We are honored to welcome the Grateful Dead’s Bob Weir (!!!) for a deep look at his signature song, “Sugar Magnolia,” and the making of the Dead’s landmark American Beauty in 1970, plus surprising memories of the song from Pavement’s Stephen Malkmus and Yo La Tengo’s Ira Kaplan.
Sugar Magnolia supplementary notes
By Jesse Jarnow
“Sugar Magnolia” went through a number of revisions before the Grateful Dead debuted the song in June 1970, even more rewriting before they recorded it for American Beauty later that summer, and still further tweaking for years as they continued to play it live. Whitegum’s invaluable Grateful Dead Lyric and Song Finder has transcriptions of some of Hunter’s earliest (and quite different) verses.
Rhoney Stanley’s great book, Owsley and Me: My LSD Family (co-written with Tom Davis) has a lot more about hanging out with Frankie Weir, partially the inspiration for “Sugar Magnolia.” Frankie would go on to found the band’s in-house travel agency, Fly By Night Travel (detailed a bit in Charles Perry’s great 1973 Rolling Stone profile) and can be seen dancing next to Bob Weir in this October 1974 photograph from Winterland in San Francisco.