I’m a passionate music listener and have been as far back as anything I can remember in my life. That passion for listening to music increased as I got older and led me to open a record store in Kansas City, from 1973-1976, and to become a DJ on the first progressive FM rock station there at that same time. It was during this period that I first began to appreciate the Grateful Dead. Although I had bought their first album in 1968, I didn’t care for it and still find it the least enjoyable of all their subsequent releases.
I saw the Dead for the first time in Des Moines, Iowa on June 16, 1974. I continued to see the Dead infrequently, but my appreciation of their music continued to grow until I really “got it” at their 20th anniversary shows in Berkeley…their music is all about dance…perhaps even the cosmic dance of the universe! At this point it became clear to me that I needed to see more…much, much more of the Grateful Dead.
The Berkeley shows were also a true epiphany that led me to need to study the band’s business side to gain a better understanding of the business lessons I intuitively knew were there. This led to my own “long strange trip,” during which I taped 189 of the 194 Grateful Dead shows I saw. I also began to connect with Dead insiders and knowledgeable outsiders, and I started interviewing them. I also began to write business-related articles about the band, which led to my first book Everything I Know About Business I Learned From the Grateful Dead, which was published in 2011 and is still in print.
I continue to study the Dead’s business approach and to write book chapters, articles and make presentations, and I’ve been meeting annually with a group of like-minded Dead scholars for the past 20 years in Albuquerque. This is how I met co-author, Bob Trudeau.
I grew up in a household that constantly had music in the background, either classical music or “standards” from the American songbook. In college I followed fellow students, and now famous musicians Buffy Ste. Marie and Taj Mahal when they were starting out, not to mention loving a capella singing groups, square dancing music, etc.
After college my wife and I lived in Choluteca, Honduras, as Peace Corps Volunteers. In 1967, we moved to Chapel Hill, and I completed a PhD in Political Science, in 1971, at the University of North Carolina. My first real “day job” started in the fall of 1970, at Providence College.
When you read our review of “Bertha,” you’ll see that the Grateful Dead made a sudden and powerful leap into my life a year later, in late 1971. I became hooked on their music immediately. After my first show on March 28, 1973 in Springfield, Massachusetts, I happily repeated to anyone who would listen what many Deadheads have seen on bumper stickers: “There is nothing like a Grateful Dead concert!”
I saw many concerts during the Northeast tours in the mid- and late 1970s, and into the 1980s. I particularly enjoyed the three-night run at the Providence Civic Center, September 7 to 9, 1987. I approached that run with an empirical question: how many consecutive shows would it take before I tired of the experience? It turns out that I still don’t know the answer to that question, but I do know that it’s more than three. Since 1995, I’ve continued to listen to the Dead pretty constantly, thanks to official album releases and friends with access to the tape-trading networks. Who knows – I might have been listening to Barry’s tapes well before we met at the Caucus meetings.
It wasn’t until twelve years after the Dead stopped performing that I paid any serious scholarly attention to the phenomenon of the Dead, the Deadheads, etc. That started at the Unbroken Chain conference in 2007, which took place in the same building in which my wife and I had first started dating. That seemed like a good omen.
At that point, early 2008, I started attending the Grateful Dead Scholars Caucus meetings in Albuquerque. The Caucus has connected me with many fine people at over the years, ranging from widely published authors and experts on the Grateful Dead to colleagues too young to have seen the Dead in person. I’ve learned much, and am still learning, from these colleagues.