Me and My Uncle
"Me and My Uncle", often also written as "Me & My Uncle," is a song composed by John Phillips of The Mamas and the Papas, and popularized in versions by Judy Collins and the Grateful Dead. It relates the journey of a narrator and his uncle from southern Colorado towards western Texas, involving standard cowboy song themes like a poker game in Santa Fe, accusations of cheating, gunplay, gold, and death.
John Phillips originally wrote "Me and My Uncle" at a drinking session in a hotel room with Judy Collins, Stephen Stills, and Neil Young among others in 1963. According to the account at the Grateful Dead Lyric and Song Finder:
- John often used to tell the story behind "Me and My Uncle." Years ago he began receiving publishing royalties from a song on a Judy Collins record with which he was unfamiliar. It was titled "Me and My Uncle". He called Judy to let her know of the mistake because he hadn't written any such song. She laughed and told him that about a year before, in Arizona after one of her concerts, they had a 'Tequila Night' back at the hotel with Stephen Stills, Neil Young, and a few others. They were running a blank cassette and John proceeded to write "Me and My Uncle" on the spot. The next day, John woke up to the tequila sunrise with no recollection of the songwriting incident. Judy kept the cassette from that evening and then, without informing John, recorded the song for her own record. Over the years the song was recorded by several people, and eventually became a standard of the Grateful Dead. John used to joke that, little by little, with each royalty check, the memory of writing the song would come back to him.
"Me and My Uncle" was first recorded by Judy Collins in 1964 on The Judy Collins Concert.
It was later heard by the Grateful Dead, who adopted it as part of their standard repertoire. Bob Weir is reported to have learned it from Curly Jim Cook, a member of the Bay Area A.B. Skhy blues band. According to Deadbase, the Grateful Dead first played the song in late 1966. The earliest commercially released performance of it is from the Electric Theater in Chicago, on April 26, 1969, and is available on Dick's Picks Volume 26. The song continued to be performed regularly until Jerry Garcia's death and the end of the band in 1995. According to Deadbase, it was the most-played song of all in the Dead's long concert career, with 616 performances. Since the Grateful Dead disbanded in 1995, the song continues to be a staple of the surviving members' performances.
- Grateful Dead Lyric and Song Finder: Me and My Uncle
- When comparing the timelines for both Stills and Young, it is unlikely that they were in Arizona with Collins in 1963. Young was an 18-year-old in Canada. Stills was either still in Florida or in New York. Stills and Collins didn't meet until 1967.
- Joni Anderson (Mitchell), Winnipeg, October 4, 1965.