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21 comments on this post.
  1. David:

    Excellent work! Thanks for the help, though you MUST be self-sabotaging in any chance of optimizing possible future growth having strayed so far,… dummy, there is a road, no simple “high,… way”. Apparently, you were on it. Whaa happened?? I suggest you re-think what you missed out on and hopefully, get back to “It” soon!

  2. J. Cameron McClain:

    I recently came across the word “rounder” in a manuscript written by someone from Missouri–for what that’s worth. In context it appeared to an “easy lay” or a “man-whore” or the like. The word’s found in the second verse of “He’s a Tramp” in the same context, and that would also fit the Grateful Dead lyrics in question–he found his old lady doin’ the dirty with some rounder in his fold-up bed.

    “He’s A Tramp”

    He’s a tramp, but I love him.
    Breaks a new heart every day.
    He’s a tramp. They adore him.
    And I only hope he’ll stay that way.

    He’s a tramp, he’s a scoundrel,
    He’s a rounder, he’s a cad.
    He’s a tramp, but I love him.
    Yes, and even I have got it pretty bad.

    You can never tell when he’ll show up.
    He gives you plenty of trouble.
    I guess he’s just a no account pup,
    But I wish that he were double.

    He’s a tramp, he’s a rover,
    And there’s nothing more to say.
    If he’s a tramp, he’s a good one,
    And I wish that I could travel his way.

  3. alan:

    Singer/songwriter David Bromberg also includes rounders in the lyrics of “Dahlia”, referring to scoundrels.

  4. mitch:

    “DELIA”….thats the name of the song bob dylan wrote, where he writes that she loved all them rounds but you never loved me

  5. Merle:

    Round-heels is a term that once was applied to what was designated “loose women”, sexually active women, women who had sex with men to whom they were not married.

  6. Nelson:

    Zora Neale Hurston uses the word in Their Eyes Were Watching God alongside “pimp”, so I guessed it meant some kind of criminal or promiscuous man:

    “You figger Ah’m uh rounder and uh pimp and you done wasted too much time talkin’ wid me.” – Their Eyes Were Watching God, Chapter 11 (Page 104 in my HarperPerennial classics version)

  7. Justin Goldberg:

    Mitch right above that Bob and I and wrote a song called Delia which is incorrect: this composition is also a traditional song which has simply been arranged by Bob Dylan; just as the grateful dead arranged the other traditional song “on the road again” referenced above, and since both compositions are likely from the same period of early American folk songs, it would seem that the descriptions above are in fact correct that around her is a person of no repute who are more likely to be mad and engaging in sexual activity with a woman.

  8. John:

    Folksinger Doc Watson uses the word a lot, as though he is addressing his songs to “rounders.” His song Casey Jones, for example, begins “Come all you rounders if you want to hear/the story of a brave engineer.”

    Doc also recorded his version of Hank Williams’ Lost Highway. That song never uses the word “rounder,” be offers a great description of them:

    I’m a rollin stone all alone and lost
    For a life of sin I have paid the cost
    When I pass by all the people say
    Just another guy on the lost highway

    Just a deck of cards and a jug of wine
    And a womans lies makes a life like mine
    Oh the day we met, I went astray
    I started rolling down that lost highway

    I was just a lad, nearly 22
    Neither good nor bad, just a kid like you
    And now I’m lost, too late to pray
    Lord I take a cost, oh the lost highway

    Now boys don’t start to ramblin’ round
    On this road of sin are you sorrow bound
    Take my advice or you’ll curse the day
    You started rollin’ down that lost highway

  9. Anonymous:

    A rounder is a guy that plays the banjo.

  10. Brian Mcintyre:

    In some circles a rounder is a person who rounds out a living by different means stealing, gambling, selling drugs, hooking, living with women rent free, welfare, unemployment insurance and sometimes working (rounding out a living)

  11. Jabalong:

    There’s also what appears to be another “man-whore” use of “rounder” in This American Life 352 “The Ghost of Bobby Dunbar”.

    I believe that it was one of the relatives of William Cantwell Walters, on speculating about the (out of wedlock) paternity of Charles Bruce Anderson, mentions that it could have been a brother of Walters who was a “rounder”.

  12. Jim:

    I was going to leave a sharp note asking if you knew the meaning of “alienate,” as in, “I bet your comments about the Dead really helped to alienate the person who asked for the definition of ’rounder’,” but instead, I will simply add a comment that “rounder” was also once used as a term for railroad engineers (and possibly other railroad workers), as frequently heard in the songs of Jimmie Rodgers, for example, and I don’t care whether you like blue yodeling or not.

  13. Alayna:

    In the song “Rounder’s Spirit” by the bluegrass band The Special Consensus, a man is enticed by the lifestyle of the “rounders”, and as a boy sneaks out to see them gamble in town. He later leaves his home to join them despite warnings from his mother of the consequences of leading such a life. From the lyrics it seems that rounders are habitual gamblers, playing cards and hanging out in bars, which is similar to what you guys have said above. The song is great, here’s the link if you want to check it out:

  14. Lkandell:

    I’m with Casey Jones

  15. Mister T-rev:

    Aw c’mon. I give you credit for at least trying but you cannot call yourself a Dead fan because you bought their albums. Speaking as a head myself, the albums are adequate at best and do the band absolutely no justice. To appreciate the dead you must listen to a recording of their 05/08/77 show at Cornell. That my friend is the Grateful Dead. While I do appreciate the songs from the album “Working Man’s Dead”, not a one of them can you not find a better version of live.

    Give 05/08/77 a listen and you will see what I mean and you will almost certainly puck up that their is most definitely meaning in nearly all their songs. Specifically anything written by Robert Hunter.

    As to Rounders, the reason I ended up on your site was looking for a definition after hearing yet another use of the term in a bluegrass song. My first stop was at a dictionary site (thinking Meriam-Webster but too lazy to hit the back button mid-comment :). They defined Rounder as a person who frequents all the bars in a certain area as in “making the rounds”.

    I like your site though. Keep up the good work and definitely check out that show or do a search for ‘best live dead’ on the inter-webs and enjoy. Stay AWAY from the albums.

  16. Keith:

    You need to go back further. The song is originally by the Memphis Jug Band. Released in the mid 1920’s. They use the word rounder to replace an outdated word that has no use in society.

  17. Alex:

    In the late 19th and early 20th century a “rounder” was a gambling addict. The term was gender neutral.

  18. Doug:

    I just listened to Jimmie Roger’s Blue Yodel number 1, (T for Texas). He sings “I’m gonna shoot that Rounder who stole away my gal.” His gal is Thelma. He’s not too happy with her, either. Rogers performs it on film here:

  19. Chaz:

    I found this page looking for the definition of “rounder” in the context of an old song, “The Ballad of Casey Jones”…..

    Come all you rounders if you want to hear
    the story of a great engineer
    Casey Jones was this rounder’s name
    On a 6-8 wheeler where he won his fame…

    Ref a ballad about the train engineer Casey Jones.


  20. Shankk:

    Heard It In a Love Song
    Never had a damn thing but what I had I had to leave behind.
    You’re the hardest thing I ever tried to get off of my mind.
    Always something greener on the other side of that hill.
    I was born a wrangler and a rounder (not rambler) and I guess I always will.
    Marshall Tucker Band

  21. Bill WOlfe:

    Please, be more respectful and compassionate to our rounder friends!

    “She attended the fun’ral in the hobo jungle
    Long were they lovers though never could they wed
    Drifters and rounders, oooh, and distant friends
    Here I lie without anger or regret
    I’m in no one’s debt.”

    Hobo Jungle, The Band

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