The final decade of the Grateful Dead ended prematurely with the death of Jerry Garcia, but there were still many magical moments.
This is the second part of a two-part article. "History Of The Grateful Dead - The 1990s, Part One" focuses on the new material that the band introduced to their concerts, as well as live albums released during the decade.
Brent Mydland's Final Tour
The summer tour of 1990 was Brent Mydland's final tour. There were some pretty great performances on that tour. The show at RFK Stadium in Washington D.C. had some magical moments, and the show in Orchard Park, New York on July 16th was a great show. Brent's final concert was July 23, 1990 at the World Music Theatre in Tinley Park, Illinois. Oddly, it was on that date ten years earlier that the previous keyboardist, Keith Godchaux, died in an automobile accident.
Brent Mydland died on July 26, 1990.
Vince Welnick And Bruce Hornsby
The Grateful Dead kept trucking along after Brent's death. They were back in September for the fall tour, with a new keyboardist, Vince Welnick. Vince had played with The Tubes, who had a hit in 1983 with "She's A Beauty." His first show with the Grateful Dead was on September 7, 1990, in Richfield, Ohio.
Bruce Hornsby then joined the band on piano and accordion later that month. His first show was on September 15, 1990 at Madison Square Garden in New York City. He played as a member of the Grateful Dead through March of 1992 (though there were several shows that he missed during that time).
Bill Graham's Death
The year 1991 saw the Grateful Dead's final New Year's Eve show. The New Year's shows had really become Bill Graham's baby. Each year he would dress in some outrageous costume and ride a giant prop over the audience. On December 31, 1990, he dressed as a witch doctor and was accompanied by fire eaters.
Bill Graham died on October 25, 1991. The Dead had already booked their New Year's Eve show for that year, but after that they stopped doing those shows. A memorial concert was held for Bill Graham on November 3, 1991 at Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. Besides the Grateful Dead, the lineup for that show included Jackson Browne, Aaron Neville, Tracy Chapman, Santana, Journey, Joan Baez and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. Joining the Grateful Dead for their set was John Popper on harmonica, John Fogerty on guitar and vocals, and Neil Young on guitar and vocals.
The band continued to do benefit concerts, including several for the Rex Foundation (such as shows on 6/8/90, 6/9/90, 6/10/90, 5/3/91, 5/4/91, 5/5/91, 5/19/92, 5/20/92, 5/21/92, 5/25/93, 5/26/93, 5/27/93, 9/18/93, 9/25/93, 6/9/94, 6/10/94 and 10/9/94).
In 1992, Jerry Garcia introduced a line of neckties.
Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame
In 1994, the Grateful Dead were inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame. Jerry Garcia couldn't make it, so the rest of the band brought along a cardboard cut-out of him.
The Final Tour Was Plagued With Problems
The summer tour of 1995 is often referred to as "The Tour From Hell." The show June 15th in Highgate, Vermont had trouble when thousands of fans without tickets crashed the gates. The police eventually let everyone in to avoid more problems, though some people were injured.
The show on June 21, 1995 was plagued with technical problems. There were also lots of drug busts (more than usual).
On June 25th, three fans were struck by lightning at the Washington D.C. show. All three survived.
On June 26th, there was also the death of an unidentified man who was wearing a 1995 tour T-shirt and had Grateful Dead ticket stubs in his pocket. The driver of the van he was riding in fell asleep at the wheel.
July 2nd saw more gate crashing, which actually caused the Grateful Dead to cancel the next night's concert. That was a first. The gate came down during the first set. The house lights were left on at the July 2nd show because Jerry Garcia had actually received death threats.
The show on July 5, 1995 saw more problems. Before that show, two fans died, apparently of drug overdoses. Also, more than 100 fans were injured at the nearby campground when a deck collapsed. The campground was extremely crowded because those fans without tickets were turned away from the venue and ended up back there. A lot of people were trapped beneath the deck.
This was also when the Grateful Dead issued a letter basically asking fans to not crash gates, and not to cheer those who were crashing the gates. The end was in sight at this point.
The final show was July 9, 1995 at Soldier Field in Chicago. They played a two-song encore that night: "Black Muddy River" and "Box Of Rain."
Death Of Jerry Garcia
Jerry Garcia died on August 9, 1995, just eight days after his fifty-third birthday. He had checked himself into the Betty Ford Clinic in July, and stayed there only two weeks. He then checked himself into the Serenity Knolls treatment center in Forest Knolls, California. There he suffered a fatal heart attack.
This was not the first sign of heart trouble for Jerry Garcia. In 1992, several concerts were canceled, including the Veneta, Oregon Third Decadenal Field Trip and the entire fall tour, due to Jerry Garcia's health issues. The word was he had an enlarged heart.
Jerry's death put an end to the Grateful Dead, but it wasn't until December 8th that the rest of the band officially announced that they would no longer be touring as the Grateful Dead.