The Grateful Dead share new rare footage of 1989 concert
Credit: Warner Bros.

Watch the earliest footage of The Grateful Dead in 1966

We’re dipping into the Far Out Magazine vault to bring you a very special moment as we look back at the earliest known footage of The Grateful Dead.

The Grateful Dead, the now-iconic California rock band formed in 1965, are remembered as one of the most diverse, experimental and psychedelic groups of all time. They became a strong advocate of free-thinking and creative purity, they championed the counter-culture movement like no other.

With a devoted fanbase like no other, literally willing to pack up their things and follow the band across America wherever they liked, Grateful Dead were once described as “the pioneering Godfathers of the jam band world” and were propelled into fame. The group performed unlike their contemporaries and lost themselves in the music. They represented the people triumphing the rise of the counterculture movement of the 1960s that was swelling in San Francisco.

It was a sentiment they took into their playing style with Jerry Garcia becoming one of the most expressive guitar players of all time. He once said of his playing style, “It keeps on changing. I still basically revolve around the melody and the way it’s broken up into phrases as I perceive them. With most solos, I tend to play something that phrases the way the melody does; my phrases may be more dense or have different value, but they’ll occur in the same places in the song.” It was this pursuit of creative evolution that began from the band’s first moments on stage.

The attitude, the environment they built and the genre-melding music they created allowed the founding members to pioneer a sound that cross-referenced elements of rock, folk, country, jazz blues, gospel, and psychedelia. It gave the audiences who attended their show a place to lose their minds and let their imagination run free.

The band weren’t just musical artists, they were also pioneers of cinema and were filmed at varying points in their career. Fans of the band are under the impression that the earliest version of one of these filming sessions was originally conducted by the BBC at The Fillmore in the summer of 1966—but as with everything to do with the Dead, nothing is certain.

What is reliable, however, is that by watching the film below you are treated to views of the band’s life in the iconic Ashbury House in San Francisco, as well as glimpses of their LSD financier Owsley ‘Bear’ Stanley. It’s a revealing glimpse of one of the most important youth sub-cultures of the 20th century, one that the band would take with them into everything they did. While they may have grown older their spirit and determination for freedom remained strong throughout.

Of course, in this clip, the band and its members; Jerry Garcia, Ron McKernan, Bob Weir, Phil Lesh and Bill Kreutzmann take centre stage and deliver a swirling, heaving wall of sound that offers a reason why The Grateful Dead were one of the most influential bands of the moment.

This short clip provides us with a crystalline touchpoint from the past that is still to this day shaping the future. See the footage, below.

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