The founding members of the Grateful Dead were Jerry Garcia (guitar, vocals), Bob Weir (guitar, vocals), Ron "Pigpen" McKernan (keyboards, harmonica, vocals), Phil Lesh (bass, vocals), and Bill Kreutzmann (drums). Lesh was the last member to join the Warlocks before they became the Grateful Dead; he replaced Dana Morgan Jr., who had played bass for a few gigs. With the exception of McKernan, who died in 1973, the core of the band stayed together for its entire 30-year history.
Phil Lesh and Jerry Garcia were brought together by Gert Chiarito in 1964 to perform on The Midnight Special, her Saturday night radio program on KPFA, Berkeley.
The Grateful Dead began their career as the Warlocks, a group formed in early 1965 from the remnants of a Palo Alto, California jug band called Mother McCree's Uptown Jug Champions. The band's first show was at Magoo's Pizza located at 639 Santa Cruz Avenue in suburban Menlo Park, California on May 5, 1965. They were known as the Warlocks although at the same time the Velvet Underground was also using that name on the east coast. The show was not recorded and not even the set list has been preserved. The band quickly changed its name after finding out that another band of the same name had signed a recording contract (not the Velvet Underground who by then had also changed their name). The first show under the new name Grateful Dead was in San Jose, California on December 4, 1965, at one of Ken Kesey's Acid Tests. Earlier demo tapes have survived, but the first of over 2,000 concerts known to have been recorded by the band's fans was a show at the Fillmore Auditorium in San Francisco on January 8, 1966. Later on that month, the Grateful Dead played at the Trips Festival, an early psychedelic rock show.
The name "Grateful Dead" was chosen from a dictionary. According to Phil Lesh, in his biography (pp. 62), "... picked up an old Britannica World Language Dictionary......In that silvery elf-voice he said to me, 'Hey, man, how about the Grateful Dead?'" The definition there was "the soul of a dead person, or his angel, showing gratitude to someone who, as an act of charity, arranged their burial." According to Alan Trist, director of the Grateful Dead's music publisher company Ice Nine, Garcia found the name in the Funk & Wagnalls Folklore Dictionary, when his finger landed on that phrase while playing a game of "dictionary". In the Garcia biography, Captain Trips, author Sandy Troy states that the band was smoking the psychedelic DMT at the time. The term "grateful dead" appears in folktales of a variety of cultures. In mid-1969, Phil Lesh told another version of the story to Carol Maw, a young Texan visiting with the band in Marin County who also ended up going on the road with them to the Fillmore East and Woodstock. In this version, Phil said, "Jerry found the name spontaneously when he picked up a dictionary and the pages fell open. The words 'grateful' and 'dead' appeared straight opposite each other across the crack between the pages in unrelated text."
Other supporting personnel who signed on early included Rock Scully, who heard of the band from Kesey and signed on as manager after meeting them at the Big Beat Acid Test; Stewart Brand, "with his side show of taped music and slides of Indian life, a multimedia presentation" at the Big Beat and then, expanded, at the Trips Festival; and Owsley Stanley, the "Acid King" whose LSD supplied the tests and who, in early 1966, became the band's financial backer, renting them a house on the fringes of Watts and buying them sound equipment. "We were living solely off of Owsley's good graces at that time.... trip was he wanted to design equipment for us, and we were going to have to be in sort of a lab situation for him to do it," said Garcia.
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