Grateful Dead



The Grateful Dead were 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, jazz, psychedelia, and gospel—and for live performances of long modal jams.

The Grateful Dead's fans, some of whom followed the band from concert to concert for years, were known as Deadheads and were renowned for their dedication to the band's music. Many followers referred to the band simply as The Dead.

The Grateful Dead became the de facto resident band of Ken Kesey's Merry Pranksters, with the early sound heavily influenced by LSD-soaked Acid Tests, as well as R&B. Their musical influences varied widely with input from the psychedelic rock 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."

Lead guitarist Jerry Garcia was the de facto bandleader; however, although he was often seen both by the public and the media as 'leader' or a primary spokesperson for the Grateful Dead, he was reluctant to be seen that way, especially since Garcia and the other group members saw themselves as equal participants and contributors to their collective musical and creative output. Jerry, a native of San Francisco, grew up in the Excelsior District. One of his main influences was bluegrass music, and Garcia also performed—on banjo, his other great instrumental love—in the bluegrass band Old and in the Way with mandolinist David Grisman. Classically trained trumpeter Phil Lesh played bass guitar. Bob Weir, the youngest original member of the group, played rhythm guitar. Ron "Pigpen" McKernan played keyboards, harmonica and was also a group vocalist until shortly before his death in 1973 at the age of 27. All of the previously mentioned Grateful Dead members shared in vocal performance of songs. Bill Kreutzmann played drums, and in 1967 was joined by a second drummer, New York native Mickey Hart, who also played a wide variety of other percussion instruments. Hart quit the Grateful Dead in 1971, embarrassed by the financial misdealings of his father, Dead money manager Lenny Hart, and leaving Kreutzmann once again as the sole percussionist. Hart rejoined the Dead for good in 1975. Tom "TC" Constanten was added as a second keyboardist from 1968 to 1970, while Pigpen also played various percussion instruments and sang. After Constanten's departure, Pigpen reclaimed his position as sole organist. Less than two years later, in late 1971, Pigpen was joined by another keyboardist, Keith Godchaux, who played grand piano alongside Pigpen's Hammond B-3 organ. In early 1972, Keith's wife, Donna Godchaux, joined the Dead as a backing vocalist. Keith and Donna left the band in 1979, and Brent Mydland joined as keyboardist and vocalist. Keith Godchaux died in a car accident in 1980. Brent Mydland was the keyboardist for the Dead for 11 years until his death in 1990. He became the third Dead keyboardist to die. Almost immediately, former The Tubes keyboardist Vince Welnick joined on keyboards and vocals. For a year and a half, Welnick was often joined by special guest Bruce Hornsby on piano; Welnick died on June 2, 2006, reportedly a suicide. Robert Hunter and John Perry Barlow were the band's primary lyricists. Owsley "Bear" Stanley was the Grateful Dead's soundman for many years; he was also one of the largest suppliers of LSD.

The Grateful Dead are well-known for constantly touring throughout their long career. 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 career, the band also dedicated their time and talents 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'.

The Dead also toured with Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters as the house band for the Acid Tests, where Neal Cassady, from "On The Road" fame, served as the "Furthur" bus driver.

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 they had first played in concert. The band was also famous for its extended jams, which featured both individual improvisation as well as a distinctive "group-mind" improvisations during which each of the band members improvised individually, while still blending together as a cohesive musical unit. Their concert sets often blended songs, one into the next (a segue). The Grateful Dead pioneered this techique several years before the Beatles and Moody Blues introduced it to a broader audience.

The Wall of Sound was an enormous sound system designed specifically for the Grateful Dead. The band was never satisfied with the house system anywhere they played, so in their early days, soundman Owsley "Bear" Stanley designed a PA and monitor system for them. Stanley's sound systems were delicate and finicky, and frequently brought shows to a halt with technical breakdowns. After Stanley went to jail for manufacturing LSD in 1970, the group briefly used house PAs, but found them to be less reliable than those built by their former soundman. In 1971, the band purchased their first solid sound system from Alembic Inc Studios. Because of this, Alembic would play an integral role in the research, development, and production of the Wall of Sound. The band also welcomed Dan Healy into the fold on a permanent basis that year; Healy was a superior engineer to Stanley and would mix the Grateful Dead's live sound until 1993.

The Wall of Sound fulfilled the band's desire for a distortion-free sound system that could also serve as its own monitoring system. After Owsley Stanley got out of prison in late 1972, he, Dan Healy and Mark Raizene of the Grateful Dead's sound crew, in colaboration with Ron Wickersham, Rick Turner, and John Curl of Alembic Inc combined eleven separate sound systems in an effort to deliver high-quality sound to live audiences. Vocals, lead guitar, rhythm guitar, and piano each had their own channel and set of speakers. They piped Phil Lesh's bass through quadraphonic encoder that sent signals from each of the four strings to its own channel and set of speakers. Another channel amplified the bass drum, and two more channels carried the snares, tom-toms, and cymbals. Because each speaker carried just one instrument or vocalist, the sound was exceptionally clear and free of intramodular distortion.

Moreover, the Dead's Wall of Sound acted as its own monitor system, and it was therefore assembled behind the band so the members could hear exactly what their audience was hearing. Because of this, Owsely designed a special microphone system to prevent feedback. This placed matched pairs of condenser microphones spaced 60 mm apart and run out-of-phase. The vocalist sang into the top microphone, and the lower mic picked up whatever other sound was present in the stage environment. The signals were summed, the sound that was common to both mics (the sound from the Wall) was cancelled, and only the vocals were amplified.

The Wall of Sound consisted of 89 300-watt solid-state and three 350-watt vacuum-tube amplifiers generating a total of 26,400 watts RMS of audio power. This systems projected high quality playback at six hundred feet with an acceptable sound projected for a quarter mile. at which point wind interference degraded it. The Wall of Sound was the largest portable sound system ever built (although "portable" is a relative term). Four semi-trailers and 21 crew members were required to haul and set up the 75-ton Wall.

Though the initial framework and a rudimentary form of the system was unveiled in February 1973 (ominously, every speaker tweeter blew as the band began their first number), the Grateful Dead did not begin to tour with the full system until a year later in 1974. The Wall of Sound was very efficient for its day, but it suffered from other drawbacks besides its sheer size. Synthesist Ned Lagin, who toured with the group throughout much of 1974, never received his own dedicated input into the system, and was forced to use the vocal subsystem. Because this was often switched to the vocal mikes, many of Lagin's parts were lost in the mix. The Wall's quadraphonic format never translated well to soundboard tapes made during the period, as the sound was compressed into an unnatural stereo format and suffers from a pronounced tinniness.

The rising cost of fuel and personnel, as well as friction among many of the newer crew members (and associated hangers-on), contributed to the band's 1974 "retirement." The Wall of Sound was disassembled, and when the Dead began touring again in 1976, it was with a more logistically practical sound system.

Fans of the band are commonly referred to as Dead Heads. While the origin of the term may be shrouded in haze, Dead Heads was made canon by the legendary notice inside the Skull and Roses album:

"DEAD FREAKS UNITE

Who are you? Where are you?
How are you?
send us your name and address
and we'll keep you informed
Dead Heads
PO Box...".

The Dead Heads formed a huge extended family. Many of the Dead Heads would go on tour with the band. As a group the Dead Heads were considered very mellow. "I'd rather work nine Grateful Dead concerts than one Oregon football game," Police Det. Rick Raynor said. "They don't get belligerent like they do at the games".

In 1987, the band finally scored a top 10 hit with the song "Touch of Grey" (from In the Dark), which garnered a new set of fans from the mainstream rock audience. This caused a bit of culture shock between some of the old and new fans, when the peaceful hippie counterculture met the boisterous '80s rockers. However the use of the term "Touch Head", for the newcomers, was short lived, as old and new "just listened to the music play".

The Grateful Dead allowed their fans to tape their shows like several other bands during the time. For many years the tapers set up their microphones wherever they could. Naturally the best sound was in front of the sound board. The eventual forest of microphones became a problem for the official sound crew. Eventually this was solved by having a dedicated taping section located behind the soundboard, which required a special "tapers" ticket. The band allowed sharing of tapes of their shows, as long as no profits were made on the sale of their show tapes. Recently, there was some dispute over what recordings archive.org could host on their site.

Grateful Dead Band Members (By Year) (1965-1967)

* Jerry Garcia - guitar, vocals
* Bob Weir - guitar, vocals
* Ron "Pigpen" McKernan - keyboards, harmonica, vocals, percussion
* Phil Lesh - bass guitar, vocals
* Bill Kreutzmann - drums

(1967-1968)

* Jerry Garcia - guitar, vocals
* Bob Weir - guitar, vocals
* Ron "Pigpen" McKernan - keyboards, harmonica, vocals, percussion
* Phil Lesh - bass guitar, vocals
* Bill Kreutzmann - drums
* Mickey Hart - drums

(1968-1970)

* Jerry Garcia - guitar, vocals
* Bob Weir - guitar, vocals
* Ron "Pigpen" McKernan - keyboards, harmonica, vocals, percussion
* Tom Constanten - keyboards
* Phil Lesh - bass guitar, vocals
* Bill Kreutzmann - drums
* Mickey Hart - drums

(1970-1971)

* Jerry Garcia - guitar, vocals
* Bob Weir - guitar, vocals
* Ron "Pigpen" McKernan - keyboards, harmonica, vocals, percussion
* Phil Lesh - bass guitar, vocals
* Bill Kreutzmann - drums
* Mickey Hart - drums

(1971)

* Jerry Garcia - guitar, vocals
* Bob Weir - guitar, vocals
* Ron "Pigpen" McKernan - keyboards, harmonica, vocals, percussion
* Phil Lesh - bass guitar, vocals
* Bill Kreutzmann - drums

(1971-1972)

* Jerry Garcia - guitar, vocals
* Bob Weir - guitar, vocals
* Ron "Pigpen" McKernan - keyboards, harmonica, vocals, percussion
* Keith Godchaux - keyboards
* Phil Lesh - bass guitar, vocals
* Bill Kreutzmann - drums

(1972)

* Jerry Garcia - guitar, vocals
* Bob Weir - guitar, vocals
* Ron "Pigpen" McKernan - keyboards, harmonica, vocals, percussion
* Keith Godchaux - keyboards
* Donna Jean Godchaux - vocals
* Phil Lesh - bass guitar, vocals
* Bill Kreutzmann - drums

(1972-1974)

* Jerry Garcia - guitar, vocals
* Bob Weir - guitar, vocals
* Keith Godchaux - keyboards
* Donna Jean Godchaux - vocals
* Phil Lesh - bass guitar, vocals
* Bill Kreutzmann - drums

(1975-1979)

* Jerry Garcia - guitar, vocals
* Bob Weir - guitar, vocals
* Keith Godchaux - keyboards
* Donna Jean Godchaux - vocals
* Phil Lesh - bass guitar, vocals
* Bill Kreutzmann - drums
* Mickey Hart - drums

(1979-1990)

* Jerry Garcia - guitar, vocals
* Bob Weir - guitar, vocals
* Brent Mydland - keyboards, vocals
* Phil Lesh - bass guitar, vocals
* Bill Kreutzmann - drums
* Mickey Hart - drums

(1990-1995)

* Jerry Garcia - guitar, vocals
* Bob Weir - guitar, vocals
* Vince Welnick - keyboards, vocals
* Phil Lesh - bass guitar, vocals
* Bill Kreutzmann - drums
* Mickey Hart - drums

The Grateful Dead began their career in Palo Alto, California, playing live shows at Kepler's Books.

They began as "The Warlocks", a group 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 (probably not the New York Band Velvet Underground, but instead a band whose guitarist would eventually form ZZ Top), 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 Ron "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 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 "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.

As the band, and its sound, matured over thirty years of touring, playing, and recording, each member's stylistic contribution became more defined and 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, Hart and Kreutzman, developed a unique, complex interplay, balancing Hart's cleaner, more structured drumming with Kreutzman's interest in jazz and swing percussion. Garcia's lead lines were fluid, supple and spare, owing a great deal of their character to his training in fingerpicking and banjo. The overall effect was of an extraordinarily complex, interlocked group of individual instruments, which, at its best, had three or four simultaneous melodies rather than one.

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.

Garcia's early life was profoundly affected by a series of tragedies. As a small boy, he witnessed his father's death by drowning in a freak accident while fishing in the Russian River. Later, in another accident, the middle finger on 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 and talented friend. Garcia narrowly escaped being killed himself.

This series of losses, coupled with the impact of psychedelic drugs and tremendous fame, gave Garcia's personality a unique, double-edged kind of rootlessness. At its best, this perspective resulted in a willingness to experiment musically that led to an improvisational style and an emotional perspective that made his music both wildly inventive melodically and brutally insightful lyrically. At its worst, particularly later in Garcia's life, the emotional pain of these early experiences propelled him into cathartic, self-destructive behavior that ultimately contributed to his untimely death.

The name "Grateful Dead" was chosen from the 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."

Following Garcia's death in August of 1995, the remaining members formally decided to disband. In June 1996 Bob Weir (with Ratdog) and Mickey Hart (with Mickey Hart's Mystery Box) joined six other bands and toured as the Further Festival. In 1998's Further Festival, the two were joined by the remaining members of the band to form The Other Ones. "The Strange Remain" is a live recording of The Other Ones during the 1998 Further Festival.

The main focus of the members was 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 the original 1973 uptempo version of the song "U.S. Blues." The band accepted Jeff Chimenti on keyboards, Warren Haynes on guitar and vocals and Jimmy Herring, also on guitar, as part of the band for the tour. 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." Unknown at present is whether such a "Dead" gathering will occur in 2006. In early May 2006 Lesh announced plans for a 24 date summer tour with a yet-to-be announced band lineup billed again as Phil Lesh & Friends. The tour begins with Tennessee's Bonnaroo festival on June 18.Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, with no Front-Cover Texts, and with no Back-Cover Texts.
Virtual Magic is a human knowledge database blog. Text Based On Information From Wikipedia, Under The GNU Free Documentation License. Copyright (c) 2007 Virtual Magic. Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.1 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, no Front-Cover Texts and no Back-Cover Texts. A copy of the license is included in the section entitled "GNU Free Documentation License".

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