Concert of the week in Grateful Dead history: March 19, 1977 (Listen Now)

You can look around about the wide world over; You’ll never find another honest man.

By The Deadhead Cyclist

For Week


During a speech in Charlotte, VA on August 18, 2016, presidential candidate Donald Trump stated (in his classic subliterate style), “But one thing I can promise you this: I will always tell you the truth.” After his inauguration on January 20th, 2017, the man who promised to always tell the truth told ten lies on his first day in office and five more the following day. By the end of his term, four years later, Trump had spread such consequential falsehoods as that the COVID-19 pandemic would disappear “like a miracle,” and the 2020 presidential election had been stolen, due to fraud, inspiring his supporters to attack the Capitol on January 6th, as the results of the election were being certified by Congress.

According to a Washington Post project, known as “The Fact Checker,” established in 2011 to examine the veracity of statements made by political figures, Trump made 30,573 false or deceitful claims over the course of the most dishonest presidency in U.S. history, nearly half of which were made during his final year in office, as the prospect of a one-term presidency became increasingly imminent.

This last point – the phenomenon by which lying begets lying – is important to underscore, and is supported by a landmark 2016 study, published in Nature Neuroscience, that provides evidence of a biochemical basis for how our brains make lying easier the more we lie. It suggests is that a culture based on lies – as appears to be increasingly true in the U.S. – may be headed down a deep rabbit hole of dishonesty, unless something is done to reverse the trend, such as the work being done by award-winning journalists, like Glenn Kessler, editor and chief writer of The Fact Checker. 

In 1972, some 44 years prior to Trump’s epically mendacious campaign vow, Jerry Garcia released his first solo record, Garcia. Aside from the fact that its namesake played every instrumental part (with the exception of the drumming recorded by Bill Kreutzmann), the album was especially noteworthy in that all six of the Hunter/Garcia tunes became staples in the Grateful Dead repertoire. One of those six, Loser, was performed by the Dead 352 times (behind Deal at 423 and Sugaree at 361), including a particularly tasty version at Winterland on 3/19/77, my choice for T.W.I.G.D.H.

I have made no secret of my affinity for the year 1977 in the Dead’s legacy, and while the 30 shows that comprise the Spring ’77 tour certainly represent the peak of that year (if not the band’s entire history), the three March ’77 shows at Winterland provide an unmistakable hint of what was to come, beginning the following month in Philadelphia. In the 3/19 show, the Terrapin Station>Playing in the Band>Samson and Delilah>Playing in the Band Reprise segment closing out the first set is not to be missed.

Towards the beginning of the set, following Bertha and Mama Tried, our ears perk up, head slightly tilted, at the dog whistle-like noodling suggesting Loser as the next selection. Anticipation is soon confirmed with the signature A-minor opening riff, and the retelling of an Americana tale of desperation, delusion and deceit, all within a familiar Western-style poker game motif. The true depth of this narrative arrived as I was riding the dusty trails of Nevada on my trusty two-wheeled “steed.” I was instantly struck by the parallel between Trump’s continually shattered promise to “always tell you the truth” and the equally calculating declaration in Loser: “You’ll never find another honest man.”

Loser is the story of a dishonest conman who seeks our money and tries just a bit too hard to convince us of his trustworthiness in order to obtain it.

Honesty, integrity and trust are three foundational elements of a successful life, and they are inexorably interrelated in how they build upon each other. The first layer is honesty. An honest person, of course, is someone who is truthful and transparent in his or her words. Simple enough. The second layer is integrity. Honesty and integrity are often used synonymously, but there’s an important distinction: Integrity involves action, as in “act with integrity.” So, integrity is born of honesty, but elevates it to the next level. Put another way, honesty is a concept; integrity puts that concept to work.

Being honest and acting with integrity creates the possibility of moving to the next rung on the ladder: trust. To trust is to hold a firm belief in the strength or character of something or someone. We all seek relationships with those individuals and institutions in which we can have this kind of confidence. But a recent survey by the Pew Research Center shows that 79-percent of us have a lack of trust in our fellow Americans, and 71-percent think that interpersonal trust has declined in the last 20 years. Against that backdrop, how do we correctly identify and expand the islands of trustworthiness in this rising sea of deceit.

As a journalism entrepreneur, I have spent four decades seeking truth and reporting it to the widest possible audience. During the most recent 28 years, Boulder Weekly,, and our affiliated media have done our utmost to publish honest information, act with integrity, and build trust within our community and among our readership. So, the first and most obvious answer to the question posed in the preceding paragraph is to behave with honesty and integrity yourself, and to seek out other individuals and sources of information that deserve your trust.

But what about those situations where we are called upon to make an assessment about something or someone with limited information? We find such a predicament depicted in the storytelling of Loser. Here’s what we know: There is a boastful gambler (“If I had a gun for every ace I have drawn…”) who has become desperate (“Don’t you push me, baby, because I’m moaning low…), and has descended into survival mode (“And you know I’m only in it for the gold.”).

In hindsight we should have seen it coming when our protagonist asks to borrow money (“All that I am asking for is ten gold dollars…”) with a promise to pay it back (“…with one good hand.”). But this is when our “hero” exhibits his “tell” (a poker term for a revealing change in a player’s behavior or affect), by making a singularly exaggerated claim:

You can look around about the wide world over, 

You’ll never find another honest man.

One of my all time heroes, Groucho Marx, once said, “There is one way to find out if a man is honest: Ask him. If he says ‘yes,’ you know he is crooked.” In this case, our “loser” has answered that question without being asked.

In the journalism business there’s a tried and true rule of thumb for finding the path to the truth: Follow the money in the story. Loser is the story of a con man who’s after our money and tries just a bit too hard to convince us of his trustworthiness. By contrast, also found in the first set of this week’s featured show, we find in Terrapin Station a storyteller whose “job is to shed light,” and who “cannot be bought or sold.” Following the money in these two stories, it is clear where honesty, integrity and truth are found.

In the end, we’re left wondering whether the subject of our tale was fairly dealt his “one good hand.” But whether the Queen of Diamonds completing his rare “inside straight” magically appears, or comes to “Daddy” through being in cahoots with the “last fair deal in the country,” he still wears the big “L” on his forehead. It turns out that shedding that letter is not so easy as turning over the winning hand in a game of cards – particularly if the “W” is the result of cheating. Living a life of honesty and integrity that inspires the trust of others is the only way to earn your letter.

As far as a certain former president and his cronies are concerned, a lyric from a Carly Simon song comes to mind: 

I bet you think this song is about you.

Concert of the week in Grateful Dead history: March 19, 1977 (Listen Now)

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