Jul 16, 2012

March 1970: Bob Weir Interview


NEW YORK - There's not a conformist among the seven fellas who make up The Grateful Dead. Rhythm guitarist Bob Weir, 22, reveals that each of the group's members is married unofficially.
"None of us believe in marriage licenses," says Weir. "We've seen too many marriages go wrong to have much faith in the institution. Our old ladies don't object to the arrangement. The chicks accept the idea of living with us without being officially wed."
What about children born of these "marriages?"
"Oh, several of the guys have fathered kids," says Weir. "They have wonderful family situations. They live with the chicks and are very good with the children. There isn't any more promiscuity with this setup than with the old marriage arrangement."
According to Weir, the Grateful Dead are just as happy on stage as they are off. "We are soul brothers," he says. "We've known each other for six years. I think our brand of music reflects our close relationship." 
The Grateful Dead is composed of Jerry Garcia (lead guitar), Phil Lesh (bass), Ron (Pigpen) McKernan (vocals), William Kreutzman and Mickey Hart (drums), Tom Constanten (keyboard) and Weir.
They're all from San Francisco and still make their homes not far from the Bay City. "We live on ranches," says Weir, "and we see quite a bit of each other socially."
When The Grateful Dead started, they didn't cash in on their fine, driving acid-rock sound. They kept giving free concerts, especially in the "love" center of Haight-Ashbury. Eventually, they were talked into signing with a record company. Today, The Grateful Dead are with Warner Bros. Records, and their latest album - which is their fifth - is called "Working Man's Dead."
The Grateful Dead's first two LPs, "The Grateful Dead" and "Anthem of The Sun," immediately established them as one of the grooviest groups in the country. The outfit encountered quite a bit of trouble finding a name for itself at the start. They began in 1964 as Mother McCree's Uptown Jug Champions, but soon discarded the title.
"We liked the name, The Warlocks, but some other group had attached themselves to it," says Weir. "For an entire week, we threw names around, mostly funny ones. Finally, Jerry Garcia scrounged around in a dictionary or encyclopedia and found 'the grateful dead.' It supposedly was an ethno-musicological term which meant a genre of ballads that were sung in Ireland many years ago."
Weir claims they've had no regrets regarding the choice of the name. "Oh, once in a while," he says, "a person will tell us he shudders at the word 'dead.'"
The Grateful Dead's major appeal is to college kids and dance hall crowds. "But we get some teenyboppers and a few grandparents, too," says Weir. "The day where gals ripped clothes off musicians is over. I became convinced of that at the recent Rolling Stones concert. The girls didn't chase anybody. When the gig was over, they went home quietly."

(by Bob Lardine, from the Rockland County Journal-News (White Plains, NY), 20 March 1970)

(also run by the Allentown Chronicle (PA), 19 March 1970, as "Grateful Dead Non-Conformists", and by the Baltimore Sun, 31 March 1970, as "Not One Conformist in Group")


  1. Brief, but a few interesting comments.

    This interview was apparently taken sometime around the Buffalo show.
    Constanten, once again, is still listed as a group member!
    It mentions Workingman's Dead, the "latest" album, even though it wouldn't come out for a couple more months. Probably didn't even have a oover yet...but it did have a name.

    The Stones show Weir refers to was probably the 11/9/69 show in Oakland, which the Dead went to.
    There is a lot of history behind Weir's brief comment - back in '65, "the days where gals ripped clothes off musicians," the Warlocks were doing their best to emulate their heroes the Stones. And Weir himself went to a Beatles concert in '65 and tried chasing them! Now he looks back at the old age of 22...

  2. I first saw this article in the Allentown Chronicle, but it turned up again in the Baltimore Sun from a couple weeks later; then I found what I think is the original source, in a White Plains paper that most likely caught Weir during the Dead's stop in Buffalo.
    I expanded this to the original version, since it included a section on marriages & children that was edited out of the Allentown copy. (Whether due to space or because the Allentown editors didn't care for that topic, I don't know.)

    Weir's account of the Dead's domestic arrangements is pretty cute (a couple members were already divorced - the fathers in the group! - and naturally none of them had the same "old lady" as in '65).
    Now I'm curious about Weir's comment that 'the grateful dead' referred to a genre of old Irish ballads...well no, not at all, but I wonder if that's how he remembered it or if he just made that up.

    From Weir's answers, it's also easy to tell what Lardine's questions were ("are you married? do you live together? how'd you get your name?") - pretty basic mainstream queries.
    Lardine ran the article in his "This Generation" column, concluding: "What group or singer would you like interviewed? Jot down your reasons and send them to Bob Lardine, This Generation, 220 E. 42 St., New York, N.Y. 10017. Most original letter-writer will receive five new rock albums."