Backstage with Marin’s Iconic band ‘Grateful Dead’

No Lies Radio Music – By Teri Perticone – Sat August 10, 2019

The Grateful Dead was an American rock band formed in 1965 in Palo Alto, California.[1][2] Ranging from quintet to septet, the band is known for its unique and eclectic style, which fused elements of rock, psychedelia, experimental music, modal jazz, country, folk, bluegrass, blues, gospel reggae, and space rock,[3][4] for live performances of lengthy instrumental jams,[5][6] and for their devoted fan base, known as “Deadheads”. “Their music,” writes Lenny Kaye, “touches on ground that most other groups don’t even know exists.”[7] These various influences were distilled into a diverse and psychedelic whole that made the Grateful Dead “the pioneering Godfathers of the jam band world”.[8] The band was ranked 57th by Rolling Stone magazine in its The Greatest Artists of All Time issue.[9] The band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1994[10] and a recording of their May 8, 1977, performance at Cornell University’s Barton Hall was added to the National Recording Registry of the Library of Congress in 2012.[11] The Grateful Dead have sold more than 35 million albums worldwide.

Nationally, the Grateful Dead are associated with the psychedelic rock that became known as the San Francisco Sound during the Summer of Love in 1967, when band members famously lived together in a handsome old Victorian boarding house at 710 Ashbury Street.

But before and after that iconic year, the Dead were a Marin County band. After a comically ill-conceived plan to conquer the music business in Los Angeles, they came to their senses and found hippie heaven in the golden hills of Marin County in the summer of 1966, living first at Olompali in Novato for six idyllic weeks of flower child freedom and naked country living. Then to “Camp” Lagunitas in 1966 also in Marin.

The Grateful Dead was founded in the San Francisco Bay Area amid the rise of the counterculture of the 1960s.[12][13][14] The founding members were Jerry Garcia (lead guitar, vocals), Bob Weir (rhythm guitar, vocals), Ron “Pigpen” McKernan (keyboards, harmonica, vocals), Phil Lesh (bass, vocals), and Bill Kreutzmann (drums).[15] Members of the Grateful Dead had played together in various San Francisco bands, including Mother McCree’s Uptown Jug Champions and the Warlocks. Lesh was the last member to join the Warlocks before they became the Grateful Dead; he replaced Dana Morgan Jr., who had played bass for a few gigs. Drummer Mickey Hart and nonperforming lyricist Robert Hunter joined in 1967. With the exception of McKernan, who died in 1973, and Hart, who took time off from 1971 to 1974, the core of the band stayed together for its entire 30-year history.[16] The other official members of the band are Tom Constanten (keyboards; 1968–1970), John Perry Barlow (nonperforming lyricist; 1971–1995)[17], Keith Godchaux (keyboards; 1971–1979), Donna Godchaux (vocals; 1972–1979), Brent Mydland (keyboards, vocals; 1979–1990), and Vince Welnick (keyboards, vocals; 1990–1995).[18] Bruce Hornsby (accordion, piano, vocals) was a touring member from 1990 to 1992, as well as a guest with the band on occasion before and after the tours.

After the death of Garcia in 1995, former members of the band, along with other musicians, toured as the Other Ones in 1998, 2000, and 2002, and the Dead in 2003, 2004, and 2009. In 2015, the four surviving core members marked the band’s 50th anniversary in a series of concerts that were billed as their last performances together.[19] There have also been several spin-offs featuring one or more core members, such as Dead & Company, Furthur, the Rhythm Devils, Phil Lesh & Friends, RatDog, and Billy & the Kids.

Main career (1967–1995)

One of the group’s earliest major performances in 1967 was the Mantra-Rock Dance—a musical event held on January 29, 1967, at the Avalon Ballroom by the San Francisco Hare Krishna temple. The Grateful Dead performed at the event along with the Hare Krishna founder Bhaktivedanta Swami, poet Allen Ginsberg, bands Moby Grape and Big Brother and the Holding Company with Janis Joplin, donating proceeds to the Krishna temple.[31][32] The band’s first LP, The Grateful Dead, was released on Warner Brothers in 1967.


The Grateful Dead – Casey Jones (Studio Version)

1970 included tour dates in New Orleans, Louisiana, where the band performed at The Warehouse for two nights. On January 31, 1970, the local police raided their hotel on Bourbon Street, and arrested and charged a total of 19 people with possession of various drugs.[33] The second night’s concert was performed as scheduled after bail was posted. Eventually, the charges were dismissed, except those against sound engineer Owsley Stanley, who was already facing charges in California for manufacturing LSD. This event was later memorialized in the lyrics of the song “Truckin'”, a single from American Beauty which reached number 64 on the charts.


Grateful Dead – Sugaree 1972 (Studio Version)

During the 1980s the band transformed as the talents of Mydland helped power the group. Shortly after Mydland found his place in the early 1980s, Garcia’s health began to decline. His drug habits caused him to lose his liveliness on stage. After beginning to curtail his opiate usage in 1985 gradually, Garcia slipped into a diabetic coma for several days in July 1986. After he recovered, the band released In the Dark in July 1987, which resulted as their best selling studio album release, and also produced their only top-10 chart single, “Touch of Grey”. Also that year, the group toured with Bob Dylan, as documented on the album Dylan & the Dead.


Grateful Dead – Touch Of Grey (Music Video)


The Grateful Dead – Ripple (Studio Version)

Inspired by Garcia’s improved health and a successful album, the band’s energy and chemistry peaked in the late 1980s and 1990. Performances were vigorous, and as a result, every show exceeded its maximum audience capacity. The band’s “high time” came to a sudden halt when Mydland died after the summer tour in 1990. They now had to rebuild; Vince Welnick, former keyboardist for the Tubes, joined as a band member, while Bruce Hornsby, who had a successful career with his band the Range, joined as a touring member. Both performed on keyboards and vocals – Welnick until the band’s end, and Hornsby mainly from 1990 to 1992.


Grateful Dead – So Many Roads – 7/9/95 @ Soldier Field in Chicago, IL. From the last Grateful Dead show. This is maybe the most soulful “So Many Roads” Jerry ever sang.

Aftermath (1995 to present)

Jerry Garcia died in August 1995 and the remaining band members decided to disband.[44] Since that time, there have been a number of reunions by the surviving members involving various combinations of musicians. Additionally, the former members have also begun or continued their individual projects.

In 1998, Bob Weir, Phil Lesh, and Mickey Hart, along with several other musicians, formed a band called the Other Ones, and performed a number of concerts that year, releasing a live album, The Strange Remain, the following year. In 2000, the Other Ones toured again, this time with Kreutzmann but without Lesh. After taking another year off, the band toured again in 2002 with Lesh. That year, the Other Ones then included all four living former Grateful Dead members who had been in the band for most or all of its history. At different times the shifting lineup of the Other Ones also included guitarists Mark Karan, Steve Kimock, and Jimmy Herring, keyboardists Bruce Hornsby, Jeff Chimenti, and Rob Barraco, saxophonist Dave Ellis, drummer John Molo, bassist Alphonso Johnson, and vocalist Susan Tedeschi.[45]

In 2003, the Other Ones, still including Weir, Lesh, Hart, and Kreutzmann, changed their name to the Dead.[46] The Dead toured the United States in 2003, 2004 and 2009. The band’s lineups included Jimmy Herring and Warren Haynes on guitar, Jeff Chimenti and Rob Barraco on keyboards, and Joan Osborne on vocals.[47] In 2008, members of the Dead played two concerts, called “Deadheads for Obama” and “Change Rocks”.

Following the 2009 Dead tour, Lesh and Weir formed the band Furthur, which debuted in September 2009.[48] Joining Lesh and Weir in Furthur were John Kadlecik (guitar), Jeff Chimenti (keyboards), Joe Russo (drums), Jay Lane (drums), Sunshine Becker (vocals), and Zoe Ellis (vocals). Lane and Ellis left the band in 2010, and vocalist Jeff Pehrson joined later that year. Furthur disbanded in 2014.[49]

In 2010, Hart and Kreutzmann re-formed the Rhythm Devils, and played a summer concert tour.[50]

Since 1995, the former members of the Grateful Dead have also pursued solo music careers. Both Bob Weir & RatDog[51][52] and Phil Lesh and Friends[53][54] have performed many concerts and released several albums. Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzmann have also each released a few albums. Hart has toured with his world music percussion ensemble Planet Drum[55] as well as the Mickey Hart Band.[56] Kreutzmann has led several different bands, including BK3,[57] 7 Walkers (with Papa Mali),[58] and Billy & the Kids.[59] Donna Godchaux has returned to the music scene, with the Donna Jean Godchaux Band,[60] and Tom Constanten also continues to write and perform music.[61] All of these groups continue to play Grateful Dead music.

In October 2014, it was announced that Martin Scorsese will produce a documentary film about the Grateful Dead, to be directed by Amir Bar-Lev. David Lemieux will supervise the musical selection, and Weir, Hart, Kreutzmann and Lesh have agreed to new interviews for the film.[62] Bar-Lev’s four-hour documentary, titled Long Strange Trip, was released in 2017.[63][64]

“Fare Thee Well”

In 2015, Weir, Lesh, Kreutzmann, and Hart reunited for five concerts called “Fare Thee Well: Celebrating 50 Years of the Grateful Dead”.[65] The shows were performed on June 27 and 28 at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California, and on July 3, 4 and 5 at Soldier Field in Chicago, Illinois.[65][66] The band stated that this would be the final time that Weir, Lesh, Hart, and Kreutzmann would perform together.[67] They were joined by Trey Anastasio of Phish on guitar, Jeff Chimenti on keyboards, and Bruce Hornsby on piano.[68][69] Demand for tickets was very high.[70][71] The concerts were simulcast via various media.[72][73] The Chicago shows have been released as a box set of CDs and DVDs.[74]

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