The History Of The Grateful Dead’s Colorful Lineup
The Grateful Dead live in 1974 - WORLD TOUR / Youtube
The Grateful Dead worked for decades to leave a mark outside of the music world. Even though the Dead never truly achieve mainstream success, they became known as one of rock’s most interesting and entertaining bands. The Dead always dealt with lineup changes, which forced them to change and improve their sound over time. At any given time, the band had as many as six different keyboardists or pianists, but they still managed to keep going. All the information you need about the timeline of Grateful Dead’s lineup changes is right here.
The Grateful Dead began in a small way in 1965. Jerry Garcia, Bob Weir, and Ron “Pigpen” McKernan were all members of a folk band called Mother McCree’s Uptown Jug Champions. They played guitar and keyboard, respectively. But after Pigpen suggested it, the band started to think about switching from folk music without electric instruments to electric blues. Soon, they started working with drummer Bill Kreutzmann. The new electric blues band had its first official show on May 5, 1965, at a pizza parlor. The band was called the Warlocks – Garcia, Weir, Pigpen, and Kreutzmann were in the group, and Dana Morgan played the bass. But Morgan’s time with the band was coming to an end, so Phil Lesh replaced him in bass duties.
For the first time, Mickey Hart joined the band on September 30, 1967. Bill Kreutzmann was the band’s drummer at the time, but he proposed adding a second percussionist. The second performance of the night took off once Hart joined the band and started playing with them. Hart was the perfect musical and spiritual match for the Dead since he was a longtime drummer with beats in his veins.
Tom “TC” Constanten produced one of the most distinctive voices in Grateful Dead history during his brief stint in the band. His involvement began with the recording sessions for what would become 1968’s Anthem of the Sun when the band was deep in their psychedelic era and things were growing weirder by the day.
By 1970, 2 members have already left the group due to various reasons: Mickey Hart and Tom Constanten. The Grateful Dead’s second live album, self-titled but commonly referred to as Skull & Roses, was released in October of 1971. Keith Godchaux, a pianist and keyboardist, formally joined the band the same month after initially meeting Jerry Garcia after one of the Dead’s performances.
McKernan played his last concert with the group on June 17, 1972, in the Hollywood Bowl in California, and he was unable to sing at the event. By the time 1972 ended, he was a mere shadow of his former self due to his rapidly deteriorating health. His passing in March 1973 was devastating, but they pressed on and played shows as usual. The song “Wake of the Flood,” which featured Keith and his wife Donna Jean Godchaux, was released at the end of 1973. When Keith had some time to settle down on the piano, Donna Jean joined the band a year earlier to provide vocals. Then, by 1974, Mickey Hart rejoined the group, making this time the largest lineup of the group: Garcia, Weir, Lesh, Kreutzmann, Hart, and couple Keith and Donna Jean Godchaux.
Though the Grateful Dead were back together and doing amazing music after a brief hiatus, tensions were rising inside the group. In summary, the Godchauxs had stopped being helpful, and this time they were released from the group. By then, Brent Mydland took over the keyboard duties.
Brent Mydland’s death at age 37 came during the height of his career with the Grateful Dead. The two substances (morphine and cocaine) together proved fatal for him on July 26, 1990. Shortly after his departure, the Dead found a replacement and were back on the road in under three months. As Mydland was gone, the band decided to hire two organists/keyboardists to fill in for him. Vince Welnick made his debut in the Richfield Coliseum in Ohio. Then, a week later at New York City’s Madison Square Garden, Bruce Hornsby performed with the Dead for the first time.