Tuesday, March 27, 2007
Lead guitarist Jerry Garcia was often seen both by the public and the media as the leader or primary spokesperson for the Grateful Dead, but was reluctant to be seen that way, especially since Garcia and the other group members saw themselves as equal participants and contributors to their collective musical and creative output. Garcia, a native of San Francisco, grew up in the Excelsior District. One of his main influences was bluegrass music, and Garcia also performed—on banjo, one of his other great instrumental loves, along with the pedal steel guitar—in the bluegrass band Old and in the Way with mandolinist David Grisman. Classically trained trumpeter Phil Lesh played bass guitar. Bob Weir, the youngest original member of the group, played rhythm guitar. Ron "Pigpen" McKernan played keyboards, harmonica and was also a group vocalist until shortly before his death in 1973 at the age of 27. All of the previously mentioned Grateful Dead members shared in vocal performance of songs. Bill Kreutzmann played drums, and in 1967 was joined by a second drummer, New York native Mickey Hart, who also played a wide variety of other percussion instruments. Hart quit the Grateful Dead in 1971, embarrassed by the financial misdealings of his father, Dead money manager Lenny Hart, and leaving Kreutzmann once again as the sole percussionist. One of the Dead's concert staples, "He's Gone" was written about Lenny Hart, and his dishonesty with money. Hart rejoined the Dead for good in 1975. Tom "TC" Constanten was added as a second keyboardist from 1968 to 1970, while Pigpen also played various percussion instruments and sang. After Constanten's departure, Pigpen reclaimed his position as sole organist. Less than two years later, in late 1971, Pigpen was joined by another keyboardist, Keith Godchaux, who played grand piano alongside Pigpen's Hammond B-3 organ. In early 1972, Keith's wife, Donna Godchaux, joined the Dead as a backing vocalist.