Dead Comes Alive at UMass

Grateful Dead Experience Comes Alive at UMass Amherst

"Putting the Grateful Dead in context is rather like putting America into a blender; it ain't easy but the mess sure takes us places." -John Rocco from "Ineluctable Modality of the Audible: The Dead in Context"

Grateful Dead
AMHERST, MA – Scholars, fans, artists, performers and members of the extended Grateful Dead family will gather at the University of Massachusetts Amherst in November for the first major university conference on the enduring legacy of the Dead experience.

Unbroken Chain: The Grateful Dead in Music, Culture and Memory, being held November 16 - 18 at UMass Amherst, will bring together more than 50 presenters for 20 panel sessions ranging from music composition and improvisation to an examination of the band's business model – as well as musical performances, gallery exhibits, and presentations. Unbroken Chain is being presented in conjunction with a semester-long graduate History seminar entitled American Beauty: Music, Culture and Society, 1945-95; and an undergraduate course entitled How Does the Song Go: The Grateful Dead as a Window into American Culture.

Among the Unbroken Chain panelists are "Mountain Girl" Carolyn Garcia, first wife of guitarist Jerry Garcia and a central figure among the Merry Pranksters who populated the early Grateful Dead scene; David Gans, host of the Grateful Dead Radio Hour for the past 20 years; Grateful Dead midi wizard Bob Bralove; and Dan Healy, who designed and built the "Wall of Sound," famed enabler of the Dead's improvisational style.

Plenary addresses will include a keynote by Dennis McNally, longtime Dead publicist and author of Long Strange Trip: The Inside History of the Grateful Dead. McNally earned a doctorate in History at UMass Amherst in 1978.

"The academic world is not as removed from so-called reality as people think, especially those in the academic world," said McNally recently. "In the rock & roll world, there are pockets of meticulous intelligence and literacy, people like Jerry Garcia and (bassist) Phil Lesh."

John Mullin, Dean of the UMass Amherst Graduate School – which is sponsoring the event along with the Department of History and UMass Amherst Outreach – said that Unbroken Chain can be a model for future academic-community collaborations. Gallery sessions and discussions will feature the work of photographers Herb Greene, Susanna Millman and Lloyd Wolf, as well as poster and album cover artists Mikio Kennedy and Mike Dubois. In addition, original prints of Jerry Garcia's artwork will be displayed and available for purchase. Among the films being screened will be Deadheads: An American Subculture and a digitally re-mastered Sunshine Daydream, an until-now unreleased documentary on the August 27, 1972 benefit concert at Ken Kesey's farm in Oregon.

The weekend will include performances by the American Beauty Project ensemble, doing the music of acclaimed Dead albums Workingman's Dead and American Beauty, and Dark Star Orchestra, whose rhythm guitarist Rob Eaton and keyboardist Rob Baracco will take part in several of the panel discussions. The Dark Star performance at the UMass Amherst Fine Arts Center on Saturday evening will feature special guests and the work of Peak Experience Productions.

A maximum of 375 registrations for Unbroken Chain: The Grateful Dead in Music, Culture and Memory are now being accepted. Information on registration and accommodations is available at

Tickets, sold separately, for performances by the American Beauty Project and Dark Star Orchestra are available at

[Published on: 9/17/07]

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phishr82 starstarstarstarstar Mon 9/17/2007 12:12PM
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that sounds like it will be really cool and educational. for once i am sad that i left massachusetts behind

lvcheese Mon 9/17/2007 12:35PM
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Detroit Funk starstarstarstarstar Mon 9/17/2007 12:52PM
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Detroit Funk

Sounds like a real interesting class. Makes me want to go back to college and try again, it's always the people that bother me more than the information anyway.

gmoo Mon 9/17/2007 04:23PM
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I would take these classes for sure. Neat idea.

UnbrokenChain7 starstarstarstarstar Mon 9/17/2007 07:32PM
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This is excellent. Anyone and everyone who wants to and is able to, take full advantage of this.

Astronaut Jones starstarstarstarstar Tue 9/18/2007 05:42AM
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Astronaut Jones

See now, if I could've taken Grateful Dead courses in college instead of Anatomy and Physiology, I might have stayed and finished! Go UMass!

threef starstarstarstarstar Tue 9/18/2007 07:14AM
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This sound really cool. I was luck enough to take a college class "Music of the Gratful Dead" Taught by Fred Libermen at UCSC. We got to meet Steve Parish, I got to touch Tiger, Watch the 16mm version of Sunshine Day Dream, the first time to the public and meet so many other cool people from the family. I even got credit for it. I wish I could go to this event also.

Relevant starstarstarstar Tue 9/18/2007 04:03PM
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Ummmm, Mountain Girl was not Jerry's 1st wife. other than that , it sounds like it might be pretty cool.

cliftonhanger420 Tue 9/18/2007 07:23PM
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wasn't mountain girl jerry's 2nd wife? he shacked up with her while she was carrying ken kesey's kid, but i don't think they got married until NYE sometime in the 80's.

kirkbrew starstarstar Wed 9/19/2007 08:54AM
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Think that MG has very little to add to this. Let’s get Patty Boyd and Yoko at Beatle-fest. So they fucked a rock star (plural in Boyd’s case). BFD.

Would love to hang out with Bralove and Healy. Those guys really pushed live music’s capabilities. For better and worse. Wonder if they regret any of the digital stuff that they did? It was pushing tech of the time, but in retrospect, lots of it sounds like shit.

Would like to hear McNally talk. That was a great book. Not too kind to Jerry, but then again the guy was who he was.

Wonder if anyone will comment on the post-Jerry law suits, how Bobby has grabbed the reigns and gutted GD Corp to maximize profitability? Then there is the whole “soundboard” thing. I was OK purchasing the odd Dick’s Pick, but after that, I have been getting all I can for as free as I can. While I don’t like what happened to “the band”, it is pretty interesting how the dynamics changed after Garcia’s death.

petemora starstarstar Thu 9/20/2007 01:42PM
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Healy will explain how he completely buried Weir's rhythm guitar and Mydlands organ solos in the mix.

jeremyatt Fri 9/21/2007 07:59AM
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are any guys that were acctually in the dead going to be their i didn't hear anything about that cuz yeah a course on the grateful dead is great but yeah like the only reason one would b better than the other is if someone who was in the dead was to be their

DannyMac starstarstarstarstar Sun 9/23/2007 01:00PM
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It is amazing how there is always people who want to make a great thing into a tabloid headline. Buried what??? The Grateful Dead is one of the coolist things mankind came up with. It deserves discussion.

guitardave starstarstar Mon 9/24/2007 07:37AM
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If you read Phil's book "Searching for the Sound", Healy was let go because he rendered Bob Weir's guitar inaudible in the house mix. He also helped develop and create the greatest live concert sound ever known.

PCPrabbit Mon 9/24/2007 10:58AM
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Healy also would add effects like delay and distortion to the vocals on the house speakers but not to the monitors. The band would get pissed when they would hear SBD's of shows cause they didn't realize they sounded that way. I'm at work so I can't look in my McNally book to confirm. Anyone, feel free to correct me if I'm mistaken.

MaxY1987 starstarstarstarstar Thu 9/27/2007 11:08AM
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sounds super neet-o

rulosa01 starstarstarstarstar Mon 10/15/2007 12:17PM
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hey, my philosophy professor is going to be speaking at this!

americanbeauty26 starstarstarstarstar Wed 10/24/2007 05:33PM
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i'm in the undergraduate class so i thought i'd comment. as good as this symposium is going to be on its own, rumor has it there may be some "special guests" attending. phil?