Elvis Tribute: The Dead Cover “Long Black Limousine” in 1970

by Peter Wendel
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ElvisPresleyAlohafromHawaiiDebut: December 19, 1969
Last Time Played: June 21, 1971
Total Times Played: 5
Songwriter(s): Stovall, George

Although “Long Black Limousine” was written by country musicians Vern Stovall and Bobby George, Elvis Presley made it famous. The King took the country-laced original and sculpted it into a haunting R&B number, releasing it on his 15th studio album From Elvis To Memphis in June of 1969.

Six months later, The Grateful Dead would put their Americana spin on “Long Black Limousine” at the Fillmore in San Francisco.

It’s a song about living close to the edge and inadvertently dying – dangers with which both Elvis and The Grateful Dead would become intimately familiar.

In “Long Black Limousine,” the singer-narrator tells an ex-lover about her own funeral. The recently deceased had abandoned her lover (i.e., the narrator) for the party life, and it seems may have lost her way with her new set of highfalutin friends. The long black limousine is both a high-end party vehicle and a hearse. Yikes.

GDLongBlackLimousine There’s a long line of mourners
Driving down our little street
Their fancy cars
Are such a sight to see, oh yea
They’re all rich friends
Who knew you in the scene
And now they’ve finally brought you
Brought you home to me

When you left
You know you told me
That some day you’d be returnin’
In a fancy car
All the town to see, oh yea
Well now everyone is watching you
You finally had your dream, yea
You’re ridin’ in a long black limousine

Here’s the Elvis cover:

Check out footage of The King’s funeral with “Long Black Limousine” as the accompanying music:

The Grateful Dead covered “Long Black Limousine” just five times ever, starting on December 19, 1969, at the Fillmore in San Francisco. Although the band played the song beautifully, they shelved it before realizing its full potential.

The final performance – at the Château d’Hérouville in France on June 21, 1971 – came just 18 months after the debut. (Perhaps Pigpen’s failing health had something to do with the song’s removal from the setlist.)

May 15, 1970

Fillmore East, New York, NY

Stripped down to the essence. Acoustic perfection. Bobby does his best Elvis, and Jerry’s backup vocals are chillingly good (and I mean goose-bumps good). Hearing this performance makes you wish they’d played it more – a lot more.

Peter Wendel is a journalist and PR consultant. He's attended hundreds of concerts and festivals, including the Peach, Mountain Jam, the All Good and Lockn'. He's ridden legendary Grateful Dead runs from Ventura County Fairgrounds to Irvine Meadows (CA) from the Nassau Coliseum (NY) to the Boston Garden (MA). Peter is a former U.S. Marine who – after running into trouble with every last one of his commanding officers – received an honorable discharge and a direct order never to return. Born in California and raised in New Jersey, Peter lived in Boston and Joshua Tree (CA) before settling in the nation's capital. Find him on tour at PWendel@SongMango.com.