Grateful Dead were an American rock band formed in 1965 in Palo Alto, California. The band was known for its unique and eclectic style, which fused elements of rock, folk, bluegrass, blues, reggae, country, improvisational jazz, psychedelia, and improvisational jazz, and for live performances of long musical improvisation. These various influences were distilled into a diverse and psychedelic whole that made the Grateful Dead “the pioneering Godfathers of the jam band world.” They were ranked 57th in the issue The Greatest Artists of all Time by Rolling Stone magazine. They were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1994 and their Barton Hall Concert at Cornell University (May 8, 1977) was added to the Library of Congress’s National Recording Registry. The Grateful Dead have sold more than 35 million albums worldwide.
The fans of the Grateful Dead, some of whom followed the band from concert to concert for years, are known as “Deadheads” and are known for their dedication to the band’s music. Former members of the Grateful Dead, along with other musicians, toured as The Dead in 2003, 2004 and 2009 after touring as The Other Ones in 1998, 2000 and 2002. There are many contemporary incarnations of the Dead, with the most prominent touring acts being Furthur and Phil Lesh & Friends.
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 perceived that way, especially since he 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 bluegrass bands, notably Old and in the Way with mandolinist David Grisman.
The singer-songwriter Bruce Hornsby never officially joined the band, because of his other commitments, but he did play keyboards at most Dead shows between September 1990 and March 1992, and sat in with the band over one hundred times in all between 1988 and 1995.
Robert Hunter and John Perry Barlow were the band’s primary lyricists. Twelve members of The Grateful Dead (the eleven official performing members plus Robert Hunter) were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1994, and Bruce Hornsby was their presenter.