Grateful Dead's Long, Strange Trip: An Authorized Version

Longtime Dead publicist Dennis McNally writes first authorized band biography.

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

with Garcia.

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

close."