Grateful Dead, The, American rock music group formed in 1965 by guitarists Jerry Garcia, 1942–95, and Bob Weir, 1947–, harmonica player Ron "Pigpen" McKernan, 1945–73, bassist Phil Lesh, 1940–, and drummer Bill Kreutzmann, 1946–; later members included keyboardists Keith Godchaux, 1947–80, and Brent Mydland, 1953–90, and, on and off, drummer Mickey Hart, 1950–. One of the formative acid-rock bands, the Grateful Dead became known in San Francisco as the house band for author Ken Kesey's LSD "Acid Tests." They altered rock music by incorporating into their sound elements of country music, bluegrass, and blues. The band's most important recordings ( Anthem for the Sun, 1968; Workingman's Dead, 1970; American Beauty, 1971) were made before 1972; thereafter they sustained their reputation through extensive concert tours. The remaining members of the Grateful Dead disbanded in 1995 following Garcia's death, but toured as the Other Ones in 2002 and as, simply, the Dead (with the addition of Jimmy Herring) beginning in 2003. The group is also noted for their ardent fans, or "Deadheads," who strive to preserve the communitarian spirit associated with the band's origins in the 1960s counterculture.
See R. Greenfield, Dark Star: An Oral Biography of Jerry Garcia (1996); C. Brightman, Sweet Chaos: The Grateful Dead's American Adventure (1999); B. Jackson, Garcia: An American Life (1999); S. Peters, What a Long, Strange Trip (1999); R. G. Adams, ed., Deadhead Social Science (2000); D. McNally, A Long Strange Trip: The Inside History of the Grateful Dead (2002); P. Lesh, Searching for the Sound: My Life with the Grateful Dead (2005).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.