Witness Box Began to Rock

Paula is looking to rock today for Thursday Inspiration, so I am going to write about the Grateful Dead song ‘Alabama Getaway’, which was often played as an opener to get the fans moving.  This Hunter Garcia song came out on their 1980 eleventh studio Go To Heaven album, the first one with their mew keyboard player Brent Mydland.  The Neil Young song ‘Alabama’ is about the state which is also called the “Heart of Dixie” and the “Cotton State” and in that he has these condescending lyrics “you’ve got the rest of the Union to help you along”, meaning that the other states are seeing progress on racial issues, but Alabama, with its crooked governor, is still resistant.  Young’s song provoked Lynyrd Skynrd into writing their comeback song ‘Sweet Home Alabama’.  The Grateful Dead have a similar line in this song, “forty-nine sister states all had Alabama in their eyes”, and I think that this may have something to do with the Scottsboro Trials, which were among the most infamous episodes of legal injustice in the Jim Crow South.  This case later served as one of the inspirations for Harper Lee’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel To Kill a Mockingbird.

Donna Jean Godchaux who just left the band was from Alabama and she still resides in Killen, Alabama, but I don’t think this song has anything to do with her.  Apparently besides being a State, Alabama is a person’s name and, in this song, he must have pissed somebody off.  A normal adult mouth has 32 teeth, but people can lose their teeth if they get punched in the mouth.  The guy doesn’t really want to hit Alabama, as he would prefer that Alabama run away.  He is most likely jealous of Alabama because he is getting all of the girls, as the diamond ring he wears makes him a chick magnet.

majordomo is a person who speaks, makes arrangements, or takes charge for another and this term is mostly associated with a head steward of a large household maybe even a palace.  The 1968 Jerry Jeff Walker song ‘Mr. Bo Jangles (Bojangles)’ enters this story and sits down to have a drink with this guy and they talk about Alabama.  The major thinks that given enough rope, that Alabama will end up hanging himself, but the other guy goes all religious and mentions the Twenty third psalm feeling that they should be the protectors or caretakers of Alabama and try to get along with each other.  The video below features Bob Dylan playing with the Grateful Dead.

Thirty-two teeth in a jawbone
Alabama’s tryin’ for none
Before I have to hit him
I hope he’s got the sense to run

Reason the poor girls love him
Promise them everything
Why they all believe him?
He wears a big diamond ring

Chorus
Alabama getaway, get away
Alabama getaway, get away
Only way to please me
Just get down and leave and walk away

Majordomo Billy Bojangles
Sat down and had a drink with me
Said what about Alabama
That keeps a-coming back to me?

I heard your plea in the court house
Witness box began to rock and rise
Forty nine sister states
Had Alabama in their eyes

[chorus]

Major said why don’t we give him
Rope enough to hang himself?
No need to worry the jury
They’ll probably take care of themselves

Twenty third psalm Majordomo
Reserve me a table for three
Down in the valley of the shadow
Just you, Alabama and me

[chorus]

Written for Paula’s Thursday Inspiration 86 where this week’s theme is rock from the 1983 release of the Def Leppard song ‘Rock of Ages’.

7 thoughts on “Witness Box Began to Rock

    1. Yes that Disco look did not go over well and some of the fans called them sell outs. The truth is that the Grateful dead were always evolving, which meant that they constantly tried new things. Alabama Getaway is the most danceable tune, but I like Althea better.

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      1. When Bill mentioned in the book “Disco Dead” I laughed out loud… They were just growing…people made a huge deal out of it…now if they would have sounded like the Bee Gees…that would have been different.

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