Jerry Garcia was destined to be a musician. Born in San Francisco on August 1, 1942, Garcia was named after legendary Broadway composer Jerome Kern, who wrote more than 700 songs in his lifetime including “The Way You Look Tonight,” “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes,” and “Ol’ Man River.”
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.
After seeing Richard Lester’s 1964 Beatles film, A Hard Day’s Night, Garcia and company decided to go the rock route with their band.
The founding members were Jerry Garcia (lead guitar, vocals), Bob Weir (rhythm guitar, vocals), Ron “Pigpen” McKernan (keyboards, harmonica, vocals), Phil Lesh (bass, vocals), and Bill Kreutzmann (drums).
Grateful Dead performed its first gig on Dec. 4, 1965, at a house near the San Jose Civic Auditorium, where the Rolling Stones were playing that same evening
In 1967, all six members of the Dead were busted by California narcotics agents for possession of marijuana at the groups’ 710 Ashbury Street House in San Francisco, California.
The band’s first LP, The Grateful Dead, was released on Warner Brothers in 1967.
More than 20 years into its career, the Dead hit the Top 10 on the album charts with 1987’s In the Dark. The 1987 single “Touch of Grey” was the band’s first and only Top 40 offering, hitting No. 9 on the Billboard Hot 100.
In 1971 36 Grateful Dead fans were treated for hallucinations caused by LSD after they unwittingly drank spiked apple juice served at a gig at San Francisco’s Winterland.
The Dead built its brand of T-shirts with the use of so many iconic images, from dancing terrapins and patriotic skeletons to skulls and roses to dancing” bears.
Ron McKernan died aged 27 in 1973 from liver failure brought on by alcohol poisoning. He was a founding member and keyboard player with the Dead and played in the group from 1965 to 1972. Unlike the other members of the Grateful Dead, McKernan avoided psychedelic drugs, preferring to drink alcohol. By 1971, his health had been affected by alcoholism and liver damage and doctors advised him to stop touring.
The Grateful Dead played 2,317 shows during their career, and released 13 studio albums.
The Watkins Glen outdoor summer jam was held outside of Watkins Glen, New York in 1973 with The Allman Brothers Band, The Grateful Dead and The Band. Over 600,000 rock fans attended. Many historians claimed the event was the largest gathering of people in the history of the United States. 150,000 tickets were sold for $10 each, but for all the other people it was a free concert. The crowd was so huge that a large part of the audience was not able to see the stage.
The Dead were never a commercial success on the charts, yet several of the group’s albums have been certified platinum or better. The top-seller is the triple-platinum collection Skeletons from the Closet: The Best of Grateful Dead (1974).
Keyboard player Keith Godchaux died aged 32 in 1979 after being involved in a car accident. He also co-wrote songs with Lowell George (of Little Feat) and was a member of The New Riders of the Purple Sage.
They promoted a sense of community among their fans, who became known as “Deadheads”, many of whom followed their tours for months or years on end.
In 1947, young Garcia lost most of the middle finger on his right hand in a wood-chopping accident. His handprint, with the mostly missing finger, would become a signature logo.
In 1992 a range of eight ‘ties’, designed by Jerry Garcia went on sale in the US. President Bill Clinton bought a set. The collection grossed millions in the US by the end of the year.
Garcia enlisted in the Army at age 17 in 1960. He was discharged a few months later, reportedly due to “lack of suitability to the military lifestyle.”
Garcia was also a prolific artist, whose paintings and sketches can be seen in the book Harrington Street, and even on a range of ties.
Garcia is featured on a number of artists’ records, including Jefferson Airplane’s Surrealistic Pillow, CSNY’s Deja Vu, Warren Zevon’s Transverse City and Ornette Coleman’s Virgin Beauty.
In the 1990s, the Grateful Dead earned a total of $285 million in revenue from their concert tours, the second highest during the 1990s, with the Rolling Stones earning the most.
More than 2,000 of the band’s concerts have been preserved by tapers, who were given their own area behind the mixing desk in venues, and on occasion were allowed to connect directly to the desk.
Jerry Garcia died on August 9, 1995, and a few months later, the remaining members of the Grateful Dead decided to disband. Yet, many of them would continue to play together under different names, including Furthur, The Dead and The Other Ones.
The Dead threw a benefit show for the Springfield Creamery in Springfield, Oregon. Tickets were printed on the backs of the Creamery’s yogurt labels. It was one of the hottest days of the year, and mostly everybody was naked.
They had a very large PA system known as the Wall of Sound with 26,400 watts of audio power through 604 speakers. It was the largest concert sound system built at that time.
In the late 1990s, a Dead-loving taxonomist discovered a new species of cockroach (a wood roach) and named it Cryptocercus garciai after Garcia. In 1995, just three months after his passing, two astronomers named an asteroid after the late singer as well.
The newly refurbished Grateful Dead’s original tour bus went on display at the Volo Auto Museum in Volo, Illinois in 2005. The 1965 Gillig bus, which Jerry Garcia and the rest of the Dead dubbed ‘Sugar Magnolia’ was used by the band on their frequent tours across the US between 1967 and 1985. The ceiling was lined with hundreds of vintage rock posters featuring The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and others who had visited the bus.
In 2015, the four surviving core members marked the band’s 50th anniversary in a series of concerts that were billed as their last performances together.
Important Dates In The Life Of The Grateful Dead:
9 Mar 2020
American record producer Keith Olsen died age 74. He worked with many artists including Rick Springfield, Fleetwood Mac, Ozzy Osbourne, the Grateful Dead, Whitesnake, Pat Benatar, Heart, Santana, Foreigner, Scorpions, Magnum, Journey, Emerson, Lake & Palmer, Joe Walsh, and Eric Burdon & the Animals.
23 Sep 2019
Robert Hunter, Grateful Dead lyricist died age 78. He provided the Grateful Dead with many of their vivid and enduring lyrics for some of the band’s signature songs, including 'Uncle John’s Band', 'Scarlet Begonias' and 'Dark Star.'
18 Jun 2015
Van Morrison, Cyndi Lauper and Toby Keith were among the inductees into the Song Writers Hall Of Fame at a star-studded gala in New York City. The Grateful Dead's Jerry Garcia was also inducted posthumously alongside the band's lyricist Robert Hunter.
5 Jul 2014
The four surviving members of the Grateful Dead gave what they said would be their final performance, playing to over 70,000 fans at Chicago's Soldier Field. The shows came 20 years after the death of lead guitarist Jerry Garcia, who played his last show in the nation's third-largest city in 1995.
1 Nov 2008
US drummer and singer Jimmy Carl Black died. He was a member of The Keys, The Soul Giants, The Mothers Of Invention and Jimmy Carl Black And The Mannish Boys. Also worked with Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, The Doors, Joe Cocker, Grateful Dead and The Turtles.
30 Nov 2007
During a Christies Rock & Roll auction held the Rockefeller Plaza, New York City a collection of 276 ticket stubs compiled by a rock journalist who covered many rock concerts at New York City venues sold for $2,000. The tickets included concerts by: Jimi Hendrix, The Who, Rolling Stones, Frank Zappa, The Beach Boys, Pink Floyd, The Allman Brothers Band, Led Zeppelin, Neil Young, Fleetwood Mac, Grateful Dead and Bruce Springsteen.
14 Sep 2005
The newly refurbished Grateful Dead's original tour bus went on display at the Volo Auto Museum in Volo, Illinois. The 1965 Gillig bus, which Jerry Garcia and the rest of the Dead dubbed ‘Sugar Magnolia’ was used by the band on their frequent tours across the US between 1967 and 1985. The ceiling was lined with hundreds of vintage rock posters featuring The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and others who had visited the bus.
26 Aug 2004
US Cinematographer David Myers died after suffering a stroke. He worked of various music films including Woodstock, Elvis On Tour, The Last Waltz, the Grateful Dead Movie, Mad Dogs & Englishmen and Cracked Actor: A Film About David Bowie.
22 Apr 2003
Songwriter Felice Bryant died of cancer. Wrote many hits with her husband Boudleaux including; The Everly Brothers, 'Bye Bye Love', 'All I Have To Do Is Dream', 'Wake Up Little Susie' and 'Raining In My Heart' a hit for Buddy Holly. Other acts to record their song include Bob Dylan, The Beatles, Tony Bennett, Simon And Garfunkel, Sarah Vaughan, Grateful Dead, Dolly Parton, Elvis Presley, The Beach Boys, Roy Orbison, Elvis Costello, Count Basie, Dean Martin, Ruth Brown, Cher, R.E.M. and Ray Charles.
25 Oct 2001
13 law firms were still involved in claims to Grateful Dead guitarist Jerry Garcia's $10m estate six years after his death. Former wives & girlfriends continued to fight on how to distribute his estate and annual royalties of $4.6m.
6 Aug 1999
Dick Latvala died aged 56 after being in a coma caused by a heart attack. Latvala had worked with the Grateful Dead since the early 80s looking after their archives of live performances which became a series of 'Dick's Picks' albums.
15 Apr 1996
The rest of Jerry Garcia's ashes were scattered near the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. A small portion had been scattered in the Ganges River in India 11 days earlier. The Grateful Dead leader had died on 9th Aug 1995.
9 Aug 1995
Jerry Garcia guitarist and singer from the Grateful Dead died from a heart attack at the Serenity Knolls rehabilitation clinic in San Francisco aged 53. Garcia co-founded the New Riders of the Purple Sage and also released several solo albums. He was well known for his distinctive guitar playing and was ranked 13th in Rolling Stone's "100 Greatest Guitarist's of All Time"
9 Jul 1995
The Grateful Dead gave their last concert with leader Jerry Garcia at Chicago's Soldier Field. Jerry would die of a heart attack a month later while in drug rehab.
5 Jul 1995
More than 100 Grateful Dead fans were hurt when a wooden deck collapsed at a campground lodge in Wentzville, Missouri. Hundreds of people were on or under the deck sheltering from heavy rain. More than 4,000 Deadheads were staying at the campground while attending Grateful Dead concerts in the St. Louis suburb.
11 Jul 1992
A range of eight ties, designed by Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead went on sale in the US. President Bill Clinton bought a set. The collection grossed millions in the US by the end of the year.
3 Nov 1991
A free concert was held in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco to honor the memory of promoter Bill Graham, who was killed in a helicopter crash the week before. Crosby, Stills Nash & Young, Grateful Dead, Journey and Joan Baez were the featured acts.
18 Aug 1991
Rick Griffin, died after being forced off the road by a van he was attempting to pass on his Harley Heritage Softail motorbike. One of his best known album covers was for the Grateful Dead's 'Aoxomoa' LP, and the legendary "Flying Eyeball" poster he designed for a series of concerts in San Francisco featuring the Jimi Hendrix Experience, Albert King and John Mayall.
26 Jul 1990
American keyboardist and vocalist Brent Mydland from the Grateful Dead was found dead on the floor of his home aged 38 from a drug overdose. His eleven-year tenure was longer than that of any other keyboardist in the band.
25 Jun 1987
Songwriter Boudleaux Bryant died. Wrote with his wife Felice, The Everly Brothers hits, 'Bye Bye Love', 'All I Have To Do Is Dream', 'Wake Up Little Susie' and 'Raining In My Heart' a hit for Buddy Holly. Other acts to record their song include Bob Dylan, The Beatles, Simon And Garfunkel, Grateful Dead, Dolly Parton, Elvis Presley, The Beach Boys, Roy Orbison, Dean Martin, Ruth Brown, Cher, R.E.M. and Ray Charles.
10 Jul 1986
Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead went into a five day diabetic coma, resulting in the band withdrawing from their current tour.
27 Oct 1984
During a US tour Grateful Dead allocated a specific recording area for fans to bootleg the show; tonight's gig was in Berkeley, California.
3 Sep 1982
The three day US Festival in San Bernardino, California took place featuring, Tom Petty, Fleetwood Mac, The Police, The Cars, Talking Heads, The Kinks, Ramones, B52's, The English Beat, Gang Of Four, Grateful Dead, Pat Benatar, Jackson Browne. Apple Computers founder Steven Wozniak bankrolled the festival.
2 Jul 1980
Bob Weir and Mickey Hart from the Grateful Dead were arrested on suspicion of starting a riot at the San Diego Sports Arena after they tried to interfere in a drugs bust.
23 Jul 1979
Keith Godchaux keyboard player with the Grateful Dead died after being involved in a car accident aged 32. He co-wrote songs with Lowell George (of Little Feat) and was a member of The New Riders of the Purple Sage.
28 Jul 1973
The Watkins Glen outdoor summer jam was held outside of Watkins Glen, New York with The Allman Brothers Band, the Grateful Dead and The Band. Over 600,000 rock fans attended. Many historians claimed the event was the largest gathering of people in the history of the United States. 150,000 tickets were sold for $10 each, but for all the other people it was a free concert. The crowd was so huge that a large part of the audience was not able to see the stage.
8 Mar 1973
American singer and musician Ron McKernan died aged 27 from liver failure brought on by alcohol poisoning. He was a founding member and keyboard player with the Grateful Dead and played in the group from 1965 to 1972. Unlike the other members of the Grateful Dead, McKernan avoided psychedelic drugs, preferring to drink alcohol (namely whiskey and flavored fortified wine). By 1971, his health had been affected by alcoholism and liver damage and doctors advised him to stop touring.
5 May 1972
The first day of the three day Bickershaw Festival, Wigan, England, with Grateful Dead, Dr John, Donovan, The Kinks, Captain Beefheart, Hawkwind, America, Family, Country Joe MacDonald, Wishbone Ash, New Riders Of The Purple Sage, Brinsley Schwarz and the Flamin Groovies.
2 Sep 1971
Grateful Dead's former manager was arrested after disappearing with over $70,000 of the bands money.
29 May 1971
Three dozen Grateful Dead fans were treated for hallucinations caused by LSD after they unwittingly drank spiked apple juice served at a gig at San Francisco's Winterland.
27 Apr 1971
The Grateful Dead appeared at the Fillmore East in New York City. The Beach Boys also appeared on stage with the Dead, who together performed a short set of Beach Boys songs.
20 Apr 1971
Five friends at San Rafael High School in California coined the term "4:20" as a euphemism for smoking pot. April 20th became a popular day to spark one up, as does 4:20pm. Fans of the Grateful Dead helped spread the phrase, the Boston song 'Smokin'' clocks in at 4 minutes, 20 seconds, and if you multiply the title numbers in Bob Dylan's 'Rainy Day Women #12 And #35,' you get 420.
13 Mar 1971
Brewer and Shipley entered the US singles chart with 'One Toke Over The Line'. The song, which featured Grateful Dead's Jerry Garcia on steel guitar, peaked at No.10 despite being banned by radio stations for its drug references. Brewer and Shipley maintained that the word 'toke' meant 'token' as in ticket, hence the line 'waitin' downtown at the railway station, one toke over the line.'
27 Jun 1970
The Trans-Continental Pop Festival (better known as the The Festival Express) set off. The tour was unique in that rather than flying to each city, most of the acts travelled on a chartered CN train. Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin, The Band, The Flying Burrito Brothers and Buddy Guy Blues Band all travelled together on the train playing shows in Toronto, Winnipeg, Saskatoon and Calgary.
23 May 1970
The Grateful Dead played their first gig outside the US at 'The Hollywood Rock Music Festival', in Newcastle under Lyme, Staffs, England. Also appearing at the festival was Free, Ginger Baker's Air Force, Colosseum, Family, Black Sabbath and Traffic.
15 Aug 1969
Woodstock Festival was held on Max Yasgur's 600 acre farm in Bethel outside New York. Attended by over 400,000 people, the event featured, Jimi Hendrix, Crosby Stills Nash & Young, Santana, The Who, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin, The Band, Canned Heat, Joan Baez, Melanie, Ten Years After, Sly and the Family Stone, Johnny Winter, Jefferson Airplane, Ravi Shanker, Country Joe and the Fish, Blood Sweat and Tears, Arlo Guthrie, and Joe Cocker. During the three days there were three deaths, two births and four miscarriages.
2 May 1969
Led Zeppelin played the first of two nights at The Pasadena Rose Palace, California. Many other acts appeared here including The Byrds, Cream, Santana, Grateful Dead, and Joe Cocker
28 Dec 1968
The three day Miami Pop festival took place, the first major rock festival held on the East Coast of the US, with The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Chuck Berry, The McCoys, Joni Mitchell, Fleetwood Mac, Marvin Gaye, The Turtles, The Box Tops, Steppenwolf, Three Dog Night, Pacific Gas and Electric, Procol Harum, Canned Heat, Iron Butterfly and Grateful Dead.
6 Nov 1968
The Grateful Dead and Jefferson Airplane played at the opening night of San Francisco's Fillmore West. Formerly known as the Carousel Ballroom it was briefly operated by a collective formed by the Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, Quicksilver Messenger Service and Big Brother and the Holding Company as a social/musical "laboratory experiment". The venue Became famous under the direction of concert promoter Bill Graham from 1968 to 1971.
4 Aug 1968
The second day of the two day Newport Pop Festival took place in Costa Mesa, California with Blue Cheer, Eric Burdon & The Animals, Grateful Dead, Illinois Speed Press, Iron Butterfly, Jefferson Airplane, Quicksilver Messenger Service and The Byrds. Over 100,000 fans attended the festival.
19 Jul 1968
Pink Floyd played the second of three nights at the Boston Tea Party, Boston, Massachusetts. Opened in January 1967 as a psychedelic club, many many famous artists, including Grateful Dead, Neil Young, The J. Geils Band, Frank Zappa, Cream, Fleetwood Mac, The Allman Brothers Band, Led Zeppelin, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Jeff Beck, The Who, Santana, Taj Mahal, Ten Years After and Sly & the Family Stone all appeared.
8 Jul 1968
Pink Floyd kicked off their first 20-date North American tour at the Kinetic Playground in Chicago. The club became a driving force in the music business, hosting famous rock acts such as The Doors, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Led Zeppelin, The Who, The Byrds, Janis Joplin, The Mothers of Invention, Grateful Dead, MC5, Jethro Tull, Deep Purple, Iron Butterfly, Fleetwood Mac, Vanilla Fudge, Muddy Waters and Jefferson Airplane.
2 Oct 1967
All six members of the Grateful Dead were busted by California narcotics agents for possession of marijuana at the groups' 710 Ashbury Street House in San Francisco, California.
21 Jul 1967
The Jimi Hendrix Experience played the first of three nights at the Cafe-a-Go-Go in New York City. The club featured many well known acts including: Grateful Dead, Tim Buckley, Joni Mitchell,Howlin' Wolf, Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, The Paul Butterfield Blues Band, Jefferson Airplane, and Cream who all appeared at the club.
16 Jun 1967
The three day Monterey Pop Festival in California began. All the proceeds went to charity when all the artists agreed to perform for free, the 'Summer of Love' was born. The festival saw the first major US appearances by The Who, Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin. Also on the bill: The Byrds, Grateful Dead, Otis Redding, Simon And Garfunkel, The Steve Miller Band, Canned Heat, The Mamas & the Papas, Jefferson Airplane, Buffalo Springfield and The Electric Flag. John Phillips, of The Mamas & the Papas wrote, 'San Francisco, (Be Sure To Wear Flowers In Your Hair)' to promote the festival, which later became a hit for Scott McKenzie.
14 Jan 1967
Over 25,000 people attend The Human Be-In-A Gathering Of The Tribes at San Francisco's Golden Gate Park. The event was a forerunner of major, outdoor rock concerts and featured Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, Quicksilver Messenger Service and Big Brother And The Holding Company.
19 Jun 1964
Martha and the Vandellas recored one of Motown's signature songs 'Dancing in the Street' at Hitsville U.S.A. in Detroit, Michigan. Written by Marvin Gaye, William "Mickey" Stevenson and Ivy Jo Hunter the song reached No.2 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and No.4 in the UK. Many artists have covered the song including, the Mamas & the Papas, David Bowie and Mick Jagger, The Kinks, Grateful Dead and Little Richard.