It turns out the Grateful Dead aren’t dead after all.
Three of the group’s “core four” surviving members will reincarnate the act with a new band that features guitarist John Mayer.
Dubbed Dead & Company, it will include the Dead’s former guitarist Bob Weir and percussionists Bill Kreutzmann and Mickey Hart. The group will be rounded out with Allman Brothers bassist Oteil Burbridge and keyboardist Jeff Chimenti from Weir’s Ratdog project.
Dead & Company plan to make their debut with a live Halloween show on October 31 at Madison Square Garden.
The Grateful Dead’s surviving members—Weir, Kreutzmann, Hart and bassist Phil Lesh—gave what will likely be their final performances under that moniker this past summer with their set of Fare Thee Well shows in Chicago. But as Weir explained to Billboard this week, some of the band members had wanted to keep things going all along.
“Those songs weren’t done with us,” he said. “It was a matter of who wanted to get back out on the road and keep doing it.”
Mayer’s enthusiasm, Weir says, “was the cherry on the sundae that made this project look like a good idea.”
(Apparently, Lesh was the odd man out. Ironically, on the night of the Dead & Company debut, he’ll be performing with his band Phil and Friends in Port Chester, New York, about an hour away.)
Many years younger than his bandmates, Mayer says he first heard the Dead’s music through online streaming. “I think Pandora was to thank,” he told Billboard. “It was kind of a blind taste test—a station that wasn’t far genetically from the Dead played ‘Althea,’ and I heard this riff and went, ‘What’s that?’”
Mayer recalled meeting Weir and Hart for the first time in Los Angeles. “I couldn’t resist, and I sat down and sort of professed my love,” he says. “I wanted to tell them how much it meant to me [seeing as] I have no cultural tie-in with the music—no preexisting condition, as it were—and this music just knocked me out.”
Since joining up with the former Dead members, Mayer has been woodshedding four to five hours a day. “It’s been 15 years since the last time I sat in the room and just tried to get better at playing,” he says. “It’s what I’ve called Grateful Dead University.”
Watch Weir and Mayer Perform “Truckin’” on The Late Late Show, February 5, 2015
Weir told Billboard he had approached Phish bassist Mike Gordon to join the group, but he was too busy with other projects. “Oteil was a natural go-to,” Weir said, “and he’s more than up to the task.”
Tickets for the Dead & Company show go on sale to the general public on August 14. American Express presale is scheduled for August 10 on Ticketmaster. Tickets will be priced at $50 and $100.
The show is the only event listed at the band’s spartan website. Stay tuned for more information as it becomes available.