Friend Of The Devil Lyrics Annotated Bibliography

This article is about the song. For the book, see Friend of the Devil (novel).

"Friend of the Devil" is a song recorded by the Grateful Dead. The music was written by Jerry Garcia and John Dawson and the lyrics are by Robert Hunter. It is the second track of the Dead's 1970 albumAmerican Beauty.

"Friend of the Devil" is about an outlaw, on the run from the police. His crime is never explicitly stated. The Devil helps him escape, but winds up chasing him just as the law does; several lines of the song are ambiguous, and could refer to either law enforcement or servants of Satan, such as "I was trailed by twenty hounds", which could refer to either police dogs sniffing his trail, or mythical hellhounds.

The song is acoustic, like most of American Beauty. It is known for the guitar riff Garcia plays in the bassregister, which is a descending G major scale (G F# E D C B A G). The song is among the most covered songs written by the Grateful Dead; Hunter later stated, "that was the closest we've come to what may be a classic song."

The song was introduced in concert on March 20th, 1970 at the Capital Theatre in Port Chester, NY. Later in the band's history, the song slowed down significantly in live performances. Loggins and Messina, whose version of the song was slowed down, might have inspired the Dead to do the same. In more recent history, Phil Lesh and Friends do a more up-tempo version similar to the original.

Hunter plays a slightly different version on his album (released only in LP format) Jack O'Roses. He adds a final verse:

"You can borrow from the Devil/ You can borrow from a friend/ But the Devil'll give you twenty/ When your friend got only ten"

Cover versions

  • New Riders of the Purple Sage, which featured John Dawson, who along with Jerry Garcia wrote the music, recorded this on their twelfth studio album Keep On Keepin' On in 1989.
  • Chris Smither originally released it on his 1972 album Don't Drag it On and covered the song on his live studio album Another Way to Find You, recorded in 1989 and released in 1991.
  • During their 1994 Bridge School Benefit set Ministry played the song. A live recording from the show can be found on the 1997 compilation The Bridge School Concerts, Vol. 1.
  • Tony Rice, Larry Rice, Chris Hillman and Herb Pedersen covered the song on their 1999 album, Rice, Rice, Hillman & Pedersen.
  • Loggins and Messina, whose version of the song was slowed down.
  • Bob Dylan and Tom Petty also both have covered the song in concert, including Petty's 1997 rendition of the track available on his album The Live Anthology and his live performance at 2013's Hangout Festival.
  • In 2002, Norway's top country-rock band, Hellbillies covered the song on their live album Cool Tur (Cool Tour). The song was performed with Norwegian lyrics by Arne Moslåtten and is known as "Hinnmann og eg".
  • In 2003, Counting Crows included a slower-tempo cover of the song on their compilation album Films About Ghosts. While reproducing the acoustic riff, the Counting Crows version also adds electric keyboard and guitar instrumentation at about midway through the song.
  • Elvis Costello and Keller Williams have also covered this song in concert.
  • In 2008, the song was used in the introduction to an episode of Adult Swim's Lucy, the Daughter of the Devil, sung by the Devil (Lucy's father) and Terry, the Devil's sentient teratoma.
  • A version by Lyle Lovett exists on his compilation Here I Am — The Lyle Lovett Collection[1] and on the album Deadicated: A Tribute to the Grateful Dead. Both were released in 1991.
  • Cleveland, Ohio based rock trio Hot Ham & Cheese released a punk version of the song in 2008.
  • In 2011, Cosmo Jarvis covered the song Video on YouTube for TheMusic in Australia.
  • In 2013, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers covered this song at both the 2013 Hangout Music Festival and the 2013 Bonnaroo Music Festival.[2][3]
  • John Mayer covered this song on his 2013 Born and Raised World Tour
  • In 2007, The Get Down Syndrome recorded a version of the song for an in house demo at The Current on the Richmond Canal
  • Ramblin' Jack Elliott recorded a cover version for his album Friends of Mine in 1998
  • Dave Matthews Band (with guest Béla Fleck) covered this song at Saratoga Performing Arts Center on July 4, 2015 to commemorate the Grateful Dead's final performances together, which were taking place the same weekend at Soldier Field in Chicago.
  • Mumford & Sons covered this song in 2016 as part of the Day of the Dead (2016 album) collaboration project.


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Friend Of The Devil

Lyrics:Robert Hunter
Music:Jerry Garcia, John Dawson

The Dead song most covered by other people since it was first released on "American Beauty."

I lit out from Reno, I was trailed by twenty hounds (note a)
Didn't get to sleep that night till the morning came around

Set out running but I take my time
A friend of the devil is a friend of mine
If I get home before daylight I just might get some sleep

I ran into the devil babe, he loaned me twenty bills
I spent the night in Utah in a cave up in the hills


I ran down to the levee but the devil caught me there (note b)
He took my twenty dollar bill and vanished in the air


Got two reasons why I cry away each lonely night
The first one's named sweet Anne Marie and she's my heart's delight
Second one is prison baby, sheriff's on my trail (note c)(note d)
And if he catches up with me I'll spend my life in jail

Got a wife in Chino babe, and one in Cherokee
First one says she's got my child but it don't look like me

(a) in very early versions (eg 3 April 1970), Jerry sang "I set out from Reno, I was trailed by thirty hounds.
(b) in some early versions, Jerry sang a different verse:
I went to the levee but the devil caught my scent
So I coughed two hundred bills to pay back what was lent
(c) in early versions (eg 3 April 1970), Jerry sang "sheriff's on my tail" rather than "... on my trail"
(d) in a version with Comfort on 18 March 1978, Robert Hunter sang:
Second one is hell fire, the devil is on my trail
And if he catches up with me I'll spend my life in hell
Robert Hunter wrote another verse that he performed himself (eg on "Jack O' Roses"). See also below for the evolution of Robert Hunter's lyrics into their final form.
You can borrow from the devil, you can borrow from a friend
But the devil will give you twenty, when your friend got only ten
Grateful Dead Recordings
     Date Album
     studio 1971 American Beauty   (note 1)
     18 Apr 1970 Family Dog at the Great Highway
      2 May 1970 Dick's Picks Vol 8
     15 May 1970 Road Trips Vol 3 No 3 (early show)
     15 May 1970 American Beauty (late show) (note 2)
      7 Jun 1970 30 Days Of The Dead (2011)(note 6)
      1 Jul 1970 Festival Express (DVD) (note 3)
     25 Aug 1972 Dave's Picks Volume 24
     17 Sep 1972 Dick's Picks Vol 23
     21 Sep 1972 Dick's Picks Vol 36
     24 Sep 1972 30 Trips Around The Sun
     27 Sep 1972 Dick's Picks Vol 11
     18 Sep 1974 30 Trips Around The Sun
     28 Sep 1976 Dick's Picks Vol 20
     10 Oct 1976 Dick's Picks Vol 33
     30 Apr 1977 Download Series Vol 1
      7 May 1977 May 1977: Get Shown The Light Box
     13 May 1977 May 1977 Box Set
     18 May 1977 30 Days Of The Dead (2013)
      7 Jun 1977 Winterland June 1977 - The Complete Recordings
      3 Sep 1977 Dick's Picks Vol 15
      6 Nov 1977 Dave's Picks Volume 25
     24 Apr 1978 Dave's Picks Volume 7
     17 May 1978 30 Days Of The Dead (2016)
     11 May 1978 Dick's Picks Vol 25
      1 Jul 1978 July 1978: The Complete Recordings
      7 Jul 1978 July 1978: The Complete Recordings
     31 Dec 1978 The Closing Of Winterland (DVD & CD)
      5 Nov 1979 Road Trips Full Show: Spectrum 11/5/79
     26 Dec 1979 Dick's Picks Vol 5
     Sep-Oct 1980 Dead Set(note 10)
     16 May 1981 30 Trips Around The Sun
      9 Dec 1981 Dave's Picks Volume 20
     24 Jul 1987 View From The Vault IV (CD soundtrack only)
      2 Jul 1989 All The Year's Combine (DVD bonus disc)
     12 Jul 1989 RFK Stadium 1989 Box
     18 Mar 1990 Spring 1990 (The Other One)
     16 Jun 1990 View From The Vault III (video/DVD & CD soundtrack)
     21 Feb 1995 30 Trips Around The Sun
      4 Jul 2015 Fare Thee Well (CD and DVD)
Dead-related Recordings
     Date Album Recorded By
     17 Nov 1975 Jerry Garcia Collection, Volume 2: Let It Rock Jerry Garcia Band
      8 Nov 1976 Garcia Live Volume 7 Jerry Garcia Band
     29 Jul 1977 Pure Jerry: Theater 1839 Jerry Garcia Band
     28 Feb 1986 Pure Jerry: Marin Veterans Memorial Auditorium Jerry Garcia/John Kahn
      1980 Jack O'Roses Robert Hunter
      7 Dec 1991 Grateful Dawg Garcia/Grisman (DVD and CD)
     Spring 1991 Garcia/Grisman Garcia/Grisman (note 5)
      1992 Nightfall Of Diamonds Tom Constanten
     15 Sep 1993 Live On Letterman Garcia & Grisman
      1996 Friends Of Mine Rambling Jack Elliot (with Bob Weir)
     25 Jul 1998 The Strange Remain The Other Ones
      5 Jun 1999 Love Will See You Through Phil Lesh & Friends
      1999 4th Annual Gathering On The Mountain Tom Constanten
      2000 Grateful Dreams Tom Constanten
     25 Apr 2001 Live At The Roseland Ratdog
     12 Jun 2001 KFOG Live From The Archives 8 Phil Lesh & Friends
      2012 Bryan Stow Benefit Concert Tim Flannery with Bob Weir (DVD)
     2013 Move Me Brightly Bob Weir et al (DVD - bonus track)
(Plus live recordings by The Dead, Furthur, Dead & Company, Ratdog, Phil Lesh & Friends etc not listed here. See Grateful Dead Family Discography for a full list.)
Tribute Albums
     Date Album Recorded By
     1991 Deadicated Lyle Lovett
     1996 Long Live The Dead Billy & Terry Smith
     1997 Pickin' On The Grateful Dead David West et al
     1999 Swingin' To The Grateful Dead Steve Marsh et al
     ?1999 Stolen Roses Bob Dylan
     2000 Dead Grass Vasar Clements et al
     2000 Wake The Dead Danny Carnahan et al
     2001 Blues Tribute To The Grateful Dead Various (Langhorne Slim)
     2001 Gifts From The Dead Gifts From The Dead
     2002 Electronic Tribute To The Grateful Dead Various (Radha Kali)
     2003 Ukelele Summit 5 Various (Ka'Au Crater Boys)
     2003 Grateful Guitar David Cullen
     2005 Jerry Jams, Jerry Cares C Lanzbom
     2007 At Fine Arts Center, UMass The American Beauty Project
     2010 Yoga Tribute To Grateful Dead Yoga Pop Ups (note 8)
     2010 At Page Auditorium, Duke University The American Beauty Project
     2011 The Wheel: A Musical Celebration of Jerry Garcia Jesse McReynolds, David Nelson et al
     2014 Grateful Dead Bluegrass Tribute David Holodiloff
     2015 The Promised Land Sagol 59 & Ami Yares
     14 May 2015 Dear Jerry: Celebrating The Music Of Jerry Garcia Bob Weir & Grace Potter
     2015 Songs Of Their Own Dead Winter Carpenters
     2016 Day Of The Dead Mumford & Sons
Covers By Other Artists
     Date Album Recorded By
     1971 Don't Drag It On Chris Smither
     1979 Done Gone Band Done Gone Band
     1979 South Loomis Quickstep South Loomis Quickstep
     1980 Painted Lady Knoxville Grass
     1992 Desperados Waiting For The Train Texas Lone Star
     1992 Keep On Keepin' On New Riders Of The Purple Sage
     1993 Live In Japan New Riders Of The Purple Sage
     1994 Bridge School Concerts Ministry
     1996 Another Way To Find You Chris Smither
     1997 Valley Style Ka'Au Crater Boys
     1997 Live In Japan Mike Wilhelm
     1998 Travel The Gravel The Kruger Brothers
     1999 Too Many Years Jorma Kaukonen
     1999 [self titled] Rice, Rice, Hillman & Pedersen
     1999 Out Among The Stars Modern Hicks
     1999 Sawin' On The Strings Tabasco Donkeys
     1999 Live Jorma Kaukonen Trio
     1999 Halfway Home Sno Rogers
     1999 Party In Your Pants The Bison Chips
     2000 Pour Me Another Cup Of Coffee Recidivists
     2000 Lost Marbles Lost Marbles
     2000 Monsters Of Folk Rock The Devilish DoubleDylans
     200? Drunk At The Stone Ballroom Love Seed Mama Jump
     200? Don't Mind The Rain Jessica Bryan
     200? The Privateers The Privateers
     200? Live At The Crow's Nest: Eleven O'Clock Set Darrell Lawhorne
     200? No Matter Of Age Schluff Jull
     2001 Against The Grain Mountain Laurel
     2001 Re-Alliance Bluegrass Alliance
     2001 Take Cover Andrew Freeman
     2001 The Midnight Special Tokyo Bob with Never Mending Tour Band
     2002 CoolTur The Hellbillies
     2002 The Danny Thompson Band Live Danny Thompson Band
     2002 Pickin' & Grinnin' South Austin Jug Band
     2002 Stopgap Mentalward
     2002 Outside The Lines Cory Morrow
     2003 Pass The Chicken Wine Murphy's InLaws
     2003 Live! The Rhumb Line Tom Eaton and Pick 3
     2003 Unreleased Cutz and Live Jamz Mouldy Peaches
     2003 Films About Ghosts Counting Crows
     2003 Live At Lock 3 Brick Road Ramblers
     2004 Texacousticana Guy Schwartz and The New Jack Hippies
     2004 Haningaround Counting Crows
     2004 On The Road July 20 2004 String Cheese Incident (note 9)
     200? Land of the Cover Band: "Live" Vol 1 Paul Rader
     2005 Just Add Salt Mike Aiken
     2005 It Ain't The Years Duke City Swampcoolers
     2005 Kudzi Run Of The Mill (note 7)
     2006 Empire Mentone
     2006 Life And Hard Times Of Guy Terrifico (Soundtrack) Various Artists
     2006 Test Of Time Lalla Rookh
     2007 Blackjack Live! Blackjack
     2007 Time Machine Outta Scope
     2007 Live from Austin, TX Cory Morrow
     2007 Settin' the Table, Company's Comin' Stringin' Along
     2007 Movin' On Kettel & Soluna Samay
     2007 Days Go By Call It Karma
     2008 Signs Joseph Cipriano
     2008 Revolution and Revelations Hot Ham and Cheese
     2008 Live At The San Gregorio General Store Gary Gates Band
     2008 Celtic Evolution Padraigh Allen
     27 Jun 2009 Crystal Bay Live David Nelson Band
     2009 Turning Point Steve Kimock & Friends
     2009 Live At Pineapple Willy's Ben Prestage
     2009 The Live Anthology Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
     2009 Make It Rain Keith Greeninger & Dayan Kai
     2009 Snowblind Glen French
     2010 Full Circle Roger Kardinal
     2010 Use Your Hands Connor Desai
     2010 Cake On Cake Tail
     2010 Spiral Dave Wilson Quartet
     2010 And The Adventures Of Captain Ward The Demon Barbers
     2011 Take Me On Home The Moonshine Rooster Band
     2011 Follow Through Zane Charron
     2011 On A Roll The Chilli Dogs
     2011 The Cimarron Sessions Kyle Everett
     2011 Biking With Beverly Blacktop Blend
     ?2012 Karaoke Legends, Vol. 45 Unknown
     2012 Live At Frysja 33 Four Gallon Flush
     2012 Think Bigger Cosmo Jarvis
     2012 Road 20 K. C. Craine
     2012 West End String Band West End String Band
     2012 Electric Hay: Live Rollin' In The Hay
     2012 Buck Satan & 666 Shooters Bikers Welcome Ladies Drink Free
     2013 Echoes Of The Outlaw Roadshow Counting Crows
     2013 Outside Lands Tim Flannery (with Bob Weir)
     2013 These Days Alex Riffle & The Stiff-Riffs
     2013 Looper John Sherry
     2013 Live At Mr. Ricci's Coconut Tree Lounge Trailer Trash
     2014 Oct 30 2014 New York NY The Infamous Stringdusters (note 9)
     2014 Working Title Eastern Electric Co.
     2015 Oct 10 2015 Evanston IL Anders Osborne
     2016 The Country Blues Rob Ickes and Trey Hensley

(1) also on the compilations Skeletons From The Closet, The Very Best Of The Grateful Dead and The Best Of The Grateful Dead.
(2) included as a bonus track on remastered album, first released as part of the box set The Golden Road (1965-1973). Also released on Road Trips Vol 3 No 3
(3) this is only a fragment, recorded at a free concert in Toronto
(4) versions of "Friend Of The Devil" are on various of String Cheese Incident's "On The Road" releases.
(5) alternate take also available as a download.
(6) also released in 30 Days Of The Dead (2017)
(7) the track listed as "Blackberry Devil" is a fusion of Blackberry Blossom and Friend Of The Devil
(8) also released as "Lullaby Versions of Grateful Dead"
(9) The list above includes only one illustrative example of the series of live recordings by these artists. For a full list see the Grateful Dead Family Discography.
(10) also on the compilation The Best Of The Grateful Dead Live

The lyrics changed somewhat during the development of the song. This is the version in Robert Hunter's handwritten lyrics:
I lit out from Reno, baby, trailed by twenty hounds
I didn't stop that night, or till the next one came around

I ran into the devil, baby, he loaned me twenty bills
I stayed that night in Utah in a cave up in the hills

I walked out on a levee, baby, the devil found me there
Said don't forget that twenty, babe, and vanished in the air

I snuck back into Reno, baby, parlayed fifty cents(note 5)
Made it to five thousand, babe, and paid back what was lent
There is a also a poor-quality recording of John Dawson singing this in a studio in 1969 (probably with Robert Hunter and some members of the Dead):
I lit out from Reno, I was trailed by twenty hounds
Didn't stop to sleep that night till the morning came around

I ran into the devil, baby, he loaned me twenty bills
I went to sleep in a bed that night in a cave up in the hills

I ran down to the levee but the devil caught my scent
So I coughed twenty dollars babe to pay back what was lent

Got a [?], baby, one in [?] (note 6)
The first one's named forgot you, baby, other [?}

Got two reasons why I cry away each lonely night
The first one's named sweet Anne Marie and she's my [true] delight
Other one is prison baby, law is on my tail
[And if he catches up with me] I'll spend my life in jail

I lit out from Reno, I was trailed by twenty hounds
Didn't stop to sleep that night till the morning came around
(I have omitted the chorus from the lyrics above as it didn't change)
(5) originally "played my last fifty cents"
(6) I'm not sure whether John Dawson forgets the words to this verse, or whether they are just inaudible

In his journal for 23 February 2006 Robert Hunter gave this account of writing the song:
"I was just remembering how Friend of the Devil got written. First off I wrote these four verses one afternoon back in 1969.

"I was living in Madrone canyon with the Garcias. The NRPS had asked me if I wanted to play bass with them and it seemed like a good idea at the time. So I worked up that song on bass, added a few verses plus a chorus and went over to where David Nelson and John Dawson were living in Kentfield and taught them the tune. The "Sweet Anne Marie" verse which was later to become a bridge was only one of the verses, not yet a bridge. The chorus went:
I set out running but I take my time
It looks like water but it tastes like wine
If I get home before daylight
I just might get some sleep tonight
"I'd changed the fourth verse, about parlaying the twenty dollars into five thousand and, except for the all important Friend of the Devil hook, the lyrics were pretty much as they stand today minus a fifth verse which goes:
You can borrow from the Devil
You can borrow from a friend
But the Devil give you twenty
When your friend got only ten
"We all went down to the kitchen to have espresso made in Dawson's new machine. We got to talking about the tune and John said the verses were nifty except for "it looks like water but it tastes like wine" which I had to admit fell flat. Suddenly Dawson's eyes lit up and he crowed "How about "a friend of the devil is a friend of mine." Bingo, not only the right line but a memorable title as well! We ran back upstairs to Nelson's room and recorded the tune. I took the tape home and left it on the kitchen table. Next morning I heard earlybird Garcia (who hadn't been at the rehearsal - had a gig, you know) wanging away something familiar sounding on the peddle steel. Danged if it wasn't "Friend of the Devil." With a dandy bridge on the "sweet Anne Marie" verse. He was not in the least apologetic about it. He'd played the tape, liked it, and faster than you can say dog my cats it was in the Grateful Dead repertoire. Although I learned all the tunes, I never did play a gig with the NRPS, who were doing strictly club dates at the time. For one reason or another I never quite fathomed, though I have my suspicions, I got shut out. Either that or I misread the signs and wasn't inclined to push. Nothing was ever said. In any event, a fellow named Dave Torbert showed up about that time. Just as well. One dedicated songwriter in the band was enough."

Further Information
For an online discussion of the lyrics to this song see the deadsongs.vue conference on The Well.
For more information on recordings see Matt Schofield's Grateful Dead Family Discography
For information on references in the lyrics see David Dodd's Annotated Grateful Dead Lyrics
For David Dodd's discussion of this song on see Greatest Stories Ever Told
For online chords and TAB see
For sheet music, see:
          Grateful Dead Anthology Volume 1 (piano arrangement)
          Grateful Dead Authentic Guitar Classics Volume 1 (guitar TAB)
          Grateful Dead Songbook Volume 1 (piano arrangement)
          Jerry Garcia Songbook (vocal line and chords)
          Very Best Of The Grateful Dead (guitar TAB)
          Garcia/Hunter Songbook (vocal line and chords/TAB)


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