10 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About The Grateful Dead
Trip out with tasty nuggets from the new oral history of the Dead, This Is All a Dream We Dreamed.
The Grateful Dead just keep on truckin’. The jam band pioneers are still noodling away on tour as Dead & Company, with, um, John Mayer replacing the late Jerry Garcia on guitar and vocals and joining core members Bob Weir, Mickey Hart, and Bill Kreutzmann on stage (Bassist Phil Lesh and pianist Bruce Hornsby are perhaps wisely sitting this one out).
But let’s face it, the Dead could probably enlist Justin Bieber as their frontman and still draw throngs of blissed-out fans. Besides seeing the latest version of the band in concert, Deadheads can also revisit their long, strange trip with the exhaustive new oral history, This Is All a Dreamed We Dreamed.
Here are ten Dead details accompanied by quotes from the book:
For part of 1966, the Dead lived with fabled acid chemist Owsley Stanley, known as “The King of LSD”.
Jerry Garcia: “We ended up living with Owsley as he tabbed up the acid in the place we lived. We had enough acid to blow the world apart. And we were just musicians…tripping frequently, if not constantly. That got good and weird.”
Bob Weir was arrested for throwing a water balloon at a San Francisco cop in 1967.
Weir: “I got him from the third-story window. I got it right next to him in a perfect bomb-burst pattern on the pavement. It probably got his shoes filled with water.”
For a brief period in 1968, Weir and organist Ron “Pigpen” McKernan were fired from the band.
Weir: “We were the junior musicians in the band, and Jerry and Phil in particular thought that we were sort of holding things back. The music wasn’t able to get as free because it was hog-tied by our playing abilities, which was kind of true.”
The Dead and Jefferson Airplane used to get epically stoned and play softball against each other.
Ned Lagin (keyboardist friend of the Dead): “A fly ball would come towards Jerry and he would run around in a circle with his hands up in the air like he was praying to God, and the ball would land—plop—right on the ground next to him. He never got close to it.”
The Dead’s famous Europe ’72 tour was a chaotic, drug-fueled party.
Donna Jean Godchaux (back-up singer):” I was so stoned during one of the Paris shows that I found myself under [husband] Keith’s piano. And I remember thinking, “Wow, this is really fantastic music!” Then, “Oh, my gosh, I sing with this band!” I don’t know how in the world I pressed through.”
Even after the ’60s ended, they were evangelists for the mind-bending pleasures of LSD.
Phil Lesh (1974): “I do acid all the time. I love it. I think it’s one of the greatest tools for learning about yourself. It’s my quality knob.”
Enlisting Little Feat leader Lowell George to produce the Dead’s Shakedown Street album resulted in major weirdness.
Mickey Hart: “Lowell George was mad. We wrote a great song one night but never recorded it. It was called “My Drum Was a Woman.” We snorted miles and miles of coke and wrote this song about all my instruments and what I thought about them.”
From the outset, the Dead were a band without a plan.
Garcia: “We cling to each other in moments of horror, but we’ve learned to go with the flow; that there’s always something going on that’s worth the hassle and all the bullshit…It’s an experiment and it’s only pure fortune that’s taken us this far.”
Garcia, who died of a heart attack while being treated at a California drug rehab in 1995, considered his raging heroin and cocaine addictions to be relatively mild.
Garcia: “I was never an overdose kind of junkie. I’ve never enjoyed the extremes of getting high. I never liked to sit around and freebase until I was wired out of my mind. For me it was the thing of getting pleasantly comfortable.”
Garcia and Woody Harrelson smoked weed at then-Vice-President Al Gore’s house in Washington D.C.
Cameron Sears (road manager): “Al and Tipper [Gore’s wife, a big Dead fan] were upstairs taking a shower while [the band and entourage] were down there hanging out in their house. Woody Harrelson had come with us and he and Jerry had gone into the powder room and enjoyed a puff or two. There’s a Secret Service guy standing outside the door. They open the door and it’s like a Cheech and Chong movie!”
Photos by Rex