The Deadcast concludes our tribute to Ron “Pigpen” McKernan, exploring his years with the Dead, including more documents from the McKernan family archives, his alleged firing, former housemate Tom Constanten, lost song lyrics, & last songs.
by Jesse Jarnow
Ron “Pigpen” McKernan was the musician who suggested to his bandmates in Mother McCree’s Uptown Jug Champions that they take electric instruments off the wall at the music store where they worked and try their hands at rock and roll. In our previous episode, we explored Pigpen’s childhood and years in the Palo Alto folk scene, supplementing our original tour of his work in the “Operator” episode. All build on the Golden Road’s tremendous 1993 oral history.
In 1968, Pigpen and Bob Weir were nearly fired from the Dead, a situation that has led to much confusion through the years about the formation of the Mickey and the Hartbeats side project and the arrival of second keyboardist Tom Constanten. The Grateful Dead Guide examined the situation thoroughly.
In 1969, Warner Bros. created the Pigpen Lookalike Contest, though there were no winners. Starting even before the Dead’s first taste of mainstream success, there were hints that Pigpen might try his hand at recording a solo album. Besides the kitchen table-style sessions we featured in our previous episode, Pigpen also participated in several rounds of recording sessions, which the Grateful Dead Guide has attempted to sort through. And the Lost Live Dead blog has discovered that in early September 1971, just before he fell ill, a Pigpen solo show seemingly happened in San Francisco.
As always, we are tremendously thankful to David Gans for the kind use of audio from his excellent book Conversations With the Dead.
Map of the World?
Hey! What’s the name of the map mentioned in this episode? Would love to find a copy myself. Thank you!