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Hank Williams' White Wool Felt Cowboy Hat
Photo by Design Photography
Collection of Marty Stuart

The Grateful Dead
Essential Recordings
Dark Star


Uncle John's Band

Friend of the Devil

St. Stephen/The Eleven

That's It for the Other One

China Cat Sunflower

Playing in the Band

Touch of Grey

Recommended Reading

Conversations With the Dead: The Grateful Dead Interview Book
by, Gans, David. New York: Citadel Press, 1991.

by, George-Warren, Holly (ed.). New York: Rolling Stone Press/Little, Brown and Co., 1995.

Grateful Dead: The Official Book of the Dead Heads
by, Grushkin, Paul, Cynthia Bassett and Jonas Grushkin. New York: Quill, 1983.

Garcia: An American Life
by, Jackson, Blair. New York: Penguin, 1999.

Skeleton Key: A Dictionary for Deadheads
by, Sherik, David and Steve Silberman. New York: Doubleday/Main Street Books, 1994.


2006 inductees | search all inductees | full inductee list

The Grateful Dead

Inductees: Tom Constanten (keyboards; born March 19, 1944), Jerry Garcia (guitar, vocals; born August 1, 1942, died August 9, 1995), Donna Godchaux (vocals; born August 22, 1945), Keith Godchaux (keyboards; born July 14, 1948, died July 21, 1980), Mickey Hart (drums, percussion; born September 11, 1943), Robert Hunter (lyricist; born June 23, 1941), Bill Kreutzmann (drums; born April 7, 1946), Phil Lesh (bass, vocals; born March 15, 1940), Ron “Pigpen” McKernan (keyboards, harmonica, vocals; born September 8, 1945, died March 8, 1973), Brent Mydland (keyboards, vocals; born October 21, 1952, died July 26, 1990), Bob Weir (guitar, vocals; born October 16, 1947), Vince Welnick (born February 22, 1951; keyboards).

The Grateful Dead wrought a psychedelic revolution upon the cultural landscape of the Sixties. They also kept the spirit of the Sixties alive in the decades that followed, building a massive, supportive network of fans known as "Deadheads." The Dead and their peers on the San Francisco scene helped steer the adventurous rock audience of the mid-Sixties toward a brave new world of sound in which albums supplanted singles and concerts became improvisational marathons.

From jazz, the Grateful Dead adapted an improvisational approach. Heavily steeped in Americana, the group derived from blues and bluegrass. From the culture of psychedelia, as pioneered by Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters, the Dead grew attuned to the broad palette of possibilities that could be tapped when imagination was given free reign. Their signature song was "Dark Star," an extended piece that never got performed the same way twice. Throughout their thirty-year history, guitarist/leader Jerry Garcia functioned as the pre-eminent pied piper of the rock era.

In the beginning, the Dead - Garcia, guitarist Bob Weir, organist Ron "Pigpen" McKernan, bassist Phil Lesh and drummer Bill Kreutzmann - served to link the literary leanings of Fifties beatniks with the musical awakening of the Sixties counterculture - movements that flourished in the enlightened environs of the Bay Area. Initially known as Mother McCree's Uptown Jug Champions and later the Warlocks, they provided musical settings for novelist and cult leader Ken Kesey's fabled Acid Tests. After settling on the name Grateful Dead, they began honing their concert alchemy at San Francisco's psychedelic ballrooms. The Dead fused rock and roll energy with the psychedelic experience to fashion an endlessly elaborate interplay of sound. Along the way, they added a second keyboardist (Tom Constanten) and second drummer (Mickey Hart). The keyboardist position was the most unstable in the band, as no fewer than three of the Dead’s keyboard players died during their 30-year history.

Highlights of the group's recorded legacy include Anthem of the Sun (1968), their ultra-psychedelic, quasi-symphonic magnum opus; Live/Dead (1969), a concert compendium that bore out fans’ claims that the Dead were best experienced live; Workingman's Dead and American Beauty (both from 1970), country- and folk-influenced classics that highlighted their songwriting ability and sage-like overview of the counterculture’s past, present and future; and Grateful Dead (a.k.a. "Skull and Roses"), the second and arguably the best of many multi-album live sets. Deadheads and critics alike contended that the best way to experience the group was in concert, where the mystical band-fan bonding ritual drove the music to improvisational peaks. Led by Garcia's modal guitar work, and taking cues from sources as varied as Jimmy Reed, John Coltrane and Bill Monroe, the Dead would delve into blues, folk, jazz R&B and avant-garde realms for hours on end.

During the latter half of their career, Garcia was periodically beset with drug problems, a state of affairs that came to a head with his arrest on drug possession charges in 1985 and his collapse into a near-fatal diabetic coma in 1986. His health improved in the wake of those crises, revitalizing the Dead through a period of heightened activity that included the 1987 hit album In the Dark and Top Forty single ("Touch of Grey"). However, drugs continued to haunt the Grateful Dead, who lost keyboardist Brent Mydland to a fatal overdose in 1990. Garcia himself died on August 9, 1995, at a treatment facility in Forest Knolls, California, where he'd gone to seek help for his heroin addiction. They played their last concert the previous month at Soldier Field in Chicago.

The Grateful Dead could not survive the loss of Garcia, but the music plays on. More than 25 concerts from the Dead’s archives have been released on CD through the band’s online store ( as part of the ongoing “Dick’s Picks” series (named for Dick Latvala, the group’s tape archivist). Mickey Hart has pursued a highly successful career as a rhythmatist and ethnomusicologist, recording and releasing many volumes of world music on his own and through the auspices of such organizations as the Smithsonian Institution. Bob Weir formed the band Ratdog, and Phil Lesh has toured with a varying cast of musicians under the rubric “Phil and Friends.” Weir, Lesh, Hart and Bruce Hornsby – who played keyboards for the Dead after the death of Brent Mydland – have toured as the Other Ones (a reference to the Dead concert staple “The Other One”). Several “Furthur Festivals” involving Dead-related ensembles and kindred spirits have helped keep the spirit alive.

Inductee Timeline

March 15, 1940
Phil Lesh, bassist with the Grateful Dead , is born in Berkeley, California.

June 23, 1941
Robert Hunter, lyricist for the Grateful Dead, is born in Arroyo Grande, California.

August 1, 1942
Jerry Garcia, lead guitarist and guiding light of the Grateful Dead, is born in San Francisco.

September 11, 1943
Mickey Hart, drummer and percussionist for the Grateful Dead, is born in Brooklyn, New York.

August 22, 1945
Donna Godchaux, vocalist with the Grateful Dead from 1972 to 1979, is born in Muscle Shoals, Alabama.

September 8, 1945
Ron "Pigpen" McKernan, keyboardist and singer with the Grateful Dead, is born in San Bruno, California.

May 7, 1946
Bill Kreutzmann, drummer for the Grateful Dead, is born in Palo Alto, California.

October 16, 1947
Bob Weir, guitarist and vocalist with the Grateful Dead, is born in Atherton, California.

July 19, 1948
Keith Godchaux, keyboardist with the Grateful Dead from 1972 to 1979, is born in Concord, California.

February 22, 1951
Vince Welnick, keyboardist with the Grateful Dead from 1991 to 1995, is born in Phoenix, Arizona.

October 21, 1952
Brent Mydland, keyboardist with the Grateful Dead from 1979 to 1990, is born in Munich, West Germany.

December 31, 1963
The seeds for Mother McCree’s Uptown Jug Champions, the jug-band precursor of the Grateful Dead, are sown at a New Year’s Eve jam at a music store in Palo Alto, California, at which guitarists Jerry Garcia and Bob Weir are key participants.

December 4, 1965
Ken Kesey and his Merry Pranksters hold the second Acid Test — a psychedelic multimedia happening fueled by liberal ingestion of the hallucinogenic drug LSD — at a home in San Jose. The Grateful Dead, having recently changed their name from the Warlocks, provide the music.

December 10, 1965
The Grateful Dead perform the first of many concerts at San Francisco’s Fillmore Auditorium. The concert is produced by Bill Graham.

JANUARY 21-23, 1966
The Trips Festival, a multimedia event featuring performances by the Grateful DeadJefferson Airplane and Big Brother and the Holding Company, is held at Longshoreman's Hall in San Francisco.

July 22, 1966
The Grateful Dead’s first single, “Stealin’” b/w “Don’t Ease Me In,” is released on the Scorpio label.

May 17, 1967
The Grateful Dead’s self-titled first album, a potpourri of blues, bluegrass and psychedelic rock, is released on Warner Bros. Records.

September 29, 1967
Percussionist Mickey Hart joins the Grateful Dead, making them a sextet with two drummers.

December 13, 1967
The Grateful Dead perform their epic “Dark Star” for the first time, at Los Angeles’ Shrine Auditorium.

By 1968, the hippie movement was spreading across the U.S. and Europe, even though the political landscape hardly reflected the ethos of peace and love. Rock and roll was becoming a business, and bands continued to proliferate. Quicksilver and the Steve Miller Band both issued their debut albums, and the Grateful Dead released 'Anthem of the Sun,' a record that attempted to sonically re-create an LSD trip. The Jefferson Airplane hit the Top Ten with 'Crown of Creation,' the Big Brother and the Holding Company went all the way to Number One with 'Cheap Thrills.'

July 1, 1968
Bill Graham takes over the Carousel — a music hall owned by the Jefferson Airplane and Grateful Dead — and re-christens it Fillmore West.

July 17, 1968
The Grateful Dead’s 'Anthem of the Sun,' a musical collage of live and studio records that stands as a pinnacle of psychedelic rock, is released.

September 2, 1968
Muddy Waters performs at the Sky River Rock Festival and Lighter-Than-Air Fair in Sultan, Washington. Some of the other artists include Santanathe Grateful Dead and the Youndbloods.

NOMBER 10, 1969
'Live/Dead,' the first of many live albums by the Grateful Dead is released. Compiled from concerts recorded in their hometown of San Francisco between January 26th and March 2nd, 1969, it remains one of their career highlights.

June 14, 1970
'Workingman’s Dead,' a landmark album by the Grateful Dead, is released. It is followed only five months later by 'American Beauty,' another classic studio album.

July 2, 1971
The Grateful Dead perform at Bill Graham’s venerable Fillmore West (in San Francisco), which Graham is shutting down, for the last time. Two months earlier, on April 29, the Dead performed their final show at Graham’s Fillmore East venue (in New York City).

October 6, 1971
'Grateful Dead,' a live double album better known to fans as “Skull & Roses,” is released. Much of it had been recorded at New York’s Fillmore East in April.

November 5, 1972
'Europe ’72,' a triple-live album from the Grateful Dead, is released. Recorded during a 22-date European tour, it becomes their highest-charting album to date, reaching #23.

March 8, 1973
Ron “Pig Pigpen” McKernan, keyboardist and vocalist with the Grateful Dead, dies of liver failure.

July 28, 1973
The Bandthe Grateful Dead, and the Allman Brothers Band perform for a crowd of 600,000 (larger by half than Woodstock!) in upstate New York at the Watkins Glen “Summer Jam.”

October 20, 1974
The Grateful Dead perform the last of a five-date stand at San Francisco’s Winterland Ballroom, kicking off a 19-month hiatus from touring.

June 3, 1976
The Grateful Dead perform at the Paramount Theater in Portland, Oregon, kicking off their first tour in more than a year and a half.

May 8, 1977
The Grateful Dead perform at Barton Hall, at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. Of the 2000+ concerts performed by the group in its lifetime, this one is ranked #1 by Deadheads.

July 27, 1977
The Grateful Dead release 'Terrapin Station,' their first album for Arista Records, where they’ll remain till the group’s mid-Nineties demise.

September 14, 1978
The Grateful Dead begin three days’ worth of shows at the base of the Egyptian pyramids.

July 23, 1980
Keith Godchaux, former keyboardist for the Grateful Dead, dies of injuries suffered in a motorcycle accident.

July 7, 1987
The Grateful Dead’s 'In the Dark' is released. It marks the creative resurgence of the Dead following guitarist Jerry Garcia’s near-death after having lapsed into a five-day diabetic coma the previous year. The album peaks at #6 and sells more than 2 million copies.

July 25, 1987
“Touch of Grey,” by the Grateful Dead, enters the Top Forty. It will peak at #9, putting the Dead in the Top Ten for the first (and last) time.

July 26, 1990
Brent Mydland, keyboardist with the Grateful Dead, dies of a drug overdose.

January 19, 1994
The Grateful Dead are inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame at the ninth annual induction dinner. Bruce Hornsby is their presenter.

January 31, 1995
'Skeletons from the Closet,' the Grateful Dead’s “best of” record from their years at Warner Bros., is certified triple platinum (3 million copies sold). It is the top-selling album of the Dead’s career.

July 9, 1995
The Grateful Dead perform their 2,314th and final concert, at Chicago’s Soldier Field. The last songs performed are a medley of “Black Muddy River” and “Box of Rain.”

August 9, 1995
Jerry Garcia dies at age 53 of a heart attack after having checked into a drug-rehab facility in Forest Knolls, California.

June 25, 1998
Joining forces as the Other Ones, four surviving members of the Grateful Dead – Bob Weir, Phil Lesh, Mickey Hart and Bruce Hornsby – plus four other musicians kick off the “Furthur Festival” tour in Atlanta, Georgia.

October 16, 2001
'The Golden Road (1965-1973),' a 12-CD box set comprising the Grateful Dead’s output during their first decade as a band, is released.

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