the unofficial uncle tupelo archives 

Officially released cover songs

This page gives information on the cover songs that have been officially released by Uncle Tupelo

No Depression (traditional)
"No Depression in Heaven" was recorded by the Carter Family as part of their sessions for the Victor Talking Machine Company. A.P. Carter arranged and copyrighted the song from various versions he heard sung where he lived. The arrangement is his but the song is from the oral tradition. Their version can be found on JSP Records box set, Carter Family, Vol 2: 1935-1941.

John Hardy (traditional)
This song is attributed to Leadbelly in the liner notes to UT's No Depression, but he did not write it. It is a traditional song that Leadbelly says he learned from Woody Guthrie. Leadbelly's version can be found on the Rounder Records Go Down Old Hannah -- The Library of Congress Recordings, V. 6. The best known recorded version is "John Hardy Was A Desperate Little Man" by the Carter Family, which can be found on Vol. 2 of Rounder Records collection of Carter Family songs Anchored in Love, as well as on the JSP Records box set The Carter Family 1927-1934. The liner notes on the Rounder release say "Though early folk song collectors sometimes confused John Hardy with John Henry, they were in fact two different men, with two different legends. John Hardy was a West Virginia outlaw who was hanged in 1894; the Carters' reference to the "Keystone Bridge" [changed to Tombstone Bridge in UT's version] refers to the town in McDowell County, WV, not far from where Hardy worked and, supposedly, killed a man over a 25-cent gambling debt. During the early days of the century, dozens of versions of the Hardy ballad circulated, but after the Carter recording, everyone from Johnny Cash to Bob Dylan used this version."

Sin City (Gram Parsons/Chris Hillman)
Blue Eyes (Gram Parsons)
Gram Parsons has been mentioned many times by Jay and Jeff as a key influence. "Sin City" was recorded in 1969 with the Flying Burrito Brothers and is on their classic Gilded Palace of Sin album. Jay and Jeff have said that his album really 'legitimized' country music for them. "Blue Eyes" is an early Parsons song recorded with the International Submarine Band in 1967 for their record Safe At Home.
Both "Sin City" and "Blues Eyes" are also on the excellent Sacred Hearts & Fallen Angels - The Gram Parsons Anthology on Rhino Records.

I Wanna Destroy You (Robyn Hitchcock)
Robyn Hitchcock wrote and recorded this song with The Soft Boys for their classic 1980 album Underwater Moonlight. This album was reissued on CD with bonus tracks in 1992, and then further expanded by Matador Records in 2001.

Coalminers (Sarah Ogan Gunning)
"Coalminers" is listed as "traditional" on UT's March album, but in fact it was written by Sarah Ogan Gunning. Sarah was the wife of a coal miner, and her version, titled "Come All Ye Coal Miners," is sung from that perspective ("I am a coal miner's wife and I sure wish you well"). The earliest known version of Sarah singing this song was recorded by Alan Lomax in 1937, and that version can be found on the New World Records release, Oh My Little Darling: Folk Song Types (this release also includes a version of "Lily Schull"). It is also later version that is available on a vinyl-only Rounder compilation of coal mining tunes called Come All Ye Coal Miners. The liner notes of the New World Records LP say "... Sarah regards "Come All Ye Coal Miners" less "as a polemical or protest song" than "as a personal statement of her deepest feelings and sorrow." As such, the song combines personal experience and observation with traditional elements (such as the "Come all ye" opening) in a manner that exemplifies the finest of American folk songs shy, perhaps, on economic theory, but bold and assertive in richly earned anger and righteous outrage."

Satan, Your Kingdom Must Come Down (traditional)
I Wish My Baby Was Born (traditional)
Warfare (traditional)

Uncle Tupelo learned these three songs from an album titled High Atmosphere that is available on CD from Rounder Records. It was recorded in 1965 in the mountains of Virginia and North Carolina by John Cohen of the New Lost City Ramblers. Jeff Tweedy specifically mentioned this record as his source for these songs in a Rolling Stone article.

"Satan, Your Kingdom Must Come Down" is an old song from North Carolina has been done in many variations. The version on High Atmosphere is sung with banjo accompaniment by Frank Proffitt. A very different variation of the song, called "Satan, We're Gonna Tear Your Kingdom Down" appears on a compilation of early songs from North Carolina's African-American music tradition called Eight Hand Sets and Holy Steps (you can buy it here). This version was by the Second St. Paul Junior Choir and recorded by University of North Carolina folklorist Glenn Hinson in the late 1970s. From the liner notes of that album: "Though it rarely appears in song collections, "Satan, We're Gonna Tear Your Kingdom Down" has apparently enjoyed wide currency across the Carolinas for many years. The song's earliest recording...was made by the black South Carolina evangelist Blind Joe Taggart in 1931. Since that time, this piece has been recorded by both African-American and Anglo-American singers, with renditions ranging from solo performances to spirited gospel versions."

The version of "I Wish My Baby Was Born" on High Atmosphere was sung unaccompanied by Dillard Chandler. One interesting difference between Dillard's version and Uncle Tupelo's is that in the first verse Dillard wishes for his own death while his baby sits on his mama's knee (a familiar image in traditional ballads), while Jeff Tweedy sings that he wishes the mother was dead and the baby was on his knee. The liner notes for High Atmosphere say the song appears to be related to the Sharp (EFSA 199) version of "Every Night When the Sun Goes In," which was made popular by the Weavers.

The version of "Warfare" on High Atmosphere was done on guitar and vocals by E.C. Ball, who lived in the mountains on the North Carolina/Virginia border. There are a number of compilations of E.C.'s work with his wife Orna, including one on Rounder Records and another on Copper Creek records. It's also been recorded by Sarah Ogan Gunning and Wade Mainer. More recently, it was released in the late '90s by The Freight Hoppers.

Atomic Power (The Louvin Brothers)
This Louvin Brothers song can be found on their Razor and Tie reissue of tunes from 1952 1962 called When I Stop Dreaming, as well as on the definitive 8-disc Bear Family box set. This song has also been covered by Southern Culture on the Skids, among many others.

Lilli Schull (traditional)
This old murder ballad, which describes the killing of a woman whose name was actually Lillie Shaw, appeared on the same New World release as "Come All Ye Coal Miners." The liner notes from that release indicate that Lilly Shaw was murdered in October 1903, by Finley Preston of Saw Mill Creek, TN as a consequence of a sexual triangle. Preston was convicted, and was hanged in November, 1905. This old murder ballad was recorded for the Library of Congress by sisters Mrs. Lena Bare Turbyfill and Mrs. Lloyd Bare Hagie in April 1939 in Elk Park, NC by Herbert Halpert. The liner notes say "Mrs. Turbyfill and her sister, Mrs. Hagie, learned the song as teenagers from their sister Sabra, who learned it from a Tennessean named Glenn Crosswhite about 1913.... As the "Ballad of Finley Preston," this song is still sung in eastern Tennessee, and appears performed by Clint Howard and Fred Price on an LP, The Ballad of Finley Preston (Rounder 0009)."

Moonshiner (traditional)
This is a famous drinking song that has ties that go way back. Alan Lomax's book Folk Songs of North America says that this song is a member of the "Waggoner's Lad" family and kin to "Old Smokey", "Rye Whiskey", and others. The song's origins seem to date back to an Irish drinking song called "The Moonshiner,". It is likely that Uncle Tupelo learned the song from Bob Dylan's Bootleg Series Vol 1 - 3 box set; their version is quite similar to Dylan's version, and they started playing this song live soon after the release of this box set in 1991.

Movin' On (Merle Haggard)
This Merle Haggard song, the theme to the NBC TV series of the same name, topped the C & W charts in 1975. It can be found on a number of Haggard's "Best of" collections. UT's version features Brian Henneman on lead vocals.

Give Back the Key to My Heart (Doug Sahm)
Doug Sahm has often been listed by Uncle Tupelo (and Brian Henneman) as one of their biggest influences. Before his death in 1999, his recording and performing career spanned almost 40 years, as a solo act and in the Sir Douglas Quintet and Texas Tornadoes. He played country, blues, Tex Mex, rock and whatever else suited his fancy. Jeff mentioned a few times in the early '90s that they had thought about organizing a Doug Sahm tribute record, but unfortunately it never came to be; after his death, Brian Henneman and the Bottle Rockets did record an album of Sahm's songs called, appropriately enough, Songs of Sahm. There are a couple of "best of" collections out there, including an excellent one on Mercury titled The Best of Doug Sahm and The Sir Douglas Quintet (Mercury 846-586-2). "Give Back the Key to My Heart" isn't on those compilations, and can only be found on his 1976 album Texas Rock for Country Rollers which was re-issued on CD by Demon/Edsel in 1997 (EDCD 535). Doug played and sang on UT's version on Anodyne.
Here is Doug's official web site.

Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way? (Waylon Jennings)
UT recorded this classic Waylon Jennings tune, with Joe Ely guesting on lead vocals, during the Anodyne sessions in Austin. The original first appeared on the album of the same name in 1975, and can be found on most of Waylon's 'best of' collections.

Effigy (John Fogerty)
John Fogerty wrote and performed this song with Creedence Clearwater Revival. The original appears on CCR's 1969 album Willie and the Poor Boys.

Truck Drivin' Man (Terry Fell)
This song was written by Terry Fell in the mid-50's, and has been recorded by (among others) Buck Owens, Willie Nelson, and Gram Parsons. Terry Fell's original recording can be found on the Bear Family compilation Truck Driving Man.

Suzie Q (Hawkins-Lewis-Broadwater)
This song was originally recorded by Dale Hawkins in 1957. The original can be found on Suzie Q: The Best of Dale Hawkins on Chess. Many people know this song from Creedence Clearwater Revival's version from 1968. UT's live version, featuring Brian Henneman on guitar, is similar to CCR's version.

Left in the Dark (Ken Draznick/The Vertebrats)
The Vertebrats,a garage-rock band from Champaign, IL, were active in the late 1970s and early 1980s. The song was also released by The Replacements on their Shit Hits the Fans live cassette. The song was originally released on their Thousand Dream Day album, which has been reissued by Parasol/React. The Pioneer Press ran an interesting story on the history of this song in March of 2003, including several quotes from Jay Farrar.

I Wanna Be Your Dog (Iggy Pop)
This early punk classic was originally released by The Stooges on their self-titled debut album from 1969. UT has released two versions of this song; an electric version on Anthology and an acoustic demo on the reissue of the March album.

(Thanks to Steve Gardner for helping with this page)

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