meta-scriptA Beginner’s Guide To The Grateful Dead: 5 Ways To Get Into The Legendary Jam Band | GRAMMY.com
A Beginner’s Guide To The Grateful Dead in the 1970s
The Grateful Dead (from left): Bill Kreutzman, Jerry Garcia, Phil Lesh, Bob Weir, Brent Mydland and Mickey Hart

Photo: Roger Ressmeyer/CORBIS/VCG via Getty Images

feature

A Beginner’s Guide To The Grateful Dead: 5 Ways To Get Into The Legendary Jam Band

Not a Deadhead? Dread not; GRAMMY.com offers a few suggested routes to begin your long strange trip with the Grateful Dead.

GRAMMYs/Sep 11, 2023 - 01:58 pm

Just because you never traded bootleg tapes with strangers or dropped acid to experience that Timothy Leary whacked-out feeling, you can still appreciate the Grateful Dead. 

When the Dead began their psychedelic trip back in the late 1960s, the media categorized their followers as lazy, counter-culture drop-outs. The reality: these devotees, known today as Deadheads, were just music-lovers that shared values and believed in the power of community, peace and love. Today, Deadhead culture and the band’s popularity is as relevant as ever. Even as the original fans age, new Gen Z disciples arrive each year to carry on the jams.  

Flash back to San Francisco, 1965. The original lineup, calling themselves the Warlocks, formed from the remnants of Palo Alto band Mother McCree’s Uptown Jug Champions and Bay Area folk group the Wildwood Boys. After learning of another group called the Warlocks, the band became the Grateful Dead overnight. The story goes that guitarist/vocalist Jerry Garcia picked the band’s name randomly from the dictionary. 

The earliest gigs under this new moniker occurred at Ken Kesey’s infamous Acid Test parties. Founding members were: Garcia; Bob Weir (rhythm guitar/vocals); Ron "Pigpen" McKernan (harmonica, keyboards/vocals); Phil Lesh (bass) and Bill Kreutzmann on drums. Robert Hunter and Mickey Hart joined the group in 1967. 

The Grateful Dead were a free-flowing fusion of folk, rock, soul, blues and jazz, and their improvisational approach to the music created a new classification in the lexicon: a "jam band." A Dead concert was all about the songs, the feelings, and the interplay between musicians. The jams mattered, not perfection. 

Playing live was where the Grateful Dead made their money (they were one of the top grossing touring acts for decades), playing some 2,200 plus concerts globally in its 30-year career. Deadheads recorded these shows, traded tapes, and followed the white line in VW vans from town to town to take communion with the group night after night. No two shows were the same. Songs meandered longer or shorter depending on where the music — and the Deadheads — led them on any given evening. 

When Jerry Garcia died on Aug. 9, 1995, the remaining members said without their charismatic leader, the Grateful Dead (at least in name) was dead. However, the spirit of the band has carried on with the various solo projects, the Dead & Company (featuring some of the original band members) and countless jam bands. 

The Dead defined an era. The band represented a subculture that influenced the mainstream for decades from lifestyle to fashion; from music to marketing. More than 50 years since the Grateful Dead started jamming, Deadheads are still grateful for the music. 

How do you get into — but also get —  the Grateful Dead? There is no one way. Like all music, to quote the prophet Robert "Nesta" Marley: "when it hits you feel no pain." The important thing with the Dead’s music is that you feel something.  

With the release next month of a deluxe expanded and remastered version of Wake of the Flood (the band’s 1973 debut on Grateful Dead Records), here’s a primer on how to get into these merrymakers, who received a GRAMMY Lifetime Achievement Award in 2007. Start that long strange trip with these five ways to appreciate — and get to know — the Grateful Dead. 

Start With The Classics

Released just five months apart in 1970 Workingman’s Dead and American Beauty are the touchstones. This pair of albums represented a shift for the band from its psychedelic roots to an Americana road of devotion; the influence of the Bakersfield sound is all over these songs. Do a deep listen of these records and hear some of the Dead’s best-loved classics and Dead show setlist staples for decades. Discover the beauty of the music, the complexity of the arrangements and the heartfelt harmony. 

Workingman’s Dead, released in June 1970, opens with "Uncle John’s Band" — one of the band’s most well-known songs and most oft-covered — it was also the band’s first chart hit. Among the rest of the eight songs here, "Casey Jones," about a train engineer speeding down the tracks "high on cocaine," is another classic.   

American Beauty, the band’s fifth studio record, showcased the Dead at their creative heights and has gone on to double-platinum certification Arriving Nov. 1, 1970, the album is an Americana masterpiece that features acoustically-inclined country-rock numbers mixed with toe-tapping, groovy psychedelic jams. 

Put on your headphones to truly savor the 10 songs that include live regulars: "Friend of the Devil," "Truckin,’" "Box of Rain," "Sugar Magnolia" and "Ripple."

Jam On: Appreciate & Listen To The Followers

The Allman Brothers Band are a close cousin of the Grateful Dead; they also loved to jam and fuse genres. In the 1980s and 1990s many other bands became Dead disciples, among them Phish, Widespread Panic, Blues Traveler, the Dave Matthews Band, Government Mule and the String Cheese Incident. 

These groups continue the jam band tradition for new generations. This in-the-moment, letting the music go where it was meant to go, is their guidepost. The jam band spirit is evident in this 11-minute live version of the Allman Brothers' "Whipping Post" recorded at the Fillmore East in 1973. 

And, let’s not forget those Vermont boys Phish, who showcased their ability to jam with the best of the best during a string of 13 concerts, from July 21 to August 6, 2017 at Madison Square Garden (MSG), dubbed The Baker’s Dozen. Each night of the residency — which has continued, with slightly fewer dates, for years — featured a different set list with no songs repeated throughout this residency at MSG. Night four included a 29-minute jam of their song "Lawn Boy."

Keep On Truckin’: Follow The Long & Winding Road To Uncover More Dead Songs 

The Grateful Dead released 13 studio albums and 77 live records. Their archives are vast and deep, and new live recordings are being released every year. The joy of getting into the Grateful Dead is that there is no rulebook. Just as their shows had no set structure, becoming a Dead fan has no defined musts. That said, here are another trio of songs you must listen to to better understand and appreciate this band.

"Friend of the Devil"

The second song from American Beauty, this acoustic number is a quintessential Dead track. 

"Franklin’s Tower"

First released in 1975 on Blues for Allah, this rollicking number with its repetitive chorus telling you to "roll away the dew," is one of the Dead’s most catchy numbers. Just listen to the live version on Dead Set and try to disagree. 

"Touch of Grey"

The Grateful Dead got another mainstream bump in the late '80s thanks to MTV. The video (the first ever official one made by the Dead) for this single from the 1987 album In the Dark, featured the band turned into life-size marionette skeletons playing this song live. The memorable refrain: "I will get by/ I will survive," and heavy rotation on TV, helped this song become a Top 10 Billboard hit (the group’s only Top 40 charting song of its 30-year-career), bringing the Dead’s music to a new generation. 

Get Turned On & Tune Out 

After listening to some of the Dead’s best live records like Europe ‘72 and Dead Set (1981), subscribe to the Grateful Dead’s YouTube channel. Make sure you’ve got time on your side; for if you go down this rabbit hole, there is no telling when you might resurface. 

That's not a bad thing. Get a taste of what it was like to attend a Dead show. Watch a Dead concert from different decades like this show at the famed San Francisco Winterland on New Year’s Eve in 1978, this one from California’s Shoreline Amphitheatre in 1987, or this one from 1990 at Three RIvers Stadium in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 

Read On! The Dead Are Far From Dead 

Thousands of scholarly theses have been written — and continue to be published — on the band; college courses have been created and even a journal is devoted to discussing the cultural significance of the Grateful Dead. Marketing gurus have shared business lessons learned from the band such as the innovative ways they sold and promoted their music. Head to your local library or independent bookstore and ask what books they have on the Grateful Dead. 

A quick Google search reveals dozens upon dozens devoted to this American band: from memoirs written by Dead members Mickey Hart and Phil Lesh, to academic explorations and longform odes by Deadheads. Ready to dive deeper? This film offers an in-depth look at Deadheads’ devotion and gives a behind-the-scenes glimpse of the connection between a fanbase and a band. And learn more here than you ever thought you wanted — or needed — to know about the Grateful Dead. What a long, strange trip it’s been. 

No Accreditation? No Problem! 10 Potential Routes To Get Into Jazz As A Beginner

John Mayer performing in 2023
John Mayer performs at the Heart and Armor Foundation benefit concert at The Wiltern in September 2023.

Photo: Timothy Norris/Getty Images

list

10 John Mayer Songs That Show His Versatility, From 'Room For Squares' To Dead & Co

As John Mayer launches his latest venture with Dead & Company — a residency at the Sphere in Las Vegas — revisit 10 songs that show every side of his musical genius.

GRAMMYs/May 16, 2024 - 04:45 pm

At the 2003 GRAMMYs, a 25-year-old John Mayer stood on stage at Madison Square Garden, his first golden gramophone in hand. "I just want to say this is very, very fast, and I promise to catch up," he said with a touch of incredulity.

In the two decades that have followed his first GRAMMY triumph, it's safe to say that Mayer, now 46, has caught up. Not only has the freewheeling guitarist and singer/songwriter won six more GRAMMYs — he has also demonstrated his versatility across eight studio albums and countless cross-genre collaborations, including his acclaimed role in The Grateful Dead offshoot, Dead & Company. But the true testaments to his artistic range lie simply within the music. 

Over the years, Mayer's dynamism has led him to work deftly and convincingly within a wide variety of genres, from jazz to pop to Americana. The result: an elastic and well-rounded repertoire that elevates 2003's "Bigger Than My Body" from hit single to self-fulfilling prophecy. 

From March 2023 to March 2024, Mayer took his protean catalog on the road for his Solo Tour, which saw him play sold-out arenas around the world, mostly acoustic, completely alone. The international effort harkened back to Mayer's early career days, when standing alone on stage, guitar in hand, was the rule rather than the exception. Just after his second Solo leg last November, Mayer added radio programming and curation to his resume via the launch of his Sirius XM channel, Life with John Mayer. Fittingly, XM bills the channel (No. 14) as one notably "defined not by genre, but by the time of day, as well as the day of the week."

Mayer's next venture sees him linking back up with Dead & Company, for a 24-show residency at the Sphere in Las Vegas from May 16 to July 13. In honor of his latest move, GRAMMY.com explores the scope of Mayer's musical genius by revisiting 10 essential songs that demonstrate the breadth of his range, from the very beginning of his discography.

"Your Body Is A Wonderland," Room For Squares (2001)

The second single from Mayer's debut album, "Your Body Is A Wonderland" became an almost instant radio favorite like its predecessor, "No Such Thing," earning Mayer his second consecutive No. 1 on Billboard's Adult Alternative Airplay chart. The song's hooky pop structure provided an affable introduction to Mayer's lyrical skill by way of smart, suggestive simile and metaphor ("One mile to every inch of/ Your skin like porcelain/ One pair of candy lips and/ Your bubblegum tongue") ahead of Room For Squares' release later that June. The breathy hit netted Mayer his first career GRAMMY Award, for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance, at the 45th Annual GRAMMY Awards in 2003.

In recent years, Mayer — who penned the song when he was 21 — has chronicled his tenuous relationship with "Your Body is a Wonderland" in his infamous mid-concert banter, playfully critiquing the song's lack of "nuance." Following a perspective shift, Mayer has come to embrace his self-proclaimed "time capsule"; it was a staple of his set lists for his Solo Tour.

"Who Did You Think I Was," TRY! - Live in Concert (2005)

The product of pure synergy and serendipity, the John Mayer Trio assembled after what was intended to be a one-time stint on the NBC telethon, "Tsunami Aid: A Concert of Hope," in 2005. The benefit appearance lit the creative fuse between Mayer, bassist Pino Palladino and drummer Steve Jordan — who, over the years, have also played alongside the singer on his headline tours.

The John Mayer Trio propelled its eponymous artist from pop territory to a bluesy brand of rock 'n' roll that then demonstrated his talent as a live guitarist to its greatest degree yet. The Trio's first and only release, TRY! - Live in Concert, was recorded at their September 22, 2005 concert at the House of Blues in Chicago. 

Mayer acknowledges his abrupt sonic gear shift on TRY! opener, "Who Did You Think I Was." "Got a brand new blues that I can't explain," he quips, then later asks, "Am I the one who plays the quiet songs/ Or is he the one who turns the ladies on?"

"Gravity," Continuum (2006)

Though "Waiting On the World to Change" was the biggest commercial hit from 2006's Continuum, "Gravity" remains the pièce de résistance of Mayer's magnum opus. Its status as such is routinely reaffirmed by the crowds at Mayer's concerts, whose calls for a live performance of his quintessential soul ballad can compete even with Mayer's mid-show remarks.

The blues-tinged slow burn marries Mayer's inimitable vocal tone with his guitar muscle on a record that strides far beyond the pop and soft rock of his preceding studio albums. Though Continuum builds on the blues direction Mayer ignited with TRY!, it does so with greater depth and technique, translating to a concept album, sonically, that evinces both his breakaway from the genres that launched his career and his skill as a blues guitarist — and "Gravity" is a prime example. 

"I'm very proud of the song," Mayer mused on his Sirius XM station. "It's one of those ones that's gonna go with me through the rest of my life, and I'm happy it's in the sidecar going along with me." 

"Daughters," Where the Light Is: John Mayer Live in Los Angeles (2008)

"Daughters" wasn't Mayer's first choice of a single for his sophomore LP, 2003's Heavier Things, but at Columbia Records' behest — "We really want it to go, we think it can be a hit," Mayer recalled of their thoughts — the soft-rock-meets-acoustic effort joined the album rollout. Columbia's suspicions were correct; "Daughters" topped Billboard's Adult Pop Airplay in 2004 — his only No. 1 entry on the chart to date.

But "Daughters" didn't just enjoy heavy radio rotation — it also secured Mayer his first and only GRAMMY win in a General Field Category. The Heavier Things descendant took the title of Song Of The Year at the 47th Annual GRAMMY Awards in 2005, helping Mayer evade music's dreaded "sophomore slump."

While the studio version may be the GRAMMY-winning chart-topper, Mayer's live rendition of "Daughters" during his December 8, 2007 performance at Los Angeles' Nokia Theater for Where the Light Is: John Mayer Live in Los Angeles compellingly demonstrated the power of the song — and his acoustic chops.

"Edge of Desire," Battle Studies (2009)

Come 2009, what critics almost unanimously proclaimed to be Mayer's biggest musical success had become his Achilles heel; everyone wanted another Continuum. But as they were to learn, Mayer never repeats himself. Thus came Battle Studies.

Born from a dismantling and transformative breakup, his fourth studio album arguably only becomes fully accessible to listeners after this rite of passage. Mired in introspection and pop rock, Battle Studies broadly engages with elements of pop with a sophistication that distinguishes it from Mayer's earlier traverses in pop and pop-inflected terrain. 

His artistry hits a new apex on "Edge of Desire," a visceral and tightly woven song that remains one of the strongest examples of his mastery of prosody — the agreement between music and lyrics that results in a resonant and memorable listening experience. 

"Born and Raised," Born & Raised (2012)

On the title track of his fifth studio album, Mayer distills growing up (and growing older) into a plaintive reflection on the involuntary, inevitable, and, in the moment, imperceptible phenomenon. He grapples with this vertigo of the soul on a record that, 12 years later, remains among his most barefaced lyrically.

The tinny texture of a harmonica, heard first in the intro, permeates the song, serving as its single most overt indicator of the larger stylistic shift that Born & Raised embodies. The 12-song set embraces elements of Americana, country and folk amid simpler-than-usual chord progressions for Mayer, whose restraint elevates the affective power of the album's lyricism. 

"Born and Raised - Reprise," with which Born & Raised draws to a close, is evidence of Mayer's well-demonstrated dexterity. In its sanguine, folk spirit, the album finale juxtaposes "Born and Raised" both musically and lyrically. "It's nice to say, 'Now I'm born and raised,'" Mayer sings as the last grains of sand in Born & Raised's hourglass fall.

"Wildfire," Paradise Valley (2014)

Even before Paradise Valley hit shelves and digital streaming platforms, the cowboy hat that Mayer dons in the album artwork intimated that the hybrid of Americana, country, and folk he embraced on Born & Raised wasn't going anywhere — at least not for another album. The sunbaked project was a gutsy sidestep even further away from his successful commercial formula, and finds him expanding his stylistic fingerprint across 11 tracks that run the gamut of American roots music.

"Wildfire," the breezy toe-tapper with which Paradise Valley opens, grooves with Jerry Garcia influence. It is therefore unsurprising that many interpret "We can dance with dead/ You can rest your head on my shoulder/ If you want to get older with me," to be a lyrical nod to the Dead. Perhaps uncoincidentally, Mayer's invitation to become a member of Dead & Company came one year after the release of Paradise Valley.

"Shakedown Street," Live at Madison Square Garden (2017)

There is perhaps no better example of Mayer's dynamism than his integration in Dead & Company. The Grateful Dead offshoot, formed in 2015, intersperses Mayer among three surviving members of the band — Bob Weir, Mickey Hart, and Bill Kreutzmann — as well as two more newcomers, Oteil Burbridge and Jeff Chimenti. Mayer's off-the-cuff guitar solos and vocal support at Dead & Co's concerts are the keys that have unlocked a new plane of musicianship for Mayer, the solo artist.

This is evident on "Shakedown Street," a staple of The Grateful Dead's – and now, Dead & Company's – set lists. The languid, relaxed number gives Mayer the space to improvise guitar solos and use his vocals in a looser style than how he sings his own productions, all while feeding off the energy of his fellow band members. In addition to being one of The Dead's best-known songs, "Shakedown Street" is also the name of the makeshift bazaar where "Deadheads" socialize and sell wares ranging from grilled cheeses to drink coasters emblazoned with The Grateful Dead logo outside Dead & Company concerts. 

Mayer's long, strange trip with (and within) the jam band has cross-pollinated his and The Grateful Dead's respective fandoms, attracting scores of Dead & Co listeners to his own headline shows, and vice versa. The takeaway: Mayer's involvement with Dead & Company offers a new, comparatively more rugged and improvisational lens through which to view his artistry.

"You're Gonna Live Forever in Me," The Search for Everything (2017)

"You're Gonna Live Forever in Me" evokes the sense of walking in, unexpected and undetected, to one of Mayer's writing sessions, watching him sing the freshly-penned piano ballad. This is owed to the song's abstract lyricism, the sentiment of which is deeply personal and universally accessible — a juxtaposition that's not often easy to achieve in songwriting. (Take, for example, "A great big bang and dinosaurs/ Fiery raining meteors/ It all ends unfortunately/ But you're gonna live forever in me.") But the studio version of "You're Gonna Live Forever in Me" also happens to be the original vocal take, adding to the feeling that Mayer is fully engrossed in a moment of poignant reflection mediated by music.

"I sat at the piano for hours teaching myself how the song might go. I sang it that night, and that was it…I couldn't sing the vocals again if I tried," Mayer recalled in a 2017 interview with Rolling Stone

Mayer's lilted, Randy Newman-esque singing on the track finds him unintentionally but impactfully adopting a vocal technique distinctive from anything he's ever done before.

"Wild Blue," Sob Rock (2021)

Buoyed by a honeyed hook and slick production from No I.D., "New Light" was the unequivocal commercial standout of Sob Rock, a soft-grooving pastiche of '80s influence. Though the catchy pop-informed number finds Mayer stylistically diversifying by working with "The Godfather of Chicago Hip-Hop" (whose credits include Kanye West, JAY-Z, and Common, to name just a few), a look beyond the Sob Rock frontrunner reveals evidence of more sonic experimentation on the album.

Cue "Wild Blue." In its hushed, double-tracked vocals, the song plays like a love letter to JJ Cale. Mayer's whispery vocal emulation of the rock musician yields another new, but still polished, strain of John Mayer sound. 

With hints of the '70s embedded within its taut production, "Wild Blue" is a beatific semi-departure from its parent album's '80s DNA. Together, they evince Mayer's ability to work not only across genres but also across sounds from different decades in music — further proof that his artistic range is both broad and timeless.

A Beginner’s Guide To The Grateful Dead: 5 Ways To Get Into The Legendary Jam Band

Jim Lauderdale

Jim Lauderdale

Photo: Scott Simontacchi

news

Songwriter's Songwriter Jim Lauderdale On New Album 'Hope,' Missing Robert Hunter & Why There's No Shortage Of Great Music Today

Two-time GRAMMY winner Jim Lauderdale may not be a household name, but his songs have been recorded by everyone from George Strait to Blake Shelton to the Chicks. His heartening new album, 'Hope,' contains one of his last collaborations with Robert Hunter

GRAMMYs/Aug 16, 2021 - 10:27 pm

Even if you never get to Jim Lauderdale's thirty-somethingth album, he hopes you at least look at the cover. It's a serene, gently surreal painting by Maureen Hunter, the widow of Grateful Dead co-lyricist Robert Hunter. To him, even if record shoppers merely see that—with the word "Hope" in block letters above that—at least he'll have made a momentary impression on their hearts.

"We all need that, no matter who we are and what's going on," the songwriter's songwriter, who has won two GRAMMYs and had songs recorded by Elvis Costello, Patty Loveless, Gary Allan and others, tells GRAMMY.com. "This is as bleak as things have been for many of us in life. Some of us have seen worse, and much harder and more terrible times, but for a lot of us, this period has been pretty bad."

For his part, Lauderdale has been hanging in there, practicing tai chi, eating medicinal mushrooms to stay strong, and writing more than he ever has. This state of mind is refracted throughout Hope, which was released July 30 via Yep Roc Records. Its tunes, like "The Opportunity to Help Somebody Through It," "Breathe Real Slow" and "Joyful Noise," go beyond chord progressions and lyrics: They have legitimate therapeutic value.

'Hope' album art. Painting by Maureen Hunter.

And he had one of the most spine-tinglingly primeval lyricists on the case: the Grateful Dead's co-lyricist Robert Hunter, who wrote the words to classics like "Dark Star," "Ripple" and "China Cat Sunflower" before dying in 2019 at 78. He wrote more than a hundred songs with Lauderdale over the years; "Memory," included here," was one of the last. 

"I really miss him very much and feel his presence every day and think about him every day," Lauderdale says of his old friend and collaborator. "I think he was the most interesting and intelligent guy I ever met." Read on for more expressions about Hunter, Hope and how Lauderdale keeps his bearings in an era of relentless disasters.

<iframe style="border: 0; width: 100%; height: 120px;" src="https://bandcamp.com/EmbeddedPlayer/album=540117539/size=large/bgcol=ffffff/linkcol=0687f5/tracklist=false/artwork=small/transparent=true/" seamless><a href="https://jimlauderdale.bandcamp.com/album/hope">Hope by Jim Lauderdale</a></iframe>

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Hey, Jim.

Hi! This is Jim Lauderdale. I'm sorry I can't get to your call right now, but please leave your name and number. It's really important to me, everybody. Each and every one of you. I promise I'll get back to you soon. Thanks. Beep! Your mailbox is full and cannot take messages at this time. [Breaks into giggles.]

Nah, I'm kidding. I love to do that to unsuspecting people.

Wow. I'm hundreds of interviews deep, but that's a first. What records are you checking out lately?

You know, there's a group from Louisiana called Feufollet. Really cool zydeco, country, rock—really diverse. My friend C.C. Adcock, who lives in Lafayette, just produced an album by a fellow, a staple down there called Tommy McLain. That's coming out in England, and I believe that Nick Lowe co-wrote a few things with Tommy, and Elvis Costello. They really love him. He's A1. I was really taken with that record. 

I was also listening to some Donna the Buffalo stuff. Some Grateful Dead. Listening to some of their catalog always feels good. And a bluegrass group called High Fidelity that's got a new album. They're really, really terrific. You know, there's some good stuff out there.

That's encouraging to hear. Some people of a certain generation say, "There's been no good music since 1971." 

Oh no, no. Gosh. There's plenty of stuff. Working on this radio show with Buddy Miller, the Buddy & Jim Show—outlaw country—Buddy keeps me on my toes. We need to make playlists occasionally, so I need to bring him things. Then, I'm discovering new things through him. He has a real encyclopedic musical mind. So, that's always good.

Back in the day—we're on hiatus now—but there was this show that I was working with called Music City Roots in Nashville. Usually, we had four different bands per night. We did that once a week. It's on some PBS TV station and it's a syndicated radio show, too. It's been great to hear new stuff—new artists, or even veteran artists that have new material. 

There is no shortage of great music out there, new stuff. Constantly.

And the old guard is still great. People were calling Bob DylanPaul McCartney and the Rolling Stones old guys when I was a kid, but they remain potent forces today.

That's so good. I feel like over the last few years, too, I feel like I'm writing more than I ever have, really. At first, during this pandemic, I didn't want to do everything. That did slow me down for several months, but then I started writing again.

Read More: GRAMMY Rewind: Watch Bob Dylan Accept His GRAMMY Lifetime Achievement Award In 1991

What was the catalyst for that?

Well, it was such a depression and this uncertainty of tragedy going on all the time. I think it was when I started thinking in terms of grabbing some songs that didn't seem to fit on a country record I was working on. I was kind of recording whatever came out. Some of these songs weren't country. Then, I wanted to get something out there to help soothe people. 

So, that kind of got me back on track writing again, because I realized I had some stuff that really spoke to the time we were going through—some of these non-country songs. Some new things just started coming out then. You know, it's interesting. I feel like a lot of times, I need the structure of a concept—of some kind of album—to get me going. Because that's one of my favorite things to do—to make records. 

At the same time, sometimes it can be really daunting because I'll have very little or no material prepared when I go into the studio. As the studio date gets closer and closer, something comes out, either the day before or that morning. It's not always like that, and especially if I co-write with somebody, then that can be more random. 

But that helped me start writing again: When I said, "Hey, I want to get something out there to people."

<style>.embed-container { position: relative; padding-bottom: 56.25%; height: 0; overflow: hidden; max-width: 100%; } .embed-container iframe, .embed-container object, .embed-container embed { position: absolute; top: 0; left: 0; width: 100%; height: 100%; }</style><div class='embed-container'><iframe src='https://www.youtube.com/embed//vA4nBGKhhac' frameborder='0' allowfullscreen></iframe></div>

Tell me about your relationship with Robert Hunter. When I think of him, I think of how strong Grateful Dead tunes are at their core, partly thanks to him.

When I first started listening to the Grateful Dead, American Beauty and Workingman's Dead were my entry port for them. I was a junior in high school in North Carolina. There was this thread, musically—because I'd been loving country and rock and bluegrass—and they were so different-sounding, but synthesizing all these different styles in a way I hadn't heard.

And lyrically—of course Dylan had done some amazing things, and had his way—but it was just so different. I felt like Robert Hunter was touching on something that was in the back of my consciousness and subconsciousness. There was something in his descriptions of things I was thinking or feeling but couldn't put into words myself. Just kind of evoking different things I felt.

Some of the lyrics were about death and things like this, that you would hear in older bluegrass songs or folk music or whatnot. But you weren't hearing about those in a rock band. That marriage of Robert's lyrics and Jerry Garcia's [music] and other members of the band he co-wrote with, there was this perfection about it to me.

Let's talk about Hope, which exudes a sense of help, gentility and care. The worst thing about this era, to me, is how we treat each other.

It's funny: When you go to a movie, depending on the type of movie, when you get up out of your seat and you're walking up the aisle, whether you're watching some superhero [movie] or you walk away feeling scared or sad or whatnot—you either feel like you want to have an altered state of consciousness after you hear a song, or you want to party, or you feel angry. All these various things.

I think things have been so horrible that I figured it can't hurt to just have some good songs that make you want to get through. You want to get through these times and you want to help other people get through these times. There's some release, some kind of relief, a little bit, because we all need that.

Not that this record is some kind of a cure-all or anything like that, but I enjoy hearing something that makes me feel good, and I hope that's what this record will do.

Well, you don't even need to qualify it as not being a cure-all. It's a personal expression and artistic offering, not a product.

Yeah, absolutely. It's not an answer or anything like that. 

The reason I decided to call it Hope: There's a song on there called "Here's to Hoping." [Perhaps] even if people don't listen to the record—even if they just see this beautiful painting that Robert Hunter's wife, Maureen, did as the cover, and see the word "Hope"—that it will trigger something and release some hope. We all need that, no matter who we are and what's going on.

This is as bleak as things have been for many of us in life. Some of us have seen worse, and much harder and more terrible times, but for a lot of us, this period has been pretty bad.

Jim Lauderdale. Photo: Scott Simontacchi

One of the worst parts is this sense of fetishizing the worst possible outcome. Optimism feels like a rebellion these days. 

Definitely. It brought out the worst and the best of each one of us, in some way or another, during whatever time you were in—whatever phase of this you were going through. There were many phases for a lot of us. Reading about certain people who survived certain situations that were so dire, what many of the survivors said was, "How I got through was with hope. I didn't give up hope."

Sometimes, that really does seem impossible. Hope almost seems laughable, but we just have to have it. To keep going.

What else can you tell me about the essence of the record?

Let me see. Let me grab it here. [Pauses.] Well, these songs just really seem to fit together with this theme. I co-produced it with Jay Weaver, who's the bass player. He didn't do the last bluegrass album I did, but there were two other studio albums on Yep Roc that he co-produced with me.

We used this kind of crew of guys [that typically work together], with the exception of one or two guys. I just really feel like all these musicians played so great. It's just such a joy to work with them. So, it's nice to have that camaraderie. It's like a band. That was really uplifting for me to do all this stuff with these guys.

To wrap up the thing about Robert Hunter: We started working together, I believe it was in 1996, when I was going to do my first record with Ralph Stanley. That's how it started, and then he came to Nashville for a little while. We just hit it off, writing-wise. I'd go out there sometimes to California. Sometimes, I'd send him melodies or he'd send me lyrics.

I had recorded about six albums of just our collaborations, and then there were various tracks on other solo albums of mine. So, we recorded about 88 things that we wrote. We've written about 100 songs, and some of these haven't been released. 

"Memory" was the last thing he heard that we wrote, and so I'm really glad he got to hear it. I really miss him very much and feel his presence every day and think about him every day. He's a big part of my musical life, and he was a wonderful guy. I think he was the most interesting and intelligent guy I ever met.

Jay Farrar On Son Volt's New Album 'Electro Melodier' & The Lifelong Draw Of Electric Guitars, Words & Melodies

Allman Brothers Band 

Photo: Taylor Hill/FilmMagic

news

Remaining Allman Brothers Band Members To Reunite In New York City In Celebration Of 50th Anniversary

The influential rock band's last performance was in New York City in 2014, before frontman Gregg Allman's death

GRAMMYs/Jan 4, 2020 - 01:52 am

GRAMMY-winning classic rockers the Allman Brothers Band bid farewell to touring in 2014, but in celebration of their 50th anniversary will reunite in March for a performance in New York City.

The band's show slated for March 10 at Madison Square Garden will feature surviving members Jaimoe, Warren Haynes, Derek Trucks, Oteil Burbridge and Marc Quinones along with Duane Trucks and Reese Wynans. Musician Chuck Leavell, who has played with the band and the likes of the Rolling Stones, will have a special guest performance.  

Although the band, who have since the break up moved on to other projects, had their actual anniversary in the Spring of 2019, Haynes told Rolling Stone the concert will be a way to honor the members who have died. Frontman Gregg Allman died in 2017. Members Duane Allman, Butch Trucks and Berry Oakley have also passed away since the formation of the band in the late '60s. 

"It’s a way of honoring 50 years of the band and honoring Duane, Gregg, Berry and Butch and the music they created," Haynes told Rolling Stone. "That music deserves a 50th anniversary celebration. Most rock bands never thought they’d even see their 50th anniversary. And, of course, this one didn’t. So in a way, this brings some sort of closure."

Their last performance was at New York City's Beacon Theatre, before Gregg Allman's death. Haynes told Rolling Stone the band is still deciding who will sing Allman's parts. 

"It’s going to be extremely emotional, and hopefully in a similar way to the last Beacon show," Haynes said. "Hopefully we can conjure up some wonderful music to match the significance of the moment."

The Allman Brothers received a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2012. Presale show tickets on sale Jan. 7. General ticket sales begin Jan. 10. 

Orville Peck On The Music That Made Him, 'Pony' & The "Visual" Way He Creates

Terrapin Crossroads

Photo credit: Jay Blakesberg

news

The Spirit Of The Grateful Dead Lives On At Terrapin Crossroads

The San Rafael venue, opened by bassist Phil Lesh in 2012, continues to be a popular gathering place for music fans, and a mecca for local musicians

GRAMMYs/Nov 13, 2019 - 11:15 pm

Back in the day, Marin County was the place to be if you were hip. The sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll culture that characterized and defined the mid-'60s flocked to this gloriously beautiful part of the Bay Area and settled. Among them were members of the Grateful Dead, the Bay Area band that embodied the spirit of peace, love and community. So when Phil Lesh, the Dead's bass player, opened Terrapin Crossroads in San Rafael in 2012, it quickly became a unique and popular gathering place, and a mecca for local musicians.  

Inspired by a visit to Levon Helm's barn in Woodstock, New York, where intimate concerts and rambling jams took place, the Lesh family decided that they wanted to create a similar experience in Marin. "It started as just a place for my dad to play locally," said singer/songwriter and guitar player Grahame Lesh, one of Phil and Jill Lesh's two sons. "He didn't really want to be touring anymore. He can come down on a Tuesday and just play for free with no notice. It's really a cool thing for him to do whenever he wants."

Terrapin soon started attracting notable players like Jackie Greene, Tim and Nicki Bluhm, members of the Mother Hips, Dan "Lebo" Lebowitz, Stu Allen, Danny Click, and many, many more who perform regularly in the lively bar that offers free music every night. The cool, casual vibe attracts an enthusiastic crowd who enjoy the eclectic mix of musicians—you never know who you will find jamming there, including Phil himself, and other members of the Terrapin Family Band.

Grahame credits Terrapin with helping to launch the careers of many local musicians, as well as his own. "It has been incredibly helpful for my band, Midnight North, and all the musicians that weren't part of the community before, or were starting to build their careers seven or eight years ago," said Grahame. He explained that anyone who wants to be part of the family of musicians just needs to reach out. "If you make yourself known, eventually you'll get a response. You might be thrown into the fire, but we'll make some fun music happen."

Formerly a restaurant called the Seafood Peddler, Terrapin is located right on the water, on the San Rafael Canal, giving it a resort-like ambience. There is an outside bar area with comfortable couches where you can lounge, get a drink and a snack, a full-service restaurant where you can dine inside or out, an inside bar area where you can enjoy live music, and the Grate Room, where bigger acts are booked.

Phil Lesh performs at Terrapin Crossroads
Photo credit: Jay Blakesberg

One of the most unique features at Terrapin is the large outdoor beach park, which they got permission to use from the city of San Rafael. In addition to a stage that frequently hosts concerts, a huge part of this area is designed for kids to run around and play, and events are planned regularly just for them. A Jack-O-Lantern Jubilee was held there recently for Halloween, with a costume party, candy, and spooky stories read to the kids by Phil Lesh. "The Lesh family really wanted to create a place that was open to every generation," said Tara Patton, Terrapin's executive director. "One of the things I am told all the time is that we really do make children feel welcome, which is so special."  

Other events include the annual Oysterfest, Ramble on Rosé, trivia night and electric, jazz or blues brunches. "We try to do something every weekend and in the nice weather, we have really big events once a month" said Patton. "We have events that are not only fun, but also educational," she added. "We love being able to do all those things for the community."

Patton expressed that both she and the Lesh family are pleased with the way things have been unfolding at Terrapin. "I love that both the deadhead community and our local community, who may not know about the [Grateful Dead] music as much, meld together into one organic group of people who are all enjoying the same thing. Our mission is about making sure there is something to accommodate everyone. So if you are a young family or a music lover or a couple looking for a romantic night—we offer all of those things in one place."

And it's working. Seven years in, Terrapin has become a bustling Marin establishment, welcoming entire generations of families, and visitors from all over the world who want to experience the Grateful Dead vibe. "It's crazy, and it's a really unique thing, said Grahame about the eternal draw of the now-defunct band. "This weird band that never really had any hits is still such a huge cultural force in 2019. People just want to come and experience something like it, even now."

Ultimately, the heartbeat of Terrapin Crossroads is found in the music, and the strong community it has created. "I don't think what has happened at Terrapin happens all that often," said Grahame. "Music is a magical thing and it's a great glue. I think we got lucky with meeting the people we did, and all of these folks wanting to be a part of it."

On 'Blanket The Homeless,' Bay Area Artists Join Together To Raise Money For Those In Need