Dead & Company — the band featuring three out of four surviving Grateful Dead members (Phil Lesh is the holdout) — has mounted a summer tour running through the end of August. Inaugurated in 2015, the group is the latest in a line of post-Jerry Garcia ensembles that have included all or most of the remaining members. And in truth, there have been a bunch of other intriguing offshoot outfits from the band’s heyday right up to the present, all of whom are a part of the Dead’s labyrinthine legacy. For instance:
David & The Dorks
Perhaps the most shadowy of the Dead splinter groups, this short-lived outfit, also billed as “Jerry Garcia & Friends,” consisted of David Crosby, Jerry Garcia, Phil Lesh, and (depending on who you ask) either Bill Kreutzmann or Mickey Hart (or both). All played on Crosby’s 1971 solo debut If I Could Only Remember My Name and in December of 1970, they are believed to have played three shows at The Matrix in San Francisco and one at Pepperland in San Rafael. A couple of these have been widely bootlegged, along with a rehearsal recording. Their repertoire was a mix of covers (“Alabama Bound,” Motherless Children”), new tunes they were working on for Crosby’s LP, and some songs Garcia had yet to introduce to the Dead, like “Bertha” and “Bird Song.”
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Old and In the Way
Before he made the move to rock n’ roll, Jerry was all about bluegrass, and the banjo was his weapon of choice. In 1973, he reached back to those roots long enough to start a supergroup of sorts, while wielding his banjo alongside heavyweight fiddler Vassar Clements and bassist John Kahn as well as hotshot mandolinist David Grisman and acoustic guitarist Peter Rowan (both were in the ‘60s psychedelic band Earth Opera). The lineup played some shows in ’73-’74 and released a self-titled album in early ’75. A reunion record without the late Garcia and Kahn appeared in 2002.
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In 1986, The Grateful Dead were out of commission for a while due to Jerry’s diabetic coma and subsequent rehab. To keep busy during the hiatus, Brent Mydland and Bill Kreutzmann started gigging as Go Ahead with guitarist Jerry Cortez and Santana’s singer Alex Ligertwood and bassist Dave Margen. Keyboard man Mydland traded off with Ligertwood on lead vocals, and the band played plenty of tunes from the Dead’s repertoire, along with covers of evergreen tunes by The Zombies, Traffic, and The Rolling Stones. Towards the end of Go Ahead’s tenure, after the Dead started up again, Bob Weir joined in as well.
Weir & Wasserman
Before Bob Weir started his extracurricular band RatDog in 1995, he’d spent several years working in this duo with RatDog bassist Rob Wasserman. Wasserman, who worked with everyone from Lou Reed to Van Morrison, started playing in a two-man unit with Weir in the late ‘80s, and the pair covered many a mile in between Dead tours. Wasserman helped Weir pen the Dead tune “Victim or the Crime,” and the duo’s shows contained Dead material alongside Weir solo songs and covers. Pre-RatDog, Weir and Wasserman never made it into a recording studio but there are a couple of live releases of their duo performances out there.
Golden Gate Wingmen
Exemplifying the fluidity of the Dead continuum, The Golden Gate Wingmen technically do not include any actual Grateful Dead members, but every one of them has played with one or more Dead offshoots. As previously observed, Jeff Chimenti has played with just about all of them, while singer-guitarist John Kadlecik has worked with Furthur and Phil Lesh & Friends, drummer Jay Lane did time with RatDog and Furthur, and bassist Reed Mathis played with Bill Kreutzmann in Billy & the Kids. They play deep-cut Dead covers along with tunes by everybody from soul man King Floyd to J.J. Cale. But the original songs they sprinkle into their sets reveal their knack for extending the Dead’s sensibility into fresh territory.
Photo: Rob Wasserman and Bob Weir of Ratdog (Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images)