top of page

Ripple - Not the Cheap Wine

I think the charm of Grateful Dead is that for the longest time, they never had a hit record. The song that got the most air play was “Touch of Gray” from the album “In the Dark”. I remember hearing that “Tons of Steel” would be the commercial hit from that album, but go figure. Of course, the band released a very popular anthem “Truckin’”. A band I was once in did “Uncle John’s Band”, though I don’t think many people would remember that one. A song many do seem to know is “Ripple” which I always thought was likely about cheap wine. After all, we’re talking Grateful Dead.


It’s this last song that most recently surfaced for me. You see, I’m not a Deadhead (the name of die-hard Grateful Dead fans). I thought their vocals were weak and their music average at best. It was a couple of weeks ago I got a call from Leslie, the woman with the golden voice with whom I did a duet for the church Christmas concert this last year. She’s on the worship committee which means she’s one of a handful of people in my Unitarian church who plan the services throughout the year.


So, I decided to take the project on. Of course, the first person I thought of to join me was Leslie, but she said she would most likely be unavailable. But as high on my list as she was, was my collaborator on similar church projects, Joe. Decent guitarist and wonderful singer. I asked him in church, which opened me up to the law of unintended consequences. In this case it wasn’t a bad thing at all. Joci, who sings in the choir, had overheard me explain the project to Joe and basically invited herself in. She has a very good voice and seemed to really like the song. Great!


Almost as much of as accident was that I found out through one of the music directors that the leader of the worship committee had a vision of the song having numerous contributors, and that she had sent word out through the choir looking for singers. I definitely didn’t want to have to coordinate a large group. As luck would have it, there were only volunteers, one of whom had to drop out almost as soon as she had gotten in. The other was Susan who, again, I had worked with before. She had a good voice, harmonized well, and was always a treat to work with. Further, her range fit nicely between my somewhat limited tenor and Joci’s soprano.


The group would be rounded out by Chuck, the church’s resident Deadhead and an exceptional bass player. Some time ago he had volunteered his services to Joe and I if and when we so desired. This would be a good time. The caveat was that his back is in horrible shape and surgery is on the horizon. He might be able to help, but maybe not.


It took a full week to finally get a practice together, necessary since Joe had a two-week appointment with southern France beginning in July. Because of back issues (Susan also is scheduled for surgery) our rehearsal was at my house because it has the fewest stairs. Unfortunately, it’s also small and the four of us (Chuck indeed had to “back” out of the rehearsal, pun obviously intended) were in a tight, enclosed living room. 

Shin the Musician

Last update: July 5, 2024

The John Shinnick Web Site

The album cover for the Grateful Dead's "American Beauty" album. It was their fifth studio effort and contained "Ripple".

The rehearsal was both fun and productive, but two days later, Joe broke the news that he’d come down with Covid. Fortunately, the rest of us would test negative. I can only hope Joe can make his trip soon. I was thinking his test might have been a false positive as I had once had. But he said he was feeling very sick with the classic Covid-19 symptoms.


Chuck won’t really need rehearsal beyond the sound check, since he knows the song super well and we’re not deviating from the studio version. If he can’t make it for the actual performance, that’s okay too. Bass is a definite nice to have, but isn’t mandatory.


The whole process has been super chaotic, but it’ll come together. In the meantime, a friend of mine scored some tickets for a small outdoor concert, about 50 people total, which featured a trio called Achilles Wheel. Very entertaining and a musical style I found much to my liking, mostly original material. But their final song was not original in the least. It was Grateful Dead’s “Ripple”.


Talk about your good omen. 

The recording, lyrics, and back story to "My Brain Is Too Small", a song I wrote and recorded in 1990.

The video, lyrics, and back story of the song I wrote and performed for my retirement party in 2006.

American Beauty.jpeg
bottom of page