The "Grateful Dead" was an United States|American rock band, which was formed in 1965 in San Francisco from the remnants
of another band, "Mother McCree's Uptown Jug Champions". The Grateful Dead was known for its unique and eclectic songwriting
style, which fused elements of rock, folk music, bluegrass, blues, country, jazz, and for long modal Jam band|jams. The
band's numerous fans, called Dead Heads, were renowned for their dedication to the band's music; many followed the Dead from
concert to concert for years.
Playing originally as "The Warlocks", and later "Grateful Dead" (a name chosen at random from the dictionary by Jerry
Garcia), they became the ''de facto'' resident band of Ken Kesey's Merry Pranksters, with the early sound heavily influenced
by Kesey's LSD-soaked Acid Tests as well as Rhythm and Blues . These events are covered in detail in Tom Wolfe's ''The
Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test''. Their musical influences varied widely with input from the psychedelic music of the era,
combined with rhythm and blues, jazz, and country. These various influences were distilled into a unique new music that was a
synthesis of all American folk music forms to-date; it paid homage to previous forms, and also reflected a sense of adventure
and a continuous quest for the "musical unknown"; more often than not, exploration and a search for continual newness were
the hallmarks of their live performances.
The early records reflected their live repertoire—lengthy instrumental jams with guitar solos by Garcia, best exemplified
by "Dark Star"—but lacked the energy of the shows and did not sell terribly well. The 1969 live album ''Live/Dead'' did
capture more of their essence, but commercial success did not come until ''American Beauty'' and ''Workingman's Dead'', both
released in 1970. These records featured the band's laid-back acoustic musicianship and more traditional song structures.
Bandleader Jerry Garcia played lead guitar and classically trained musician Phil Lesh played bass guitar. Bob Weir
(usually referred to as "Bobby"), the youngest member of the group, played rhythm guitar. Bluesman Ron "Pigpen" McKernan
played keyboards, harmonica and was an inspirational vocalist until his death in 1973. All of the previously mentioned
members shared vocal duties. Bill Kruetzmann played drums, and in September 1967 was joined by a second drummer, New York
native Mickey "Cow-Bell" Hart, who also played a wide variety of other percussion instruments. Hart quit the Grateful Dead in
1971, embarassed by the actions of his father, Dead money manager Lenny Hart (for whom the song "He's Gone" is penned),
leaving Kruetzmann once again as the sole drummer. Hart rejoined the Dead for good in 1974. Tom "TC" Constanten played
keyboards alongside Pigpen from 1968 to 1970. Two years later in late 1971, Pigpen was joined by another keyboardist, Keith
Godchaux, who played grand piano alongside Pigpen's Hammond B3 organ. In early 1972, Keith's wife, Donna Jean Godchaux,
joined the Dead as a backing vocalist. Keith and Donna were fired from the band in 1979, and Brent Mydland joined as
keyboardist and vocalist. Keith Godchaux died in a car accident in 1980. Brent Mydland was the keyboardist for the Dead for
11 years until his death in 1990. He became the third Dead keyboardist to die. Almost immediately, former Tubes keyboardist
Vince Welnick joined on keyboards and vocals. For a year and a half, Welnick was often joined by special guest Bruce Hornsby
on piano. Robert Hunter and John Perry Barlow were the band's lyricists.
Touring was the hallmark of the Grateful Dead. With the exception of 1975, the Grateful Dead toured regularly around the
USA from the winter of 1965 until July 9, 1995—with a few detours to Canada and Europe (see the albums ''Dick's Picks 7'',
''Hundred Year Hall'', ''Steppin' Out with the Grateful Dead'', and ''Europe '72'') and 3 nights at the Great Pyramid of Giza
in Egypt in 1978. Their numerous studio albums were generally collections of new songs that had been initially played in
concert. The band was famous for their extended jams, which showcased both individual improvisation as well as a singularly
unique "group-mind" improvisation where each of the band members improvised individually, while still blending spaghetti
together as a cohesive musical unit, often engaging in extended improvisational flights of fancy. A hallmark of their concert
sets were continuous sets of music where each song would blend into the next (a segue). Musically this may be illustrated in
that the band not only improvised within the form of a song, yet also improvised with the forms.
Many of their fans, commonly referred to as Dead Heads, would follow the band on tour. In contrast to many other bands,
the Grateful Dead encouraged their fans to tape their shows. For many years, almost all of their shows would have dedicated
taping sections. The band allowed sharing of tapes of their shows, as long as no profits were made on the sale of their show
tapes. In the 1980s, the band scored a top 40 hit "Touch of Grey" which garnered a much younger and more mainstream fandom
that was considered sharply different from the traditional Dead Heads.
Starting in 1991, the Grateful Dead released numerous live concerts from their archives in two concurrent series: the
''From the Vault'' releases are multi-track remixes, whereas the ''Dick's Picks'' series are based on two-track mixes made at
the time of the recording. There have been at least 31 DP releases as of March 2004. A series of videos began to trickle out
of "The Vault", starting with ''View From the Vault'' (recorded in Pittsburgh on July 8, 1990 at Three Rivers Stadium) and
''View from the Vault II'' (recorded in Washington, DC on June 14, 1991 at RFK Stadium). All three series of releases
continue to this day.
Following Garcia's death in 1995, the remaining members formally decided to retire the name "Grateful Dead". Though some
of them occasionally toured through the late 1990s under the name "The Other Ones" they mainly chose to pursue various solo
projects: most notably Bob Weir's Ratdog, Phil Lesh and Friends and Mickey Hart's music for the 1996 Olympics. The remaining
members occasionally got together under the pseudonym ''Crusader Rabbit Stealth Band'' during the late 1990s, infrequently
playing unannounced shows. The mid-2002 fall tour of The Other Ones, with Bob, Bill, Phil and Mickey, was so successful and
satisfying that the band decided the name was no longer appropriate. On February 14, 2003, (as they said) "reflecting the
reality that [was]," they renamed themselves The Dead, keeping "Grateful" retired out of respect for Garcia.