Conventional wisdom has it that the Grateful Dead couldn’t get arrested on radio (they saved that for real life)—at least not until their late-career single “Touch of Grey” improbably saturated the airwaves in 1987. But as is often the case with the Dead, this is hardly the whole story. Actually, the Boys have a long history with radio, going back to when Jerry Garcia played folk music live on KPFA in the fall of 1962. And once the Dead formed, area stations like KSAN, KMPX, and KPFA broadcast the band’s concerts and brought in members for interviews. In the 1980s, music journalist and Deadhead David Gans inherited a show which came to be known as the Grateful Dead Hour. Syndicated across the country, and featuring choice nuggets from the band’s audio vault, the program aided scene coherence and and brought the Dead’s counterculture spirit to a new generation. Gans, who also hosts The Golden Road on SiriusXM’s Grateful Dead Channel, joins us to talk about his history with the band, along with his own creative exploits as a performing songwriter. Casey and Eduardo examine the evolution of broadcast media in America with ears on the Dead. Feed Your Head profiles the father of progressive radio, Tom “Big Daddy” Donahue. Don’t change that dial!
Understanding the Grateful Dead isn’t just being able to rattle off setlists and songs, or knowing what kind of guitar picks Jerry Garcia preferred (Dunlop Adamas Graphite 2mm). It also requires familiarity with the situations and events that shaped the personalities behind the music. Show posters, letters, press clippings, and mountains of editorial content are available to any ‘Head who wants to take their Dead education to the next level. The Grateful Dead Archive at the University of California at Santa Cruz is the official repository of Dead history, much of which can be found online. There’s also no shortage of books, including scholarly analysis of the band and scene. But some of the most insightful observations come from outside of academia.
Our special guest Blair Jackson—author of Garcia: An American Life and former publisher of The Golden Road—has spent decades documenting the Dead through interviews with band members and thoughtful analysis of their art. His stuff is thrilling to read, and serves as a cornerstone of what has come to be known as Dead Studies. You won’t want to miss our conversation with Blair about his motivations for writing about the band. Casey and Eduardo also talk about why the Dead have become attractive to scholars, and Feed Your Head profiles original archivist and office manager Eileen Law. Check the show notes for a reading list!
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