Grateful Dead

The house band of the Acid Tests, the Grateful Dead (initially known as The Warlocks) arose from the folk and jug-band scene in Palo Alto in the early '60s, went electric and never looked back. They found the name "Grateful Dead" in a Funk & Wagnall's dictionary, describing a particular theme of folk ballads in which a kindness done for a recently deceased person is somehow rewarded. From 1965 until lead guitarist Jerry Garcia's death in 1995, they played upwards of 100 live shows a year, none with the same setlist and all notable for the long improvisations that became the band's trademark. Tragedy and turmoil frequently dogged the band -- two keyboardists, Ron "Pigpen" McKernan and Brent Mydland, died of substance-related problems while they were in the band, and piano player Keith Godchaux was killed in a car accident not long after he and wife Donna were fired from the group -- and they'd often go years between albums. They finally hit the big time in 1987 with the surprise success of the single "Touch of Grey," and were still riding that wave when Garcia died. Seven years of chaos, squabbling and solo projects followed, but in February 2003 the surviving members -- Mickey Hart, Bill Kreutzmann, Phil Lesh and Bob Weir -- announced that they were re-forming under the name The Dead.

Written by: Mary Eisenhart


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