Deal by Bill Kreutzmann

The book is called Deal: My Three Decades of Drumming, Dreams, and Drugs with the Grateful Dead.

This book is what you would imagine from the drummer (one of them) of the Grateful Dead. Music, drugs, women, drugs, travels, guns, drugs, death, drink and more drugs. Actually, I really enjoyed the book. He is very open and very honest about his actions good and bad.

He is not a shy guy whatsoever. He shares his feelings about any subject that comes up. He does go into the music and how he feels about his bandmates. Most are positive but he does not hold back.

He covers the complete career of the band. He openly said he was very happy being the only drummer of the band when Mickey Hart quit and didn’t like it one bit when Mickey rejoined the band…at first anyway.

He goes into his relationship with Jerry Garcia. He also admits the guilt the band share in not trying to help Garcia more…but Jerry was his own man. He writes about the so-called keyboard player curse the band had in their career.

He tells us about the 72 European tour, shows they played near the pyramids and the Festival Express. I will say this…this band had fun. They were like a family and treated their employees well for the most part.

The only thing that I wish he would have shared more about was Pigpen. The band was apparently in the dark about how bad Pigpen was doing before he died. Maybe he didn’t share it with them.

I learned a lot about the Dead that I didn’t know about.

The book keeps going at a good pace. With the Dead’s long career he never lacks for stories. A lot of rock autobiographies are coming out and again this one takes the template that Keith Richards made with his book “Life” and fills it in.

Bill Kreutzmann from Deal about Garcia and heroin:

I’m pretty sure Jerry wasn’t into heroin during the making of Garcia; as far I know, he hadn’t even discovered it yet. But when he did, during subsequent Grateful Dead albums, it could become difficult just to get him to show up, unfortunately. That got to be really old, really fast, for all of us. We wanted to play music with him so badly that we’d put up with it, which—in hindsight—was crazy. Nobody else in the band would’ve been able to get away with it; at least, not to the extent that he did. But Jerry Garcia was the exception.
It also opens up a moral question that we can talk about now, but we can never truly answer, since he’s not with us. There was a certain feeling, toward the end, that Jerry was using the Grateful Dead to finance his drug habit. That’s a sad thought. I don’t think he ever intended it to be that way or for it to get to that point or to hurt anyone. He was as pure of a musician as they come. But heroin addiction will change a person in ways that are tragic and discouraging.

 

 

 

The Festival Express

Transcontinental Pop Festival… better known as the Festival Express. Great idea on paper… rounding up musicians in 1970 and placing them on a train going across Canada and stopping along the way to play festivals. What could go wrong? Actually, I would have loved to have been on that train.

The lineup:

The Band

The Grateful Dead

Janis Joplin

Buddy Guy Blues Band

The Fly Burrito Brothers

Sha Na Na

Delaney & Bonnie & Friends

There were more that were not in the film like Traffic, Ten Years After, Tom Rush, Ian & Sylvia, Mountain and more.

A DVD was released of this in 2004. All these musicians on a train full of liquor and an assortment of drugs… liquor was the popular choice among the musicians on this ride. The tour was to have events in Montreal, Toronto, Winnipeg, Calgary, and Vancouver. The Montreal event was canceled as was Vancouver. In Toronto, protesters were saying the festival promoters were price gouging so The Grateful Dead played a free concert in a park nearby to ease tensions with the protesters.

There are some very good performances on the DVD. My favorite is Buddy Guy and Janis Joplin’s performance. I also like the Dead’s “Don’t Ease Me In” with Pigpen on blues harp. The festival lost money and the film was thought lost for over 30 years. Janis would be gone a few months after this but her performance of Cry Baby is electrifying.

The train was where the fun was at. They actually stopped at a liquor store and bought out the complete store…including the giant display bottles. The Dead’s crew even dosed some of the liquor…and cake as you will see below… on board. When watching the film you can see the performers are having a ball jamming with each other because they didn’t get a lot of chances to do that on the road.

Bill Kreutzmann (drummer for the Dead) from his book “Deal”

We celebrated Janis Joplin’s birthday at the last stop the traditional way: with birthday cake. In keeping with our own kind of tradition, somebody—within our ranks, I would imagine—had secretly infused the cake with a decent amount of LSD. So it quickly became an electric birthday celebration. Allegedly, some generous pieces of that birthday cake made it to the hands and mouths of the local police who were working the show. “Let them eat cake!” (To be fair, I didn’t have anything to do with that … I was just another cake-eating birthday reveler, that night.)
And that was it for the Festival Express. It was a wonderful time and I think what really made it great was the level of interaction and camaraderie among the musicians, day and night, as we were all trapped on this train careening across the great north. It probably helped that we were all trashed the entire time. Whiskey was in the conductor’s seat on that ride.

I would recommend getting the DVD of this event. It’s a great time capsule of that time in music and culture.