen was considered by many to be the heart and soul of the Grateful Dead.  Pigpen’s singing is deliciously down-home, he is sincere, in low spirits forlorn about his missing girl, but he retains high hopes, and he sings directly to the listener as he tells the simple story.  He is on a pay phone, pleading with the operator.  He wonders where his main squeeze went and speculates on just about every possible location where she could be, because he’s got it bad for her and he makes no pretensions about feeling otherwise.  Pigpen plays an enchanting slow-steam-engine harmonica solo toward the end of the song that, in a mere handful of bars gives a textbook lesson on the Bluegrass harp.  Bill Kreutzmann plays drums, Jerry Garcia plays pedal steel, Bob Weir plays rhythm guitar, Phil Lesh plays bass and lyrics and music were both written by Ron McKernan.

I apologize as this is just a photo video, because this song was only performed live four times while Pigpen was alive, thus there are not a lot of videos, but the sound quality is excellent.

Operator, can you help me
Help me if you please
Give me the right area code
And the number that I need
My rider left upon the Midnight Flyer
Singin’ like a summer breeze
I think she’s somewhere down south
Down about Baton Rouge
But I just a can’t remember no number
A number I can use
Directory don’t have it
Central done forgot it
Gotta find a number to use.
Trying to check out her number
Trying to run down her line.
Operator said that’s priv’ledged information
And it ain’t no business of mine
It’s floodin’ down in Texas
Poles are out in Utah
Gotta find a private line
She could be hangin’ ‘round the steel mill
Working in a house of blue lights
Riding a getaway bus out of Portland
Talking to the night
I don’t know where she’s going
I don’t care where she’s been
Long as she’s been doin’ it right
Long as she’s been doin’ it right

Written for 2/11/18 Helen Vahdati’s This Thing Called Life One Word at a Time Song Lyric Sunday Theme where the prompt is phone calls/calling.

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