In 1964 Jerry Garcia, Bob Weir, Ron McKernan, Phil Lesh and Bill Kreutzmann formed a group they called the Warlocks. After realizing another band had the name, the group changed their name to the Grateful Dead and began performing in 1965. Over the years, the band evolved from being California blues-oriented and added rock, folk, bluegrass, blues, reggae and country influences.
Although the Grateful Dead became the premier psychedelic band in the sixties and seventies, Woodstock was not the group’s finest hour. The festival’s torrential rain made the stage a potential electrical hazard, resulting in a delayed starting time, long breaks between songs and created what many described as a notoriously long and sub-par performance for the quintessential hippie jam band.
The performance in no way tarnishes the thirty year legacy of Jerry Garcia with the Grateful Dead. They’re undeniably one of the greatest bands of all time. Deadheads continued to follow the group for decades, even after the death of Garcia.
Although people hardly associate Woodstock with the Grateful Dead and they don’t appear in my Woodstock novel, Goodbye Emily, I rarely look back at the sixties without the song “Truckin’” coming to mind.
The group’s success contined through the eighties and nineties. In 1994 the group was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Jerry Garcia died of a heart attack at age 53 in 1995, but the group, their music and the deadheads live on. What a long strange trip it’s been.