Grateful Dead Gear – Blair Jackson
The Band's Instruments, Sound Systems, and Recording Sessions from 1965 to 1995

Backbeat Books • www.backbeatbooks.com

Grateful Dead Gear is an in depth review of the Grateful Dead’s equipment, their tools of the trade, their evolution from garage band, with a station wagon worth of equipment to super-group with tandem truck loads of gear. The author paints a picture of these artists as a collective, musicians and technicians, striving to bring together all aspects of their musical journey. A well-written and extremely informative book that every Deadhead must have. Even if you’re not into the Dead, you will find this book interesting. There is something for everyone, a view into a period of time, thirty years; when technology jumped on the rock band wagon and advanced at an incredible pace.

The book features interviews with band members and crewmembers, there are some great stories involving drugs, equipment and even the U.S military. There are over 200 photographs, pictures of album artwork, incredible looking custom guitars, stage setups and even detailed design layouts of the famed ‘Wall of Sound’ PA system introduced in the 70s. There are many photos of the band showing them performing throughout their evolution.

The author has included suggested listening advice, colour photos of Grateful Dead's album covers, re-releases and pre-Dead projects such as Mother McCree’s Uptown Jug Champions, a 1964 recording released in 1999 featuring Garcia, Weir and Pigpen (Ron McKernan) in a folk/blues idiom, pre-electric.

The information on guitars is extensive; Guild Guitars, Gretch, Gibson, Fender, Epiphone, Ibanez, Rickenbacker, Travis Bean, Alembic, Irwin and Modulus are all included. Equal attention is given to amplification, speakers, electronics and recording. The drummers even get their share of the spotlight. Later into the journey of this band of revolutionaries, Jackson examines the different drum set ups, the companies, the endorsements, the Zildjian factory, dual drummers and even suspended drums. A fascinating and revealing study in the sense of an evolution towards expanding the sounds emanating from the stage, especially in live stadium size shows.

Blair Jackson has provided a wealth of information on the Grateful Dead and the equipment and people who contributed to the evolution of electric and electronic sound advancement. As technician The Bear, Owsley Stanley puts it, “An excellent, well written, and accurate work. I found it very informative — even though I was there.” Indeed!

report by Paul J. Youngman – KJA Jazz Advocate – April 2007

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Paul J. Youngman
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