I'm a middle-aged guy who has been playing the guitar since he was kid -- we're talking about when the Beatles were still new -- pretty off-and-on, which probably explains why I really should be better than I am now. And I'm a big fan of the good old Grateful Dead.
I never really listened to a lot of rock 'n' roll, even as a kid (beyond the Beatles, Stones and few other "classic rock" acts, usually on an album-by-album basis), and the Grateful Dead are really the only rock 'n' roll band I still listen to today. It's probably because I seem to have the same tastes in music as Garcia and Weir, which lean toward American folk and "roots" kind of music. And even -- *gasp* -- country-western (Long Live Merle Haggard).I was mostly into fingerpicking until just the last five years or so. In fact I probably heard most of the Dead's cover songs in the original before I heard their version. "Samson and Delilah," or BIODTL, for instance.
One of the things I appreciate about the band is the way they give a nod to the old folk tradition of doing your own distinct version of a song that everyone knows. Dead tunes like "Candyman" or "Diamond Dupree" or "Sugaree" are reworkings of old folk songs with completely new melodies and lyrics, but that tell essentially the same story as their predecessors. This is just like the country blues artists of old, all of whom had a version of "Spoonful," for example. Each version very different from the other, but unmistakably the same song, with the same general refrain and title (Of course, Mississippi John Hurt called his "Coffee Blues" and sang about having to have his "lovin' spoonful," which gave the band its name).
My favorite period for the Dead is between my first show, at the Palladium in '71, and my last, in '76, I think, when they shared the bill with the Who. Damn that's a long time ago. But they really were magical back then. And although they still managed to put on great shows in the years after that (I have heard the tapes), I don't think I would have wanted to be in the audience toward the end, with Garcia practically catatonic from drugs. And to tell the truth, I never cared for Brent or Vince. Don't get me wrong: they were fine musicians; their sound just didn't seem to fit in with the rest of the band, for me anyway, the way that Pigpen, or Constanten and Godchaux did.
That's a pretty long introduction, so I'll leave it at that. Again, hello all.