The Grateful Dead - Extra Chill Keyboardists Timeline (2023)

The Grateful Dead - Extra Chill Keyboardists Timeline (1)

In the more than 30 years that the Grateful Dead have existed as a band, much of their core lineup has remained the same: they've hadjerry garciaon lead guitar, Bob Weir on rhythm guitar, Phil Lesh on bass and a combination of Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzman on drums. Keyboardists, however, represent a very different story.

the band hadcincovarious keyboardists of his time; Four of them died tragically, and three of them died while still in the band.

This has led to the keyboard seat in the Grateful Dead being jokingly referred to as a "hot spot" by band members and fans alike, with some speculating that there might be some kind of curse to being the Grateful keyboardist. Dead.

While this unfortunate circumstance broke many hearts in the Grateful Dead family, the change in keyboardist roster also contributed to the development of themusic of the deadand allowed many different styles to find their way into the band's sound over the years.

Each keyboardist represents a different era for the band, with an ever-changing sound and dynamics that make diving into their live archives a much more satisfying experience.

So, without further ado, we bring you our official chronicle of the Grateful Dead's keyboardists, from the band's inception in 1965 to their last show in July 1995; a long and strange journey cut short by Jerry Garcia's death of a heart attack in rehab.

Read the history of the keyboard chair in the Grateful Dead and what each member contributed to the band's sound.

Ron "Schweinstall" McKernan (1965 - 1972)

The Grateful Dead - Extra Chill Keyboardists Timeline (2)

The Grateful Dead's founding keyboardist was none other than Ron "Pigpen" McKernan, who according to Jerry's biographyDark StarIt was named after Pigpen frommisery.

While Jerry proved to be a reluctant leader as the band progressed, in the early days it could be argued that Pigpen was the main driving force behind The Dead's relaxed, blues-oriented sound.

In the late 1960s, when the band began to experiment with psychedelics and extensive interference, Pigpen avoided acid, opting instead to drink.

(Video) Grateful Dead - Let The Good Times Roll - Alpine Valley Music Theatre 89

By 1971, Pigpen's drinking was starting to make him sick and prevented him from touring with the band. In 1971 he took a short break to get his health in order, and around this time Dead added Keith Godchaux to the piano lineup.

In December 1971 Pigpen returned, but his return was brief.

Pigpen and Keith joined the band at the famousEuropa Tour, which turned out to be Pigpen's last stand. By June 1972, his condition had deteriorated to the point where he could no longer play and left the band for good.

In March 1973, Pigpen was found dead in his home from gastrointestinal bleeding at the age of 27. He had drunk himself to death.

Tom Constanten (1968–1970)

The Grateful Dead - Extra Chill Keyboardists Timeline (3)

Tom Constanten was an outlier in the history of the Grateful Dead and one of the few to escape the curse of the hot seat.

Constanten joined the band in 1968 and brought some psychedelic improvisation to the 1968 recording.hino do solyear 1969aoxomoxoa, and their beginnings of improvised jams.

He left The Dead on amicable terms in 1970, feeling that he did not contribute much to the band. His innovations on piano and harpsichord are said to have given the band the extra spice they needed to create songs like "Dark Star", which debuted during Tom's time with the band.

Ned Lagin (1970-1975)

The Grateful Dead - Extra Chill Keyboardists Timeline (4)

An often overlooked Grateful Dead keyboardist is Ned Lagin, who played with the band sporadically between 1970 and 1971, but when Keith joined the band, Ned barely played with them until 1974 (onlya show1972). However, in the summer of 1974, Ned showed up to play with them at several shows.

Ned was into synthesizers and electronic music, and his contributions can be heard in some of the more experimental things they did with Wall of Sound, including "Seastones", which are sections of electronic white noise that resemble somethingWilcoI would try later.

Ned was also known to play between sets with Phil in what became known as "Ned and Phil" during the '74 tours.

(Video) The Tragic Real Life Story Of The Grateful Dead

The band also recorded some sessions for "Seastones" at drummer Mickey Hart's home studio, but these were presumably lost. There's an old blog called NedBase that really delves into Ned's little-known involvement with the dead. I hearon hereif you want to learn more.

Keith Godchaux (1971–1979)

The Grateful Dead - Extra Chill Keyboardists Timeline (5)

As Pigpen's health continued to deteriorate and the Grateful Dead continued to research psychedelics, he was increasingly absent from the Keys.

So, the day after a concert, according to the 2017 documentarylong and strange journey, Keith Godchaux's wife Donna Jean Godchaux approached and introduced the band telling Jerry Garcia, "Keith is your new keyboard player."

Keith's first show with The Dead put him in place of Pigpen at the University of Minnesota's Northrop Auditorium on October 19, 1971, and on New Year's Eve in Winterland that year, the band invited him and Donna to join Grateful. Dead full time.

Keith was a classically trained pianist who brought his talent to the grand piano. He added detailed and intricate flourishes to the band's live sound, and contributions from him helped The Dead evolve into a more roots-rock-oriented sound in the '70s.

Keith's peak with the band was there1973and 1974 especially. After the Grateful Dead went on hiatus from touring in 1975, Keith continued to indulge in drug use.

When the band reached another big peak in 1977, Keith started to fall behind. He developed a heroin addiction and began using drugs to assuage the anxiety that came from the Dead's extensive touring schedule.

Over time, he lost his creativity and sometimes even fell asleep during shows, most notably in late 1978 and 1979. After a particularly difficult tour, The Dead sat down with Godchaux and kicked them out of the band.

After that, Godchaux formed the band Heart of Gold and released an album, but it was short-lived as Keith died in a car accident on July 23, 1980, just over a year after leaving the Grateful Dead. He is only the second Grateful Dead keyboardist to tragically die at a young age.

Brent Mydland (1979-1990)

The Grateful Dead - Extra Chill Keyboardists Timeline (6)

After being a Deadhead in the 1960s and 1970s, Brent Mydland joined the Grateful Dead in April 1979. He met Bob Weir and joined the side project.Bobby and the Midnites, and this led to his invitation to join the dead.

(Video) Breaking Down the Lyrics to "Weather Report Suite" | Grateful Dead | Rock My Soul

He was previously a member of the country rock band Silver and contributed keyboards to their only self-titled album, released in 1976. He also composed the album's opening track."Musician (Not an Easy Life)".

Brent remained with the Grateful Dead until his death in 1990, making him the Grateful Dead's longest serving and perhaps most popular keyboardist. His first show with The Dead was on April 22, 1979 at Spartan Stadium in San Jose.

Brent's contribution to the band was varied. For one thing, he was only 26 years old when he joined the Grateful Dead, making him the youngest member of the band (five years younger than Bobby). He brought a youthful energy and lent the song a bit of extra momentum that launched the band into the changing musical atmosphere of the 80s.

Eschewing the traditional grand piano in favor of electric keyboards and synthesizers, Mydland gave the song an electronic feel.

Brent was also a fantastic singer and over the years he became more comfortable in the vocalist role. He wrote songs like "Blow Away" and "Easy To Love You", which became staples of The Dead's live catalog in the late '80s, and he was particularly strong on the choruses.

His Jerry Garcia riffs, both vocally and instrumentally, are one of the best things that could have happened to The Dead over time.difficult yearsmid-1980s onwards The two shared a musical connection and understanding not exactly present during the Keith years.

Brent's heyday with the Grateful Dead came in 1989-90, when the band experienced its final rebirth. Jerry cleaned up most of his show and some of that old magic came back. Brent himself struggled with substance abuse and depression, which came in waves over the years, but he also seems to have recovered somewhat in the last couple of years.

Things were looking up after a strong summer tour in 1990, but Brent's tenure with The Dead ended tragically with his death on July 26, 1990, aged 37. He accidentally overdosed on a mix of heroin and cocaine, just three. Days after Dead ended its summer tour.

His last show with the band was on July 23, 1990 at the World Music Theater in Tinley Park, IL.

Enjoy great synergy from Jerry and Brent on the 7/7/89 "Ramble On Rose" below, officially released as part ofpurple, white and indigoem 2010.

(Video) Rudy's The Grateful Dead Presentation | Bad Friends Clips

Bruce Hornsby - (1990 - 1992)

The Grateful Dead - Extra Chill Keyboardists Timeline (7)

Bruce Hornsby was another Grateful Dead fan given the chance to join the band. He is an established musician, best known for the 1986 hit "The Way It Is" (which later became even more famous when TupacI triedEm 1998).

Hornsby first appeared with The Dead at the Rainforest Benefit at Madison Square Garden in September 1988 and joined the boys for a rock set."Don't Fade". Thereafter, he occasionally sat with the dead whenever possible, and in 1990 he officially joined for 18 months after Brent's death, contributing keyboards and accordion.

He finally left the band in March 1992, rejoining them occasionally until the end of the road was reached in 1995.

Bruce's piano contributions in the 1990s are considered by many to be some of the band's only shining moments during this period. Some even say there aren't many post-Brent shows worth listening to other than Bruce, who managed to avoid the bank curse and is still alive today.

Vince Welnick (1990-1995)

The Grateful Dead - Extra Chill Keyboardists Timeline (8)

When Brent Mydland died in 1990, the Grateful Dead held auditions for a new keyboard player. Many would argue that the band should have taken the time to regroup after Brent's death, but the truth is that the Grateful Dead have now become a machine that employs hundreds of people who rely on it to continue touring for the best Bills.

There was immense pressure to find a new keyboardist and get back on the road and they did just that. Vince was chosen over some of the other candidates, presumably because he was able to provide the vocal support the band was looking for in the absence of Brent, who was a notable singer.

Vince stayed with the Grateful Dead until 1995, when Garcia died and all the machines shut down.

Six months later, while on tour with Bob Weir & Rat Dog, he attempted suicide on the tour bus. He had been diagnosed with cancer and emphysema in 1994 and had struggled with depression and Jerry's death in such a short time.

About ten years later, after an ongoing battle with depression, Vince Welnick was found dead in his home in June 2006 after an apparent suicide. He was 51 years old.

(Video) What Die-Hard Fans Don't Even Know About The Grateful Dead

I don't want to end here on a sad note, with the ruination of the Grateful Dead's keyboardists, so I want to share the Dead's performance of "Eyes of the World" on June 17, 1991 at Giants Stadium.

This was the first and only time they opened with this song and this version features Bruce Hornsby and Vince Welnick onstage. it is29.03.90a run for your money.


How many keyboardist did the Grateful Dead have? ›

The band had five different keyboardists during their time; four of them died tragic deaths, and three of them died while they were still in the band.

Who was the best keyboardist for the Grateful Dead? ›

Brent Mydland (October 21, 1952 – July 26, 1990) was an American keyboardist and singer. He was a member of the rock band The Grateful Dead from 1979 to 1990, a longer tenure than any other keyboardist in the band.

Who were the Grateful Dead keyboardists? ›

Grateful Dead

Who are the three deceased Grateful Dead keyboardists? ›

Mydland had succeeded Keith Godchaux, who died in a car crash shortly after leaving the band. And Godchaux had replaced the band's original keyboard player, Ron “Pigpen” McKernan, who died at 27 in 1973. Two other Grateful Dead keyboardists, Bruce Hornsby and Tom Constanten, survived the supposed curse just fine.

What is considered the best Grateful Dead concert ever? ›

  • The Matrix, San Francisco. December 1st, 1966. ...
  • Winterland, San Francisco. March 18th, 1967. ...
  • Dance Hall, Rio Nido, California. September 3rd, 1967. ...
  • Carousel Ballroom, San Francisco. February 14th, 1968. ...
  • Dream Bowl, Vallejo, California. ...
  • McFarlin Auditorium, Dallas. ...
  • Fillmore East, New York. ...
  • Harpur College, Binghamton, New York.

What was the largest Grateful Dead concert? ›

The oldest 100,000-crowd concert reported to Billboard Boxscore is Grateful Dead's gig at the Raceway Park, Englishtown, New Jersey on September 3, 1977. The concert was attended by 107,019 people, which remains the largest ticketed concert in the United States to date.

Who played keyboards for the Grateful Dead in the 80s? ›

The band's lineup remained constant throughout the entire decade of the 1980s. The Grateful Dead at that time was Jerry Garcia on vocals and guitar, Bob Weir on vocals and guitar, Phil Lesh on bass and vocals, Brent Mydland on keyboards and vocals, Bill Kreutzmann on drums and Mickey Hart on drums.

Does paul mccartney like the Grateful Dead? ›

In fact, Paul makes it clear that he believes that the Beatles are the greatest band ever...but Paul did have an affinity for the Grateful Dead...or at least, Linda's photos of the band.

What were Grateful Dead fans called? ›

They are all members of the inimitable community of Grateful Dead fans commonly and affectionately known as Deadheads.

Who was the most talented member of the Grateful Dead? ›

Phil Lesh, Bass Guitar

Considered by many to be one of the most talented musicians in rock history, Phillip Chapman Lesh was born in Berkeley, California on March 15, 1940.

Who was the original Grateful Dead lineup? ›

The founding members were Jerry Garcia (lead guitar, vocals), Bob Weir (rhythm guitar, vocals), Ron "Pigpen" McKernan (keyboards, harmonica, vocals), Phil Lesh (bass, vocals), and Bill Kreutzmann (drums).

Is Vince Welnick still alive? ›

Which members of the Grateful Dead were Scientologists? ›

Former members
Jim Humble1933–Self-published author and founder of the Genesis II Church
Robert Hunter1941–2019Lyricist for the Grateful Dead.
Jason Lee1970–Actor
Johnny Lewis1983–2012Actor
39 more rows

Who replaced Kreutzmann? ›

The two-set performance was brimming with Grateful Dead staples, covers and pairings. During the second set, Rhythm Devil, Bill Kreutzmann stepped down and was filled in by frequent Bob Weir collaborator Jay Lane.

What is the deadliest concert of all time? ›

Here is a quick list of the worst:
  • 165 dead: Beverly Hills Supper Club, 1977. ...
  • 100 dead: The Station, 2003. ...
  • 11 dead: The WHO, 1979. ...
  • 10 dead: AstroWorld, 2021. ...
  • 4 dead: AltamonT Free concert, 1969. ...
  • 1 dead: Phish, 2021.
Nov 10, 2021

Who has seen the most Grateful Dead shows? ›

Even in a stadium filled with 50,000 Grateful Dead fans, Bill Walton easily stands out — and it has nothing to do with his nearly 7-foot height or custom-made, size 17 sneakers. “I've been to 854 Dead shows,” said the San Diego-bred basketball legend, veteran TV sportscaster and lifelong music devotee.

What is the longest dark star Grateful Dead? ›

Lose yourself in The Grateful Dead's longest jam, the 48-minute trip 'Dark Star'

What band has the longest concerts? ›

Marathon Concerts: Nine of Rock's Most Legendary Long Shows
  • Led Zeppelin, Jan. ...
  • Grateful Dead, May 7, 1972, Bickershaw Festival, Bickershaw, England (more than 4 hours)
  • Guns N' Roses, Aug. ...
  • Pixies, Oct. ...
  • Frank Marino, Dec. ...
  • The Cure, April 21, 2013, Foro Sol Stadium, Mexico City (4 hours, 6 minutes)
  • Phish, Dec.
Jun 27, 2022

What band tours the most? ›

However, according to various sources, the Rolling Stones have undertaken the most tours of any band, with estimates ranging from 200 to 250. The band has been touring consistently since 1962 and shows no signs of slowing down, making them the clear frontrunner for this title.

Who is the funkiest keyboard player? ›

Bernie Worrell is hands down one of the best funk players to ever play the keyboards. It's actually surprising that more people don't know who this man was.

Who is the fastest keyboardist in the world? ›

He has been credited as "the first musician to have played the santoor and Indian classical music on the piano". A review in the US-based Keyboard magazine described him as the fastest keyboard player in the world and called him the keyboard discovery of the nineties.
Adnan Sami
Years active1986–present
9 more rows

Who is the No 1 pianist in the world? ›

#1 - Martha Argerich

Argerich preferred being on stage with others instead of performing solo; therefore, she has been performing in a concerto format since the eighties. She rose to fame in 1965 when she won the International Chopin Piano Competition in Poland and began recording her own material shortly after.

Who played keyboards for the Grateful Dead in 1971? ›

Keith Godchaux

Who played keyboards for the doors during the 1960's? ›

DAVIES: Ray Manzarek, whose keyboard work helped define the distinctive sound of the '60s rock band The Doors, died Monday in Germany after a long battle with cancer. He was 74. Manzarek was raised in Chicago and grew up with a passion for jazz and blues.

Who played keyboards on 1984? ›

And during the '1984' tour, Van Halen further embraced his new role as a multi-instrumentalist by playing keyboards onstage during those three tracks. Eddie, after years of struggle, had won his war against those who wanted him to refrain from playing keyboards in his band.

What is Paul McCartney's favorite song he wrote? ›

Surely none of McCartney's songs were more poignant and personal than that? Alas, in The Lyrics, tasked with settling on just one song as his favourite, he chose the 1966 Beatles hit 'Here, There and Everywhere'.

What did Mick Jagger think of The Beatles? ›

Mick Jagger dismisses The Beatles as "a pop band"

"We were not The Beatles… The Beatles were a pop band… and though we liked them, you know, I mean… Keith and Brian sort of liked them, but I didn't really. I mean they were sweet and all that, but we were a blues band.

What did Mick Jagger say in response to Paul McCartney? ›

Jagger, who described McCartney as “a sweetheart,” responded by saying: “There's obviously no competition!” before continuing: “The big difference…

Do Deadheads still exist? ›

Devoted fans of the band have been known as “Deadheads” since the 1970s, when some fans took to following the group around on tour. There have been different lineups over the years. Jerry Garcia, the iconic face of the band, has been dead since 1995. Deadheads remain, though, and some of them are famous themselves.

What NBA player was a Grateful Dead fan? ›

Walton is a longtime Deadhead, first seeing the band in 1967 when he was 15. He said he has seen more than 1,000 Dead or Dead-related shows (Legion of Mary, Jerry Garcia Band, Ratdog and Dead and Co, featuring John Mayer).

Does Stephen King like the Grateful Dead? ›

King is a giant Grateful Dead fan and has written about the first show he ever saw, as well as the experience of finally getting backstage to meet the band. According to King, he had brought a Dead album and asked Jerry Garcia to autograph it.

Who is the best rocker of all time? ›

1. Elvis Presley. Known as the king of rock'n'roll, Elvis Presley is the second best-selling solo artist of all time and has sold over 146.5 million units to date.

Who sang the most Grateful Dead songs? ›

In the cultural imagination at large, Jerry Garcia is the lead singer of the Grateful Dead. He's the most recognisable face, voice, and presence throughout the band's catalogue, and his voice is the one heard on classic tracks like 'St. Stephen', 'Friend of the Devil', 'Casey Jones', and 'Althea'.

Did the Grateful Dead allowed fans to tape their shows? ›

During their heyday, the Grateful Dead stood out for allowing fans to record their concerts and trade the tapes. Long before the rise of digital sources of free music, many in the business saw fan-made recordings as simple theft.

Why do the Grateful Dead have 2 drummers? ›

The initial idea of using two drummers, much copied since, was simply to bring a more powerful sound to the rhythm section. “Since then, it has morphed into something different,” Kreutzmann says.

Did the Grateful Dead have a set list? ›

Yes. Despite the fact that Jerry played most of the instruments by himself on Garcia, there are half a dozen classic Grateful Dead songs on the record.

Why did Grateful Dead change their name? ›

December: Grateful Dead born: The band changes its name after learning of another group called Warlocks. Garcia spotted the phrase “grateful dead,” which the band later discovered to be from an Egyptian prayer, in a dictionary, and it stuck.

Is Keith Godchaux still alive? ›

Who was the original piano player for the Grateful Dead? ›

Ron “Pigpen” McKernan (1965 – 1972)

The founding keyboardist of the Grateful Dead was none other than Ron “Pigpen” McKernan, who according to the Jerry biography Dark Star was named such after Pigpen from Peanuts.

Is Vince Neil Rich? ›

What is the net worth of Vince Neil? As of September 2022, Vince Neil's net worth is $50 million. He is the least richest Mötley Crüe member.

What does the Grateful Dead lightning bolt mean? ›

For this reason, lightning bolts are symbolic of divine inspiration and intervention, of epiphanies and transformative experiences. We think many Deadheads would agree that this is true of the music of the Dead as well.

What do Scientologists believe in? ›

Scientology describes itself as a religion that was founded in the 1950s by L. Ron Hubbard. At the core of Scientology is a belief that each human has a reactive mind that responds to life's traumas, clouding the analytic mind and keeping us from experiencing reality.

Was John Mayer in Grateful Dead? ›

More Stories by Rania Aniftos

John Mayer, who has been part of the the modern incarnation of the Grateful Dead since it was created in 2015, shared the band statement to his Instagram on Friday (Sept. 23).

How old is Phil Lesh? ›

Why is Bill Kreutzmann not playing with Dead and Company? ›

As most of you know, I had a back issue that suddenly appeared in Boulder, but I nipped it in the bud. Just as I was ready to come back full-strength, I pulled a positive on an antigen test. Despite all the tour protocols that I took very seriously, it still got me.

How long was Mickey Hart out of the Grateful Dead? ›

Mickey Hart (born Michael Steven Hartman, September 11, 1943) is an American percussionist. He is best known as one of the two drummers of the rock band Grateful Dead. He was a member of the Grateful Dead from September 1967 until February 1971, and again from October 1974 until their final show in July 1995.

Who was the original keyboard player for the Grateful Dead? ›

The Grateful Dead was founded in the San Francisco Bay Area amid the rise of the counterculture of the 1960s. The founding members were Jerry Garcia (lead guitar, vocals), Bob Weir (rhythm guitar, vocals), Ron "Pigpen" McKernan (keyboards, harmonica, vocals), Phil Lesh (bass, vocals), and Bill Kreutzmann (drums).

Who played harmonica for the Grateful Dead? ›

Ronald Charles McKernan (September 8, 1945 – March 8, 1973), known as Pigpen, was an American musician. He was a founding member of the San Francisco band the Grateful Dead and played in the group from 1965 to 1972.
Ron "Pigpen" McKernan
LabelsWarner Bros. Records
11 more rows

Who was the last keyboard player Grateful Dead? ›

Vince Welnick, the Grateful Dead's last keyboard player and a veteran of other bands, including the Tubes and Missing Man Formation, has died, the Grateful Dead's longtime publicist said Saturday. Welnick died Friday, said Dennis McNally, who would not release the cause.

Did the Grateful Dead ever meet Pink Floyd? ›

Despite being two of the most era-defining groups of the 1960s and '70s, Pink Floyd and The Grateful Dead rarely crossed paths physically, instead providing the perfect stoner jams for a range of millions of music lovers.

Why did the Grateful Dead have 2 drummers? ›

The initial idea of using two drummers, much copied since, was simply to bring a more powerful sound to the rhythm section. “Since then, it has morphed into something different,” Kreutzmann says.

Who played harmonica on when the Zeppelin levee breaks? ›

Robert Plant – vocals, harmonica. John Paul Jones – bass guitar.

Did the Grateful Dead ever play in Hawaii? ›

Dave's Picks Volume 19 is a three-CD live album by the rock band the Grateful Dead. It contains the complete concert recorded on January 23, 1970, at the Honolulu Civic Auditorium in Honolulu, Hawaii.

When did the Grateful Dead stop using the wall of sound? ›

The Wall of Sound was disassembled, and when the Dead began touring again in 1976, it was replaced with a more logistically practical sound system.

Who followed the Grateful Dead at Woodstock? ›

Back in 1969, the Grateful Dead played Woodstock on the evening of Saturday, August 16th, following sets by the Incredible String Band, Canned Heat, and Mountain.


1. Dead & Company: St. Stephen LIVE from Bethel, NY 8/23/21
(Dead & Company)
2. Grateful Dead master class with Dave Frank: Exploring "Dark Star"
(Dave Frank)
3. The Deadhead Code of Ethics - Peter Conners
4. Grateful Dead | I Don’t Know About That with Jim Jefferies #51
(Jim Jefferies)
5. The Best Grateful Dead Albums Ranked
(Norman Maslov)
6. Dear Mr. Fantasy


Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Jerrold Considine

Last Updated: 06/10/2023

Views: 5969

Rating: 4.8 / 5 (78 voted)

Reviews: 85% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Jerrold Considine

Birthday: 1993-11-03

Address: Suite 447 3463 Marybelle Circles, New Marlin, AL 20765

Phone: +5816749283868

Job: Sales Executive

Hobby: Air sports, Sand art, Electronics, LARPing, Baseball, Book restoration, Puzzles

Introduction: My name is Jerrold Considine, I am a combative, cheerful, encouraging, happy, enthusiastic, funny, kind person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.