While the first recognized Grateful Dead show took place at Magoo’s Pizza Parlor in Menlo Park, California on May 5, 1965; the band performed under the name “The Warlocks.” Months later Jerry Garcia found the words “Grateful Dead” in the dictionary and suggested the group adopt the name. His bandmates agreed and on this date in 1965 the band performed as the “Grateful Dead” for the first time.
As per the Dead FAQ, a book by Blair Jackson features a quote about how the name came to be by Garcia, “One day we were over at Phil’s house…He had a big dictionary. I opened it and there was ‘Grateful Dead’, those words juxtaposed. It was one of those moments, you know, like everything else went blank, diffuse, just sort of oozed away, and there was GRATEFUL DEAD in big, black letters edged all around in gold, man, blasting out at me, such a stunning combination. So I said, ‘How about Grateful Dead?’ And that was it.” The band performed at an Acid Test held at a 19th- century Victorian house in San Jose on December 4, 1965 using the Grateful Dead name. For more on that first show, check out Jim Harrington’s essay on the historic night for the Santa Cruz Sentinel.
Tonight, Don Quixote’s International Music Hall in Felton, California will host a celebration of the 50th anniversary of the First Acid Test featuring Slugs N Roses and Ken Babbs at which a historic marker of the First Acid Test will be dedicated. For now, listen to a recording of “Caution Do Not Step On The Tracks” from the Grateful Dead’s earliest recording session in 1965 that was recently released as part of the 30 Trips Around The Sun box set:
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