UC Santa Cruz Opens a Deadhead’s Delight: The Grateful Dead Archive is Now Online

“They’re not the best at what they do,” said respect­ed rock pro­mot­er Bill Gra­ham of the Grate­ful Dead. “They’re the only ones that do what they do.” The band devel­oped such an idio­syn­crat­ic musi­cal style and per­son­al sen­si­bil­i­ty that their legion of devot­ed fans, known as “Dead­heads,” tend­ed to fol­low them every­where they toured. The Dead with­stood more than their fair share of clas­sic-rock tur­bu­lence in the thir­ty years from their for­ma­tion in 1965, but did­n’t dis­solve until the 1995 death of found­ing mem­ber and unof­fi­cial front­man Jer­ry Gar­cia. The bereft Dead­heads, still in need of a con­stant flow of their eclec­tic, impro­vi­sa­tion­al, psy­che­del­ic-tra­di­tion­al, jam-inten­sive sound of choice, took a few dif­fer­ent paths: some began fol­low­ing oth­er, com­pa­ra­ble groups; some would go on to rely on acts formed by ex-Dead mem­bers, like Bob Weir and Phil Lesh’s Furthur; some made it their life’s mis­sion to col­lect every­thing in the band’s incom­pa­ra­bly vast col­lec­tion of demos, live record­ings, and son­ic mis­cel­lany.

Grate­ful Dead com­pletists now have anoth­er source of solace in the Grate­ful Dead Archive Online from the Uni­ver­si­ty of Cal­i­for­nia, San­ta Cruz. Lest you assume your­self Dead-savvy enough to have already seen and heard every­thing this archive could pos­si­bly con­tain, behold the new­ly added item fea­tured on the front page as I type this: Jer­ry Gar­ci­a’s Egypt­ian tour lam­i­nate. Accord­ing to the press release, the archive’s inter­net pres­ence fea­tures “near­ly 25,000 items and over 50,000 scans” from the uni­ver­si­ty’s phys­i­cal archive, includ­ing “works by some of the most famous rock pho­tog­ra­phers and artists of the era, includ­ing Herb Greene, Stan­ley Mouse, Wes Wil­son and Susana Mill­man.” Rest assured that it offers plen­ty of non-obscu­ran­tist Dead-relat­ed plea­sures, includ­ing tele­vi­sion appear­ances, radio broad­casts, posters, and fan record­ings of con­certs. Like any rich sub­ject, the Grate­ful Dead pro­vides its enthu­si­asts a life­time of mate­r­i­al to study. UC San­ta Cruz, a school often asso­ci­at­ed in the pub­lic imag­i­na­tion with the Dead­’s greater San Fran­cis­co Bay Area ori­gins as well as their pen­chant for laid-back good times, has just made it that much eas­i­er to plunge into.

Relat­ed con­tent:

Van Mor­ri­son, Jef­fer­son Air­plane & The Grate­ful Dead: Watch Clas­sic Con­certs from Wolfgang’s Vault

Free Grate­ful Dead Con­cert Archive

Col­in Mar­shall hosts and pro­duces Note­book on Cities and Cul­ture. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall.


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  • Ken Walker says:

    This sounds great but you had to be there to real­ly enjoy it.
    It seems so long ago but I have songs in my head every day, almost note for note since first hear­ing them in 67.
    What a long strange trip it’s been.…

  • Kvamme says:

    The boot­leg tapes were encour­aged by the band and Dead­heads did their best to share the live music. No band live could ever com­pare to the Grate­ful Dead­’s out­door con­certs. Music, good times and fun!

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