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the Grateful Dead…

18 May , 2011,
Miles
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Grateful Dead–Friend of the Devil

I was having breakfast in a cool little cafe in my old home-town yesterday. I was drinking my coffee and preparing for my day, as the Grateful Dead was playing in the background. I think Dude put on American Beauty to get the day going.

Don’t call me a hippy, but I love the Grateful Dead. To me, the Dead are not even a guilty pleasure. I love the Grateful Dead’s music. There I’ve said it.

I had known about the Grateful Dead since forever. I had heard their name, without connecting the name to the music. Oddly enough, until I was introduced to the Grateful Dead, I guess I assumed from their name that the Dead was a hard rock outfit sort of along the lines of Black Sabbath, MC5, or Iron Butterfly.

Grateful Dead-do I look like a hippy?

Imagine my surprise when I actually listened to the Grateful Dead, and attached their name to their music. The first Grateful Dead song I consciously remember hearing was Friend of the Devil, when I was 19, living in Santa Cruz, CA.

From my limited exposure to the Grateful Dead, I think my two favorite albums of theirs are. American Beauty and Workingman’s Dead.Grateful Dead_

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And, I am pretty far from being a traditional Grateful Dead fan. Do I look like a hippy? I do love Americana music and bluegrass, though.

If I remember correctly, much like the fictional band, Spinal Tap, the Grateful Dead has had many band members–I counted twelve, but I could be wrong–pass through he band over the years. Until the end of Jerry Garcia’s life, the core members of the Grateful Dead were Jerry Garcia, Phil Lesh, Bob Weir, and Bill Kreutzmann.

Introduction to the Grateful Dead

Soon after I heard Friend of the Devil, the same friend played the song Touch of Gray from the 1987 album, In the Dark. It seemed weird to me to be discovering a band I had heard of for years, and to have their video all over MTV not two months later.

The Grateful Dead was a band that had always managed to get by me, every time I would get close to discovering them. About twenty years ago, I met a traveling friend of a buddy of mine, who gave me a tape merely labeled ‘dead. U of Iowa…’ and some date from the early 1970s, that I don’t recall.

The music was not at all what I expected. I was unprepared to hear the folk, bluegrass, blues, and country and western influences blended with jazz odyssey and space music. I liked it.

The Grateful Dead began their career as the Warlocks, a group formed in early 1965 from the remnants of a Palo Alto jug band called Mother McCree’s Uptown Jug Champions. The band’s first show was at Magoo’s Pizza in suburban Menlo Park, California on May 5, 1965. They were still known as the Warlocks although the Velvet Underground were also using that name on the east coast.

That show was not recorded and I don’t think anyone even has the set list anymore. 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.

So, don’t call me a hippy. I don’t think I am a hippy just because I like the Grateful Dead. For me, I was into rockabilly, and some folk and blues. It seems natural that I would like the Grateful Dead.

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