We’re dipping into the Far Out Magazine vault to bring you the moment comedian and SNL host, John Belushi, crashed The Grateful Dead’s stage for an infamous jam. It’s not unusual for the Dead to welcome a special guest during their famed jam session but even the avid fans known as Deadheads would have been surprised to have seen the former SNL host join the group. In fact, the band were too.
Some rock stars are synonymous with outrageous behaviour and drug-fuelled antics and then, at the top of the television pile, there is comedian, and former SNL favourite, John Belushi. Two worlds collided when he and notorious stoners The Grateful Dead got together in 1980 and all hell broke loose.
After Belushi was refused the chance to sit in on one of the Dead’s shows, the comedian decided that he’d crash the party anyway. He invaded the stage at the Capitol Theatre, New York, to make for a legendary evening for all who were lucky enough to be in attendance. Though Belushi’s musical exploits were minimal, the anecdotal ammo it would offer you in your local meant going to this show has earned some fans Grateful Dead stripes.
Anyone who is anyone in the party scene during the 1970s would have, at some point in time, raged with the Blues Brother Belushi. The comedian had made his name as the anarchic face of network television with his stints at SNL and had long aligned himself with the rock and roll world—as well as the lifestyle that went with it.
By 1980, The Grateful Dead had spent the best part of the previous two decades stoned and tripping while still managing to make the most challenging and creative music the world has ever seen. As seasoned pros, the band often found themselves hanging around with the younger generation looking to catch a glimpse of the master partiers at work. Belushi and the band connected instantly on a different level.
The comedian was known for his musical performances and certainly had chops, proving in Blues Brothers his power on stage could outweigh any technical deficiencies. But that didn’t convince Dead drummer Bill Kreutzmann that he was good enough to take the stage with the rest of the band for paying customers.
According to Kreutzmann’s book, Deal: My Three Decades of Drumming, Dreaming, and Drugs with the Grateful Dead, Belushi was undeterred by the rejection and instead performed a perfect “comedic ambush:”
Kreutzmann continued: “[Belushi] had on a [sports] coat with small American flags stuffed into both of his breast pockets, and he landed his last cartwheel just in time to grab a microphone and join in on the chorus. The audience and everyone in the band—except for Phil—ate it up. It couldn’t have been rehearsed better. Belushi had impeccable comedic timing, musicality, balls, the works. And apparently, he didn’t take no for an answer.”
You can watch Kreutzmann remembering the moment John Belushi crashed The Grateful Dead’s stage below for a reminder of the crazy stories that John Belushi attracted.