The Grateful Dead is on the road again. Well, at least some 40 years of the beloved band’s musical memorabilia is, having traveled down Highway 1 to its new home at UC Santa Cruz.
The band’s donation of the collection (said to be both priceless and worth multi-millions) to the university was officially announced in Spring 2008.
But to raise awareness (and funds) for this yet-to-open treasure trove, Chronicle Books publisher Nion McEvoy hosted friends, fans and Dead drummer Mickey Hart at his home last week.
McEvoy, who also owns music magazine Spin, is a UCSC Literature alumnus and currently serves as a Trustee of the UCSC Foundation. He recalled spending many wonderful hours in the university’s McHenry Library.
“Tonight is a celebration of my favorite things,” enthused McEvoy, as he welcomed his guests. “Rock ‘n’ roll, libraries and librarians!”
Grateful Dead percussionist Mickey Hart, Leslie Berriman and publisher Nion McEvoy
“But we went with the one that has the most soul,” explained Hart, of UCSC which came into existence about the same time as the Dead.
Hart is also a longtime pal of UCSC music professor Fred Lieberman, who has long taught a course on the band’s music and worked with Hart on two books.
However the Grateful Dead archive will not be fully accessible to the public until next year when both its cataloging and the expansion and renovations of UCSC’s library building are completed.
“It’s thrilling to catalog this material,” said Christine Bunting, head of Special Collections at McHenry Library. “When the library’s refurbishment is complete, everyone will be able to view this archive in a dedicated room we’re calling, Dead Central.”
The original collection began, rather informally, in a closet of the Dead’s former San Rafael office, where Deadhead fan club manager Eileen Law saved everything.
Among the goodies are such ephemera as skeleton marionettes, handbills, press clippings, photographs, backstage passes, business records, posters, T-shirts, and colorfully creative envelopes which were mailed by fans to the band’s ticketing office.
In 40 odd years, the collection has mushroomed into two-thousand square-feet of material which rises 2-3 levels high and is currently stored in a warehouse.
But financial support (to the tune of $2 million) is needed to fund an endowment for a collection archivist and digitization of the material as the university plans to create an online, social networking site to be dubbed, Virtual Terrapin Station.
In the meantime, progress and news of the archive is available here. Chronicle Books has just released the Grateful Dead Scrapbook penned by Ben Fong-Torres. And clever T-shirts are available at UCSC’s Slugstore which depict the university’s vaunted slug mascot meditating while dressed in Grateful Dead tie-dye.
“If you see anybody in tie-dye,” teased guest Matt Burrows, iTunes Senior Counsel, “It’s a rebuttable presumption that they are, in fact, a Deadhead.”
But guest John Davis, clean-cut and clear-eyed, joked he was not completely sold on the lawyer’s statement: “I did not always look like the consummate professional you see before you today!”
Dressed like Davis and a drummer like Hart, McEvoy is also a dedicated Deadhead. His first show? One of the band’s New Year’s Eve extravaganzas. At the Fillmore. When he was just 13. With his mother, Nan Tucker McEvoy.
"The bill featured the Dead, Jefferson Airplane and Quicksilver,” said McEvoy, relishing the memory. “I invited my cousin, Helen Spalding (née Martin), but she couldn’t go without a chaperone. So my mom, along with then-Chronicle Editor Scott Newhall and his wife, accompanied us!”
Thanking guests for their support, Hart was both grateful and bemused, guessing that this grand experiment of putting the archive online would make Jerry Garcia smile. Possibly even laugh his head off.
“There’s a lot of bad history out there. I have a feeling this will be a good thing,” said Hart, of the archive. “To spread whatever that was worth around the world. This is good history that seems to resonate so deeply over the last 40 years among generations.”