Thoughts On The Dead

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

Tag: bill kreutzmann (page 1 of 74)

Billy’s Tour Memo*

Good afternoon, everyone. Another summer of this bullshit.

I’d like everyone to read this memo, and for someone to read it to Bobby. These are my new rules, and they must be adhered to if you wish your dicks to remain unpunched.

Yes, I’m talking to you, Black Phil.

There will be no entering my dressing room, tour bus, hotel suite, or isolation pod. NO ONE can come in, unless they have skank and/or cocaine. DO NOT bring me skank and/or cocaine unless invited or it is EXCEPTIONALLY good skank and/or cocaine. I’m talking that Merck shit.

I have rehired Benjy as my security team, and bought him nunchucks. BENJY WILL NUNCHUCK YOU if you enter my personal space without being invited.

This goes for EVERYONE, no matter how pretty they are and how many movie stars they have stuck it in!

You must schedule an appointment. If you schedule an appointment and cancel, then you will be charged for the visit.

I have had my kind and generous nature taken advantage of for TOO LONG. Do not approach me when I am in my tugger chair. Do not compliment me on my favorite red baseball cap. Even if your intent is to say mean things about Phil, YOU MUST HAVE AN APPOINTMENT.

Anyone walking by my dressing room will have a couch thrown at their family.

Do not wait for me in the hallway, or I will have Benjy set you on fire. The nunchucks have flame-throwing capability. If you attempt to walk with me, I will karate chop you in the throat.

YOU MAY NOT TAKE OFFENSE AT THESE RULES. It is for the good of the music, and also I’m just completely fucking sick of all of you people.

All of this goes double for Mickey.

May Allah’s Blessings be upon you,

*After Steve Harvey’s memo.

Happy Birthday, Billy

“Thoughts on my Ass! Look! I’m in a psychedelic butthole!”


“I had a psychedelic butthole once. Went to visit Bear at Lompoc. Keistered in some shit for him, but I sat down too hard. Don’t remember much of the next month.”

What do you remember?


Sure. Happy birthday, Billy.

“Thanks, man.”

Get any presents?



“I’m tough to shop for. It’s a ‘What do you get the guy who’s plowed everything?’ situation.”

How’d you spend it?

“With my family, of course. Real nice. Quiet dinner at home.”

That’s sweet.

“And later on, I got high and stole a firetruck.”

Not as sweet.

“Chicks dig firemen. Picked up this blonde with a black eye and a purse full of scratchers at the liquor store. Made her puke in the hat and wear it.”


“It was my birthday.”

That’s just weird.

“Hey, I’ve been banging forever, man. Gotta throw in something new every once in a while to get the juices flowing.”

That makes sense, actually.

“I cycle through fetishes. Every tour is a new thing. Quiz me. Name a tour and I’ll tell you what I was into.”

Okay, uh…The Dead in 2003.


Summer, ’92.


Europe, ’81.

“Deaf chicks.”

Deaf chicks?

“You gotta hear the noises they make.”

Jesus, Billy.

“Mickey taped a bunch of ’em. But, you know, I was very respectful of Deaf culture.”

I’m sure.

“I learned how to sign ‘I’m transitioning to anal.'”

Nice of you.

“Of course, I was usually behind them when I signed it.”

Happy birthday, buddy.

“Here’s to 69 more!”

You’re 70.

“No, I meant–”

We got it.

M.I.T As Well

When dunces give you that “Jerry didn’t want it to be about politics, maaaaaaan,” jive, just remind them the Dead were literally the house band of a student riot. This is 5/6/70 on the Kresge Plaza at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The band was scheduled to play the next night in the gym, but when the kids took the campus in protest of the National Guard murdering four Kent State students, the Dead agreed to provide the soundtrack; they were hidden in the back of a bread truck and smuggled onto the site. (It looks like they didn’t bring Pig’s organ.) It was cold–May in Boston can get wicked chilly–and they had more trouble keeping their guitars in tune than normal, but the set’s got a crackly and wired energy; Dancin’ in the Street is the highlight, which makes sense given the context.

Garcia didn’t do politics because he was terminally passive-aggressive, but the Grateful Dead always chose sides, and it was always the side you’d expect.

Nudie, Nudie Minglewood Blues

Last shot of the Nudie Suits. (Is this Winterland?)


Everybody’s favorite fun game: Spot Precarious Lee’s Work. Here’s a hint: it’s the monitors.


Here’s another shot of Garcia’s Nudie Suit from behind; the outfit maintains the usual Dead motifs: skulls and roses and bullshit. Nothing says Grateful Dead like skulls and roses and bullshit.

Fuck it, might as well empty out the Nudie Suit library in one easy-to-find place. Here’s Bobby:

Is that a chicken? I think that’s a chicken. Here’s another of Bobby:

The son of a bitch just didn’t have a bad angle.

Say “Cheese.”


You look spiffy.

“Flash, baby.”

Awesome. This is Phil:

But you already knew that. (Check out the cowboy boots.)

This is a better shot of the weirdo Strat from late ’72:

This is 12/12, and he also played Numbers (I just named the guitar) on 11/22/72 at the Municipal Auditorium in Austin. We know this from this picture…

and this article.

I gotta be honest with you, Enthusiasts: this research horseshit is not for me. I’m exhausted. The president’s right: facts are for suckers.

And we finish up with a shot featuring both the Nudie Suit and the weird guitar. I brought all the threads together.

And you without a Pulitzer.

I know, right?

Live Nudies

The Nudie Suit experiment has never been properly explained; this sounds like a job for Lost Live Dead. There’s not many pics of The Boys in their suits, and they only wore them for a few shows: one (or more) of the Winterland run in December ’72, and then again at New Year’s. The outfits came out again 2/19/73 in Chicago, and then made their final appearance on 3/19/73 at Nassau Coliseum. (And not even for the whole show: everyone changed during set break.)

Wait, you’re saying. Those sound suspiciously like facts, TotD. You don’t traffic in fact and research.

Stop talking, I’d say, or I’ll throw myself out the window and you’ll never find out how the Little Aleppo story ends.

Wow, you’d reply. That got dark real fast.

And then I’d start crying. Are you happy? Is that what you wanted?

Stop this.

They did it. It’s all their fault.

Who is “they?”


Just stop it.

Fine. The dates from Winterland and Chicago may be wrong–I’m just going on Archive comments–but the Nassau show is a confirmed event. There is, Enthusiasts, evidence.


Bobby says in an interview that Garcia had his first, in fact had his before April of ’72 because he brought it to Europe with him (even though he didn’t have the balls to wear it onstage.) After March of ’73, though, they were gone forever. Phil still has his…

…and it still fits. (Phil went a little low-key with his, which I disagree with. What’s the point of a Nudie Suit if it can’t be seen from space?)

Who has Garcia’s? Gotta be worth something, more if it hasn’t been laundered.

But let me start at the beginning: 1902 was a terrible time to be born Jewish in Kiev. There’s never been a good time, but 1902 was worse than usual.


“Yes, Schmuley?”

“We should go somewhere where there aren’t Cossacks.”

“What is it with those guys?”

“They just seem to like hitting us with sticks.”

“And kicking.”

“Kicking, too. Let’s go to America.”

“You mean the Land of the Free, a country built on immigration that would never turn away needy and desperate refugees?”

“No, America.”

“Oh, okay. At least there’ll be jobs.”


And so on.

One of these newly-arrived Jews was a young man named Nuta Kotlyarenko, who renamed himself Nudie Cohn and became a tailor, first in Minnesota where he met his wife Bobbie; they opened a shop in New York selling underwear to showgirls, and then moved to Los Angeles in the 40’s to make Western Wear. Spangles and frills and themes, and the last one is the most important: the key to the Nudie Suit is the theme. Anyone can slap some rhinestones onto a jacket, but a Nudie has a raison d’etre.

Look at this bullshit:

That’s some down-home bullshit right there.

That’s Porter Wagoner (right), and he was the first Country star to start wearing Nudie Suits; in fact, Nudie gave him his first suit for free, thinking it would be good promotion. It was. Soon, every male Country star had to have a Nudie Suit.

Hank Williams had one:

The notes represented his love of music.

Gram Parsons had one, too:

The drugs represent his love of drugs.

Every artist has a masterpiece, and Nudie Cohn was certainly an artist. His greatest suit of all time may have been both his simplest and his flashiest. You’ve seen it before once or twice:


No, you’re not. Shh.

Anyway, Nudie Cohn died in 1984, but you can still get “Nudie Suits;” they make periodic comebacks adorning roots-rockers or alt-country acts. (You really can’t wear a Nudie Suit anywhere other than the stage. If you walk into a Taco Bell dressed like this, you will get gorditas thrown at you.)

Circling back to the Dead (this is about the Grateful Dead, remember), we still have many questions. Why would Garcia have had one in the first place? A Nudie Suit wasn’t an impulse purchase, nor could it have been a gift: they were hand-made, so you have to visit Nudie for measurement and fittings, and very expensive. And recall that Garcia got his before everyone else did, so it wasn’t a group decision. Garcia–in an entirely out-of-character move–bought himself a Nudie Suit out of nowhere? None of this makes sense. Bobby was the one who thought he was a cowboy. Someone explain this to me.

Like I said, the rest of the band thought it was a spiffy idea, so they followed Garcia down to the San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles, where Nudie’s of Hollywood was located, and fancied themselves right up. Bobby and Billy looked like this:

“I was gonna get skank on the legs, but I settled for pot.”

Quiet. This is not a dialogue post.

“Ah, suck my nuts.”


Even Keith had one, though there’s just this one black-and-white photo of him:

Poor Keith. He doesn’t want to be in a Nudie Suit. He knows he’s not pulling it off. Aw.

Much like the Farewell Shoes, Mrs. Donna Jean was not included. She did, however, wear a very fetching red number when the rest of the band payed dress-up. She looked like this:

Another alternate reality created, another unwritten future. What if they hadn’t learned to write songs? What if they buckled down and rehearsed and continued being the band they were in ’77? What if Brent didn’t die? And: What if they gave a shit about what they looked like?

Alas, it was not to be. The Nudie Suits were put in the closet, and the tee-shirts and jeans came out; in the 80’s, sweatpants and short shorts replaced the jeans. Never again would the Dead have “stage clothes.” But for a moment, they looked bitchin’.

Once You Pop

This is 6/18/67 at the Monterey Fairgrounds. I don’t know if I’ve listened to it; I will now, though. This show was the Monterey Pop Festival, legendary for its unlegendariness (at least as far as the Dead goes). The Boys were scheduled in between The Who (beginning a long inter-band relationship) and Jimi Hendrix (beginning his and Bobby’s best friendship); both acts put on high-volume shows punctuated by instrument destruction, arson, and explosives. In the face of such showmanship, the Dead countered by standing there and playing Viola Lee for 14 minutes.

They also refused to be filmed for the movie, which gives them a perfect record for avoiding being in iconic Rock Films: Monterey Pop, Woodstock, Gimme Shelter. Dead missed ’em all by thaaaat much.

Paging Chez Ray, Paging Chez Ray

Where you going?

“Getting that meatloaf sandwich.”

You’re obsessed.

“I’m hungry.”

How did Brent do?


Brent. Your new keyboard player. This is his first show.

“It is? I thought Donna called in sick.”


“How about that? I’m sure he did great. When have we ever hired the wrong keyboardist?”

40% of the time.

“Close enough for rock and roll, right?”


“Now stop bothering me. Sandwich time.”


There’s Always One More

Here you go, Enthusiasts: this is my contribution. Previously, there were three pictures of Bobby in various stages of bunnification; now there are four. (I always figure if I haven’t seen a photo, then most haven’t. If that comes across as arrogant, well: consider the topic. It’s like bragging about Magic the Gathering. And plus I didn’t even claim to be the best at it, so it’s like bragging about coming in sixth at a Magic the Gathering tournament.)

The Grateful Dead, Younger Enthusiasts, didn’t do a lot of teevee. Possibly because the first time they were booked on a show,¬†Playboy After Dark¬†in 1969, they ended up dosing the entire building. But it also makes sense: there weren’t too many televised venues for any rock music back then. There was Ed Sullivan in the 1960’s, and the Smothers Brothers for a year or two, but after that the opportunities dried up. Pop stars were all over the dial, obviously, but not rock. Johnny Carson didn’t book bands at all until much later in his run. There was Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert, and that was about it.

And then, in 1975, came Saturday Night Live. They had rock bands on, good ones and wild ones and sometimes things would go terribly wrong, which was horribly entertaining, and they had very hip taste. Tom Waits was on in 1977, and Sun Ra in ’78. The first four musical guests in ’78 were the Stones, Devo, Frank Zappa, and Van Morrison. (Zappa was actually the host, and that went precisely as well as you’d assume. It turns out that “doing sketch comedy with stoners” wasn’t in Frank’s toolbox; he and the cast hated each other by the end of the week.)

Week five was the Dead. The comedy writers Al Franken (who is now a Senator) and Tom Davis (who is now dead) were massive Deadheads and lobbied Lorne Michaels to book the band. He didn’t want to–the Dead were not very cool at the time, and certainly not Lorne Michaels’ New York-centric version of cool–but one has to believe that Al Franken can wear you down. Lorne must have liked them because he had them back the following year, and even let Billy be in a sketch.


Told you.

Contrary to Frank’s Zappa’s surliness, the Dead are affable fellows (and Mrs. Donna Jean) and made friends with the cast; Belushi and Ackroyd would do their Blues Brothers routine at Winterland with the band the night they closed the place down.

Phil may or may not have gone to town on Lorraine Newman.

Dog, Bone

Well, hello there! What’s your name? What is it?

“It’s Billy, jackass.”

Not you. The dog.

“That’s Killer. I didn’t fix him, so watch out: he might fuck ya.”

Like father, like son.

“He pounds dog ass, man. You should see him. I get inspired.”


“Sometimes, I hook up bitches for both of us. Get a tandem-fuck going. Weird, though.”


“I do it doggy-style a lot, but Killer never does it Billy-style.”

Probably just being passive-aggressive.

“The breed is known for that He’s a Shanghai Appetizer.”

That is not a dog breed, but it is racist. I see you got an Apple Watch like everyone else.

“Yeah it’s the tits. It’s a phone you can wear on your wrist.”

Are pockets that inconvenient?

“I’m naked a lot.”


“I got an app on this thing that hooks up to Killer’s shock collar.”

A shock collar? Why?

“I like shocking shit.”

Okay. You’re terrible, but you have your reasons.

“Watch this.”

Dog didn’t move.

“Shock collar’s around my balls.”

You said it was Killer’s.

“It belongs to him, like, legally. But it is wrapped around my scrotum.”


“I like it.”

Jesus, Billy.

“It’s sexy and refreshing. Like a nap combined with a tugger. Not as good as the peanut butter trick, though.”

Do not make your dog lick peanut butter off your genitals.

“That’s disgusting. I make skank lick it off.”

Oh, that’s fine.

“Killer licks the peanut butter off the skank. He’s straight. But, you know, we get our fuck on.”

These conversations never turns out well.

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