Who Sipped Whose Wine?

So what brought to mind Rick Danko’s “Sip The Wine” earlier this week? Well, like many things in life, it was random.

Sometime last week, I was puttering online, checking out my Facebook timeline or maybe reading emails from some of the folks from my Denmark group who were having a fine time at a reunion. (It’s the only reunion I’ve missed since we started having them regularly twenty-some years ago; the logistical challenges of traveling to Montana, where one of our fellows owns a ranch, kept me away.)

Anyway, as I puttered, the RealPlayer bounced around the 84,000 mp3s in its repertoire, and I noticed in the back of my mind as it settled on a track that started with a gentle strummed guitar followed by the voice of a young Tracy Nelson with Mother Earth:

The song was familiar, but I didn’t pay much attention until the 3:44 mark, when Nelson sings, “We must sip the wine . . .” That got my head up, and I wondered how Mother Earth had come to record Danko’s tune. Because Mother Earth was out of business by 1977, when Danko released his self-titled album that offered “Sip The Wine.” That meant this recording pre-dated Danko’s, which puzzled me.

I checked the RealPlayer and saw the track was titled “I Want To Lay Down Beside You” and was included on the 1972 album Tracy Nelson/Mother Earth. I pulled the LP from the stacks and took a quick look: The song was credited to Tim Drummond, a name I knew vaguely and knew I had heard recently. That was likely, Wikipedia informed me, because he passed on in January. He’d been a bass player and a songwriter who played with folks ranking from Mile Davis and B.B. King to Bob Dylan and Conway Twitty (and many others in between). His co-writing credits, in the brief examples listed at Wikipedia, included “Saved” with Bob Dylan and “Saddle Up The Palomino” with Neil Young.

And he’d obviously written the song that Rick Danko offered as “Sip The Wine” on 1977’s Rick Danko, where Danko was credited as the writer. Hmm.

I checked the Rick Danko jacket. Drummond was around for the those sessions, credited as playing bass on “Brainwash” and “Java Blues.” There’s no clue on the jacket as to how “I Want To Lay Down Beside You” became “Sip The Wine” and how the writing credit transformed. It’s obviously Drummond’s song, and I’d like to think that the errant credit was an honest mistake. But I don’t know, and the only place I’ve found that acknowledges the error is the page devoted to “Sip The Wine” at the semi-official website devoted to The Band.

Well, it’s a hell of a song. Danko’s performance of it is lovely. Both Rick Danko and Tim Drummond are gone, and we’ll likely never know what happened. So let’s just sip the wine.

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One Response to “Who Sipped Whose Wine?”

  1. Shane Valcich says:

    Just a theory but I wonder if the error isn’t on the 1972 album.

    Seems more likely that Rick wasn’t paying attention, didn’t care or gave away the song credits to Tim Drummond for the 1972 release. Rick was busy and highly successful in the early 70’s with the Band and touring with Bob Dylan in 1974.

    Seems less likely that Tim Drummond would get credit for playing bass on 2 tracks on Rick’s album while loosing out on the higher paying writing credits for Sip the wine on the same album, all while in a far less hectic time period when these musicians were all starting to decline in popularity and were looking for credit and royalties. Also he is properly credited for ton’s of writing and performing.

    But inversely maybe Tim’s success resulted in him giving the credit to Rick for his debut album seeing that Rick’s popularity may have been in more jeopardy then Tim’s. Or he was so busy he didn’t care or notice.

    I will just have to head down to visit Rick’s grave in Woodstock and ask him while I smoke a joint with his spirit.

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