Last week, I duly set out my intentions to shine a light on Bob Weir being an under-appreciated vocalist within The Grateful Dead. Sure, Jerry Garcia gets most of the attention, but Weir went practically song-for-song with him for the entirety of the band’s career. There were even concerts in the late 1970s where Garcia’s health problems led him to lose his voice, necessitating full shows of Bobby tunes — and those shows are great!
The fact that the band could pull together two full three-hour shows on January 7th and 8th of 1978 just containing Weir’s turns on lead vocals proves how prolific and essential he was to the band’s overall sound. Of those two concerts, 32 songs in total were performed (not including the ‘Drums / Space’ section), of which only three songs were repeated over the two nights: ‘Looks Like Rain’, ‘Samson and Delilah’, and ‘Sunrise’, the latter of which was sung by Donna Jean Godchaux.
The list of essential Weir tracks covers some of the biggest songs that the Dead ever produced: ‘Truckin’, ‘Sugar Magnolia’, ‘The Other One’, and ‘One More Saturday Night’ are just a few of the most well known Bobby songs among even the most causal of Deadheads. But one of Weir’s best late-stage lead vocals came on 1987’s In The Dark, the band’s commercial breakthrough.
‘Hell in a Bucket’ finds Weir in prime ragged rock and roll territory. Taking on their own off-kilter version of hard rock, the Dead gamely step up with some distorted guitars and heavy drum fills. Weir’s vocals act as a foil to the proceedings, adding in a necessary layer of goofiness and self-awareness to the song. The band also created a video for ‘Hell in a Bucket’, but the less said about that the better.
First introduced in 1983, ‘Hell in a Bucket’ became a staple in the band’s final decade of performances. Over the rest of the band’s live career, the song was played over 200 times, including on the band’s final tour in 1995. The final performance of ‘Hell in a Bucket’ came on June 30th, where it opened the band’s first set at the Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Check out the isolated vocals for ‘Hell in a Bucket’ down below.