Grateful Dead

Biography

Members: Jerry Garcia-Deceased, Bob Weir, Phil Lesh, Mickey Hart, Bill Kreutzmann, Vince Welnick, Ron "Pigpen" McKernan-Deceased, Keith Godchaux-Deceased, Brent Mydland-Deceased

Active: 1965-1995

The Grateful Dead was an American psychedelia-influenced rock band formed in 1965 in San Francisco. The band was known for its unique and eclectic songwriting style which fused elements of rock, folk music, bluegrass, blues, country, and jazz?and for live performances of long modal jams.

Some of the band's fans followed the band from concert to concert for years. These so-called Deadheads were renowned for their dedication to the band's music. Many followers referred to the band simply as The Dead.

The Grateful Dead's career began under the name "The Warlocks" in Palo Alto, California, which was formed from the remnants of a Palo Alto jug band called "Mother McCree's Uptown Jug Champions." But as another band was already recording under the "Warlocks" name (interestingly, it was the future Velvet Underground), the band had to change its name in order to get a recording contract. After meeting their new manager Rock Scully, they moved to the Haight-Ashbury section of San Francisco. Many bands from this area, such as Jefferson Airplane, Big Brother & the Holding Company, and Santana, went on to national fame, giving San Francisco an image as a center for the hippie counterculture of the era. (Also see entry for the San Francisco Sound.) Of these bands, the Grateful Dead had members with arguably the highest level of musicianship, including banjo and guitar player Jerry Garcia, blues musician "Pigpen" McKernan, the classically trained Phil Lesh and drummer Bill Kreutzmann. The Grateful Dead most embodied "all the elements of the San Francisco scene and came, therefore, to represent the counterculture to the rest of the country."

The name "Grateful Dead" was chosen from a dictionary. Some claim it was a Funk & Wagnalls, others , the Bardo Thodol (Tibetan Book Of the Dead) , but according to Phil Lesh, in his biography (pp. 62), "...Jer (Garcia) picked up an old Britannica World Language Dictionary...(and)...In that silvery elf-voice he said to me, 'Hey, man, how about the Grateful Dead?'" The definition there was "A song meant to show a lost soul to the other side".

The Grateful Dead became the de facto resident band of Ken Kesey's Merry Pranksters, with the early sound heavily influenced by Kesey's LSD-soaked Acid Tests, as well as R&B. Their musical influences varied widely with input from the psychedelic music of the era, combined with blues, jazz, rock and roll, and bluegrass. These various influences were distilled into a diverse and psychedelic whole that made the Grateful Dead "the pioneering Godfathers of the jam band world."

TOURING

The Grateful Dead are well-known for their near constant touring throughout their long career in music. They promoted a sense of community among their fans, who became known as Deadheads, many of whom followed their tours for months or years on end. In their early years, the band was also dedicated to their community, the Haight-Ashbury area of San Francisco, making available free food, lodging, music and health care to all comers; they were the "first among equals in giving unselfishly of themselves to hippie culture, performing 'more free concerts than any band in the history of music."

With the exception of 1975, when the band was on "hiatus" and played only four concerts together, the Grateful Dead toured regularly around the USA from the winter of 1965 until July 9, 1995 with a few detours to Canada, Europe and three nights at the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt in 1978. (They also appeared at the legendary Monterey Pop Festival in 1967 and the even more famous Woodstock Festival in 1969; their largest concert audience came in 1973 when they played, along with The Allman Brothers Band and The Band, before an estimated 600,000 people at the Summer Jam at Watkins Glen.)

Their numerous studio albums were generally collections of new songs that had been initially played in concert. The band was famous for its extended jams, which showcased both individual improvisation as well as a distinctive "group-mind" improvisation where each of the band members improvised individually, while still blending together as a cohesive musical unit, often engaging in extended improvisational flights of fancy. A hallmark of their concert sets were continuous sets of music where each song would blend into the next (a segue). Musically this may be illustrated in that the band not only improvised within the form of a song, yet also improvised with the forms.

HISTORY

The Grateful Dead formed during the era when bands like the Beatles and Rolling Stones were dominating the airwaves. Former folk-scene star Bob Dylan had recently put out a couple of records featuring electric instrumentation. Grateful Dead members have said that it was after attending a concert by the touring New York "folk-rock" band The Lovin' Spoonful that they decided to "go electric." Gradually, many of the East-Coast American folk musicians, formerly luminaries of the coffee-house scene, were moving in the electric direction. It was natural for Jerry Garcia and Bob Weir, each of whom had been immersed in the American folk-music revival of the late 1950s and early '60s, to be open-minded toward electric guitars. But the new Dead music was also naturally different from bands like Dylan's or the Spoonful, partly because their fellow musician Phil Lesh came out of a schooled classical and electronic-music background, while Ron "Pigpen" McKernan was a no-nonsense deep blues lover and drummer Bill Kreutzmann had a jazz background. Listening to their first LP (The Grateful Dead, Warner Brothers, 1967), one is also reminded that it was recorded only a few years after the big "surfing music" craze; that California rock-music sound seeped in, to some degree, as well.

The Grateful Dead's early music (in the mid 1960s) was part of the process of establishing what "psychedelic music" was, but theirs was essentially a "street party" form of it. This was natural, because they played psychedelic dances, open-air park events, and closed-street Haight-Ashbury block parties. The Dead were not inclined to fit their music to an established category such as pop rock, blues, folk rock, or country/western. Individual tunes within their repertoire could be identified under one of these stylistic labels, but overall their music drew on all of these genres and more, frequently melding several of them. Often (both in performance and on recording) the Dead left room for exploratory, spacey soundscapes a form of psychedelia that might run the gamut from strange to exotically beautiful. Most connoisseurs believe that the Grateful Dead's true spirit was rarely well captured in studio performance.

The early records reflected the Dead's live repertoire lengthy instrumental jams with guitar solos by Garcia, best exemplified by "Dark Star" but, lacking the energy of the shows, did not sell well. The 1969 live album Live/Dead did capture more of their essence, but commercial success did not come until Workingman's Dead and American Beauty, both released in 1970. These records largely featured the band's laid-back acoustic musicianship and more traditional song structures.

Following Garcia's death in 1995, the remaining members formally decided to disband. Though some of them occasionally toured through the late 1990s under the name "The Other Ones", they mainly chose to pursue various solo projects, most notably Bob Weir's Ratdog, Phil Lesh and Friends and Mickey Hart's music for the 1996 Olympics. The remaining members occasionally got together under the pseudonym Crusader Rabbit Stealth Band during the late 1990s, infrequently playing unannounced shows. The mid-2002 fall tour of The Other Ones, with Bob, Bill, Phil and Mickey, was so successful and satisfying that the band decided the name was no longer appropriate. On February 14, 2003, (as they said) "reflecting the reality that [was]," they renamed themselves The Dead, reflecting the abbreviated form of the band name that fans had long used and keeping "Grateful" retired out of respect for Garcia. The members would continue to tour on and off through the end of their 2004 Summer Tour, the "Wave That Flag" tour, named after a lyric from the song, "U.S. Blues." The band accepted Warren Haynes as their new lead guitarist. Haynes is best known for his work with Gov't Mule and the Allman Brothers Band. Most recently, the Grateful Dead family (sans Lesh, who declined the invitation and instead opted to attend his son's orientation at Stanford) held the "Comes A Time" tribute to Jerry Garcia at the Greek Theater. Lesh's absence led to fan speculation about a schism in the band, which was exacerbated by the highly publicized "Archive.org" music downloading PR debacle, which set tensions high within the community. Although differences of opinion were exhibited publicly by various band members, Lesh helped clear the air about the "state of the band" by saying "A lot of our business disagreements are the result of poor communication from advisors. Bobby is my brother and I love him unconditionally; he is a very generous man, and was unfairly judged regarding the Archive issue." As for the future of the band, Lesh also said "The Dead is a big rusty machine that takes awhile to crank up. I am completely open to doing a Terrapin Station weekend and hopefully we will get it together for this summer."

ALBUMS/SINLES:

1966 - June Don't Ease Me In
1967 - February The Golden Road (To Unlimited Devotion)
1967 - May 17 THE GRATEFUL DEAD
1968 - July 18 ANTHEM OF THE SUN
1968 - October Born Cross-Eyed
1969 - June 20 AOXOMOXOA
1969 - October Dupree's Diamond Blues
1969 - November 10 LIVE/DEAD
1970 - May WORKINGMAN'S DEAD
1970 - August Uncle John's Band
1970 - November AMERICAN BEAUTY
1970 - November VINTAGE DEAD
1971 - January Truckin'
1971 - June HISTORIC DEAD
1971 - October GRATEFUL DEAD
1972 - January Johnny B. Goode (live)
1972 - April One More Saturday Night
1972 - November EUROPE '72
1972 - POP HISTORY
1973 - January Sugar Magnolia (live)
1973 - July WAKE OF THE FLOOD
1973 - July 13 HISTORY OF THE GREATFUL DEAD VOL. 1 - BEAR'S CHOICE
1973 - November Let Me Sing Your Blues Away
1974 - January Eyes of the World
1974 - March SKELETONS FROM THE CLOSET
1974 - June 27 GRATEFUL DEAD FROM THE MARS HOTEL
1974 - August U.S. Blues
1975 - September 1 BLUES FOR ALLAH
1975 - October The Music Never Stopped
1976 - June 26 STEAL YOUR FACE
1977 - July 27 TERRAPIN STATION
1977 - October Dancin' in the Street
1977 - November WHAT A LONG STRANGE TRIP IT'S BEEN: THE BEST OF THE GRATEFUL DEAD
1978 - February Passenger
1978 - November 15 SHAKEDOWN STREET
1978 - December Good Lovin'
1979 - March Shakedown Street
1980 - April 28 GO TO HEAVEN
1980 - June Alabama Getaway
1981 - January Don't Ease Me In
1981 - April 1 RECKONING
1981 - August DEAD SET
1987 - July Touch of Grey
1987 - July IN THE DARK
1987 - November Throwing Stones
1987 - TALK TO THEMSELVES (Interview)
1989 - February DYLAN & THE DEAD
1989 - Slow Train (live)
1989 - October 31 BUILT TO LAST
1989 - November Foolish Heart
1990 - September WITHOUT A NET
1991 - April 15 ONE FROM THE VAULT
1991 - November 1 INFRARED ROSES
1992 - May TWO FROM THE VAULT
1993 - December DICK'S PICKS VOLUME ONE
1994 - January RISEN FROM THE VAULTS
1995 - June DICK'S PICKS VOLUME TWO
1995 - September 26 HUNDRED YEAR HALL
1995 - November 7 DICK'S PICKS VOLUME THREE
1995 - DICK'S PICKS VOLUME FOUR
1996 - October 15 THE ARISTA YEARS
1996 - October 29 DOZIN' AT THE KNICK
1996 - A GLIMPSE OF THE VAULTS
1997 - January 13 SELECTIONS FROM THE ARISTA YEARS 1977-1995
1997 - June 17 FALLOUT FROM THE PHIL ZONE
1997 - DICK'S PICKS VOLUME FIVE
1997 - DICK'S PICKS VOLUME SIX
1997 - DICK'S PICKS VOLUME SEVEN
1997 - DICK'S PICKS VOLUME EIGHT
1997 - DICK'S PICKS VOLUME NINE
1997 - DICK'S PICKS VOLUME TEN
1997 - DICK'S PICKS VOLUME ELEVEN
1997 - DICK'S PICKS VOLUME TWELVE
1997 - TERRAPIN STATION, CAPITAL CENTRE, LANDOVER, MD 3/15/90
1999 - March DICK'S PICKS VOLUME THIRTEEN
1999 - DICK'S PICKS VOLUME FOURTEEN
1999 - DICK'S PICKS VOLUME FIFTEEN
1999 - September 21 TROUBLE AHEAD, TROUBLE BEHIND: THE DEAD LIVE IN CONCERT 1971
1999 - November SO MANY ROADS (1965-1995)
2000 - March 7 DICK'S PICKS VOLUME SIXTEEN
2000 - August 29 MAXIMUM DEAD
2000 - October 10 LADIES AND GENTLEMAN... THE GRATEFUL DEAD: FILLMORE EAST, NEW YORK, APRIL 1971
2000 - DICK'S PICKS VOLUME SEVENTEEN
2000 - DICK'S PICKS VOLUME EIGHTEEN
2000 - DICK'S PICKS VOLUME NINETEEN
2001 - DICK'S PICKS VOLUME TWENTY
2001 - DICK'S PICKS VOLUME TWENTY-ONE
2001 - December 5 DICK'S PICKS VOLUME TWENTY-TWO
2001 - DICK'S PICKS VOLUME TWENTY-THREE
2001 - NIGHTFALL OF DIAMONDS
2002 - GO TO NASSAU
2002 - POSTCARDS OF THE HANGING
2002 - STEPPIN' OUT WITH THE GRATEFUL DEAD, ENGLAND '72
2003 - March 25 BIRTH OF THE DEAD
2003 - December 16 THE CLOSING OF WINTERLAND, DECEMBER 31, 1978
2004 - May 25 ROCKIN' THE RHEIN WITH THE GRATEFUL DEAD
2004 - October 26 BEYOND DESCRIPTION (1973-1989)
2005 - March 15 THE GRATEFUL DEAD MOVIE SOUNDTRACK
2005 - July 12 TRUCKIN' UP TO BUFFALO, JULY 4TH, 1989

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