Season 4, Episode 6

Archival interviews:

- Jerry Garcia & Ben Fong-Torres, KSAN, 1975.

- Jerry Garcia, “What was that,” KSAN, 1976.

- Jerry Garcia, WHMR, 11/27/78.

- Jerry Garcia & Ray White, WLIR, 1/11/79.

- Jerry Garcia & Bill Cooper, WRNW, 1982.

- Jerry Garcia & Joe Smith, Off the record, 5/23/88.

JESSE: When the Grateful Dead came to town in the ‘80s and ‘90s, the news cameras often turned to the Dead Heads that arrived along with them.

WORCESTER NEWS ANCHOR [1987]: Tonight I was out at the Worcester Centrum to see the Grateful Dead and discovered that the story there is as much about the fans as it is about the group.

AKRON NEWS ANCHOR [1986]: From the time you walked in the Rubber Bowl’s parking lot, you saw cars that looked like they’d driven in from the ‘60s. There was a sea of tie-dyed t-shirts, walking rainbows, dancing skirts, peace sign earrings, the peace sign and, well, people just getting their head together.

HAMPTON NEWS ANCHOR [1992]: I'm told the big draw to a Grateful Dead concert is not only the music, but the environment. It’s a big festival here, a chance for many of these people to live the lifestyles of the ‘60s and that means experiencing hippies, love, and LSD.

WORCESTER NEWS ANCHOR [1987]: I saw groups of 18-year olds in moccasins, ponchos, and tie-dyed shirts, keeping vigil, following the group from city to city. It has been like this for 22 years, ever since this group first emerged from Haight Ashbury.

JESSE: It was more or less required by law for interviewers to ask members of the Dead about the Dead Heads. Here’s Jerry Garcia and Bob Weir facing down Good Morning America in October 1980.

GMA HOST [10/80]: Your fans are unbelievable — the Dead Heads, they call them.

BOB WEIR [10/80]: Don’t believe ‘em then.

GMA HOST [10/80]: What do you think about them? I mean, it’s almost like a worship thing.

JERRY GARCIA [10/80]: They’re actually real good people. They’re not —

BOB WEIR [10/80]: They’re game.

JERRY GARCIA [10/80]: Yeah, they’re game.

JESSE: It was often suggested that the Dead’s endlessly growing fanbase had to do with nostalgia for the 1960s. That’s what former Warner Bros. president Joe Smith implied when he spoke with Garcia in 1988, a recording now in the Library of Congress.

JERRY GARCIA [5/23/88]: I would think that that were the case if most of the young Dead Heads came into it with some sense of history, but they don't come into it with some sense– They don't come into it having read The [Electric] Kool-Aid Acid Test or On the Road, you know what I mean? They don't have that same background. Earlier, during the ‘70s, that was the case.

JESSE: It’s probably Garcia’s most famous answer to the question, and his most patriotic. I can almost hear the “Stars and Stripes Forever” from Dave’s Picks 26 playing.

AUDIO: “Stars and Stripes Forever” [Dave’s Picks 26, 12/14/71] (6:05-6:50)

JERRY GARCIA [5/23/88]: But now during the ‘80s, these are people who are just… I think the Grateful Dead kind of represents America — the spirit of being able to go out and have an adventure in America at large. It's like one of the things that you can do is that you can go out and follow the Grateful Dead around. And you have your war stories, stories about the time that you were driving through Des Plaines in the middle of the night and got four flat tires, and some farmer helped you out and put you up.

JESSE: This memory is from Carl Ristaino and it matches Jerry’s vision almost directly.

CARL RISTAINO: It's 1987. Me and my buddies, Ray Boz and Meniz are driving in my dark green Toyota Corolla that [we] called the Iguana. We're driving to Providence for a show, and there's torrential downpour hits on the highway. I have the wipers on full blast and I can't even see what's going on. The wipers suddenly die and the sky is pouring on us. So we had to pull over for a second, and we took off our shoelaces and tied it to the wipers. I pulled on one shoe wiper with one shoelace, and Ray Boz pulled on the other wiper with his other shoelace. And we made it to the show — great show.

JERRY GARCIA [5/23/88]: It’s like adventure stories — stuff that you can talk about, stuff that you can share with your friends, and stuff that's not cheap. In other words, you have to go out and put some energy into it. But if you’re willing to do that, you have a lot of fun and you meet a lot of neat people. So I think that's what motivates the audience now: we represent something like hopping railroads, or being on the road, like Kerouac. You can't do those types of things anymore, but you can be a Dead Head. You can get in your van and go with the other Dead Heads and cross the United States and meet it on your own terms.

AKRON NEWS ANCHOR [1986]: They're affectionately called Dead Heads.

JESSE: What are Dead Heads? Who are they? How are they? Where did they come from? And what were they doing? Where are they going?

AKRON DEAD HEAD [1986]: A Dead Head’s an individual that follows the Grateful Dead for the music they play for their audiences.

JESSE: Okay, that’s a starting point. But everybody’s got different answers, and—like the Dead—it’s actually fine if those answers are different every time. Let’s start with sociologist Rebecca Adams. Dr. Adams saw her first Dead show in 1970 and has been studying the Grateful Dead since the late 1980s. She co-edited a fascinating book called Deadhead Social Science: You Ain’t Gonna Learn What You Don’t Wanna Know, which has recently been republished along with a new e-book edition.

REBECCA ADAMS: When people ask me what a Dead Head is, I quite frankly don't know how to answer — when I was doing my research, and was trying to define what my population was, it was pretty challenging because not all Dead Heads want to be called Dead Heads. And not all people who call themselves Dead Heads have any clue of what other people think that means. After trying to figure this out over the years, [I] finally settled on thinking of Dead Heads in two ways: one as a sense of self-identity, and another, a set of behaviors that other people think about when they think about Dead Heads. Sometimes they don't match up — people can identify as Dead Heads who don't engage in the behaviors, and vice versa.

JESSE: Steve Silberman co-authored the essential 1994 book Skeleton Key: A Dictionary For Deadheads. It’s one of the best places to start reading about the Grateful Dead.

STEVE SILBERMAN: Our definition of Dead Head from Skeleton Key: “Someone who loves and draws meaning from the music of the Grateful Dead and the experience of Dead shows, and builds community with others who feel the same way.” I still feel that way. That's exactly what it is. I know Dead Heads who are now 23 and are as passionate as I ever was, and more knowledgeable than I will ever be. They never saw Jerry, they never got a chance to see Jerry. Am I gonna say, “Well, they’re not really Dead Heads if they didn’t see Jerry” — as many older Dead Heads do? I not only completely disagree with that, what blows my mind is that these younger Dead Heads are exactly like my friends were, when we were in our early 20s. We see eye to eye across the generations, and it's wonderful to share the excitement with them.

JESSE: We’re going to roll through a range of Dead Heads experiences today, from folkloric to historiographical with plenty of transit points between, but this is hardly a comprehensive survey. Check out Steve and Rebecca’s books for more. One term that comes up a lot is “getting on the Bus.” Take it away, Weir.

AUDIO: “The Other One” (part II) [Listen To The River, 10/19/72] (0:30-1:00) - []

JESSE: That was from October 19th, 1972, on the new Listen To The River box set. The Bus that Bob Weir sings about on “The Other One” was the Merry Pranksters’ bus Furthur, driven by Beat hero Neal Cassady. “You’re either on the Bus or you’re off the Bus,” Ken Kesey said in a speech made famous in Tom Wolfe’s Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test. The term gradually migrated into Dead Head usage. In a large way, the Dead Head experience roots in the Acid Tests. This is Garcia speaking with Ben Fong-Torres in 1975.

JERRY GARCIA [1975]: In terms of what was the show, and what wasn't the show, there was no delineation, there's no definition. Everybody came, that was the show. And so you were also free to enjoy the show, as well as to be the show if you felt like it. It had that complete reciprocal thing, which is the thing — that was it, this is the biggest news in years. There isn't any difference between the audience and the music, or only the performance; the performance is happening all the time, and everybody's involved in it.

JESSE: We explored the Acid Tests in our “Hug the Heat” episode. They were over by early 1966, but the band carried it with them, even if that dynamic wasn’t able to manifest in most of the venues they played. Historically, before there were Dead Heads, there were Dead freaks. “Dead Freaks Unite,” read the gatefold to Skull and Roses. We talked about the subsequent establishment of the Dead’s official mailing list during the last episode of last season, and one definition of a Dead Head was simply anybody who subscribed to the Dead Heads mailing list. Harriet Milnes was one of the early subscribers.

HARRIET MILNES: We got mailings from the Dead Head and Unite people. They sent us 7-inch records. We got a lot of things from Dead Heads Unite, advance warnings of things. One time, they told us to go down to our local record store and clean up the Grateful Dead area.

JESSE: There were all kinds of heads in the underground. I wrote a whole book about it called Heads. The first Dead Heads certainly grew from the ‘60s counterculture, but Dead Heads also grew from the Dead themselves and what they projected, somehow different from their rock ‘n’ roll peers. My friend Richard Pettengill saw the Dead for the first time when he was a teenager.

RICHARD PETTENGILL: The first time I saw the Grateful Dead at the Woodstock Festival on August 16th 1969, they taught me to revere the human impulse to take risks; to have the courage to perform in ways that are not fully planned out; and to embrace startling developments that no one could have predicted.

JESSE: Thankfully there’s a lot of head room on the Bus, because one of the first people to board was nearly seven feet tall. Hey Bill Walton! Somehow didn’t see you come in.

BILL WALTON: We didn't have a television set. We didn't have enough money for a television set, which was fantastic for me. We had the radio — I had a transistor radio, it cost $9.95. When they swung to FM radio, and they started playing the longform music, that's when we found out about the Grateful Dead. The Grateful Dead were not played on AM stations. None of us had cars or anything, so we heard about a show coming up in Los Angeles. And in those days, we just thought Los Angeles was one big giant place. We had no idea where it was, but it was somewhere in the Los Angeles area. We had to drive up there — somebody took their parents’ car, their parents were out of town, we showed up there and we got in, and we never left. The Grateful Dead… once you find them, you never leave. And that's what happened to me in 1967, when I heard about it on the radio, went to the show, got in, got to the front of the stage. And all of a sudden: “Whoa,” I said, “this is me.” That joy, the happiness, the excitement, the love, the community, and then the music and the people. And I looked around and I said: “Wow, this is me, forevermore.”

JESSE: The Dead carried that spontaneity with them like an intangible piece of musical gear. Michael Irwin saw them at Wesleyan in May 1970.

MICHAEL IRWIN: We went backstage and I saw Jerry and Bob and other folks standing around talking and laughing. I wasn't very familiar with the Dead at that time, but they looked larger than life — travelers from another sunny universe.

JESSE: By foregrounding spontaneity, the Grateful Dead would both soundtrack and actively  facilitate countless transformative experiences: a message carried from the Acid Tests to the last show at Soldier Field in 1995, and to every note played since. It wasn’t just the Dead who were spontaneous.

MICHAEL IRWIN: When the show started, we just stayed watching from behind the stage. There was a box of percussion instruments close by, which we started to play. Billy glanced around at one point and wondered what the noise was. But he didn't say anything. I guess you could say, that day, I jammed with a Grateful Dead, tripped the light fantastic and became a Dead Head.

JESSE: Every show really was different, shaped by the chaos field the Dead seemingly brought with them wherever they traveled. This is Jerry Garcia on KSAN in 1976.

JERRY GARCIA [1976]: We've always had sort of a select following, so to speak. We've always played to our own audience, almost a team, just about everywhere we've gone.

JESSE: Somehow, we got two accounts of an unrecorded Dead show in November 1970. This is Phillip Tomalin.

PHILLIP TOMALIN: Once upon a time, it was my first show back on November 22nd, 1970, in Edison, New Jersey, at the Middlesex County College. The whole gang came to town along with the New Riders [of the Purple Sage]. I was at the show, it was in the little gym.

JESSE: And Eric Clark was there, too.

ERIC CLARK: I went with some older friends who were into the Dead. I didn't really know a lot about ‘em at the time. We were hanging out on the grass around three o'clock in the afternoon, two Cadillacs rolled up with a bunch of Harleys behind them, in a cloud of dust. They were flying, man. And these cowboy-looking guys tumbled out of the car. I was impressed — they sure were not from my neighborhood in New Jersey, I'll tell you that.

PHILLIP TOMALIN: I was up stage right, and I was looking at this guy who was familiar to me, dressed in a black motorcycle jacket with the studs on it. He looked familiar — his name was Bruce, he played guitar, he was a couple of years ahead of me. He was from a neighboring town, Sayreville, I think it was. And that was Bruce Springsteen — he came to check out the show.

JESSE: It’s true, Bruce even wrote about it in his memoir. This is from the Born To Run audiobook, available from Simon and Schuster wherever you get your audiobooks.

BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN [Born To Run, Chapter 68]: In the 1970s I went to a Grateful Dead show at a community college. I watched the crowd swaying and doing its trance dance thing, and I stood very outside of it. To me—sober, non-mystical, only half-hippie, if that, me—they sounded like a not very talented bar band. I went home gently mystified.

ERIC CLARK: At the show, I was wandering around after we had our space on a blanket and walked into the locker room off the back area where they set up a stage, and New Riders and [the] Dead were in there and hanging out. I must have looked surprised, because they laughed at me when I rolled in, and I just kind of waved and said, “Hey guys, everybody's really looking forward to hearing you play.” They were happy to hear that. We shared some sacred refreshment and I left them be. I remember the show where Jerry played steel with the New Riders. It was a beautiful sound. [The] Dead played acoustic first. It was quite a beautiful experience — a great, gentle, chill show, and I've chased that vibe in live shows ever since.

BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN [Born To Run, Chapter 68]: I don't know if the Grateful Dead were great. But I know they did something great. Years later, when I came to appreciate their subtle musicality—Jerry Garcia’s beautifully lyrical guitar playing, and the folk purity of their voices—I understood that I'd missed it. They had a unique ability to build community, and sometimes, it ain't what you're doing, but what happens while you're doing it that counts.

JESSE: Not everybody got on the bus, as the Boss reminds us. He had his own roads to ride. But there was definitely something going on, and some people picked up on it instinctually, with the Grateful Dead finding their way into the deepest parts of their lives. Adam Brown is an associate professor of psychology at the New School. He saw the Dead in the ‘90s and lately has been thinking a lot about Dead Heads and memory.

ADAM BROWN: I was introduced to the Dead at summer camp. Very quickly, you go from the music to the culture, and it's almost like these two things are just so intimately connected to one another. As I became a psychologist and started studying things like memory, eventually I started to think about those social practices — how do we tell stories, and what ways in which these stories impact our sense of identity, how we understand ourselves, how we understand our relationships, and how we understand culture around us. And one thing that I think Dead Heads love doing is telling stories: telling stories about the journeys, about the music, about first shows that they’ve been through. But anytime you’re waiting online, any time you go online to read comments about shows, there is this very deep connection to share one's experience and to hear other people's experiences.

JESSE: Bruce Van Buskirk.

BRUCE VAN BUSKIRK: In 1978, I was able to attend the first four shows the Dead played at Red Rocks. Before the second pair of shows in August, word was out that they’d finished an album. I had a dream soon after that I was at their show at Red Rocks and something about Queen of Diamonds stuck in my head. While waiting in the stands for the show to start—Red Rocks would allow you into the venue by midday—someone started throwing playing cards and the Queen of Diamonds landed in my lap. I still have that card.

ADAM BROWN: When it comes to the Dead, we allow ourselves to engage with magic, and a sense of wonder and possibility and randomness in ways that we might not do so in other parts of our lives, which I really love. Just this idea of: I met this person and a lot; three days later, I was dancing next to them at the show. Or I happened to have met this person and years later, we connected again. Or the finding of the ticket on the ground so randomly. But I think there is an openness to possibility and magic and serendipity that may not figure so prominently into other stories in these people's lives. But when it comes to talking about the Dead, it figures prominently, which I find so interesting.

JESSE: Rebecca Adams.

REBECCA ADAMS: A lot of what I wrote about Dead Head values, a lot of that was based on data that were more observational than quantified. But there are definitely things, like a belief in synchronicity. I would describe it as basic Jungian synchronicity, although it's Dead Head synchronicity. Many Dead Heads wouldn’t know Jung had written about it, but it was basically the idea that your faith had already been determined, and that things were going to happen no matter what. So planning was not the way to go about doing things in the parking lot, or in the show, because it wouldn't work. And if you were supposed to run into someone at the show, you would run into them, because it was already gonna happen.

JESSE: It was an experience you had to be open to.

AUDIO: “Scarlet Begonias” [Download Series 1, 4/30/77] (2:17-2:29) - [Spotify] [YouTube]

JESSE: That was from the Palladium in New York, April 30th, 1977, from the Download Series, Volume 1. In Robert Hunter’s famous lyric, “Once in a while you can get shown the light, in the strangest of places if you look at right,” that “if” is doing a lot of the heavy lifting. But the Dead and the heads did a lot to grease the necessary cosmic mechanisms. Steve Johgart.

STEVE JOHGART: My first Dead show, March 13, 1971, at Michigan State University. I was pretty much completely unfamiliar with the Dead at the time. I'd heard that they were really good, so I splurged on those $3.50 tickets and bought four of them. One for me, one for a young woman I dated a few times and two others I thought somebody else would want, but it turned out nobody else wanted them. So I gave those to Glenda to put in her purse. We figured we'd sell them at the door, but by the time we got to the door, we were getting pretty darn high off that amazing sugar cube that we had split. So we just went into the show. At intermission, she said to me, “You know, I hate to tell you, but I didn't sell those tickets. I just gave them to a couple of people who looked like they really wanted to get into the show.” Years later, I realized that we had miracle-ed some people before there were such things as miracle tickets, and I thought that was pretty cool. I'm glad a couple of people got a chance to have that amazing experience.

JESSE: The earliest fan-made merch appeared in 1966 when some neighbors of the band in Haight-Ashbury made pins that said “Good Ol’ Grateful Dead.” The first fan-made t-shirts followed in the early 1970s. One way to measure ways that Dead Head culture began to emerge outside of Dead shows was cover bands. By the late 1960s, Cavalry, the first Dead cover band, had sprung up in New Jersey. We interviewed guitarist John Zias in our two-part special “Playing Dead.” Not too long after that, in Dead Head Central on Long Island, Michael Schiano and his friends had their own scene going.

MICHAEL SCHIANO: I was in what we think was the first Dead cover band on Long Island starting in 1972. The band was called Loci, and we had a local but pretty dedicated scene in the Massapequa area and beyond for a while. We were pretty dedicated ourselves. We learned the Live/Dead version of “Dark Star” note for note, to try to get inside that music and understand what the band was doing. The four of us pretty much learned how to play by playing the Grateful Dead together. We talked a local catering hall owner into letting us use his empty hall, and turned that place, the Bayview House, into our version of the Avalon. We packed it night after night. For a while we even had a songwriter who, like Hunter, didn't play in the band and a girl singer. The rhythm section of that band, guitar, bass and drums, is still playing around Long Island today. We're now called The Moondogs and though our focus is a little different, you'll still find us pulling out a Dead tune or stretching out a jam on just about any given night.

JESSE: Lots of Dead Heads would be inspired by the band to put their energies into different kinds of projects. Mike Dolgushkin saw his first show at the Berkeley Community Theater in summer 1972 and started seeing the band regularly around the Bay Area. He had an especially inspirational experience at Winterland the next year.

MIKE DOLGUSHKIN: It was November 10th, 1973, actually. We got in line early — it was 10 o'clock, we were fourth or fifth in line or something, at Winterland. In the afternoon, it started raining, so first, they let us all come in under the overhang. And then about four in the afternoon, they let us inside, they opened the doors. There was a soundcheck going on, but it wasn't the Dead. It was the roadies’ band, which was known as Sparky and the Ass Bites From Hell. They were playing, and after they were done, we heard a tape over the PA of an instrumental “[The] Other One” into “Sweet Inspiration,” with Donna singing. It was done by the Sweet Inspirations, who were Aretha [Franklin]’s backup band. I really wish that would surface sometime.

JESSE: Mike Dolgushkin is what we in the podcast biz call a “reliable witness.” It was those same Winterland shows that set Mike on the road to becoming the co-editor of DeadBase, the legendary Grateful Dead setlist compendium first published in 1986.

MIKE DOLGUSHKIN: I went to the middle night and I realized later that I could remember everything they played. And as it turned out, amazingly, years later, when I ran across a recording, it was 100% accurate — my memory was. So I wrote it down. I had a few live tapes at that time, like a couple. So I wrote down what was on those and then I started showing them to my friends: “Look, how cool is this? You can compare what the Dead did at different shows.” I had a tape of New Years ‘72-’73 that someone gave me on 8-track. So I had to play it on my dad's stereo, because he had an 8-track in there. Then I started writing down. After that, at the very next one, I went to February at Winterland. I went [on] the middle night and I wrote down the songs they did, but a friend of mine went all three nights. So I asked him, “Can you write down all the songs they did?” And so he did. So I had setlist for all three nights. They did premiere some stuff the first night, and also did some songs my friend didn't know. So it wasn't completely accurate — but it was a start, and then it went on from there. Just writing down the songs from shows I went to. In those days, our tape collections were pretty much limited to what was broadcast on the radio locally. Around ‘74, a friend of ours got a Sony 152 or 153 — one of those portable Sony decks, started recording shows himself. And his friends started getting other tapes from unknown sources around the country. So our collection started growing a little bit more. And that's how it was in those days.

JESSE: Even if you didn’t have any Dead tapes of your own, it wasn’t too hard to get a collection started. You just had to find a Dead Head. Or let one find you. John Orr.

JOHN ORR: It's about 1975. I was 10 years old. The neighbors had hired a gardener — now we call them landscapers, but back then, the gardener. A real free-spirited guy, very long hair, had the whole look, like he fell out of San Francisco in 1960-something. Very cool guy. He’d listen to music on his tape deck — it was great music, good stuff. I would listen to it sometimes when I was sitting in the yard or whatever: “Wow, that's pretty good,” I would start talking to him through the fence. My parents, of course, they were: “I think the neighbors hired a hippie...” That was terrifying to them, that we had a hippie now in our neighborhood. He was talking to me, so they were doubly thrilled about that. And he said, “Here, let me let me play something I think you'll like,” one day when we were talking. He put on “Ripple” from American Beauty — and I was hooked. I was just like, “That's a great song.” He started playing some other stuff, “Uncle John’s Band” and whatnot. I just loved it. And from that point forward, I was just seeking the Grateful Dead. My parents, of course, were absolutely horrified that I had been influenced by this hippie. That was many, many years ago, and [I’ve] been on the Bus ever since.

JESSE: Mike Dolgushkin’s setlist collection began to grow.

MIKE DOLGUSHKIN: I used a typewriter. I was using these little binders, you get in the stationery stores, with these little pages. And that's what I typed them in on. In later years, you'd have maybe six shows on one page, so it wasn't quite as easy to insert things. But by that time, I had more of an idea of which shows they actually played so I could leave space for stuff. The grapevine hadn't really—at least among people I knew—been fully established yet. I remember going to the June 4th, 1977 show at the Forum in LA, in Inglewood. And I remember talking to somebody and asked ‘em, we were talking about the past tour. He knew parts of it. He told me what some of the highlights that he'd heard of were. Interestingly enough, the highlight of the tour at that point was not held to be Cornell, but St Louis.

JESSE: Wow. For more about that St. Louis ‘77 show, now released on the May 1977 box set, check out the end of our episode on “Listen To The River, Kiel Auditorium, October 1973."

MIKE DOLGUSHKIN: After the end of ‘77, by that time I had met some of the big tape traders on the West Coast like Bob Menke and Charles Connor and Rob Bertrando. I remember after the January ‘78 California tour was over, Menke gave me all the setlists for 1977, minus one show. I'd never seen a complete year documented like that before. That was exciting. You could really compare the shows all across the board there.

JESSE: People had followed the Dead around since before they were the Dead. In our Listen To The River: 1973 episode, we heard from Steve Brown, who caught multiple shows by The Warlocks back in ‘65. Future Dead archivist Dick Latvala saw countless shows in the ballroom era of 1966 and 1967. And there are certainly accounts of people hitting the road with the band in the early ‘70s, but it was after the band’s 1975 road hiatus that the touring culture really began to take hold. A new generation of Dead Heads was born in 1977 with the massive festival at Raceway Park in Englishtown, NJ, now Dick’s Picks Volume 15. It was Jeff Needle’s first show.

JEFF NEEDLE: I got on the Bus back in ‘74, but didn't get to my first show [until] ‘77 because New York was full of Dead Heads, and it was really tough to get a ticket. You had to actually sleep out at the venue, because Ticketmaster hadn't really kicked in yet. But in ‘77, the summer, they announced Englishtown, which ended up with 125,000 people in the middle of New Jersey. I was coming from soccer camp for my senior year with a bunch of my buddies. And one of my buddies and I were hardcore enough to take the train back into the city from Rhode Island and then a bus to my uncle's house, which was in Matawan, only five miles away. The next morning, he could only get me within a mile of the place. He dropped me off, and I was meeting my other buddy at the first aid station at 10 o'clock in the morning — that was the only plan. Amongst the madness of 125,000 people, I finally got to the front of the place and walked in and asked where the first aid station was. And the guy at the gate pointed to the right, and I started to walk in there and ran right into my buddy. Ended up having a great show with the New Riders and Marshall Tucker. Getting out of there… since my buddy had gotten there on the Wednesday before, he was parked so far in [that] we had to sleep in the car. The tough part was the walk of shame back to my uncle's house, because I ended up without a shirt and I had to pick up my bag at my uncle's house the next morning. Walking up to that door without a shirt was pretty funny. Great show, great time. Wouldn't get off the Bus for anything.

JESSE: Steve Silberman.

STEVE SILBERMAN: At Oberlin, I would say I certainly didn't think of myself as like a prominent Dead Head or anything. I was a Dead Head, but I felt like I was an amateur. There were guys who would regularly do every tour at Oberlin. I forget the exact date, but it was Cleveland Music Hall ‘78. That was a huge event for the Oberlin Dead Head community. There were, I believe, more than 100 people from Oberlin at that show, and it was a small venue. Somehow, those 100 people got a hold of some hits of a particular vintage of LSD called Red Dragon, which was some of the best LSD I ever had. I don't know how they got it. But in any case — that show is still one of my favorite shows of all time, because the second set just sort of keeps dipping into and out of the rivers of jamming. It was kind of like playing-jamming. It’s a very fluid, flowy second set. And because they started the second set with drums and a jam into “Jack-A-Roe,” that was completely unusual. Even for hardcore Dead Heads, to start the second set with drums, a jam, it was very unusual. They didn't get a big ovation when they came out for the second set. They just sort of came out, started tuning up, and just pretty quickly started jamming. So it was like we were all there together — it was the most communal feeling I probably ever had at a Dead show. Really high on acid, really experimental music. So that was definitely a moment when I sort of leveled up.

JESSE: Jerry Garcia was a pretty keen observer of the Dead’s audience. Here’s a fascinating observation he made to WHMR in 1978.

JERRY GARCIA [11/27/78]: The interesting thing about it is—and it may or may not be visible from your point of view, or even from longtime Dead Heads’ point of view—is that it's not the same audience all the time. There's a turnover. Our audience, in fact, has been growing in a way; we’re the slowest rising rock 'n' roll band in the world. Our audience has been growing, we have a lot of people in the audience who are really quite young, some of ‘em like half our age. And it's interesting, it leads us to believe something along the lines of that there's a kind of a minority group, regardless of generation or age or whatever, that can dig what we’re doing.

JESSE: The data actually supports it, too, even though it’s a little imperfect, with surveys across the ‘80s and ‘90s indicating a constant influx of younger fans. The Dead Head fan network soon began publishing zines. Relix had started putting out a magazine for tape traders in the mid-’70s, but had shifted in a poppier direction by the ‘80s. The Golden Road established itself on the West Coast and Dupree’s Diamond News on the East. But one of the first publications that actually based itself on tour was a one-sheet newsletter called MIKEL, published by Michael Linnah. It included tour news, setlists, doodles, addresses of other Dead Heads, occasional editorials, personal letters, and more. It was very homemade. I wrote a story about it a few years back for Aquarium Drunkard. There were all kinds of ways to get into the Dead. One of them was the MIKEL zine itself. Here’s my pal Julia Postel.

JULIA POSTEL: I was a duplicate bridge player. And Michael Linnah was a bridge director — that's what he did for his job, for his money. He would go all over the country, and he would be one of the people running around adjudicating at bridge games. I got to know him over many years of playing bridge in the ‘70s. One day, I think it was about 1982, he brought this bag with him to bridge game, and he sat at the desk in the front of the room. I looked up and I saw this pile of mail on his desk, and it was all very colorful. I walked up and I said, “Michael, what is that?” And he says, “It’s the mail I get from people, for the MIKEL newsletter.” It was just fascinating — it was so beautiful. Everything was so colorful. I said, “This is beautiful.” He says, “Hey, why don’t you come over to my house on Saturday and help me process this?”

JESSE: Michael died of cancer in 1985. But his publication became a sub-community of its own within the Dead world, like a tour switchboard.

JULIA POSTEL: I didn't go to a show until he died in 1985. So I fell in love with the fans — I fell in love with the communication that you got, that the people at that time were having with one another. It was just a fascinating thing to communicate, and to help these people communicate.

JESSE: Julia got on the Bus, where you can still find her. Around the time that Michael Linnah died, Mike Dolgushkin and the creators of DeadBase were getting ready to publish their first edition. Their surveys would likewise show the fanbase continuing to pull in young listeners. DeadBase became a community building point — a consensus timeline of events shared by the Dead world, connecting young Dead Heads to a legacy that stretched, day by day, back to the Acid Tests.

MIKE DOLGUSHKIN: We self-published, we put ads in Relix and Golden Road, handed out flyers at shows, did all that stuff. The reception was great. People had been waiting for that — there was a need for it, to have all that information in one place. It's a timeline. And that's one reason we made sure to put the day of the week in there too, because people might remember, “Oh, I went to the Thursday show of that run.”

JESSE: Adam Brown.

ADAM BROWN: Probably more so than any other musical group that can exist in terms of the way it was documented so carefully. But within those historical verbatim records, we have so much fluidity and so much malleability and so much subjectivity about what happened in all of those spaces. And I think that's part of what I find so exciting about it, the convergence of the subjective with the objective that we're always considering in this world. There's something I love about the Dead and the music and everything around improvisation that fits really well with memory, in that memory is malleable. It's constantly changing based on moment to moment. In fact, what we know from neuroscience research is what we're remembering is the last thing that we remembered. And we're really recalling things based on our present stance — where we are in that moment, how we're feeling, what our environment is like, maybe what legacy we want to leave. But every time we go to remember something, it's shaped by all of those factors.

JESSE: Michael Moon.

MICHAEL MOON: The Grateful Dead were my university. I would hop on a bus and get to a Dead show where I'd meet people and join the traveling caravan, learning about life, love, music and exploring America. So many magic moments. I loved how we could see the Dead stickers on a vehicle and instantly know we had friends at the next rest stop. I learned to play music while on tour, and ever since have been a professional musician, focused on the healing power of sound. The Grateful Dead were my teachers. Sitting right in the center of RFK Stadium, so hot, so humid, I can no longer tell where I end and the air begins, feeling at one with the entire audience. As huge black thunderheads roll in, the band begins playing the intensity of their energy. We feel it and go wild, releasing it back into the clouds. The band takes it even higher, a circle of energy between the audience, the thunderheads and the band. I could feel the energy of a lightning storm pour down, but it never rained. We bonded with the energy and it passed. I understood the shamanic power of music and group energy viscerally that night.

JESSE: Here’s Steve Silberman with the crux of the biscuit.

STEVE SILBERMAN: To me, the essence of what Grateful Dead shows were [is] they were improvised psychedelic shamanistic initiations. I'm not saying that there weren't guys there who didn't give a fuck about that or were just eating hot dogs or would go to the bathroom when “Drums/Space” was being played. But for me, the Grateful Dead subculture was a community to support this really very ancient experience in human life. Psychedelic shamanistic initiation is part of Indigenous cultures all over the world, in different forms. And I feel like Dead Heads kind of stumbled on that at the same time that the band kind of stumbled on that if they deconstructed their music—which started with feedback in the late ‘60s — if they deconstructed their music somewhere in the middle or towards the end of the show, that it would be amazingly appropriate for an audience that was turned on to psychedelics. I don't use hyperbolic phrases like “ego death” or anything. But something happens — like you're no longer imprisoned in the cage of your personality as much.

REBECCA ADAMS: People reported spiritual experiences at those shows. A spiritual experience in terms of either self-revelations, or feelings of unity, were the two most common kinds. I mean, of course, there were out of body experiences, and all sorts of other things, too. Second set builds to a peak, this structure falls away, which is the part of the shows where Dead Heads most frequently reported self-reflection, and then often came back into rock ‘n’ roll with a strong backbeat — bringing back feelings of unity. making people feel part of that community before they exit the show. So there was a trajectory to the ritual as well that allowed for those self-revelations and changes in identity and transformation.

ADAM BROWN: Another theme that really emerged is life lessons for the road, and for the journey. Both go into actual stories and memories of how you got to shows. I love that theme of the car broke down and it was pouring rain, or it was snowing, and somehow we took our shoelaces off and we put them around the windshield wiper, and we got to the show. There's that perseverance and that sense of determination that is such a part of the world of Dead Heads, but also then connects to life well beyond the actual road. Maybe getting hit by an illness, or some kind of big upheaval in one's life. You keep coming back to these lessons that are embedded both in the lyrics and the music, but also in these cultural practices around the bands that people continue to come back to, and really draw a lot of support on. I think we saw that more than ever during COVID-19, where people were looking to connect with something familiar, something grounding, something bigger than them, and also something that provided a little bit of a guide for how to get through these really unpredictable times.

JESSE: Along with metaphysical lessons, being a Dead Head could also be a way to build collaborative skills.

REBECCA ADAMS: Back when I was originally doing my research, you had to call the hotline and find out when are tickets going to go on sale, and what are the instructions. Because the instructions changed, and the address changed. You had to know what period you were allowed to mail ‘em in, and you had to pay for long distance. So it was a pretty common practice for Dead Heads’ friendship groups to share responsibility for calling the hotline every once in a while to see if the message had changed. Doing the ticket orders together, you had to have somebody check your envelopes, because it was so easy to screw up and to get your money order returned with no tickets. You had to make sure you have everything done the right way, especially if you're a novice. I remember one of my students teaching me to do mail-order the first time. I’d see the same people in Martinsville, because we were the one[s] who knew where the short line was at that post office. We didn't know each other until we started hanging on line together.

JESSE: Here’s Eileen Law with a Grateful Dead hotline message from March 1987.

EILEEN LAW, DEAD HOTLINE [3/11/87]: Thank you for calling the Grateful Dead hotline number. This is a new message as of March 11. The Grateful Dead with Bruce Hornsby and the Range and Ry Cooder will play two concerts at the Laguna Seca Recreation Area in Monterey, California on May 9th, and 10th. The show times are 12 noon. Tickets will be available by mail order starting immediately. All instructions must be followed exactly. The ticket price is $21.25 per ticket with a maximum of eight tickets per concert. All tickets are general admission. The ticket price includes a $1.25 cent service charge, you may order both concerts in one envelope, only one order per person. Duplications of any kind will cause disqualification of all involved orders. Each person must fill out their own order.

JESSE: Lest you think Rebecca was kidding about the specifics of filling out mail order…

EILEEN LAW, DEAD HOTLINE [3/11/87]: All orders must be sent in a #10 size envelope containing a number #10 self-addressed stamped envelope; 22 cents for one to eight tickets; 39 cents for nine to 16 tickets. Aso include a three by five index card with your full name, address, area code and telephone number in the upper left hand corner. List how many tickets to each concert you want and your order of preference, write ‘anything’ if you will accept anything. This is very important.

JESSE: For these Laguna Seca shows, Eileen Law offered some pretty sweet news.

DEAD HOTLINE [3/11/87]: There will be overnight campgrounds available Friday and Saturday nights. For further camping information, look for the ad in the Sunday March 15th San Francisco Chronicle or call the hotline after March 15th.

JESSE: Pete McKernan was at those Laguna Seca ‘87 shows.

PETE McKERNAN: I went to see the Dead up in the Bay Area for the first time back in ‘87. I lived down in San Diego, and I drove up with a bunch of friends. We went to Laguna Seca Raceway, and it was a really great camp scene all around all around the amphitheater, the raceway. There [were] rolling grass hills, one after another, and all the Dead Heads camped out throughout the weekend. It was a really cool setup. You go over one rolling grass hill, find a party, then you'd keep on walking over another hill and find another great party, meeting people throughout the weekend. It was a really cool scene. Bill Graham had a shower set up — they kind of look like little swing sets, you just walk up and pull the rope and a shower would come out. So it's a bunch of heads up on top of the hill taking showers. Bill Graham always had buses, a shuttle service, to take the heads up to the shower in the morning. So it was a really great scene, really great festive atmosphere. We went to both first two shows and really had a great time. The third show we just figured we’d sit outside, just kind of chill for the last show. So we sat back behind the stage at Laguna Seca Raceway. There's a little pond back behind the stage, so we just sat on the other side of that pond. We could hear the band perfectly. We were kind of a styling group, me and my eight friends — we all had tie-dye blanket, a case of beer on ice. All of a sudden Bill Graham walked up, he asked how many tickets we need. He had some extra tickets for tonight's show. He peeled off nine tickets and then just took off. It was kind of like a hit-and-run. So thanks a lot, Bill Graham. It seemed like the crowd parted, just like the Red Sea, and we just kind of danced right up front to the front of the stage. It was pretty awesome.

JESSE: My co-host Rich saw them a few months later.

RICH: I didn’t make it to the Laguna Seca shows in ‘87, but we did go to the Ventura County Fairground shows in June of that year. It was really cool to be at those shows because in ‘86, the year before, we were on our way up to Ventura when we heard on KLOS that we heard that Jerry was in a coma and the shows were gonna be canceled. So ‘87, Ventura County Fairgrounds, literally right on the ocean, California Street, a right point break is there. You can surf before the show. It’s right there on the beach, perfect place. For the Saturday show, my friend Sean Marshall and I got really close to the stage on Jerry’s side, maybe like 20, 25 feet from the stage. Towards the end of the show, they bust out a “Morning Dew.” I’m tripping out because I’m pretty sure Jerry’s staring right at us. I turn to my friend Sean, he confirms it. Jerry did not look away from us the whole song. He just locked eyes with us. Even at the point where he gets into the solo, he’s really getting into it, and he pushes up his glasses when he’s gonna get serious, he just locked into us — absolutely locked in, eye to eye. It was a very trippy feeling, very cool. The weirdest thing was I never really knew what the song was about. But after the song was over, I knew what it was about. It was like Jerry had transmitted the meaning of the song.

JESSE: That summer of 1987, with the MTV success of “Touch of Grey” and the unexpected hit album of In the Dark, was also the summer that sociologist Rebecca Adams began to really study the Dead.

REBECCA ADAMS: The first research I actually did was I supervised four independent study students who went on tour, summer 1987, and passed out a survey at the shows. I received more surveys than I Xerox-ed. People copied them. I thought of this as the least scientific study of all time, because I got a more than 100% response rate. Of course it wasn’t a systematic sample or anything, I very quickly realized that I hadn't asked all the right questions on that survey. That's actually what led me to doing more research, because I realized that I didn't capture it in that survey. And that was all I intended to do.

JESSE: Over the next few years, Rebecca began to study different aspects of the Dead Head experience.

REBECCA ADAMS: There were so many examples of synchronicity that came up in my research too. I think that part of it is just cultural development, people sharing the stories and using that lens to interpret what happens to them. “Oh, I can't believe it. There I was in this big venue and the person who sat next to me the night before showed up.”

JESSE: But she also interviewed Steve Marcus, who ran Grateful Dead Ticket Sales.

REBECCA ADAMS: He told me, “Well, the way we filled tickets was to go through the pile in order, and if they came in at the same time, they would end up sitting with each other on the tour. That’s where their assignments would be.” He told me that they even sometimes would put people next to each other repeatedly because they saw they were on tour by themselves. It wasn't all synchronicity — some of it was social intervention and planning. The Dead Heads, when they told the story, it was always synchronous, without thinking there was behind the scenes structuring going on.

JESSE: Rebecca encountered some deep tour families while she was researching.

REBECCA ADAMS: There were definitely people who've been doing it for a long time. I did talk to a guy who worked on Volkswagen minivans, and that was it. All the parts. He'd go around the parking lot and look for people who couldn't get their vans started and would help them. There was a difference between the East Coast and the West Coast at the time, because on the West Coast, they did what I call homesteading. People would go wait in line and run in and put blankets down, secure their area near wherever they wanted to be in the venue. Down in front, you would even need a password to get back to your blanket. They would keep people out. Whereas on the East Coast, it was a free-for-all. If you could get down to the stage, well, you could get down to the stage. But that kind of behavior on the West Coast was not appreciated. So there were really East Coast and West Coast cultures and many of those people I'm calling homesteaders on the West Coast, they were little show families that were organized and had a system. They take turns sleeping in line and being there at the front, and one person would run, one person would carry the stuff. Some of those families have been going to shows for a long time.

JESSE: Jerry Garcia observed the differences between coasts to WRNW in 1982.

JERRY GARCIA [5/82]: There are differences in American audiences too, regionally. The East Coast audience is tremendously energetic, as you probably know. And then the West Coast audience, the San Francisco audience, is a little bit more like the English audience. They’re a little more laid back — it’s a hackneyed phrase, but that explains it as well as anything. But none of those kind of generalities is 100% true.

JESSE: It wasn’t just the setlists that changed from show to show, or even just the jams, but the overall textures and energy levels.

JERRY GARCIA [5/82]: It’s nice to have those differences, different flavors in the audience. They bring out, they elucidate different elements of the music, you know, what I mean? Different parts of music come to the fore in response to that.

JESSE: Steve Silberman became a West Coast Dead Head in the ‘80s.

STEVE SILBERMAN: Once I got out to the Bay Area, where I moved in part to see the Grateful Dead and Jerry Garcia Band a lot, I started meeting Dead Heads regularly, particularly [at] places like Kaiser [Auditorium]. There were shows at Kaiser and Cal Expo that were not sort of widely publicized. Everybody knew about the so-called high holy days of the Greek [Theater] and the Frost [Amphitheater]. Those shows were for Dead Head lifers. They were for the people who moved here to the Bay Area to see shows a lot.

REBECCA ADAMS: What I think is really interesting about the Dead is how neighborhoods and families formed within the show among people who had not traveled there together. So the fact that the tapers all knew one another — they didn’t travel together, but they still formed a neighborhood within the show, and they knew each other. The rail rats often didn't travel together, but when you went to the rail, either on the East Coast or the West Coast, you would see the same people. Even the Wharf Rats of course had a table where they gathered, but some of these groups just were generated by people's preferences in the show experience. The deaf Dead Heads are another example, where they went to the same place in the show because sometimes there would be a signer. Different computer communities would be a little bit more organized about meeting, but the point I'm making is that there were friendship groups that had representatives from all over the country and even from other countries where they didn't travel together. And that's the part I find really interesting — that you could be on tour and because of your preferences for the show experience, you would see the same people over and over again, without planning to do so. See, there's the synchronicity thing coming in again: “Oh, I ran into the same guy.” Well, yeah, because he likes hearing the music the same way you do.

JESSE: The scope of the Dead Head experience extends far beyond seeing the Dead in concert, though. Matt Holmes.

MATT HOLMES: A band and some tunes can be much more than that. Or maybe just that is much more than it seems. I was 19, my first season fishing for salmon in Bristol Bay, Alaska. I was tired and lonely and homesick, and yet, at the end of a great adventure. I think you all know the feeling. I was listening to a tape on the back deck. The boat pulled out of the bay and into the Black Muddy River and the band broke into “Beat It On Down the Line” as the lights of civilization came back into view for the first time in weeks, beckoning me to shore and to home, back where I belong. At that moment, a crabber boat passed by, its name written in giant letters: the Ramble On Rose. We pulled up to the dock and I stepped off that Ship Of Fools that had been my home for the past few months. On the Wharf, I looked back out into the waves — I was on top of the world, a million miles from anywhere but the band had followed me there, or maybe, probably, already been there waiting. It was then I realized there's no place that the tunes won't follow.

JESSE: John Lilja.

JOHN LILJA: I'm an American that's lived in Norway for the last 24 years, and I live in an area where very few people know the Grateful Dead — which is odd because Brent [Mydland]’s family is from this area. So I've always felt like the lone Dead Head for miles and miles. I was tending bar one night, there were two guys in the bar. I put on Europe ‘72. The one guy kind of looks up: “Is this the Grateful Dead?” “Yeah.” “Are you a Dead Head?” “Yeah, are you?” Yeah.” All of a sudden, we're good friends, and he tells me a story about being in a bar [in] the next town over, [on] a night when there were very few customers. The few customers that were there were allowed to pick the music, so he puts on some Dead. Guy comes over to him says, “Hey, man, is this the Grateful Dead you're playing?” Guy says, “Yeah?” The other guy says, “Ah, cool. My cousin was in that band.” So yeah, an area where Brent's got plenty of kin, and nobody knows the Dead. But luckily, I've met a couple of like-minded thinkers along the way.

JESSE: Here’s where I get to insert my own story. I actually passed through Stavanger, Norway, a few years back, on a fact-finding mission about the legendary local band Kasvot Växt, but my destination was the beautiful nearby coastal village of Egersund. One afternoon we were out looking at fjords with our host, as one does in Norway, and the topic of the Dead came up, as happens when there are Dead freaks in the car. I think I may have even made a joke about all the road signs for the town of Mydland. Which, I learned from our host, actually is where Brent Mydland’s family is from. Brent flew lots of them over to the States to see the band at Madison Square Garden in the ‘80s, and he’s still got lots of family in the area. Mydland is a pretty common last name in the region, and there are apparently a number of Brent Mydlands in Mydland, Norway. Our host insisted on stopping by the home of Brent’s closest living relative and, somewhat mortified, I was elected to go knock on the door. I was simultaneously relieved and a little disappointed that nobody was home.

AUDIO: “Eyes of the World” [One From the Vault, 8/13/75] (6:50-7:22) - [Spotify]

JESSE: That was “Eyes of the World” from August 13th, 1975, One From the Vault.

RAY WHITE [1/11/79]: How is that playing over in Europe? I mean, you must have a lot of Americans.

JERRY GARCIA [1/11/79]: Well, there's European Dead Heads, too.

RAY WHITE [1/11/79]: What's the difference between them?

JERRY GARCIA [1/11/79]: Their accents.

JESSE: That’s Jerry Garcia speaking with Ray White on WLIR in 1979. Jerry was kidding, but also not.

JERRY GARCIA [1/11/79]: They're kind of like Dead Heads everywhere, except that they have their own definition of themselves. You know what I mean? They have their own little numbers and stuff. But the kind of input that we get from them and the kind of letters that they write, and when we meet people over there and stuff like that, the kind of people they are is a lot like American Dead Heads, whatever that is. But it's a very specific kind of person. They laugh a lot, they have fun.

JESSE: The expression “we are everywhere” came from the gay liberation movement, but it crossed over to Dead Head usage, too. Beth Elliot.

BETH ELLIOT: I was a Bay Area teenager in the 60s, which my friends say explains a lot. I was more into Jefferson Airplane, but really turned into a Dead Head through Workingman’s Dead. I went on to see lots and lots of really cool Dead shows. In the early ‘90s, I was one of some Bay Area gay and lesbian Dead Heads who managed to find each other and hang out together. We called ourselves the Queer Dead Heads, just for grins. And we’d meet on line for shows so we could groove together. In 1993, when it wasn't ridiculously expensive, we bought a contingent permit for the San Francisco Pride Parade. As fate would have it, that year's theme was the Year of the Queer. This was highly controversial, as many people considered “queer” to be a slur. Not an in your face reclaiming of the word, not like today. We didn't care. We decorated the VW bus and packed it with a sound system and show tapes. We snuck smokes and boogied our way up Market Street carrying signs like “Jerry's Fairies,” “Queers For Weir” and “Lesbians For Lesh,” and I'm still one of those. It was great fun. For all the pro-and-con hullabaloo over the Year of the Queer theme, we were the only contingent that had “queer” in our name. And so we won a prize for Best Use of Theme. Us, the Queer Dead Heads, a bunch of hippies! We were proud and happy.

JESSE: Steve Silberman was at Pride that year, too.

STEVE SILBERMAN: I’m watching Pride walk by, and all of a sudden I see a “Queers For Weir” banner. So I rushed out and joined them, and this older guy came up to us with a camera, snapping our picture, and he was crying. And he said, “Oh my God, I've been waiting my whole life for this.” And it was Jon McIntire, the former manager for the Grateful Dead. He had been closeted in a very straight scene. People think of the Dead as very progressive, and in some ways, they were. But they weren't especially feminists, and they weren't especially a Gay Liberation Organization. So he had lived a complicated life as a closeted gay man, as inner circle as you could get.

JESSE: John Churnetski.

JOHN CHURNETSKI: [I] met my husband on 3/16/1990. As a gay Catholic from the rural part of Pennsylvania, the Grateful Dead has always shown me that love will see me through. 31 years later, my husband and I are still together and still happy.

JESSE: Perhaps the definition of magic is the inability to disprove it. This is Lisa Roe.

LISA ROE: The highlight of spring ‘95 tour was most definitely Phil breaking out “Unbroken Chain” in Philly. But a week later, my three friends and I found ourselves in the Hard Rock Cafe in downtown Atlanta. It was a weird scene at the Omni shows, a Shakedown sort of spread all around the cramped downtown streets, and you had very few places to eat. So here we are, four 18-year old girls in a booth, when an older guy at the next table starts chatting us up. He assumes correctly that we're going to the shows, and he then claims that he's Jerry's driver. In my memory of that day, there were reasons that I can't recall now that we believed him. So of course, not wanting to squander the situation, we decided to write a note for him and have him give it to Jerry. In the note, I think, of course, we claimed our undying love for the band, and I had to take the opportunity to request my number one song. At the time, it was “Terrapin Station.” So he claimed that he was going to give Jerry the note, and we went on with our day. Cut to later that night after a so-so first set. And as the first half of the set goes on, I hear the transition from “Estimated [Prophet],” and lose my shit. He played it. Of course it was due, but he fuckin’ played it. 3/26/95 is my “Terrapin Station.”

JESSE: One place that overlaps meaningfully with the Dead world is the recovery community. Founded in 1986 as an unaffiliated recovery group, the Wharf Rats began meeting under bushels of yellow balloons during set breaks. We talked about them more in our “Wharf Rat” episode. One powerful tool the recovery community shares with Dead Heads is storytelling. Murph Shea.

MURPH SHEA: My name is Murph Shea, longtime Dead Head, longtime in recovery. First show: 5/2/70, Harpur College. Hometown show, I was 12 years old. Been on the Bus ever since. 6/18/95 Giant Stadium — I was heading towards a Wharf Rat meeting. Kind of got lost, and a kind security guard directed me, and said, “Hey, what are you looking for?” I told him, and he said, “Let me take you [on] a shortcut.” Long story short, Jerry was sitting there in a chair. He went by and he knew him. He said, “Hey, Jerry, I want you to meet someone. This is Murph, he’s a Wharf Rat.” Jerry looked up, tired — oh, he looked so tired. And he looked up at me, fire came in his eyes, and he said, “Dude, keep doing what you’re doing, man. You’re saving your life and others.” [That] changed my life, inspired the heck out of me. I’d already been doing the Wharf Rat thing, but, long story short, I’m still doing it to this day. I love getting to do what I love to do without doing what I used to do. I've been a longtime part of this community. It's inspired me in so many ways to be kind, be peaceful, be loving. And I can do that. And I still continue to do that.

JESSE: But magic existed all the way to the end of the Grateful Dead. Michael Guetzow.

MICHAEL GUETZOW: My first show was actually the last, that show at Soldier Field. We were selling jewelry the day before, and a Japanese man that barely spoke any English bought a piece of jewelry from my friend. And he lifted up his sleeve and showed us a tiny Steal Your Face tattoo. It was super tiny because Japan looks down on tattoos. And so he kept pointing at it, saying: “20 years, 20 years.” And we're like, Oh, he got that tattoo 20 years ago. And my friends always told me about how magical the shows are, and how people are so connected. So the last night was the night we had tickets for. It was my best friend's birthday, so I went with them. He's never gonna have a big birthday party like that again, but it was so packed we couldn't get to our seats. We're just standing on the stairs and in the aisles dancing. And within 10 minutes of getting into the stadium and getting to where we stood, we turned around and there was our Japanese friend from the day before, with his woman. And we just all group-hugged and started dancing all night. It was really magical, and ever since then I've been going to Dead and Co. every year at Wrigley. I'm actually going to be getting the same tattoo as our Japanese friend next month.

JESSE: Sheila Swann.

SHEILA SWANN: A few weeks after Jerry died, I had a dream. I was standing in my mother's driveway looking up at the night sky. I saw a weird square spaceship up above and I was thinking to myself, “Jerry was right.” And then I saw, as plain as day, like a red neon line drawing in the sky, it was Jerry — the hair, beard and glasses. It was him. I felt a presence walking up to me from behind. I felt it coming closer, and this presence had something to tell me. And I knew it was Jerry. He was right behind me, and the presence was so strong. I wanted to hear what he was going to tell me, but then I felt that if I turned around to see him, I would be dead too. It was a very strange and powerful sensation. I woke up. That dream has never left me. Mickey Hart's album Mystery Box came out. I listened to “Down the Road” and was like: that was my Jerry dream. To quote: “I heard a laugh I recognize come rolling from the earth. I saw it rise into the skies like lightning giving birth. It sounded like Garcia but I couldn't see the face. Just the beard and the glasses and a smile on empty space.”

AUDIO: “Down the Road” [Mickey Hart, Mickey Hart’s Mystery Box] (3:44-4:06) - [Spotify]

JESSE: Lyrics, I’ll point out, by Robert Hunter. But even though there was no more Grateful Dead, that didn’t mean there were no more Dead Heads. Ryan Storm has a Phish podcast, We Move Through Stormy Weather.

RYAN STORM: Although I was born too late to see Jerry in person, my dad always played the Grateful Dead in the house growing up. When I was five years old, not only was I a huge Grateful Dead fan, but I was ready to try to convert my friends. On a bus to day camp one day, they asked us to bring our favorite CDs so everyone can enjoy some music, probably expecting most kids to bring pop hits, which they did. However, I showed up one morning with the Europe ‘72 box set, with intentions of playing everyone “China”/“Rider,” which was definitely very out of character.

REBECCA ADAMS: Dead Heads do not have the problem the Amish have — they're continuing to recruit members from outside the community. It’s one of the reasons I have a problem with calling Dead Heads a tribe. Originally, I didn't like that term because there wasn't a second generation, or at least there wasn't evidence that a second generation was going to stay within the community when I was first starting the research. And so, since tribe implies generation, I didn't like the term in the beginning. Of course now, we've got the issue with the Neocolonial connotations of tribe and it's just not a cool term anymore. And we have the issue that, although there are some Dead Heads who are second generation or third generation, and maybe even fourth generation Dead Heads, not all young Dead Heads are coming from within the community. They're being recruited from outside the community through Dead derivative and Dead cover bands, and also just because of the music legacy that's available online now. Even though there are young Dead Heads, they don't all comprise part of the original tribe. Our community is getting more diverse in its experiences. We no longer have a community where we all knew what the party was that night.

JESSE: Logan Van Buren.

LOGAN VAN BUREN: I'm a proud second generation Dead Head. For me, the Grateful Dead has always kind of been the glue that sticks everything in my life together. From my family, to my friends, my relationships, the Dead is the one thing that seems to connect them all. Actually, my parents’ first date was to a Grateful Dead show, and then I came out a couple years later. It's funny, if you look back at my baby videos, most of them you can hear the Dead playing in the background. It's interesting to grow up in that environment with my dad, who's a huge Dead Head and a taper. He ended up passing all of that passion and music on to me, which led to me developing this lifelong love for this band. So although I would have liked to have been there for the shows that happened before I was born, I do like where I'm at, as the generation who was being handed down the torch. There was kind of this cosmic synchronicity that comes with being around this band your entire life and even before you were actually born. I hope to pass that love and passion for the Grateful Dead onto my children for a third generation of Dead Heads, because I see the band as the pebble tossed. And I'm just a part of the second wave of ripples that stemmed from the splash that they made. So here's to many more ripples to come.

JESSE: Carlie Brock.

CARLIE BROCK: I was not old enough to see Jerry perform live. But that definitely does not waver my love for the Grateful Dead whatsoever. I remember being a little kid and my dad giving me Skeletons In The Closet on vinyl and listening to it on repeat. But it wasn't until 2016 When I saw Dead and Company perform in Bristow, Virginia, that I really fell in love with the Grateful Dead and all that it stood for. I just remember being there and seeing all the people in attendance and really understanding the scene and falling in love with the live music. So my love for the Grateful Dead has always been pretty strong, and I feel like it's gotten stronger actually during the coronavirus [pandemic], just because I created this group on Instagram — it's now the largest young Dead Head group on all social media. It's called @jerryschildren710. We just created a real community, and it's made me not feel so isolated during these hard times. We have group chats, regional group chats so that you're able to meet up with people in your area. We have features on the page, so you can learn about everyone's Dead Head history. It's just a really wonderful group to be a part of and I would love for any young Dead Heads listening to come check us out.

JESSE: There are new generations of younger Dead Heads, for sure, but there are almost literally Dead Heads of all ages.

REBECCA ADAMS: The music keeps people engaged in the community, and going to shows perhaps longer than people with other musical tastes would go to shows. Merely because of the old habit of not wanting to miss anything, so you have to keep going back if you haven't already heard at all. So, I think that there’s something to that. But also, there are certain kinds of physical aging challenges that I think older Dead Heads have more than maybe other people their age — lots of standing and dancing on concrete. I am, right now, showing you taking out my hearing aid — I happen to have taken out my Phil hearing aid. Wear and tear on the joints. Just different kinds of aging experiences, because of the show experiences and all the kind of set of behaviors that go along with being a Dead Head. My right leg is never going to be the same because it held that pedal down on long trips, for long periods of time. So there are certainly challenges for older Dead Heads to continue to go hear live music. It's one of the reasons it was so great that Couch Tour got a big boost during COVID. Now I'm not nearly as worried about losing my ability to go to shows, because I know I can at least hear live streams for the rest of my life.

JESSE: Poetry about the Dead is part of the Dead Head tradition, too, as I’m sure many people remember from The Grateful Dead Movie and elsewhere. So we’ll leave you with a poem we received from Mike Larkin.

MIKE LARKIN: A note of prayer, or a prayer of note, to the Grateful Dead. Through these uncertain and definite growing pains of our country in the Year of Our Gourd, Something-Thousand-and-20 or so, inspiration is where you can find it. From a beautiful sunrise to a beautiful sunset, from time spent with who you can to the appreciation of our family and friends, plant, animal or human alike, we hold together what is dear, important and inspiring in our hearts, drawing from the, in such times as these, the time-tested beliefs and convictions of what we feel is right and true. We then rely on these values, joys and hysterias to see us through, and they always do. This is where you come in, you Grateful Dead, our ever-faithful companion in the great experience of experience. Somewhere, somehow, each day employ your smile. My Brother Esau saw me through to talk to you. Ventura ‘85 “Bird Song,” set it right where it could have been rong. Box of Rain, ease the pain, educate that is not all in vain. Alligator is an elevator to above the equator. The real devils destroy and recreate all the levels. We love you Grateful Dead — thank you for seeing us through and through. You know we will always be true. When we sing and clap “Not Fade Away,” it was forever and ever, and is still bright, right and strong. Thank you, Grateful Dead, for your most multi-level, tri-headed seven-armed, interdimensional, everlasting, glorious jelly bean monster that you are. God bless, we will get by.