The Baystate Objectivist

The Baystate Objectivist

Friday, December 23, 2016

THE MERRY DEAD

In 1987 the Grateful Dead mailing list sent me this postcard at Christmas time.


The band is shown as Renaissance era skeletons. Which skeleton corresponds to each member? My guess is from the left: Bill Kreutzmann carrying a drum, Phil Lesh with a bass, Bob Weir with a rhythm guitar, Brett Mydland shown behind the Dead flag draped piano, Jerry Garcia with lead guitar and Micky Hart distinguished from co-drummer Kreutzmann by the type of drumstick he's holding, used to hit the big gongs and drums that made up his customized, multi-drum kit. Then again, the skeleton is shown as smoking a cigarette, which I'm pretty sure Hart did not do, but which Kreutzmann did, so I'm not 100% sure I've got the drummers right. Here's what Wikipedia has to say about the Deadheads:

The term "Deadhead" first appeared in print at the suggestion of Hank Harrison, author of The Dead Trilogy, on the sleeve of Grateful Dead (also known as Skull & Roses), the band's second live album, released in 1971. It read:

DEAD FREAKS UNITE: Who are you? Where are you? How are you?
Send us your name and address and we'll keep you informed.
Dead Heads, P.O. Box 1065, San Rafael, California 94901.


This phenomenon was first touched on in print by Village Voice music critic Robert Christgau at a Felt Forum show in 1971, noting "how many 'regulars' seemed to be in attendance, and how, from the way they compared notes, they'd obviously made a determined effort to see as many shows as possible."

Eileen Law, a long time friend of the band, was put in charge of the mailing list and maintained the Dead Heads newsletter. It is estimated that by the end of 1971, the band had received about 350 letters, but this number swelled greatly over the next few years to as many as 40,000. In total, 25 mailings/newsletters reached Dead Heads between October 1971 and February 1980. After this time, the Grateful Dead Almanac would succeed it, with this eventually being abandoned for Dead.net. Those who did receive the newsletter in the 1970s often found pleasant surprises sent along. One example is from May 1974 when Heads received a sample EP of Robert Hunter's upcoming album Tales of the Great Rum Runners as well as selections from Jerry Garcia's second album, Compliments of Garcia, and some cuts that were from bandmembers Keith and Donna Godchaux's eponymous solo album, Keith & Donna, both on Round Records.


I received all those mailings as well as the records. I still have a few of the mailings but none of the records, which is a shame because they're valuable collector pieces now. Oh well, nothing lasts.

HAVE A GREAT CHRISTMAS EVERYBODY!

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