The Cuckoo

Song composer(s)


Grateful Dead Recordings

Not recorded by the Dead

Dead Related Recordings

No Dead related recordings entered

Other Recordings

Bradley Kincaid (1928)
Clarence Ashley (1929)
Kelly Harrell (193?)
Anthology of American Folk Music; Vol. 3, Songs : Various Artists (Clarence Ashley) (1952, reissue 1997)
Banjo Tunes and Songs : Pete Steele (1958)
American Ballads And Folksongs : Joan O'Bryant (1958)
False True Lovers : Shirley Elizabeth Collins (1959)
Sweet England : Shirley Collins (1959)
New Lost City Ramblers, Vol. 4 : New Lost City Ramblers (1962)
Edna Ritchie, Viper Kentucky : Edna Ritchie (1962)
Fleming Brown : Fleming Brown (1962)
Rockin' the Cradle : Judy Mahan (1962)
Joseph Able Trivett : Joseph Able Trivett (1962)
Folk Music of Washington Square : Various Artists (Howard Tarnower) (1962)
Old-Time Music at Clarence Ashley's, Vol 2 : Various Artists (Clarence Ashley & Doc Watson) (1962)
Sunny's Gallery of Folk Ballads : Sunny Schwartz (1963)
This Life I'm Living : Carolyn Hester (1963)
Old Time Music At Newport : Various Artists (Clarence Ashley w/ Doc Watson) (1964)
Osborne Brothers (1964)
Holy Modal Rounders. Holy Modal Rounders (1964)
Folk Box : Various Artists (Clarence Ashley) (1964)
Folk Songs : Maxine Sellers (1964)
Hobart Smith : Hobart Smith (1964)
Relax Your Mind : Jim Kweskin (1965)
Traditional Music at Newport, 1964, Part 1 : Hobart Smith (1965)
Song Will Arise : Peter, Paul & Mary (1965)
Allen-Ward Trio : Allen-Ward Trio (1965)
Basket Of Light : Pentangle (1969)
Chicago Mob Scene. A Folk Song Jam Session : Bob March (196?)
Folk Songs of Old Eire : Judy Mayhan (196?)
Tom Rush : Tom Rush (196?)
True Religion : Eric Darling (196?)
Old Traditions : Bill and Jean Davis (196?)
Ballads From Deep Gap : Doc Watson (1971)
Faro Annie : John Renbourne (1972)
Out of Love, Hope and Suffering : Frankie Armstrong (1973)
At the Wednesday Night Waltz : Hickory Wind (1974)
How to Play Clawhammer Banjo : Peter Feldmann (1975)
Bright Shining Morning : Lou and Sally Killen (1975)
Hard Travelin': Songs by Woody Guthrie and Others : Ramblin' Jack.Elliot (1977)
In Come a Bumblebee: Traditional Songs and Tunes on English Concertina : Various Artists (1977)
High Hills & Mountains : Jean Ritchie (1979)
The Old Timey Rap : Hobart Smith (1981)
Oh, Come Along Children and Sing with Me : Johnny Richardson (1982)
Voices In Bluegrass : The Osborne Brothers (1985)
O Love Is Teasin' : Jean Ritchie (1985)
Southern Light : Mark Nelson (1986)
Hello City Limits : Hugh Moore (1986)
Forked Deer : Dan Gellert and Shoofly (1986)
This-A-Way, That-A-Way : Ella Jenkins (1989)
Rhythms of Childhood : Ella Jenkins (1989)
The Watson Family : Doc Watson (CD only) (1990)
Once More, Vols. 1 & 2 : The Osborne Brothers (1991)
Old Tom Moore and More : Tom Paley (1991)
The Wheel Of The Year - Thirty Years Of The Armstrong Family : The Armstrong Family (1992)
Walk Right Back - Everly Brothers On Warner Bros : Everly Brothers (1993)
The Lark In The Clear Air : The Cambridge Singers (1993)
Original Folkways Recordings of Doc Watson and Clarence Ashley, 1960-1962 : Clarence Ashley & Doc Watson (1994)
Heartaches & Harmonies (Box) : Everly Brothers (1994)
Mountain Music of Kentucky : Various Artists (Mr. & Mrs. John Sams) (1996) (Expanded version of 1960 LP)
Mountain Born : Jean Ritchie & Sons (1995)
The Vanguard Years : Doc Watson (1995)
Smithsonian Folkways American Roots Collection : Various Artists (Clarence Ashley/Doc Watson) (1996)
Smithsonian/Folkways American Roots Collection Sampler : Various Artists (Clarence Ashley) (1996)
Old Timey Music : New Lost City Ramblers (19??)
Fingerdances For The Dulcimer : Bonnie Carol (19??)
Welcome To Galax : Mike Fenton & The Bill Sky Family (19??)
Kentucky Mountain Songs : Jean Ritchie (19??)
Sings Traditional Songs Of Her Kentucky Mountain Family : Jean Ritchie (19??)
Singing Family Of The Cumberlands : Jean Ritchie (19??)
Old Timey Music : New Lost City Ramblers (19??)
Folk Go-Go : Various Artists (19??)
The Complete Kelly Harrell, Vol. 2 : Kelly Harrell (19??)

Performance History

Played by Garcia and Nelson at the College of San Mateo in San Mateo on November 10th 1962.

Not performed by the Grateful Dead. Occurs only on pre-Dead tapes featuring future members of the dead.


This traditional British song has a variety of titles; The Coo-Coo, The Coo-Coo Bird, The Cuckoo Bird, and The Cuckoo Is A Pretty Bird are all used.

Usually incorporate the text

"The cuckoo is a pretty bird, she sings as she flies; she brings us glad tidings, and she tells us no lies."

But many variations occur and verses from other songs are often incorporated.

Garcia introduces the version played on 11/10/62 by saying it's a Clarence Ashley song - and the version performed is fairly similar to that given in the New Lost City Ramblers Songbook which originated from Clarence Ashley version;

Oh the cuckoo she'a pretty bird,
She wobbles as she flies,
She don't never holler cuckoo,
'Til the fourth day of July.

Gonna build me log cabin,
On the mountain so high,
So that I can see Willie,
As he goes on by.

Jack of Diamonds, Jack of Diamonds,
I know you of old,
You done robbed my poor pockets,
Of my silver and gold.

I've played cards in England,
I've played cards in Spain,
I bet you ten dollars,
I'll beat you again

Oh the cuckoo she'a pretty bird,
She wobbles as she flies,
She don't never holler cuckoo,
'Til the fourth day of July.

Widely collected in Britain and the United States.

Related songs include The Unconstant Lover (also known as the Forsaken Lover), A Meeting Is A Pleasure, A Walking And A' Talking and On Top Of Old Smokey.