…who were possibly the most phenomenal rock-and-roll band ever, whether or not the most successful. Bathed in the fire of the Electric Kool-Aid Acid Tests in 1966 and the ‘summer of love’ in 1967, they gave new meaning to the term ‘cult following’. They not only defined the psychedelic era in the US, but single-handedly passed it on to another generation. I saw them for the first time in 1972 at the Fox Theatre in St. Louis during their initial wave of mass popularity following the Haight-Ashbury formative era, and following on the heels of the top-notch ‘Workingman’s Dead’ and ‘American Beauty’ albums. They were always best live, though, and I saw them again in 1983 in a nostalgia show for their ‘Deadicated’ hardcore following at Kesey’s Oregon Country fairgrounds. Throughout all those years they played a New Year’s show every year in the Bay Area for the faithful. But the real mania didn’t start until about 1990 when ‘all that hippie stuff’ was supposedly long over, and the ‘hair bands’ were dying as Nirvana was climbing the charts with their toe-tapping grunge and despair. The Dead ruled the concert arenas, however, playing to full stadiums. People would follow them all over the country ‘on tour’ with the band, just like the old days, building instant cities on site in each city. These were little hippie ‘Indian villages’ complete with Main Street and local politics.
That’s where I came in, peddling import ethnic fashion accessories for hippies, and it was good, if a bit chaotic, for a while at least, typically selling $500-1000 worth of goods a day with little more than the hood of my car for a table. Well, you can bet some people saw the $ there, caravanning around the country with a fleet of vans and goods and advance men, even drop-shipping pallet-loads of nitrous oxide containers for pick-up at the show-site cities on the respective dates. That was for those imbibers who favor a quick rush, frequently falling out on the spot for a fifteen second eternity. I always declined those ‘whip-its’, both for sale and ingestion. As a businessman, I was more of a hit-and-run artist, flying in with a few large boxes of merchandise, renting a car, and jockeying for parking space on the ever-volatile Miracle Mile. The hype got too big, of course, and I stuck it out long enough to see it decline because of its own excess. The music lived on, though, and still does. I doubt seriously that anyone out-performed the Dead in concert sales from 1990 until 1995, when bandleader Jerry Garcia died. All good things must come to an end sometime.