The Grateful Dead – ‘Playing In The Band’
  • Writers: Mickey Hart, Bob Weir, and Robert Hunter
  • Producers: The Grateful Dead
  • Recorded: April 6th, 1971, at Manhattan Center, New York City
  • Released: September 1971
  • Players:
    Jerry Garcia — vocals, guitar
    Bob Weir — vocals, guitar
    Phil Lesh — bass, vocals
    Ron “Pigpen” McKernan — keyboards, vocals
    Bill Kreutzmann — drums
    Merl Saunders — organ
  • Album: The Grateful Dead (also known as Skull & Roses) (Warner Bros., 1971)
  • Also On:
    Ace (Warner Bros., 1972) (Bob Weir)
    What A Long, Strange Trip It’s Been: The Best Of The Grateful Dead (Warner Bros., 1977)
    and many live albums
  • Though “Playing In The Band” was co-written by Grateful Dead drummer Mickey Hart, the song wasn’t recorded until the live version on The Grateful Dead was set to tape in the spring of 1971 — after Hart had left the band for personal reasons.
  • With guitarist Bob Weir on lead vocals, the song quickly became one of the Grateful Dead’s in-concert anthems and a fan favorite.
  • With other personnel problems — including the weakening condition of keyboardist RonPigpenMcKernan — the Grateful Dead decided to follow its two most successful studio albums, Workingman’s Dead and American Beauty, with a set of mostly new songs recorded live.
  • It was the second time the Grateful Dead used The Grateful Dead as an album title — the first was for the band’s 1967 debut.
  • This Grateful Dead album has taken on several other titles over the years, including Skull And Roses, in reference to the cover art.
  • The Grateful Dead peaked at Number 25 on the Billboard 200 chart.
  • The Grateful Dead has long been one of the band’s favorite albums. As singer-guitarist Jerry Garcia noted, “It’s us, man. It’s the prototype Grateful Dead, basic unit. Each one of those tracks is the total picture, a good example of what the Grateful Dead is musically… enough of an overview so people can see that we’re a regular shoot-em-up saloon band.”
  • The Grateful Dead album also kicked off the formal start of the Deadhead movement, as the group began recruiting fans and establishing a fan club with the inside cover message: “DEAD FREAKS UNITE. Who are you? Where are you? How are you?” It asked fans to send information to the band’s offices, attn: Dead Heads.


  • Hart rejoined the Dead in 1974.
  • McKernan died on March 8th, 1973, after suffering a stomach hemorrhage and liver failure brought on by alcohol poisoning.
  • Garcia, who had dealt with drug addiction and been through a number of rehabilitation programs, died in his sleep on August 9th, 1995, at the Serenity Knolls drug-treatment center in Forest Knolls, California.
  • On December 6th, 1995, the Dead issued a statement announcing that “the long, strange trip… is over.”
  • The surviving members have kept busy in the intervening years — Weir with his group Ratdog, Lesh with Phil Lesh & Friends, and Hart with a number of groups, as well as with writing books and other projects. Percussionist Bill Kreutzmann has been the quietest of the bunch. One of his main pursuits in recent years has been his own artwork, which he’s exhibited on occasion.
  • They’ve also toured, in varying configurations, as the Other Ones, and more recently as the Dead.
  • In 1999, the Other Ones released a live album called The Strange Remain, taken from their 1998 Further Festival performances.
  • The Grateful Dead was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1998 and carried a life-size cardboard likeness of Garcia to the podium.
  • Lesh has published a book called Searching For The Sound: My Life With The Grateful Dead.
  • The Grateful Dead organization signed over control of their archives to Rhino Records. Since they’re now out of the day-to-day business of running a record company, Hart has said this could allow the bandmates to work together again.