Asleep at the Wheel, a country music act with 10 Grammy trophies to its name, lights things up with its latest album, New Routes. The lead single, a cover of "Jack I'm Mellow," is one of the first cannabis anthems performed by a female artist. Vocalist-fiddle player Katie Shore (a.k.a. Miss 4/20) handled the vocals originally made famous by blues singer Trixie Smith.
PRØHBTD is proud to premiere the video for Asleep at the Wheel's take on a groundbreaking cannabis classic, which brings award-winning credibility to the fight against prohibition.
"We recorded 'Jack I’m Mellow' realizing it was one of, if not the first, song and film short about marijuana recorded by a woman," explains frontman and co-founder Ray Benson. "It also is perfect for Katie's voice, which is evocative of that era. Asleep at the Wheel being a Western Swing band is perfectly suited to swing like the original. I've smoked pot for more than 50 years and advocate for its legalization and medicinal use as well as cultivation of hemp as a renewable source of a multitude of products."
After taking a deep hit from a joint, Katie visits a small Texas town named Luck and scores a jar of buds from Benson outside a closed dispensary. She proceeds to dance around, spreading the wealth with the sheriff, bar patrons and other townsfolk, who all respond positively to the smoke's mellowing effects. Asleep at the Wheel filmed the video on the ranch of longtime friend Willie Nelson, who provided lots of Willie's Reserve for the shoot.
A handful of jazz instrumentals featured cannabis-themed titles in the 1920s, but lyrical "viper" music emerged in the 1930s with artists like Cab Calloway, Stuff Smith and Tampa Red. A few female artists like Lil Johnson and Bessie Smith made veiled reference to cannabis in the '30s, but Trixie Smith recorded one of the first overt "reefer songs" with "Jack I'm Mellow." The song likely came out in 1938, but some sources suggest a much earlier release date.
"I first heard 'Jack I'm Mellow' when I was a teenager, though I didn’t fully appreciate it until I was an adult," Katie admits. "It doesn't take long to dig up a 'Viper' or 'Reefer' song when you go down the rabbit hole of swing and jazz, and a lot of songs from this era insinuated imbibing in a clever way. Flash forward 80 years, and not only is this song still cool musically, its content is still relevant—and maybe even more important to the present—with the increased awareness of the benefits of medicinal marijuana, the manufacturing of hemp and the decriminalization of recreational cannabis."
What does the band hope to accomplish with this cover?
"Unfortunately, there is still a stigma associated with smoking pot, and some people will have mixed feelings," Katie continues, "but our hope is that fans will see it as an opportunity to mellow out and send up a smoke signal of peace and love!"
Photo credit: Mike Shore.