The Dead got fucked by the music business, but everyone does: that was the point of the music biz back then. There were shitty gigs, and ripoffs, and busts around every corner, but it may turn out that they got off easy. There was never, for example, a group of fake Grateful Deads touring the country playing their songs and signing their names to autograph books.
Because that happened. Remember: in the 60’s, you might not know what a band looked like. Perhaps there was a picture of them on the back cover of the record, and another in a music magazine, but that was it. AND even if the information existed, it wasn’t readily accessible. If a bunch of guys got onstage claiming to be The Animals, you couldn’t Google it at the venue. You had to wait until you were home and could dig through your back issues of Rolling Stone to see what they actually looked like. AND even if you were right, what could you do with this knowledge? Write a letter to Dick Clark?
You could get away with almost anything back then.
Here’s some truly shady bullshit from back in the day: the story of the Fake Zombies, an English band from Dallas, TX, that happened to include two future members of ZZ Top. This deserves your attention.