The Grateful Dead was an American psychedelia-influenced rock band. Formed in 1965 in San Francisco from the remnants of another band, "Mother McCree's Uptown Jug Champions," the Grateful Dead were known for their unique and eclectic songwriting style—which fused elements of rock, folk music, bluegrass, blues, country, and jazz—and for live performances of long modal jams.
Some of the band's fans followed the band from concert to concert for years. These Deadheads were renowned for their dedication to the band's music. Many followers referred to the band simply as The Dead.
The Grateful Dead's career began under the name "The Warlocks" in Palo Alto, California. Eventually, they moved to the Haight-Ashbury section of San Francisco. Many bands from this area, such as Jefferson Airplane, Big Brother & the Holding Company, and Santana, went on to national fame, giving San Francisco an image as a center for the hippie counterculture of the era. (Also see entry for the San Francisco Sound.) Of these bands, the Grateful Dead had the most "musicianly" background, including banjo and guitar player Jerry Garcia, blues musician "Pigpen" McKernan, the classically trained Phil Lesh and drummer Bill Kreutzmann. The Grateful Dead most embodied "all the elements of the San Francisco scene and came, therefore, to represent the counterculture to the rest of the country."
The name "Grateful Dead" was chosen at random from a dictionary. Some claim it was a Funk & Wagnalls, others an Oxford Dictionary, but according to Phil Lesh, in his biography (pp. 62), "...Jer (Garcia) picked up an old Britannica World Language Dictionary...(and)...In that silvery elf-voice he said to me, 'Hey, man, how about the Grateful Dead?'"
The Grateful Dead became the de facto resident band of Ken Kesey's Merry Pranksters, with the early sound heavily influenced by Kesey's LSD-soaked Acid Tests, as well as R&B. Their musical influences varied widely with input from the psychedelic music of the era, combined with blues, jazz, rock and roll, and bluegrass. These various influences were distilled into a diverse and psychedelic whole that made the Grateful Dead "the pioneering Godfathers of the jam band world."
courtesy of wikipedia.org