'GRATEFUL DEAD' NON-CONFORMISTS
NEW YORK - There's not a conformist among the seven fellas that make up The Grateful Dead. Rhythm guitarist Bob Weir, 22, reveals that each of the group's members is just as happy on stage as they are off. "We are soul brothers," he said. "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 Allentown, PA Chronicle, Match 19 1970)