The Grateful Dead

I have chosen to do my report on the Grateful Dead. They were a rock and
roll band from the sixties that stayed popular and still influenced rock and
roll until 1995 when the lead singer, Jerry Garcia, died and the band dissolved.

The Dead remained popular for so long because of the style of their live
concerts that made people keep coming back. In 1959 when Jerry Garcia was thrown
out of the army, he picked up his guitar and started playing music with his
friend Robert Hunter. Robert Hunter would later become the Grateful Dead’s non-
performing song writer. Robert and Jerry lived in San Francisco, California.

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On one New Year’s Eve party, Garcia and Hunter met Ron “The Pig Pen” McKerman,
who played harmonica, keyboard and was also a vocalist. Pig Pen was the janitor
at the music shop where Jerry gave banjo lessons. During the concert of that
night, they also met guitarist Bob Weir and together they formed a band called
Mother McCree’s Uptown Jug Champions. A few weeks later Bob Matthews,who later
became a part of the Grateful Dead electronics and recording family,joined the
group along with John “marmaduke” Dawson,who later joined the New Riders of the
Purple Sage. Work was scarce for the Jug Champions until Dana Morgan, owner at
the store where Jerry taught banjo and Pig Pen worked,provided the money and
equipment for them to become electric. After they had become electric they
renamed the group the Warlocks. Dawson and Matthews were soon to leave and they
were replaced by drummer Bill Sommers (Krentemann) and Phil Lesh, who was a
trumpet player who learned to play bass guitar in a very amazing two weeks just
to get the spot. This completes the now familiar Dead line up. The Warlocks
played their first concert in July 1965 and they played pretty straight rock and
roll music until the “acid tests.” In early 1965 a state hospital in the Palo
Alto area was conducting experiments with hallucinogenic drugs. This was still
legal at the time. Robbert Hunter and others volunteered to try them. Before
long the whole music group was participating in “acid tests” and their music
became more diffused, the numbers stretched out and the volume turned up. Jerry
Garcia became known as “Captain Trips” and they played at the Ken Kesey
organized trips festival. In February 1966 the Warlocks had to change their
name due to threats by an older group with the same name. Legend has it,
according to ,”during a acid trip Garcia opened a dictionary and pointed to the
word “grateful” on one page and the word “dead” on another”, and the Grateful
Dead were born.

In June of 1966 the Grateful Dead moved to 710 Haight – Ashbury district
of San Francisco, California. This was the center of the counter culture that
is known by many as “Hippie”. The group was about to explode in a blaze of
publicity. The Dead were playing for free at parks and a place called the
Family Dog. Jerry Garcia was the group’s guru figure despite his denials.

After a while, word started to spread about the Grateful Dead and their
incredible sound. By 1967, the summer of love, they were regulars at the Avalon
and Carousel Ballrooms and the Filmore West. In 1969 the Dead packed their bags
and headed to Woodstock, New York. This outdoor concert would go down in history
as the largest outdoor rock concert. On August 16, 1969, the Grateful Dead,
along with many famous rock and roll groups, played in front of thousands of
people. From 1965 and on,there has been over 3,000 Grateful Dead concerts, that
range from San Francisco to the pyramids in Egypt. After each of them, at least
one more person became obsessed with the band and became part of the group known
as the “deadheads”. According to the Dead heads “there is nothing like a
Grateful Dead concert”. The Grateful Dead have many fans that follow them from
concert to concert; these fans are called deadheads. These fans thrive off of
the Grateful Dead’s live performances. The deadheads would almost do anything to
get a ticket to a dead show. A typical deadhead would go to 25 or more shows a
year. Dead fans are so loyal, “They would come under water, from Utah, backwards,
to stand in line to see them play”. Many people say that if it was not for
Grateful Dead live shows the dead would still not be popular today. In 1972 the
Grateful Dead went on a European tour. They played in England, Denmark, West
Germany, France, The Neatherlands, and to end their tour they went back to
London, England. The Grateful Dead put out a live album of their tour called
Europe ’72. On this tour the dead picked up many new European followers and
there were many deadheads that came from the U.S.A to watch their favorite band
live in Europe. Just before the tour was about to begin, Pigpen, the group’s
harmonica and keyboard player, became seriously ill. He was replaced for awhile
by Keith Godchaux. Keith played with the Dead in Europe and at the end of 1972,
Pigpen died of a liver ailment. After Pigpen’s death, Keith Godchaux took his
place as the group’s harmonica, keyboard, and part time vocalist. Even after
his death the Dead still played live performances and produced albums. After
the group had this enormous loss the Dead fans stuck through the hard times and
continued to be the best fans a group could have. There are many age variations
in Deadheads. Some of the Deadheads may be as old as 60 and some may be as
young as 10. The Grateful Dead have seen many generations of people. In some
cases the grandfather of a family may have been a deadhead and now his grandson
is one, too. The Dead have managed to outlast most of their competitors by
attracting these Deadhead fans know as Deadheads. Although many critics have
labeld these fans as burnt-out hippies, the Grateful Dead are still alive in the
1990’s and playing their beloved songs. On August 10, 1995 at 4:23 a.m. a nurse
walked into the room that Jerry Garcia was staying in at a drug rehabilitation
center 60 miles North of San Francisco. She found him on the floor and noticed
he wasn’t breathing. She quietly called the Sherriff’s Deputies. When they
arrived the nurse and the deputies tried to revive him but they were
unsuccessful. Jerry Garcia was dead. Garcia did not tell any of the group
members that he was going to a rehabilitation center. He had told them that he
was taking a trip to Hawaii with his wife. It was a shock to the rest of the
group to find out that Jerry Garcia had died in a drug rehabilitation center.

“Garcia’s last performance with the Dead, was July 9, 1995 in Chicago”, that
night will not be forgotten by anyone who attended that last show. Jerry Garcia
was fifty-three years of age when he died. Jerry was the Grateful Dead’s singer,
song writer, gutaitariest and many believe the heart and soul of the Grateful
Dead. This tragedy has left many to wonder if the Grateful Dead will ever play
again. One thing is sure about the Grateful Dead, “The Grateful Dead are the
best-known and longest lasting of all the San Francisco bands,..”.

In conclusion, the Grateful Dead is a very unique group and has vary
unique followers. it is one of the longest lasting bands and has played for
over three generations of people with their own style and creativeness. They
have had a long journey and there have been many bumps in the road. There is
only one phrase that can wrap up the Gratefuldeads career, “What a long strange
trip it’s been”.
Category: Music and Movies