Pretty Peggy-Os, Vol. One
There was a time, when I first became a deadhead, that I was not particularly fond of this song. However, not unlike a number of songs from the band’s repertoire, I heard one version that completely changed my feelings toward the song. It was that one from 7/17/76. After that, I had to hear every version of the song the band had ever played so as not to miss a single one of Garcia’s sparkling solos that so often graced it. According to Deadbase, the band first performed the song on 12/10/73, and it remained in their repertoire until the end. This compilation represents but a few of the more notable performances of the song through those years. As evidenced by the selections featured here, the song went through a number of arrangements, which is not unusual for a band that had a tendency to rehearse while they were on-stage.
For additional information about this traditional folksong, visit this website: http://cvrc.med.upenn.edu/~greenberg/cv-pggy1.html
Track 1: 7/29/74
The earliest performances of the song feature a real countrified sound that was common of many songs from this period. The tempo is slow and easy, like riding a horse out of town. Garcia delivers the lyrics, as well as his solos, with some of that southern twang. The "come trippin' down the stairs" line makes an early appearance here as part of the second verse. Garcia's first solo is short and follows the "and free all the people in the area-O" line, while his second follows the "saw me marching at the head of my soldiers-O" line. Note that, as with other early versions of the song, the "Sweet William he is dead" verse is absent from this version.
Track 2: 9/18/74
Here, Garcia plays three solos. The first follows the "come trippin' down the stairs" line, once again appearing in the second verse. His second solo follows the "and I fear my mama would be angry-O" line, and a third follows the "and free all the people in the area-O" line.
Track 3: 6/17/75
A favorite of many, this version comes from Rob Bertrando's outstanding audience recording. It is among the longest-—and the slowest—-version the band ever played, and, for me, it represents the beginning of this song's heyday. The first of three solos by Garcia comes after the "and free all the people in the area-O" line. The second follows the "saw me marching at the head of my soldiers-O" line. When Garcia returns to the lyrics, he first sings the "come steppin' down the stairs" verse and then backtracks to sing the skipped "if ever I return" verse. The final solo comes after the "and he's buried in the Louisiana country-O" line. The sudden appearance of two "new" verses provides some evidence that the band was still in the process of reworking the song during their "retirement."
Track 4: 7/17/76
This has been my favorite version for quite some time. At nearly nine minutes, it features two heartfelt solos by Garcia. The first of these follows the "and I fear my mama would be angry-O" line, and it is evident from his stumbling return to the lyrics that Garcia is somewhat lost in the song. The second solo comes after the "destroy all the people in the area-O" line, and this is where the beauty of this song really shines.
Track 5: 10/14/76
Where versions from 1974 conjure images of an easy horse ride out of town, this version finds the listener aboard some midnight train. It follows the same arrangement as that of 7/17/76, however the delicate tenderness of that version has been replaced by the powerful bravado found among the best versions of 1977. Quite simply, it kicks ass.
Track 6: 5/5/77
The first of several superlative performances from May 1977— the one on 5/3/77 is a bit of a mess— this one has a more upbeat, punchy tempo. Garcia delivers the lyrics with urgent precision, and his solitary solo following the "destroy all the people in the area-O" line is completely over the top. WHEW! His solo is so uncapped that the band falters a bit as Garcia lands to finish the lyrics. This version is surely one that has helped to define what has become known as the band's '77 sound.
Track 7: 5/7/77
This is another standout version from May 1977. It follows the same arrangement as that of 5/5/77, and is filled with the same level of '77 intensity. This time around, however, the return to the lyrics following the solo is as smooth as one could hope for. The version from two days later, on 5/9/77, is equally stunning.
Track 8: 5/19/77
This version is quickly becoming a favorite. It features two solos by Garcia. The first comes after the "saw me marching at the head of my soldiers-O" line. The second follows the "and he's buried in the Louisiana country-O" line, and leads the song toward a fervent climax.
Track 9: 10/1/77
The version here features an arrangement similar to that of 5/19/77, with two scorching solos by Garcia. Each of his solos is well developed and goes on and on and on, the second of which is perhaps one of the most inspired solos I have ever heard Garcia perform. Simply amazing.
Track 10: 3/21/81
This fine version from the early '80s is accentuated by Mydland's delicate keyboard work. It features a single solo by Garcia following the "destroy all the people in the area-O" line, which had now become the norm. Even into the '80s, the song retained the same laid back tempo of versions from the '70s. By the '90s, however, the song's tempo would become more upbeat.
Compiled 12/2002 by Sean Cribbs
Additional Note, 8/13/2011:
When I originally compiled these renditions in 2002, I intentionally omitted those that were commercially available, such as the 9/3/77 performance released on Dick's Picks, Vol. 15, which incidentally may be the finest one ever played. There were also a number of other fine performances not represented here, including a few from 1978 in particular, which I intended to compile in a second volume. I may be moved to complete such an endeavor should there be enough interest in this project. If your favorite rendition isn't here, please let me know which one(s) you like and I'll make sure to give them a listen. I'd love to hear them!
01 Peggy-O 7-19-74.flac:f6ea8d780e6770b9d8df70401336fa58
02 Peggy-O 9-18-74.flac:65f93f9c438d39807f1f066ee11076b6
03 Peggy-O 6-17-75.flac:e64b522411c1ef13e9e31d4541e5d175
04 Peggy-O 7-17-76.flac:206016056b797310a49aedbb86f996c8
05 Peggy-O 10-14-76.flac:7fb06b09a329f2b9fa3172c709a899cb
06 Peggy-O 5-5-77.flac:a48ac8995b7fbaf52ccb4e455977afee
07 Peggy-O 5-7-77.flac:4312fc4782a088350f07ac74ece75a3f
08 Peggy-O 5-19-77.flac:abaa5c4b13c1f0e2bca0f4c9295060e1
09 Peggy-O 10-1-77.flac:bd36e95e1b3ee56a83756e007b341127
10 Peggy-O 3-21-81.flac:f8c74ffb98d0c771d977179ab44827ee
6d20627469431a2819630e51990530e1 *01 Peggy-O 7-19-74.flac
4d5e922e19418975889e478eb234a6d6 *02 Peggy-O 9-18-74.flac
2a11fb1da826de3528ec59e32781312d *03 Peggy-O 6-17-75.flac
5f86f6da7c6c1d3aebf37a3d830651ea *04 Peggy-O 7-17-76.flac
1390bece8834c896aeea4bb0d21c27c0 *05 Peggy-O 10-14-76.flac
0844eb31ea163a6800453e378cf883d6 *06 Peggy-O 5-5-77.flac
e22e473abd0ec25f1ab0bdadba93d948 *07 Peggy-O 5-7-77.flac
512c183c6704b8f3b0e3a1f2f0f52402 *08 Peggy-O 5-19-77.flac
dc0604d40a7020117cf97e4d615d7e55 *09 Peggy-O 10-1-77.flac
23f737713aa793d4d3d5c21101840f19 *10 Peggy-O 3-21-81.flac