The Grateful Dead Lives on with Dead & Company
Nov 30 2017

The Grateful Dead Lives on with Dead & Company

By: Finn Turnbull

We’ve come a long way since the infamous Bourbon Street drug bust on January 31, 1970, which is probably the most famous visit the Grateful Dead ever had in New Orleans. The incident inspired lyrics to their commercially celebrated song, “Truckin’,” from the late 1970 record American Beauty. “Busted down on Bourbon Street. Set up like a bowling pin.” After our police had their fun with the California rock band, the Dead didn’t return to our eclectic city for another 10 years. They played a handful of shows here in the 1980s, and history tells the rest.

In the early 1960s, the Grateful Dead were formed in Palo Alto, California, by Jerry Garcia (lead guitar, vocals), Bob Weir (rhythm guitar, vocals), Bill Kreutzmann (drums), Phil Lesh (bass, vocals), and Ron “Pigpen” McKernan (keyboard, harmonica, vocals). They began by calling themselves The Warlocks, but soon changed their band name. In 1967, Mickey Hart joined as the second drummer. Apart from the death of Pigpen in 1973, the founding members stayed together up until the death of Garcia in 1995. They are known for touring almost non-stop throughout their career, playing over 2,300 concerts as the Grateful Dead. 

The Grateful Dead Lives on with Dead & Company

Their sound is one of the most influential of all time, encompassing psychedelic rock, blues, folk, bluegrass, reggae, country, and everything in between. These cosmic rockers are also the “pioneering godfathers of the jam band world,” having paved the way for all musicians to transform their live shows into an improvised, captivating experience. 

In the wake of Garcia’s passing, the surviving members have been part of multiple short-lived, aftermath projects including Further, Phil Lesh & Friends, RatDog, the Rhythm Devils, Billy & the Kids, the Dead, and, currently, Dead & Company. The closest the group has ever come to reuniting the original lineup was a series of concerts in the summer of 2015. Joined by Trey Anastasio, Bruce Hornsby, and Jeff Chimenti, the tour dubbed Fare Thee Well marked the last time all the remaining Dead would take the stage together. However, even with such sentimental goodbyes, most of the ongoing Dead projects still play in large part from the Grateful Dead songbook.

In 2016, Bob Weir released his first solo album in decades, titled Blue Mountain, which he brought to our own Saenger Theatre on April 18, 2017. Even then, the set list contained only a few songs from Bob’s new album, while the rest leaned heavily on tracks he played with the Dead. Now, he is planning to return with his new friend John Mayer and their latest revival group, Dead & Company. 

In 2015, John Mayer transposed his recently acquired Grateful Dead obsession into an idea for a musical endeavor. He has said that while once listening to a music stream, he heard “Althea” from the album Go To Heaven, instantly fell in love, and became a Deadhead. Soon, he hooked up with Bob Weir, and together they played a studio set on The Late Late Show. After this magical moment, a bond was formed. So, Mayer and Weir recruited other original Dead members Bill Kreutzmann and Mickey Hart, along with bassist Oteil Burbridge, who had played with the resurrection of the Allman Brothers Band and keyboardist Jeff Chimenti of RatDog. Sadly, Phil Lesh did not have any interest in joining the new Dead group. Lesh currently feels as though the Fare Thee Well shows were a perfectly good send-off and opportunity to lay the Grateful Dead to rest. Mayer is bent on convincing Lesh otherwise. 

The Grateful Dead Lives on with Dead & Company

After Dead & Company’s first show on October 31, 2015, they announced an entire tour that yielded rave reviews. After a second tour in 2016, Weir apparently had a dream that he was still playing with Dead & Company. In his dream, Mayer, Burbridge, and Chimenti had all grown old and grey, while Hart and Kreutzmann had been replaced by younger, passionate players. This dream confirmed to Weir that Dead & Company is part of the Grateful Dead legacy and therefore should be continued with enthusiasm and with no intention of stopping. Former Grateful Dead vocalist Donna Jean Godchaux has sat in with the band multiple times to provide supporting vocals and join in on the reminiscence. 

Mayer has spoken of new studio recordings to come from the Dead & Company project, but none have been released thus far. However, all the concerts to this point, in the Grateful Dead tradition, have been recorded and made available on several forms of media. Now, Dead & Company are gearing up for their fourth tour, following this year’s summer tour. The supergroup’s fall tour will be bringing them to New Orleans once more, a perfect chance for the city to show how far we have come with supporting music and art since the Bourbon Street incident. The Smoothie King Center will host this magic event, and the Dead will undoubtedly deliver a memorable performance to be spoken of for years to come. It wouldn’t be surprising if some of our local legends shared the stage with Mayer, Weir, and friends, much in the way that George Porter, Jr. joined Bob for his last show in the Big Easy.

Dead & Company will be taking the stage at the Smoothie King Center on Tuesday, December 5 at 7 p.m. and tickets start at just $47. Visit to purchase tickets and for more details. 

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