And I thought I had trouble finding where to begin yesterday talking about ABBA. It was child’s play compared to having to discuss the Grateful Dead. This is an extremely complex band, but it is tough because they are also a cultural phenomenon. My first memories of the Dead were in the late 60s through my older brother who was a big fan. He ran away from our home on the East Coast in 1967 to be a part of the Summer of Love in Haight-Ashbury in San Francisco. He undoubtedly heard them play many times in Golden Gate Park in those days. He would come home to visit and bring his love for the Dead with him. I was so into music at a young age that it was infectious to me. It didn’t take long for me to see a picture of them or a film clip and then it struck me. They had two drummers! I had never seen a band with two drummers and it fascinated me.
In 1977, the Grateful Dead Movie came out and was showing at a theater nearby. A bunch of us got high and went to see it at a midnight showing. It opened with a seven minute cartoon that, in our stoned state, mesmerized us. In it, a skeleton dressed as Uncle Same rode a motorcycle through all sorts of psychedelic imagery. The Dead was it… They were cool, but I never became the fanatical follower that many of my friends did. I never became a total Deadhead.
When I was in college, my best friend Kerry sublet the basement of the house she rented to Deadheads. They traveled in their VW bus and followed the band from city to city. They seldom had their rent money, but they could always afford pot and they had a pair of microphones that were a thousand dollars apiece, just to record the Dead. They had a library of hundreds of tapes with just cities and dates written on the covers.
The Grateful Dead formed out of the remnants of Mother McCree’s Uptown Jug Champions, a Palo Alto band, in 1965. They were originally called the Warlocks but by the end of 1965, had changed their name to the Grateful Dead. Their first appearance under that name was at one of Ken Kesey’s Acid Tests in December of that year. They came out with their first album in 1967 and continued with a steady career until Jerry Garcia’s death forced them to disband in 1995. In 1969 they played the Woodstock Festival in Bethel, New York.
Tonight my set is dedicated to the Grateful Dead and I will play many of their greatest songs, and maybe a few rarer or unusual gems. Look forward to seeing you there.