The Grateful Dead are perhaps the most legendary American rock band of all time. For 30 years, beginning in the San Francisco hippie scene in 1965, they were a musical institution, the original jam band that broke new ground in so many ways. From the music to their live concert sound systems and recordings, they were forward-thinking champions of artistic control and outlaw artists who marched to the beat of their own drums.
Now, in his upcoming memoir DEAL: My Three Decades of Drumming, Dreams, and Drugs with the Grateful Dead (St. Martin’s Press; on-sale May 5, 2015; $27.99), Bill Kreutzmann — a founding member and drummer for every one of their over 2,300 concerts-has written an unflinching and wild account of playing in the greatest improvisational band of all time. Everything a rock music fan would expect is here, but what sets this apart is Kreutzmann’s incredible life of adventure that was at the heart of the Grateful Dead experience. This was a band that knew no limits and he lived life to the fullest, pushing the boundaries of drugs, drums and high times, through devastating tragedy and remarkable triumph.
But DEAL‘s beating heart is the music — both that of the Grateful Dead, who are celebrating their 50th anniversary this year, as well as their influences and contemporaries. Some of the greatest musicians and concerts were a part of the Grateful Dead’s career, from sharing the stage with Janis Joplin, Bob Dylan and The Who, to playing in the Acid Tests, The Monterey Pop Festival, Woodstock and Altamont. Kreutzmann’s life is a chronicle of American music and pop culture history and his epic personal journey is one of sonic discovery and thrilling experiences.
A rare insider’s account into the life and legacy of one of America’s most influential and beloved bands, DEAL delivers a tale of sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll that’s as outrageous as it is legendary.
On March 28, Kreutzmann and his band Billy & The Kids will perform “Europe Seventy 2.0” at the Capitol Theatre on Port Chester, NY. For this very special performance, Billy & the Kids — with “guest kid”Robert Randolph — will dust off songs that the Grateful Dead performed during their storied Europe ’72 tour, honoring the music’s timeless integrity while dressing it in modern regalia. This will mark the first time the band has picked up the Europe ’72 songbook, and Kreutzmann plans to take the concept back to its homeland later this year, kicking off where it all began, with a multi-night stand in London, England. It’s not history repeating itself, but it certainly will be a circle come round full again. The band is: Disco Biscuit Aron Magner – keyboards; Tea Leaf Green’s Reed Mathis on bass; and guitarist Tom Hamilton from American Babies and Joe Russo’s Almost Dead.
On April 20, for one night only, Billy & The Kids featuring Dominic Lalli from Big Gigantic and the String Cheese Incident’s Jason Hann, will perform at the Ogden Theatre in Denver, CO, performing a “Spring ’90 Revisited Show.” At this exclusive event, Kreutzmann and his band will revisit the catalog from the Grateful Dead’s famed Spring ’90 tour.
“After the Spring ’90 box set came out on Rhino, I found myself listening to the whole thing…a lot,” says Kreutzmann. “We were playing at such an optimum level and the ‘drums -> space’ segments from that tour are just so far out there, it really gets me excited.”
One of the most loved and discussed Grateful Dead collaborations can be traced back to a special night on that original Spring ’90 tour — the first time jazz legend Branford Marsalis joined the band for what are now legendary versions of “Bird Song,” “Eyes of the World,” “Dark Star,” and others. After the show, Marsalis told Kreutzmann that he loved playing with the band because they all had such “big ears.”
With Billy & the Kids, Kreutzmann has enjoyed engaging some of today’s hottest players and letting them explore the Dead’s repertoire with new ears, but the relationship is symbiotic as the “Kids” have introduced Kreutzmann to some of today’s hottest directions in jam band music. So when Big Gigantic’s Dominic Lalli heard that Billy & the Kids were coming to Denver to revisit the Spring ’90 catalog, he jumped at the chance to join in for the evening — filling the shoes of Branford Marsalis. As a youth, Lalli studied Branford’s horn parts on live recordings of those classic Dead shows. Now, as an honorary “kid,” he gets to put his own stamp on it, as well. Kreutzmann also brought Jason Hann (String Cheese Incident / EOTO) on board, so they could do a drums segment that was as modern and forward thinking as the original “drums” portion was back in its day.
ABOUT BILL KREUTZMANN
Bill Kreutzmann co-founded the Grateful Dead in 1965 with Jerry Garcia, Bob Weir, Ron “Pigpen” McKernan, and Phil Lesh. As the Grateful Dead drummer for all 30 years until disbanding in 1995, he performed more than 2,300 concerts and played on every one of their albums. He continues to play music in various bands including Billy and the Kids. He lives on an organic farm in Hawaii.
ABOUT BENJY EISEN
Benjy Eisen has written for Rolling Stone, Esquire, Relix and many other publications. He lives in San Francisco, where he is currently finishing work on his first novel, Oysterland. Upon completion of Deal, he cut a deal with Kreutzmann and is now his manager.
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