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Grateful Dead was an American rock band formed in 1965 in Palo Alto, California. The band was known for its unique and eclectic style, which fused elements of rock, folk, bluegrass, blues, reggae, country, improvisational jazz, psychedelia, and space rock, and for live performances of long musical improvisation. These various influences were distilled into a diverse and psychedelic whole that made the Grateful Dead "the pioneering Godfathers of the jam band world". The Grateful Dead have sold more than 35 million albums worldwide.
The Grateful Dead began their career as the Warlocks, a group formed in early 1965 from the remnants of a Palo Alto, California jug band called Mother McCree's Uptown Jug Champions. The band's first show was at Magoo's Pizza located at 639 Santa Cruz Avenue in suburban Menlo Park, California on May 5, 1965. They were then known as the Warlocks. The first show under the new name Grateful Dead was in San Jose, California on December 4, 1965, at one of Ken Kesey's Acid Tests. Earlier demo tapes have survived, but the first of over 2,000 concerts known to have been recorded by the band's fans was a show at the Fillmore Auditorium in San Francisco on January 8, 1966. Later on that month, the Grateful Dead played at the Trips Festival, an early psychedelic rock show.
One of the group's earliest major performances in 1967 was the Mantra-Rock Dance—a musical event held on January 29, 1967, at the Avalon Ballroom by the San Francisco Hare Krishna temple. The Grateful Dead performed at the event along with the Hare Krishna founder Bhaktivedanta Swami, poet Allen Ginsberg, bands Moby Grape and Big Brother and the Holding Company with Janis Joplin, donating proceeds to the Krishna temple. The band's first LP, The Grateful Dead, was released on Warner Brothers in 1967.
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 and harmonica until shortly before his death in 1973 at the age of 27. Garcia, Weir and McKernan shared the lead vocal duties more or less equally; Lesh only sang a few leads but his tenor was a key part of the band's three-part vocal harmonies. Bill Kreutzmann played drums, and in September 1967 was joined by a second drummer, New York native Mickey Hart, who also played a wide variety of other percussion instruments.
Mickey Hart quit the Grateful Dead in February 1971, leaving Kreutzmann once again as the sole percussionist. Hart rejoined the Grateful Dead for good in October 1974. 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 Jean Godchaux, joined the Grateful Dead as a backing vocalist. Following the Grateful Dead's "Europe '72" tour, Pigpen's health had deteriorated to the point that he could no longer tour with the band. His final concert appearance was June 17, 1972 at the Hollywood Bowl, in Los Angeles; he died in March, 1973 of complications from alcohol abuse.
The Grateful Dead’s live shows, fed by their improvisational approach to music, made the Grateful Dead different from most other touring bands. While most rock and roll bands rehearse a standard show for their tours that is replayed night after night, city after city, the Grateful Dead never did. As Garcia stated in a 1966 interview, "We don't make up our sets beforehand. We'd rather work off the tops of our heads than off a piece of paper." They maintained this operating ethic throughout their existence. For each performance, the band drew material from an active list of a hundred or so songs.
As the band and its sound matured over thirty years of touring, playing, and recording, each member's stylistic contribution became more defined, consistent, and identifiable. Lesh, 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, Mickey Hart and Kreutzmann, developed a unique, complex interplay, balancing Kreutzmann's steady beat with Hart's interest in percussion styles outside the rock tradition. Hart incorporated an 11-count measure to his drumming, bringing a new dimension to the band's sound that became an important part of its emerging style. Garcia's lead lines were fluid, supple and spare, owing a great deal of their character to his training in fingerpicking and banjo.
The band's primary lyricists, Robert Hunter and John Perry Barlow, commonly used themes involving love and loss, life and death, gambling and murder, beauty and horror, chaos and order, God and other religious themes, travelling and touring, etc. Less frequent ideas include the environment and issues from the world of politics.
Grateful Dead – SUGAR MAGNOLIA – (Robert Hunter and Bob Weir). “Sugar Magnolia" is one of the most well-known songs by the Grateful Dead. First released on the 1970 album American Beauty, "Sugar Magnolia" made its live debut on June 7, 1970 at the Fillmore West in San Francisco. When performed live, the song was often divided into two different entities: "Sugar Magnolia" proper and the "Sunshine Daydream" coda. The break between the two could be a few beats, a set, or even a few concerts. On one memorable occasion, the week of long-time friend of the band Bill Graham's death, the coda was held off for an entire week. Taken from Weir Here - The Best Of Bob Weir, a 2004 live/studio compilation.
Grateful Dead – TRUCKIN’ (Garcia, Weir, Lesh, and Hunter). "Truckin" first appeared on the 1970 album American Beauty. It was recognized by the United States Library of Congress in 1997 as a national treasure. "Truckin” molds classic Grateful Dead rhythms and instrumentation with lyrics that use the band's misfortunes on the road as a metaphor for getting through the constant changes in life. Its climactic refrain, "What a long, strange trip it's been," has achieved widespread cultural use in the years since the song's release. "Truckin'" was considered a "catchy shuffle" by the band members. Garcia himself commented that "the early stuff we wrote that we tried to set to music was stiff because it wasn't really meant to be sung ... the result of [lyricist Robert Hunter getting into our touring world], the better he could write ... and the better we could create music around it." The communal, shared-group-experience feel of the song is brought home by the participation of all four of the group's chief songwriters (Garcia, Weir, Lesh, and Hunter), since, in Phil Lesh's words, "we took our experiences on the road and made it poetry," lyrically and musically. He goes on to say that "the last chorus defines the band itself." Taken from Weir Here - The Best Of Bob Weir, a 2004 live/studio compilation.
Grateful Dead – I KNOW YOU RIDER - (Traditional). "I Know You Rider" (aka "Woman Blues" and "I Know My Rider") is a traditional woman's blues song that has been adapted by numerous artists. Modern versions can be traced back to the song's appearance in the 1934 book, American Ballads and Folk Songs, by the noted father and son musicologists and folklorists, John Lomax and Alan Lomax. The book notes that "An eighteen-year old black girl, in prison for murder, sang the song and the first stanza of these blues." The Lomaxes then added a number of verses from other sources and named it "Woman Blue". In the mid-1950s, traditional musician Bob Coltman found the song in the Lomax book, arranged it and began singing it frequently around Philadelphia and New England circa 1957-1960. In 1959 Coltman taught it to Tossi Aaron who recorded it in 1960 for her LP Tossi Sings Folk Songs & Ballads on Prestige International. Joan Baez recorded a version for her 1960 debut album on Vanguard Records but the track was not released until 2001. Throughout the early 1960s the song gained popularity through folk performers, most notably The Kingston Trio, who included the song "Rider" on their album Sunny Side! in 1963.
By the mid-1960s rock acts began recording the song. Well-known versions include those by Janis Joplin, James Taylor, the Seldom Scene and Hot Tuna. The Byrds recorded the song during 1966, under the title "I Know My Rider (I Know You Rider)", but their version remained unreleased until 1987, when it was included on Never Before.
"I Know You Rider" was also a staple of the Grateful Dead's live shows. It was the first song that bass player Phil Lesh rehearsed with the band upon joining. However, Lesh was not confident enough in his own singing abilities to handle the song's lead vocal. During the Grateful Dead's live concerts, it was usually performed as the second half of a medley with "China Cat Sunflower". This segue was later used by Bruce Hornsby and The Range, with "I Know You Rider" following their song, "The Red Plains". Recorded 10/31/70. Location unknown. Unreleased.
Grateful Dead – SAMSON AND DELILAH – (Traditional). "Samson and Delilah" is a traditional song based on the Biblical tale of Samson and his betrayal by Delilah. Its best known performer is perhaps the Grateful Dead, who first performed the song live in 1976, with guitarist Bob Weir singing lead vocals. It was frequently played live by the Dead. The 1977 album Terrapin Station featured a studio recording of the song. Although Weir learned the song from Reverend Gary Davis, several earlier versions were recorded under various titles, including "If I Had My Way, I Would Tear This Building Down" by Blind Willie Johnson in 1927. Rev. Gary Davis's recording can be heard on the compilation album The Music Never Stopped: Roots of the Grateful Dead. The song has since been performed by a wide variety of artists ranging from Charlie Parr, Ike and Tina Turner to Peter, Paul and Mary, The Washington Squares, Bruce Springsteen and the Seeger Sessions Band, and The Blasters. Recorded live in 1980, date and location unknown. Unreleased.
Grateful Dead – HELL IN A BUCKET – (Barlow, Weir, Mydland). First appeared on In the Dark, the 12th studio album by the Grateful Dead, released on July 6, 1987. In the Dark was the band's first album in six years, and its first studio album since 1980's Go to Heaven. It became unexpectedly popular, achieving double platinum certification in the US. Most of the songs on this album had been played by the Dead since 1982 or 1983, which gave them a five-year edge on perfecting these songs for this album. After the critically panned Go to Heaven, which contained songs that were mostly under a year old, the maturity of In The Dark was significantly more appreciated.
The album title, "In the Dark", represents how the band compiled the album. The Dead are well known for their striving for that "perfect" sound (e.g. the Wall of Sound) as well as their experimental episodes. Since live music is their forte, they decided to try to capture a "hybrid" live sound for this album. Taken from Weir Here - The Best Of Bob Weir, a 2004 live/studio compilation.
Grateful Dead – THROWING STONES - (Barlow, Weir). Also first appeared on "In the Dark", 1987. Also taken from Weir Here - The Best Of Bob Weir, a 2004 live/studio compilation.
The Dead – ONE MORE SATURDAY NIGHT – (Bob Weir). "One More Saturday Night" is a song by the Grateful Dead. Weir is credited with writing "One More Saturday Night", although there is evidence that the song was originally written with Robert Hunter, with different lyrics. Weir wanted to call his version "US Blues", but Hunter did not agree and disavowed himself of the song. The song was first performed on 19 October 1971 by the Grateful Dead, and first appeared on Bob Weir's Ace album, and The Grateful Dead's Europe '72 live album. After that it became a regular part of the Dead's repertoire, and as might be expected, was frequently heard on Saturday shows; with its short, compact form and energetic crescendoes, it was a popular break from some of the Dead's more challenging pieces. It has more recently been performed by the reunited Dead, and by Bob Weir's own band, RatDog. Taken from The Dead, Live at Bonnaroo, June 12, 2004 digital only release.