Several comprehensive books have been written about the Grateful Dead in
recent years, including "Garcia: An American Life" by Blair Jackson and "What a
Long, Strange Trip" by Stephen Peters. But the first authorized Dead
biography, "A Long Strange Trip: The Inside History of the Grateful Dead,"
should offer the most in-depth account of the band to date.
Over 20 years in the making, the book was written by longtime band publicist
Dennis McNally, and is scheduled to come out in August 2002. Jerry Garcia asked McNally to write the band's biography in 1980 after reading his 1979 book about Jack Kerouac, "Desolate Angel."
McNally researched and interviewed for the book for four years, but put the
project on hold for 12 years when he became the Grateful Dead's personal
publicist in 1984. After Garcia's death in 1995, he resumed the project, and
finished it in May.
"For the last 15 years of the band's life, and in particular in the late
'80s and '90s, I had risen to the point where the band entrusted me with a
lot, and I was in the room when a lot of stuff went down," McNally said. "A
lot of that's in the book."
"A Long Strange Trip: The Inside History of the Grateful Dead" begins with the
births of eldest Dead members Garcia and guitarist Bob Weir and ends with
the scattering of Garcia's ashes in April, 1996. McNally conducted numerous
interviews with the band, including more than 20 hours of conversations
There are 55 chapters in the book, which McNally divided into three subjects. The first, which comprises 40 chapters, tells the linear history of the
Grateful Dead. Another 10 chapters recreate a hypothetical late '80s year
in the life of the Dead. The accounts are not fictionalized, but they're
assembled from various events that happened over the years. The final
section of five chapters provides ancillary information on how a show is
booked and staged, the roles of the road crew, what promoters do and the
impact of LSD in the '60s, among other subjects. The 40 chronological
history chapters make up the framework of the book, and the other 15
sections are interwoven throughout, in no particular order.
"I didn't want to write just a linear history of the band,"
McNally said. "I wanted to also reflect being a Deadhead, and what it's like to
be at a show. And I wanted to use the band as a lens to illuminate the story
of San Francisco in the '60s and America in the '60s. I wanted the book to
be about a lot more than just rock and roll."
Of course, there's plenty of rock and roll in there as well, and a wealth of
behind-the-scenes information. McNally said previously unreported facts
include the real story of Altamont, not the "popular mythology"; why the
Grateful Dead hated their set at Woodstock and why they didn't appear in the
1970 Michael Wadleigh movie, "Woodstock"; and what happened in 1968 after
guitarist Bob Weir and keyboardist Ron "Pigpen" McKernan were temporarily
fired from the band.
"That band was my life," McNally said. "There was nothing like a Grateful
Dead concert. It was the last great American adventure. Nobody has combined
intellect and heart and improvisation the way they did. No one has even come