The Grateful Dead
The Grateful Dead was an American rock band formed in 1965 in the San Francisco Bay Area. The band was known for its unique and eclectic style, which fused elements of rock, folk, bluegrass, blues, reggae, country, jazz, psychedelia, space rock and gospel—and for live performances of long musical improvisation. "Their music," writes Lenny Kaye, "touches on ground that most other groups don't even know exists."
The fans of the Grateful Dead, some of whom followed the band from concert to concert for years, are known as "Deadheads"; they are renowned for their dedication to the band's music. Many fans referred to the band simply as "the Dead". As of 2003, the remaining band members who had been touring under the name "The Other Ones" changed their official group name to "The Dead". Deadheads continue to use that nickname to refer to all versions of the band.
The Grateful Dead's musical influences varied widely; in concert recordings or on record albums one can hear psychedelic rock, blues, rock and roll, country-western, bluegrass, country-rock, and improvisational jazz. These various influences were distilled into a diverse and psychedelic whole that made the Grateful Dead "the pioneering Godfathers of the jam band world."
The Grateful Dead began their career in Menlo Park, California, playing live shows at Kepler's Books.
They began as ‘The Warlocks’, a group formed in early 1964 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, the band had to change its name. The Warlocks were originally managed by Hank Harrison, but Harrison went back to graduate school. After meeting their new manager Rock Scully, they moved to the Haight-Ashbury section of San Francisco. Bands from this area became known for the San Francisco Sound; groups such as Jefferson Airplane, Quicksilver Messenger Service, 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. The founding members of the Grateful Dead were: banjo and guitar player Jerry Garcia, guitarist Bob Weir, bluesman organist Ron "Pigpen" McKernan, the classically trained Phil Lesh and jazzist drummer Bill Kreutzmann. Lesh was the last member to join the Warlocks before they became the Grateful Dead, he replaced Dana Morgan Jr. whom had played bass for a few gigs. 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".
Choosing a name
The name Grateful Dead was chosen from a dictionary. According to Phil Lesh, in his biography (pp. 62), "...Jer[ry 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 "the soul of a dead person, or his angel, showing gratitude to someone who, as an act of charity, arranged their burial." According to Alan Trist, director of the Grateful Dead's music publisher company Ice Nine, Garcia found the name in the Funk & Wagnalls Folklore Dictionary, when his finger landed on that phrase while playing a game of "dictionary". In the Garcia biography, Captain Trips, author Sandy Troy states that the band was smoking the psychedelic DMT at the time. The term "Grateful Dead" appears in folktales of a variety of cultures.
A new type of sound
The Grateful Dead formed during the era when bands like The Beatles and The 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 City "folk-rock" band The Lovin' Spoonful that they decided to "go electric" and look for a dirtier sound. 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 Pigpen was a no-nonsense deep blues lover and drummer Bill Kreutzmann had a jazz and R&B background. For comparison purposes, their first LP (The Grateful Dead, Warner Brothers, 1967), was released in the same year that Pink Floyd released Piper at the Gates of Dawn and the Beatles released Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.
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. They developed their "psychedelic" playing out of meeting Ken Kesey in Palo Alto, CA and subsequently becoming the house band to the Acid Tests he staged. After relocating to the Haight-Ashbury section of San Francisco, their "street party" form developed out of the many psychedelic dances, open-air park events, and closed-street Haight-Ashbury block parties at which they played. 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. It was doubtless with this in mind that Bill Graham said of the Grateful Dead, "They're not the best at what they do, they're the only ones that do what they do." Often (both in performance and on recording) the Dead left room for exploratory, spacey soundscapes.
Their live shows, fed by their improvisational approach to music, made the Grateful Dead different from most other touring bands. While most rock and roll bands rehearse a standard show for their tours that gets played night after night, city after city, the Grateful Dead never did. As Garcia stated in an 1966 interview, "We don't make up our sets beforehand. We'd rather work off the tops of our heads than off a piece of paper." They would maintain this operating ethic throughout their existence. For a given night's show, the band drew their material from an active list of a hundred or so songs. The band's varied song selection, combined with the improvisational nature of their playing, meant that no two Grateful Dead concerts were exactly the same.
The early records reflected the Dead's live repertoire—lengthy instrumental jams with group improvisation, 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.
The year 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 in the French Quarter, and arrested and charged a total of 19 people with possession of various drugs. The second night's concert was performed as scheduled after bail was posted. Eventually the charges were dismissed, with the exception of 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.
As the band, and its sound, matured over thirty years of touring, playing, and recording, each member's stylistic contribution became more defined, consistent, and identifiable. Lesh, who was originally a classically-trained trumpet player with an extensive background in music theory, did not tend to play traditional blues-based bass forms, but opted for more melodic, symphonic and complex lines, often sounding like a second lead guitar. Weir, too, was not a traditional rhythm guitarist, but tended to play jazz-influenced, unique inversions at the upper end of the Dead's sound. The two drummers, Mickey Hart and Kreutzmann, developed a unique, complex interplay, balancing Kreutzmann's steady beat with Hart's interest in percussion styles outside the rock tradition. Hart incorporated an 11-count measure to his drumming, bringing a new dimension to the band's sound that became an important part of its emerging style. Garcia's lead lines were fluid, supple and spare, owing a great deal of their character to his training in fingerpicking and banjo.
The band's primary lyricists, Robert Hunter and John Perry Barlow, commonly used themes involving love and loss, life and death, gambling and murder, beauty and horror, chaos and order, God and other religious themes, travelling and touring, etc. Less frequent ideas include the environment and issues from the world of politics.
Although he intensely disliked the appellation, Jerry Garcia was the band's de facto musical leader and the source of its identity. Garcia was a charismatic, complex figure, simultaneously writing and playing music of enormous emotional resonance and insight while leading a personal life that often consisted of various forms of self-destructive excess, including well-known drug addictions, obesity, tremendous financial recklessness, and three complex, volatile, often unhappy marriages. What is less well known about Garcia was the fact that he suffered for most of his life from a condition called sleep apnea. His sleep apnea was apparently diagnosed before he died, but it is unlikely that he ever took any steps to treat it. That his case might have been relatively severe may be surmised by the comments of his bandmate, Phil Lesh. In Lesh's book, Searching for the Sound, My Life with the Grateful Dead, Lesh relates how he and others were impressed with Garcia's loud and widely fluctuating snoring.
Garcia's early life was profoundly affected by a series of tragedies. As a small boy, at the age of five, he witnessed his father's death by drowning in a freak accident while fishing in the Russian River. Earlier, at the age of four, the middle finger of his right hand was accidentally amputated by his brother while the two boys were splitting kindling. Finally, as a young man, he was involved in a horrendous car accident which resulted in the death of a close friend.
Dissolution and continuation of the band
Following Garcia's death in August 1995, the remaining members formally decided to disband. The main focus of the members was to pursue various solo projects, most notably Bob Weir's RatDog, Phil Lesh and Friends, and various projects by Mickey Hart, including music for the 1996 Olympics.
In June 1996 Bob Weir (with RatDog) and Mickey Hart (with Mickey Hart's Mystery Box), along with Bruce Hornsby and his band, joined five other bands and toured as the Furthur Festival. In 1998's Furthur Festival, Weir, Hart, and Bruce Hornsby were joined by Phil Lesh to form a new band called The Other Ones. The Strange Remain is a live recording of The Other Ones during the 1998 Furthur Festival. The lineup of The Other Ones would shift, notably involving the addition of Bill Kreutzmann, the departure, then return, of Lesh, and the departure of Bruce Hornsby to pursue his solo work; however, the band settled on a steady lineup by 2002.
Phil, Bobby, and Donna Godchaux sang the National Anthem at the last Giants game ever at Candlestick Park on September 30, 1999 (against the Dodgers). According to The San Francisco Chronicle's Ron Kroichick, these former members of "the Grateful Dead performed the anthem with dispatch, taking 1 minute and 27 seconds. Jerry Garcia would have been proud." Bobby and Donna walked off arm-in-arm as Shakedown Street was played over the PA system.
The tour of The Other Ones in 2002 began with two huge shows at celebrated Alpine Valley and continued with a late October return to Shoreline Amphitheatre and an ensuing full Autumn and Winter tour culminating in a New Years Eve show in Oakland where the band played Dark Star among other fan favorites. The tour that included 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 the original 1973 uptempo version of the song "U.S. Blues." The band accepted Jeff Chimenti on keyboards, Jimmy Herring on guitar, and Warren Haynes on guitar and vocals as part of the band for the tour.
In 2004, Rolling Stone ranked the Grateful Dead #55 on their list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time.
On September 24, 2005, the Rex Foundation of the Grateful Dead family, sans Phil 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. Phil 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, Phil 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." In early May 2006 Phil Lesh announced plans for a 24 date summer tour with a band billed again as Phil Lesh & Friends. The tour began with Tennessee's Bonnaroo festival on June 18.
On August 19, 2006, Bob Weir, Donna Jean Godchaux, Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzmann, played together at the Gathering of the Vibes during the Rhythm Devils set.
On January 4, 2007 Bob Weir, Bill Kreutzmann and Mickey Hart reunited along with Bruce Hornsby, Mike Gordon (of Phish and the Rhythm Devils) and Warren Haynes to play two sets at a post-inauguration fundraising party for speaker of the house Nancy Pelosi. They were billed as "Your House Band" and performed some Grateful Dead classics such as "Truckin'" and "Touch of Grey". Other performers appearing at the event included Tony Bennett, Wyclef Jean and Carole King.
On February 10, 2007, the Grateful Dead received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. The award was accepted on behalf of the band by Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzmann.
On February 4, 2008, Mickey Hart, Phil Lesh, and Bob Weir, joined by John Molo, Steve Molitz, Mark Karan, Barry Sless, and Jackie Greene, performed a show entitled "Deadheads for Obama" at the Warfield in San Francisco, in support of Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama.
Hart, Lesh, and Weir reunited again in support of the Obama presidential campaign, this time joined by Bill Kreutzmann, on October 13, 2008, in the Bryce Jordan Center at Penn State University, performing a show entitled "Change Rocks". Warren Haynes provided guitar and vocal support for the reunion, and Jeff Chimenti played keyboards.
On January 1, 2009, the Dead announced a 2009 spring tour schedule. The lineup of the band will be: Bob Weir, Phil Lesh, Bill Kreutzmann, Mickey Hart, Warren Haynes, and Jeff Chimenti.
Members of the Dead still actively tour with their own bands — Bob Weir and RatDog, Phil Lesh and Friends, the Mickey Hart Band, and Donna Jean and the Tricksters. Bill Kreutzmann toured the eastern U.S. in 2008 with Oteil Burbridge and Scott Murawski, and Tom Constanten often sits in with various bands. .... Source ....