The Grateful Dead didn’t do the tour bus thing; we know this because the one time they got on a bus (two of them, to be precise) for two months, the vehicles became mythic and legendary and had elaborate theologic goofs concocted about them. Had they actually traveled in the 1965 Gillis pictured above that some shady car museum in Illinois had displayed and actually tried to auction off for two hundred grand, we all would have known about it.
Did Butch Patrick not know one Deadhead? (Did I forget to mention that the shady car museum is owned by TV’s Butch Patrick?) Just looking at this thing is all the evidence that you need: the Dead knew an artist or two, and that pathetic flag on the side would not cut it. The Dead would also not name a bus Sugar Magnolia. It would be named after an inside joke.
Let’s take a closer look at that informational poster leaning against the bus in the most professional way the curator could afford:
I don’t even know where to begin. Sugar Magnolia was written in ’69, so that means the bus was named using the Time Sheath or that it didn’t have a name for two years; that’s not how human beings work. Either something gets a name immediately, or it never gets a name.
Also: Garcia hated The Doors, and Jim Morrison in particular. (The man had good taste.) Garcia didn’t do much shit-talking in interviews, but he went out of his way to insult The Doors. This was not an opinion that would have lost him friends in San Francisco, but it stands out as the only (?) time in 30 years of being asked about other bands that he insulted one.
On the other hand, Bobi was best friends with Jimmy Hendrix, so maybe this is the real deal.
Whether or not (most likely not) this piece of shit belonged to the Dead, one thing is certain: it was not their “tour bus.” The Dead flew. The Dead flew so much that they opened their own travel agency. (Swear to God.) There were cars and vans and–I’m sure–the occasional rented bus, but for the most part the Dead took planes from one show to another, for a whole bunch of reasons.
First of all, it wasn’t four guys and a road manager: there were up to seven people just in the band, and the it was never just the band. You would order one Grateful Dead, and 40 hairy motherfuckers show up. It would take a convoy of buses and this is a bad idea from a logistical standpoint. You’d rather move a Grateful Dead around the country than move several Grateful Deads around the country. Besides the inevitable sudden disasters, an internecine war would have developed.
Second, and here’s the more interesting reason, is that airports in the 70’s were not the militarized malls they are today. Security was almost non-existent, and predictable, as opposed to what you might find on the highways. Every small-town sheriff along the tour route would have loved to string up them Dead boys, but the airport cops didn’t give a shit, as evidenced by the spate of hijackings in during the decade.
(Fun fact for the younger Enthusiasts: hijacking airplanes used to be funny. Almost every comedy sketch set on a plane would end with the punchline of a random passenger revealing a dynamite vest and proclaiming “I’m taking this plane to Cuba!” Fun fact for all: my cousins were hijacked. Swear to you. They were going from Jersey to Florida and ended up in Cuba. Spent the night in a hotel with armed Communist guards outside and got shipped back to the States the next day. It’s a treasured family story.)
The bus is no longer featured on the website, and the links to the auction are broken, so I can only assume that someone informed TV’s Butch Patrick that whatever provenance this sucker has, it isn’t the one he was sold. This was some tour rat’s bus, and I can only assume–
“Can you keep it down, man?”
How many vehicles are you living in?
“Four or five, man. They get funky and I gotta get a new one like a hermit crab, man.”
Awesome. Was this your bus?
“Not was, man. This is my bus, man.”
No, it’s apparently owned by TV’s Butch Patrick.
“Oh, yeah, I sold it to him, man.”
Did you tell him it belonged to the Dead?
“I didn’t tell him it didn’t, man.”
Aw, Soup. That’s not right.
“He was a custie, man. He should have known that I was bullshitting, man. Not my fault if a custie doesn’t know he’s a custie, man.”
That does make sense.
“You know how many pairs of jean shorts ‘Bobby gave me’ I’ve sold, man?”
You’re more capable than you let on.
“I’m Soup, man.”