WATCH: Grateful Dead ‘All The Years Live’ – “Uncle John’s Band” Alpine Valley 7/17/89

This week’s edition of the Grateful Dead’s recurring YouTube series All The Years Live features a strong performance of “Uncle John’s Band” from the July 17, 1989 show at the Alpine Valley Music Theatre in East Troy, WI. 

Introduced in 1969 and recorded on Workingman’s Dead the following year, this Garcia/Hunter anthem instantly became a fan-favorite, with 330 performances through 1995. While some of the earliest live versions remained relatively close to the album cut, the song gradually evolved into an exploratory improvisational powerhouse that anchored many a late-era second set.

Robert Hunter expounded on the song’s origins with noted author Blair Jackson in 1991, “Uncle John was a Kansas City drifter who had a flea circus, little critters in band uniforms with instruments you could see under a magnifying glass. They didn’t actually play them, but if they had, what a tiny music that tiny music would be. Technically, the song should go ’Come see Uncle John’s bans,’ but I took poetic license with the verb.”

This version – officially released in DVD format on Downhill from Here in 1997 – features a typically bouncy Caribbean-flavored intro and strong harmonies from the group’s vocalists before launching into a foreboding psychedelic jam that would ultimately dissolve into “Standing on the Moon.”

Watch “Uncle John’s Band” below……

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