Two early cover songs from the Grateful Dead repertoire, "Hi Heeled Sneakers" and "Big Boy Pete," were recorded at a rehearsal at the The Omni on 1995-03-28; you can listen on the Internet Archive here. Unfortunately neither song would be revived in this final year. "Hi Heeled Sneakers" by Tommy Tucker (Robert Higginbotham) was last played by the Dead on 8-28-69; "Big Boy Pete" by Don and Dewey (Don Harris and Dewey Terry) but played by the Los Angeles based doo-wop group the Olympics was revived in November 1985, the video of the performance is actually up on Youtube, click here. Note that the Olympics are connected intimately to the Dead because of their song "Good Lovin'," delivered to the Dead via the Rascals. There were countless covers of "Hi Heeled Sneakers" right after it's 1964 release, but the one by the Rolling Stands out.
As we can glean from this recording, the Grateful Dead would always return to their musical roots, steeped in 1950s and 1960s blues, R&B, country, and early rock and rockabilly.
Yet the question that opened for me as I listened to these precious moments of a rehearsal was: why did some cover songs, like "Midnight Hour," "Dancin' in the Street," or "Not Fade Away," or "Lovelight," lend themselves to such prodigious improvisations lasting over ten minutes in many instances, while others, like "Hi Heeled Sneakers" and "Big Boy Pete," or "Walkin' the Dog," "I just want to make love to you," etc., were only given basic one or two chorus solos? I wonder if it's something in the material itself, if some songs just feel like they don't allow this opening? How conscious of a decision was it on the Dead's part to either: 1) open up a song to a massive improvisational exploration or 2) keep the song in its tight, original format. And yet the improvisations that come out of "Dancin," "Midnight," etc., certainly do not seem necessary, as if they were written into the material--I think quite the contrary, as it were. We could just as easily imagine a huge section in any of these other songs. Or not? "Hi Heeled Sneakers," and "Big Boy Pete" are essentially blues structures, whereas "Midnight Hour" or "Dancin' " have some extra chord changes, however simple they may be.
Much more needs to be investigated here, as it was these early jam vehicles that led to the great original jams of the 1960s, "Dark Star" especially, and in the 1970s in songs like "Eyes" or "Playin' in the Band."