There are a few bands who are intrinsically linked to a certain scene, a culture, a way of life for their fans. Then there is The Grateful Dead, a group who go one better and have created their own one from scratch.
Bursting out of the counter-culture movement that resided on the corner of Haight Ashbury in San Francisco, The Grateful Dead became the idols of the scene with their expansive sounds, complete devotion to the expression and evolution of music and, of course, their fans.
If you know anything about The Grateful Dead, you’ll know they have some diehard supporters. ‘Deadheads’ are widely regarded as some of the most clued-up fans in rock and roll and if you misstep on one tour, show, song, then they’ll let you know. Hey, when you routinely spent years travelling America to see them, or endlessly trading bootlegs with people across the globe, then you’ve earned yourself a certain amount of snobbery. But it also means they are some of the most devoted fans in rock and roll.
The fans’ unstoppable commitment to the band didn’t just transcend from being a mere fan of the music and buying the records. No, it meant committing to a lifestyle of continuous touring and mind-altering experiences and forever ending every sentence with “man!”. This level of fandom has encouraged swathes of people from across the globe to get creative in showing their affection for the band.
Of course, the range of Grateful Dead bongs is vast and extensive, but we’ve had our head turned by this stunning collection of illustrated fan letters the Grateful Dead had been sent over the years.
The Deadheads’ love for the band can be seen in hundreds upon hundreds of letters enclosed in decorated envelopes that were sent to the group between 1970 and 1995. Now being guarded at the University of Santa Cruz, the Grateful Dead Archive (a truly wonderful place) features many of these letters.
Many of the notes on show were left at the late, great Jerry Garcia’s memorial altar following his sad passing in 1995 while a lot of the others were sent to the band asking for tickets to upcoming shows. But one common theme they all have is that the decoration of each envelope is a real trip.
The psychedelic drawings offer up the most perfect crystalline image of what being a Grateful Dead fan was. Yes it was a commitment, yes, most of the time, it was pretty but one thing was always at the heart of what they did: fun.
Take a look at some of our favourites and find the full collection, below.