I just started really listening to the Dead a year ago. Wow it feels like much longer. It all started when I got my IPOD and started listening to the Dead Air podcast. I'm not sure why or how I found the podcast or if it found me. I had a couple Dead CD's all studio recordings I believe. I was not overly impressed.Then last year I started listening to concerts on my IPOD and was instantly hooked. The Grateful Dead is know almost all I listen to. After Sirius started the dead channel I am in hog heaven. I am reading about the dead in biographies, listening to the dead and now trying to emulate the dead on my guitar and drums. Unfortunately not to many people around here are in to that scene. I have been playing guitar off and on for a few years and drums a little bit longer. I think I am alright but my neighbors and wife might disagree. I am not in a band but have put an ad on Craigs list to start a jam session. I have a cheaper epiphone electric (SG style) which suits me fine for now. I am playing on a small fender amp played through a larger peavey bass amp. I also play a cheaper Ibanez acoustic. Sometimes I dabble on the bass. I hope to also have a piano soon. I feel like I was born in the wrong era. I am 28 and am growing to love the dead more everyday. I can't stand to listen to a lot of the music I used to love. After getting the dead bug I am very hard to impress. Finley packaged pop music is no longer my cup of tea. I am searching for the stuff from the soul.
Although you may feel as though the "bus" has past you by in that you're only finding out about them now, the vast amount of recordings made over the years will give you a lifetime of enjoyment.
You're also lucky in that you are learning to play their music because it gives you an inside look at what they were about. Instead of just listening to them and thinking oh, I like this jam, you will find that by playing their music, if only simply, it will afford a glimpse into their genius, and of course the extremely rare gift that Garcia had. Someone like him, with the circumstances of his day, only happens probably once in all of history.
You're only a few years removed from it all.