The Grateful Dead’s eponymous live album started it all for Nicholas Meriwether.
It was 1985. He was studying history at Princeton and got hooked by psychedelic jams like “Wharf Rat.” After his first concert, he knew: “I will spend the rest of my life thinking and studying this.”
Meriwether now heads the Grateful Dead Archive at the University of California, Santa Cruz, which recently opened to the public. On the first floor of the school’s library, he walks into a new exhibit space called Dead Central.
“One of the great things we have on display here is the band’s conference table,” he says. The table is where The Grateful Dead held meetings about matters such as upcoming tours or merchandising.
“So much of what’s in the archive … belies the myth that the Dead were a bunch of hippie, undisciplined ne’er-do-wells,” he says. “No — they were an enormously disciplined group of musicians.”
Grateful Dead drummer Mickey Hart agrees. He says the band’s discipline was born of necessity.
“When you are desperate to make a sound and after something with all of your heart and soul, you know you become skilled in some shape or form,” Hart says.
As Hart tells it, the band was all about the music and connecting with fans. But the archive reveals this other side — the business of the band’s success.
There are boxes of press clippings, band newsletters and business receipts. But Hart says that stuff isn’t his, or his bandmates’. He says the archive exists only because The Grateful Dead surrounded itself with the right people.
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