"...child of mine, there isn't really very far to go"

The Annotated "Dupree's Diamond Blues"

An installment in The Annotated Grateful Dead Lyrics.
By David Dodd

Copyright notice
"Dupree's Diamond Blues"
Words by Robert Hunter; music by Jerry Garcia
Copyright Ice Nine Publishing; used by permission

When I was just a little young boy,
Papa said "Son, you'll never get far,
I'll tell you the reason if you want to know,
'cause child of mine, there isn't really very far to go"

Well baby, baby wants a gold diamond ring
Wants it more than most any old thing
Well when I get those jelly roll blues
Why I'd go and get anything in this world for you.

Down to the jewelry store packing a gun,
says "Wrap it up. I think I'll take this one"
"A thousand dollars please," the jewelry man said
Dupree he said, "I'll pay this one off to you in lead"

Well you know son you just can't figure,
first thing you know you're gonna pull that trigger
and it's no wonder your reason goes bad -
jelly roll will drive you stone mad

Judge said "Son, this gonna cost you some time"
Dupree said "Judge, you know that crossed my mind"
Judge said "Fact it's gonna cost you your life"
Dupree said "Judge, you know that seems to me to be about right"

Well baby, baby's gonna lose her sweet man
Dupree come out with a losing hand
Baby's gonna weep it up for awhile
then go on out and find another sweet man's
gonna treat her with style

Judge said "Son, I know your baby well
but that's a secret I can't never tell"
Dupree said "Judge, well it's well understood,
and you got to admit that that sweet, sweet jelly's so good"

Well you know son you just can't figure,
first thing you know you're gonna pull that trigger
and it's no wonder your reason goes bad,
jelly roll will drive you stone mad

Same old story and I know it's been told,
some like jelly jelly - some like gold
Many a man's done a terrible thing
just to get baby that shiny diamond ring.

"Dupree's Diamond Blues"

Hunter has posted the manuscript for the song on his Archive site.

Recorded on

First recorded performance February 11, 1969, at the Fillmore East in New York. After 1969, dropped from the repertoire until the late seventies, when it made a brief re-appearance; then brought back in 1982 for the duration of the decade.

The text of the song is a re-working of a song, "Betty and Dupree," with many incarnations in American folk tradition. It was based upon a true incident:

"The biography of the man and his crimes may be summarized as follows: Frank Dupree grew up in Abbeville, South Carolina. He came on the scene in December 1921 in Atlanta, Georgia, where he had a gal Betty. In trying to appropriate a diamond for her in a jewelry store he shot a policeman down. Fleeing to Memphis and later to Chicago, where he was cornered, he killed a policeman and wounded several more. He was caught while getting his mail and sent to Atlanta for trial. He was executed for murder on September 1, 1922." (Roberts: In the Pine.)
Here are three versions of the song:

And this note from a reader:

From: Scott Hyatt [mailto:shyatt@cats.ucsc.edu]
Sent: Thursday, August 15, 2002 11:19 AM
Subject: Dupree's Diamond Blues

I'm not sure if you're taking any more reader comments or not, but I wanted to send this along--thought it might be relevant to this song...

I was just perusing this great book called Jazz Anecdotes by Bill Crow. One of the anecdotes mentions a swing band era jazz musician named Reese Dupree who penned a tune called "Dupree's Blues" (he also wrote the song "Shortnin' Bread). Unfortunately, I can't find anything else on-line about this song--like if it was an instrumental or had lyrics. There isn't much out there about Reese Dupree in general. As an added bonus, the anecdote in Crow's book also mentions Dupree in connection with Jelly Roll Morton, the great jazz composer/pianist of the 1920's. Jelly Roll, of course, penned the classic jazz instrumental "Jelly Roll Blues". You can learn more about Morton and actually listen to the tune out at http://www.redhotjazz.com/jellyroll.html

Hope you can use this,


jelly roll

This note from a reader:
Subject: Dupree's Diamond Blues
Date: Tue, 23 Jul 1996 10:40:03 -0700
From: Aric Ahrens
Organization: http://www.iit.edu/~aahrens/

David -

In reading your annotation of Dupree's, I noticed you didn't mention anything about the term "jelly roll". Although its meaning seems obvious to me I looked it up, just to make sure. I was correct. This is from The Dictionary of Contemporary Slang by Jonathan Green, 1985.

jelly roll n. (US Black Use) the female genitals

Other slang dictionaries also mention "jelly" as a term for a female.

Hope this helps,

Thanks, Aric!

keywords: @crime, @diamond, @ring, @women
DeadBase code: [DUPR]
First posted: March 17, 1995
Last revised: November 27, 2002