The Grateful Dead Pt. 2: The Ballad of Pigpen and Old, Weird America—an Origin Story

10.13.2020 - By DISGRACELAND

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Bootlegging whiskey, acid tests, grass, and songs about murder. The origins of the Grateful Dead are fascinating and not what most people think. Born out of the tradition of “old, weird America”; bluegrass, jug band music and deadly folk tales, the Grateful Dead, as young adults, were into some strange stuff and we are all better for it. The band would go on to create their very own “new, weird America” due in part to the cultural impact they would have over their near 40-year career. But their connection to the traditional music that spawned them was due in large part to their harmonica player, singer, and keyboardist, Ron “Pigpen” McKernan, who lived “the life” so authentically that he died at the age of just 27. This is the Grateful Dead origin story and the Ballad of Pigpen.

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