Thoughts On The Dead

Musings on the Most Ridiculous Band I Can't Stop Listening To

My Bassist, He Wrote Me A Letter

Thoughts on the Dead is proud to present the actual, honest-to-God letter that Phil wrote to Trey to convince him to join the band this summer in Chicago.


My Dearest Tray,

Hello. This is your friend, Phil, Phil Lesh. Of the Grateful Dead. I am fine. How are you?

Do you remember when I bounced with you and the other fellows, Trent? Up and down: it was so exciting. And then there was that run of shows back in 1999 with you and your keyboardist friend. Has he died yet? In my experience, keyboardists are like large-breed dogs as far as lifespans go. You played the music of the Grateful Dead–and lived up to its spirit–so well that it left an impression on me.

How did Miami go? I haven’t been there in a while. Last time, a local musician came up to jam with us and his name was Pitbull and it did not go well at all. Is it true that The Phishes will be taking a break for most of 2015? I hope you use this time to recharge and rest and explore new musical ventures.

One such exciting journey might be to play with us this year for our 50th anniversary celebration.

As you might be aware, 2015 marks fifty years since the Grateful Dead’s first show at Magoo’s Pizza Parlor and what a long, strange trip it’s been, Trig. From the Acid Tests to Egypt to Radio City, we’ve always gone forth boldly to seek new sounds and examine obscure rhythms, picking up fans and admirers and sexually-transmitted diseases along the way.

The time has come for the trip to end: we’ve been there, and now it’s time to go back again. Our brother Jerry can’t play with us, but you can. Troy Abracadabra, will you join the Grateful Dead?

Your lifetime of musical innovation and improvisational mastery makes you the perfect, only, and first choice for this role. Also, you have a beard. Plus, you are the only guitarist whom someone does not violently object to. And, you are not Warren Hayes.

The full commitment is for a week’s rehearsal here at Bobby’s studio, then three shows at Soldier Field in Chicago. Per diem is $55 a day.

Which brings us to a delicate subject: we would, if possible, prefer not to pay you. I would wager that, if you choose to take the gig, you will say “I would have done it for free,” in one of the interviews leading up to the shows. Why don’t you put your money where your mouth is, Travis?

Failing that, we would like to pay you very little. Certainly less than Mickey, even though in any sane and just universe that should be impossible.

As far as our playing styles, you have played with the four of us many times; as far as the repertoire goes, you know it or could fake it. (El Paso’s only two chords, really.) Some time in the woodshed will surely get us up to speed, although I would like to mention in advance that–and there has been a meeting about this specific subject–we in the Grateful Dead prefer sinuous, slowly-evolving transitions between songs. Not that shit you do where you get bored and just start playing a new tune.

In closing, I with the best for the new year for you, your lovely wife Chewbacca, and your daughters Kevin, Purple, and Gwyneth Paltrow.

Gratefully yours,



  1. This was Phil’s ACTUAL letter AFTER Jill edited it for style and content.

  2. Anchovy Rancher

    January 17, 2015 at 8:39 am

    Still can’t believe they chose Trey to fill this spot on the stage. $55.00 per diem sounds about right.

  3. “In my experience, keyboardists are like large-breed dogs as far as lifespans go” – I spit out my coffee with that one.

  4. This is really funny- great job- love it- I’m 66 years old and it was forwarded to me by my 26 year old daughter- raised that kid right!

  5. I think that was wonderful. The Humor is great. thank you for sharing. I like the way it went down. See you in July!!

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