Grateful Dead

What Got You on the Bus?

An excellent suggestion from Hal R., picking up on a thread in another topic: how did you get on the bus? What was that moment that left no room for doubt?

Probably no two stories are the same, but they're all probably pretty interesting, so tell all here!


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Joined: Jun 15 2007
On the bus, under the bus, over the bus...


Joined: Aug 31 2007
I was seeking the bus, or

I was seeking the bus, or not necessarily the bus as we know it, but it fit the bill perfectly.
My Dad had/has Old and in the way and NRPS albums, but was not really a Dead Head or even a hippie really, but other than that, basicly the bus came by...

First show was JGB in 91 in Minneapolis, during thanksgiving break in high school, I had such a good time, I damn near fell off the balcony (midnight moonlight)! The Dead have been my favorite band ever since...

Joined: Jan 3 2009
I forgot to mention the concert venue.

The concert was at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium in Pasadena, California.

Joined: Jan 3 2009
My first show was Sept, 25th , 1970

My first and most memorable show because my friend and i got a stage pass to see the Dead. I was 18 and knew little about them, but my friend was a bona fide Deadhead.We didn't have tickets, so we hung out at the backstage door hoping we could get in somehow. We heard some voices and guitar playing a few feet away coming from a partially open window. We walked over and peeked through and there was the Dead practicing before the gig! A stagehand saw us and said if we got them some coffee, he would give us a pass. We ran across the street to a coffee shop and bought some coffee, brought it back, and handed it through the window. In return he handed us the pass. We knocked on the stage door , flashed the pass and got in and was back stage for the entire gig. After the concert we left through the back door and were told to give the pass back. We were hoping to sneak out with it. Anyway, that was my most memorable Dead concert. Just the other day, i was going through all my Dead stuff i hadn't seen in probably 35 years. I found a handbill from their gig at UCLA Pauley Pavillion with NRPS Nov 20, 1971. I also found a bunch of stuff from the Dead fan club i joined around 1972.Well... that's my favorite Dead story. I did see them subsequently at the Inglewood Fourm, at the Hollywood Pavillion, at UCLA and other places i just can't remember I may have been to stoned at the time to remember where i was!!

Joined: Jun 9 2007
Big Brother . . .

My brother Chuck dragged me kicking and screaming onto the bus in the summer of 1987. Thank God.

hard_to_handle's picture
Joined: Feb 26 2008
I still believe!!

hard_to_handle In May 1992 I went to my first and only Dead show. My experience at first like so many of us was I liked a couple of their songs and I had been told by others that I had to go to a Dead show at some point. So here I was I traveled from Idaho all the way (driving) down to Las Vegas with a couple guys I hardly new. The Steve Miller band was the opener and at the time I was more into that band than I was the Dead. We were up in the nosebleed seats and the other two guys that I was with were smoking some weed and I was chillin tryin to get into the music. I hadn't ever smoked weed at that point so I passed on the party favors but I can drink with the best of them. I was there for the Friday and Saturday shows and on Saturday when the sky turned a light purple behind the stage and eventually there was some lightning where the purple sky was. I remember Jerry making note of it and talking about it a bit and then that was it he didnt say anymore about it. I was thinking to myself 'ok we definitely have something here'. I was in total awe just staring at the lightning and the sky was a shade of purple Ive never seen before or since. Ive heard people debate when this show took place. 1991 92 or 93 but Im here to say first hand that it was in late May on Saturday in 1992. I wasn't one that went to hundreds of shows and did all these tours so I didnt get one show mixed up with the other. This was one and only show that I attended with Jerry in it.

I wish someone would get that on CD cause that was a great show with alot of meaning in it.

Of course Ive been to Ratdog and P & F a couple of times too. I even hit two shows when they all toured as 'the Dead' in 2004. When they opened up with Shakedown St I thought the crowd at the Gorge (WA) was going to completely lose it. LL Rain sounded great too when the downpour came (local show) down on everyone. It was a warm rain which is uncommon for this area so it felt great. Jerry's presence is still felt at those shows and Ive even seen him dreams a couple of times but without his presence he cant easily be replaced. Its good to feel his spirit is present though.

'The first time I laid eyes on Jerry Garcia I believed in Santa Claus' 'I still believe!' Fellow deadhead after hearing that Jerry had passed away.

PatrickJP07's picture
Joined: Nov 27 2007
On the bus, 18 wheeler, old Ford or VW, or anything rolling

I'll start at the beginning, age 13 drunk as a skunk at a party, someone plays "Go To Heaven". What it that ? sounds kind a cool, not heavy like B.O.C. or Deep Purple, but very cool none the less. Got a good look at the cover before I crawled off to pass out somewhere. Find myself in a Caldors (remember those ?) department store about a week or two later and see the record again. It was still in the new releases section and happened to be on sale. I brought it home and basically played the shit out of side one, ocasionally giving side two a whirl. Alabama Getaway was getting airplay and some of my fiends started going to shows, my parents were like "No Way". Picked up a few more records and tapes and enjoyed their music at home till one day in April 1985. Went over a friends house early in the day, when I got there he said "Dead are playin' in providence dude, let thumb it". Being that we lived near a I-95 exit/entrance ramp, I said why not. We were quickly picked up and brought part way, our second ride was from a lone head traveling to the show. Once we got there we ran into a friend of my friend, who gave both of us a tab or two, Once that had kicked in fully I realized I had lost my friend who I had come with and his buddy. He knew the guy much better than me, so I figured they would be fine. To be honest I was glad to be rid of them at that point, they were both a little nuts (for real), and the thought of tripping out with them all night held little appeal for me. My next order of business I figured was to get a ticket, then it started raining, hard. I went to one of the entrances which was blocked from the rain, and started the "need a ticket" rap with a finger up. I also realized at this point that I only had $13 and the ticket cover price was $15, was starting think I'm staying outside. Just then a head comes up to me and says "I got one for you man", I say I only have $13, he says "No Problem". By now people are waving offering $20 and such to the guy. He was like "sory man deal is done", I handed him $13 and he handed me the ticket and I thanked him several times. Into the Providence Civic Center which was warm, dry, and even carpeted. Someone asks me if I need any hits, I tell the guy I'm down to about a dollar in change. He says that'll do, and another tab goes down the hatch. Somehow met these two cute girls about my age who were also trippin' out pretty hard. We found some seats did some smokin', and then the show started, before the first song was over I was hooked. After that point things are a psycedelic kaladescope of light color and sound, though I could tell what song they were playing about 1/2 of the time. Stepping outside sobered me up considerably, and I easily hitched a ride home. Two days later I talked one of my fiends into hich-hiking down to Philly, and I saw my second show. After that I saw at least 50 more shows between then and 1995. I enjoyed almost every minute of it (nothings perfect), and really miss those days considerably. I still go to a lot of shows of various groups, but things are different. A few venues still let you party hard (within reason), but there seems to be less and less of them around here.

Good ol GD's picture
Joined: Feb 19 2008
Great tunes

Pappy those are great tunes, those two are some of may favorites. major contributers to my trip as well. Aoxomoxoa is one of my favs too. Helped to complete that unlimited devotion thing.

PAPPYPGH's picture
Joined: Jul 2 2007
My 1st show was good...

...actually it was great & I really enjoyed it, but I wasn't "hooked" from it. It was Pittsburgh Civic Arena 7/6/87. The thing about that night that REALLY intrigued me was that I remember it being the day the boys released "In The Dark," and didn't play ONE song from it...I thought, "Now THAT'S anti-establishment!!" ;)

What got me on the BUS was the following summer, someone bought me "Aoxomoxoa" on CD. When I heard "Dupree's Diamond Blues" and "Doin' That Rag" back to back...I was in love. I played those 2 songs OVER & OVER until I learned every little nuance of both songs both in my head and on the guitar. Then I hopped on board the bus the FOLLOWING year (now 1989) when the boys came back to the 'Burgh for a 2-night stand...never got off the bus.

~ Pappy

"Once in a while you can get shown the light in the strangest of places, if you look at it right." - Robert Hunter

Joined: Nov 20 2008
Here's my trip

I graduated high school in ’73. That summer was the Watkins Glen concert. I primarily wanted to see the Allman Bros as I loved the Eat A Peach album. My older sister had the Working Mans Dead and I kind of liked Uncle John’s Band but overall wasn’t there yet. Funny cause now I consider Dire Wolf one of my favorites. I must admit as a self developing hippy trying to find my own way their name with the word “dead” in it kind of turned me off because I didn’t get the goof of it all. One of my favorite albums that year was Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon and had a new girlfriend that introduced me to Yes and all that area of music….

A guy I worked with, Leo, drove an old retired ambulance. Me and my friend Sean wanted to go to the concert…Leo did not want to go but agreed to give us a ride up. Which is pretty amazing given a 4+ hour trek one way from NJ to Watkins Glen. So we ride up in this ambulance. We didn’t have tickets. 500,000 people are arriving…when we get to the check points it is the middle of the night and he just flashes his headlights and the security lets us right thru without stopping….we arrive at least a day before the concert, maybe two, in the designated parking/camping area….thousands there and arriving nonstop….so we begin partying…. Leo left after a few hours it seems in daylight…and I have never seen him since….

Those of you who were there can correct my memories but it seems to me that the dead came on the night before unscheduled….and I really liked that show. I can’t truly say I saw them because the area was so vast…but it was my first show. Got very wrecked and being in a crowd of that size it was all pretty unbelievable. Sean & I ended up hitchhiking home…that was the plan all along…lots of adventures on that scene but it makes for a whole other story….

In upstate NY for the next 4 college years and at first not really on the bus. Did not go to a show at the Syracuse War Memorial in 73-74 time frame. Then 74-75 roommate John introduced me to Electric Kool Aid Acid Test, Kesey, Cassady, and then a lot of the pieces all came together. A lot of the flashing stuff I was having on my own way got put into context. John was more into the cowboy side and of course my girlfriend was still into the euro Yes theatrical side so it was kind of a tug of war on music styles. But it all worked. Went to bluegrass festivals in summers in Vermont. Was on the bus for Old and In the Way. Must have been spring 75 that went down to John’s home and we trained it into NYC for a Dead show at ?? Beacon Theatre maybe?? Didn’t save tickets and don’t remember play lists. Lots of dealing going on. All memories are pretty ragged for reasons I think you can understand.

I know I went to Dead show in Ithaca in the 76-77 time frame. Very cold, raw day. Is a solid hour+ drive from Syracuse ….it seems that until then every time I saw them I was always somewhere I had never been before and in circumstances and state of mind very much on the edge …. very trippy stuff. I remember on the way home in the middle of the night, very cold very dark and all very burnt out…we passed a broke down vehicle…and presuming they were fellow dead heads we stopped…it was instead some local musicians returning from their own modest gig in some bar somewhere…and it all turned out fine…glad to have done a good deed.

77 moved out to Boulder CO sight unseen just cause I heard it was nice. End up in framing carpentry building houses along the foothills. Lots of hippies/dead heads. My favorite bands then were Little Feat and Marley’s Wailers. Saw Dead at Red Rocks but can’t remember how many times. Saw them at a great venue one summer at the Univ Col (CU) football stadium on a nice day. They cut the field in half and played to one end zone stands. Can’t remember the year…. 81?? Great day…for once I didn’t have to hassle with driving a car or not knowing where I was….Warren Zevon was the opening act and he was really wrecked…almost couldn’t function…BobWeir came out on stage and tried to help move his show along….

Saw Jerry solo at a small theatre on campus somewhere along there. Sometime along here spoke with old roommate John that now lived on west coast and he said he saw Dead with Santana at some venue and pronounced that the Dead were boring. Was a little shocking. He was moving into edgier newer music I guess.….

Carpentry went bust when housing collapsed (just like now…I’ve been thru it all before I feel sometimes….) Had moved on to graduate school at CU and had a good regular job by 83 and so heard about SunSplash concert in Montego Bay. First time I had any money to do anything. It was a thanksgiving weekend I think…84?? Maybe not sure….so once again ventured to an unknown place…camping in Jamaica and within walking distance to concert venue….very wild stuff. Lots of bands. Went with friend Jim a carpenter also, older, long hair and beard but only so so into music…kind of a cynic but very smart. I am very straight appearance by this point (relevant later…)… Met up with guy dead head that I remember was from Wisconsin. He gave me a hit - - and I don’t really remember too much beyond. I was very experienced by then but that one knocked me for a loop. I hope Wisconsin ended up ok -

I was still very very looped the next day and Jim I don’t think even bothered to go into the concert area cause you could hear it from the camping area plenty loud and he had found a girlfriend…but he was in far better shape and corrals me to catch the bus to the airport to return. Everybody smoking on the bus because the paranoia is starting to set in about the reality of going thru customs security and so might as well get rid of it. We arrive I guess into Miami to clear customs and connect to Denver. Now in airport customs area it isn’t just concert returners..but lots of everyone, business people etc. I see Jim get tapped on the shoulder and he’s taken to a private room while I’m in line – the security guy starts going thru my back pack…and I am still very looped from the hit a day before plus smoke on the bus…he’s asking me questions which I answer honestly and he asks me what I do in Colorado and I tell him the truth that I work for the telephone company. And immediately he stops searching me. Zips up my pack and tells me everything is ok. It was like the term ‘telephone company’ was some sort of code word or something… weird…. Poor Jim finally clears and really got the 3rd degree even though he never had anything except long hair……we make it back to Boulder and later unpacking I find this huge spliff about 3 fingers thick that I didn’t realize I still had !! wow. Accidental smuggler…. Anyway it is several days before I really settle down and that’s the last hit for me ever since….

I went and saw Dead at CU’s Event Center some time later…. ~86?? Can’t remember. Gym where the CU basketball team played. First time I went solo. No trip. Kind of detached. Sat in back and did not really connect like other times. I regret not moving down front and enjoying that show more. Along that time made the vow that I was never going to any concert in stadiums any more. Too big. Music quality bad. I remember Springsteen came to Denver and I didn’t go unlike all my friends because I had sworn off stadium shows. Then I reasoned that young people like young music and therefore the Dead will wear off in popularity - - start playing smaller venues - - and then I will go because I love the experience. But that of course never occurred. Totally wrong on that one. They just got more and more popular up thru Touch of Grey.

Moved to east coast in 87. On the job interview that ultimately took me from Boulder to Hartford I am returning to Denver via Chicago O’hare. Wearing a suit. Go to my gate and look over and there is Jerry Garcia standing there. I am not one to fawn or ask for autographs. We catch eyes and frankly I am so startled at the completely unexpected recognition of who he is that I just more or less just give him an arched eyebrow look that says “hey you’re…” So I go and sit down in a deserted gate area and start reading the book I was on..Naked Lunch by William Burroughs…and a few seconds later Jerry is sitting a couple chairs down from me in the same deserted gate writing into a the end I realize he is keeping his eye on the gate across the aisle that is loading..just before the door closes he gets up and goes in..last guy on board……….Did not go to Dead show in Hartford Civic Center where I was living….88?? maybe. Was traveling for business that week, when got back heard comments from office workers about dead heads peeing in the park and generally trashing the area…oh well.

Living in Portland Maine at birth of my second child 8/8/95 late in evening…stay at the hospital well into the early hours of 8/9 and drive back to the house…see a shooting star. Wake up and hear the news that Jerry had passed. The Dead experience is very central to what I became. It opened my eyes in ways that have benefited me as a person. One could honestly argue that other bands, blue grass for example, have tighter harmonies and more virtuoso guitar work. But it misses the point. I saw the flash and the goof. I see beyond labels, surface appearances and dogma. It was like getting beyond the dead’s name that turned me off at first until I got it. In the Electric Kool Aid Acid Test, Kesey & pranksters are at an anti war rally and watching the leader of the protest up at the podium he says that you know that guy up there is just like the fascist he opposes. Malcome Forbes of Forbes magazine use to travel around repressed countries in eastern Europe and in/around China and had this caravan of motorcycles and hot air balloon named “Capitalist Tool”. Here is a prankster using capitalism to open peoples minds. Not to take a political position - - it is the mind opening. Its like turning political correctness inside out. At the same time capitalism was repressing people in Latin America…socialism was improving their situation but the same socialist dogma was repressing people in the Russian realm. The recently past China premier, Deng, that “opened” up China was quoted as saying “White cat, black cat – it doesn’t matter as long as it catches the mouse.” And I thought then – hey this guy gets it. I can only explain it in these broad political parables but it is very personal too. The whole dead experience got me to see things as they are and to break out of the system of thought and roles that kind of envelopes us all via the media & via social norms of the moment. Hard to explain – and am rambling… I would welcome other posts that may have crossed paths either in the same time space or thoughts that experienced the same thing….


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What Got You on the Bus?