10 Things You Need to Know About a Possible Grateful Dead Reunion
Rumors of a possible return by the Grateful Dead have heated up ever since Furthur, the band formed by the Dead's Bob Weir and Phil Lesh, called it quits in early November. The golden anniversary of the Grateful Dead's formation only adds fuel to the fire. But what do we know for certain? (Other than the fact that any 50th anniversary Dead reunion can't include the late Jerry Garcia, whose 1995 death initially splintered the group.) Here's the latest on the possibility of this long-hoped-for reunion ...
Bob Weir has been lobbying for a 2015 anniversary reunion since January, urging the group's surviving founders to put aside their differences for some sort of commemorative event. "If there are issues we have to get past," Weir said, "I think that we owe it to ourselves to man up and get past them."
Despite the considerable loss of Garcia, a core membership remains. Weir, Lesh and Bill Kreutzmann formed the Grateful Dead with Garcia in 1965 from the ashes of a Bay Area group called the Warlocks. Hart joined in 1967 and, except for a hiatus from 1971-74, remained until Garcia's death.
A possible impediment to launching the kind of grueling tours associated with the Grateful Dead in their heyday would be the age and health of those who remain. Weir is 67, Kreutzmann 68, Hart 71 and Lesh is 74. Meanwhile, Weir collapsed onstage last summer, and then hinted at a possible relapse into drug use. Lesh has battled cancer.
There is plenty of precedent for a tour by the surviving quartet. After all, they did just that between 1998-2002 in various configurations as the Other Ones. And they appeared as the Dead between 2003-09.
If there's any concrete connection to be made between Furthur's recent breakup and the chance of a reunion, it's likely from a single sentence in the band's farewell message on its website, which read, "We’ll all be keeping very busy over the foreseeable future." Sure, it's not much. But for fans who've gone so long without a Dead show, it's something.
What would they play without Garcia, who voiced so many of the Grateful Dead's signature songs while helping to define their sound with his guitar playing? Widespread Panic's Jimmy Herring played Garcia's parts on earlier reunion dates; Warren Haynes participated, too. John Kadlecik sang with Furthur.
The group added a series of keyboardists after founder Ron "Pigpen" McKernan died in 1973, though both Brent Mydland and Vince Welnick have since died, too. Bruce Hornsby, who toured with the Dead in the early '90s, could easily return. (He's featured in the video below.) Turn-of-the-'70s member Tom Constanten is still around. Successive reunion tours have also featured Jeff Chimenti and Rob Barocco.
Both Weir and Lesh arrive road-tested with Further, and both have played featured roles as singers with the Grateful Dead. Weir shared the lead vocal on 'Truckin',' sang some Chuck Berry favorites and also handled the late-period radio hit 'Hell in a Bucket.' Lesh voices one of the Dead's most memorable songs, 'Box of Rain,' and has stepped up for a number of the group's Bob Dylan covers -- notably 'Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues.'
If there's anything standing in the way, it might just be their busy schedules. Lesh co-owns a California restaurant, where he regularly performs. He's also set to appear more than 30 times this year as part of a residency at the Capitol Theatre in New York. Weir is still doing the odd Ratdog show. Meanwhile, Hart and Kreutzmann have performed as the Rhythm Devils. Hart has also founded his own solo band, while Kreutzmann is part of 7 Walkers with Papa Mali.