The latest re-incarnation of the Grateful Dead annouces 2023 tour will be the last
By Michael L. Whitney
Dead and Company, one of the many spinoffs of the Grateful Dead have decided to call it quits. Although never famous in the classical “Rock and Roll” sense, the remaining members of the Dead as they are lovingly known by their fans have been on the road in one way or another for over 57 years…
The road started in a Menlo Park music store in the early ’60s, where Jerry Garcia was teaching guitar after a 4 years stint in the Arm. Known as the “Mother McCree’s Uptown Jug Champions”, they quickly transformed into their first electric form called “The Warlocks,” consisting of Ron “Pigpen” McKernan, Jerry Garcia and Bob Weir. Phill Lesh was quickly added to the mix. The Grateful Dead went on to be one of the longest-running touring bands in American history.
I first started seeing the Grateful Dead in the summer of 1986 after graduating from college at Alfred State. Being a self-professed metal head at the time, Ozzy was my first real concert, I had no time for the psychedelic ramblings of the Dead. That was until one fated night in the front seat of a 1978 Ford Thunderbird.
Because the Grateful Dead allowed tapping of their shows and my having a handful of friends that were “Dead Heads”, one of my friends popped in a dead show that happened to include Stephen Stills singing “Love the one you’re with.” Stills was off key and singing loud over the rest of the band, I was hooked! At that point, I considered myself a rebel, and this drug and alcohol-fueled version of the song played right into my rebel fantasies. The one thing I knew in life at this point was I had to see the band.
My dream came true with my first show being at Riverbend music center in Cincinnati Ohio on June 30th, 1986. I was on tour… Although a small and insignificant tour consisting of four shows, Riverbend, The Akron Rubber Bowl, Rich Stadium, and RFK in Washington, the “Touring’ bug was in my very soul. I did everything I could to see the Dead from then on. If the Dead were on the east coast, I/we did everything possible to see them.
The band had an east coast and west coast hotline and as soon as spring hit, we were on the phone almost daily waiting for the “Tour Announcement” to come on the line. As soon as it was announced we would start figuring out how to get tickets, rapid redial on a landline phone was just starting to be a ‘thing’ and we would all sit at home hitting the redial waiting for our chance to get in line. We would also travel to Olean to the mall where in the day they had a Ticketmaster on site. I met some amazing people there waiting in line including long-time taper Hal France. I can also remember riding to Albany to the newly built Knickerbocker arena in the back seat of a 1978 Chevrolet Chevette. For any of you that know me, I am not built, nor was I ever to fit in the backseat of a Chevette! But we got our tickets, and the first night of the shows, we scared the hell out of the security that was ill-informed as to what they were witnessing! They walked out leaving us to our own devices at which time we cleared the seating off the floor and did what we did the best DANCE!
The Grateful Dead was not only the longest touring band in America in one form or another but the influence they had on sound and their innovations in sound were some of the biggest breakthroughs that are still used today. Consider the now standard “Line Array”, used by every single arena and stadium musical production today. It was the brainchild of LSD chemist Owsley “Bear” Stanley the longtime sound engineer for the Dead. It consisted of some “borrowed” Altec Voice of the Theater speakers adapted to concert halls. Then came the “Wall of Sound” the massive sound system consisted of 92 tube amplifiers to push 26,400 watts through 604 speakers! It is said that it could be heard a half mile away just as if you were in the front row. Because the wall of sound placed all 604 speakers behind the band, Owsley had to find a way to prevent “Feedback” (where a sound is picked up by the microphone and reamplified ad infinitum) and in a genius move, he used 2 microphones taped together and 180 degrees out of phase to prevent feedback.
But enough of the history. It was announced on September 23rd that the summer tour of 2023 will be the last of Dead and Company. With the core members all well into their 70s with the “youngster” of the band and now leader Bob Weir at age 74, Drummer Mickey Hart at 79, and Drummer Bill Kreutzmann at 76, we all knew it was coming but that does not make it any easier… Message boards, Facebook, Twitter, and other Dead-related social media are flooded with heartfelt messages, cyber tears, and disbelief. They were our friends, even though we didn’t know them personally they gave us their all in every show they played, and we gave it right back… They say the music never stops, but it has definitely hit a bump in the road…
As the song goes, “Terrapin – I can’t figure out Terrapin – if it’s an end or the beginning Terrapin – but the train’s got its brakes on and the whistle is screaming TERRAPIN”!
By the end of next summer, the breaks will be on, it is but just one end, and there will be a new beginning, we will figure it out, all the while screaming TERRAPIN and looking for the next station!!
It will live on, if not with the Grateful Dead, with every band that plays their music, with every tape, CD, DVD, or any other recording it will live on. I believe that once again tickets will be near impossible to get for the summer of 2023, but I hope to get my hands on one or two and see you all at the end of this chapter in American musical history!
You know our love will NOT fade away….
*Michael L. Whitney is an Angelica NY Deadhead, writer, photographer, and owner of Grateful Tie Dyes>>