Grateful Dead Members, John Mayer Form Dead & Company
The Grateful Dead may have ceased to exist following their Fare Thee Well shows, but three of the band’s “Core Four” surviving members will reincarnate the Dead as part of a new group featuring John Mayer. Dubbed Dead & Company, guitarist Bob Weir and percussionists Bill Kreutzmann and Mickey Hart will team with Mayer, Allman Brothers bassist Oteil Burbridge and Ratdog keyboardist Jeff Chimenti. The new group will make its live debut with a Halloween gig October 31st at New York’s Madison Square Garden.
While the Grateful Dead called it quits following their Fare Thee Well shows in Chicago, Weir told Billboard, “Those songs weren’t done with us. It was a matter of who wanted to get back out on the road and keep doing it.” Weir added that Mayer’s enthusiasm to perform Dead songs “was the cherry on the sundae that made this project look like a good idea.”
For months, rumors have circulated that Mayer – like Phish guitarist Trey Anastasio, who performed at the Fare Thee Well gigs – would join the Grateful Dead as Jerry Garcia’s replacement for a string of farewell shows. Mayer had previously jammed alongside Phil Lesh and Friends at a pair of northern California gigs in June. Lesh will not take part in the Dead & Company Halloween show, as Jambase notes, the bassist has a Phil and Friends gig already scheduled that night in Port Chester, New York.
Weir also revealed to Billboard that they approached Phish bassist Mike Gordon about joining the project but, after auditioning, Gordon had to take himself out of the running. “Mike has way more stuff on his plate than he can manage now,” Weir said. “Oteil was a natural go-to and he’s more than up to the task.”
Tickets for the Dead & Company’s Madison Square Garden show go on sale to the general public on August 14th, with an American Express pre-sale scheduled for August 10th on Ticketmaster. Keeping with the Dead’s 50th anniversary theme, tickets will be priced $50 or $100. The band has also laid out the skeleton of an official website, although no additional tour dates have been revealed yet.
Mayer has been practicing with the Dead members since March in anticipation for the Dead & Company shows. In January 2013, Mayer professed to Rolling Stone that he was obsessed with the Grateful Dead after first hearing their Go to Heaven song “Althea” on Pandora.
“I’ve been listening to the Grateful Dead nonstop. Mark my words: the Grateful Dead are gonna make a comeback, because of how that music cleanses your palate,” Mayer said at the time. “When everything is processed and quantized and gridded out – to hear ‘Tennessee Jed’ played with that lope is a real palate-cleanser. They take their time, sometimes too much. This free expressive sort of spirit – I listen and I want to find a mix of that openness. I kind of want to go to that show, if it still existed. But I wish that there were tunes that I was more familiar with. I wish that I could be the singer. I wish I could have harmonies. And I wish that I could make it seven minutes instead of 13 minutes. Now I’ll get the opportunity to kind of try that.”