The best books about The Grateful Dead (from a music journalist)

Who am I?

Stuart Coupe is an Australian music journalist, author, band manager, promoter, publicist, and music label founder. He's best known for his work as a rock writer with Roadrunner, RAM (Rock Australia Magazine), The Sun Herald, and Dolly magazine; the music labels, GREEN Records and Laughing Outlaw; and the author of books including The Promoters, Gudinski, Paul Kelly and Roadies. Coupe is a former manager of the Australian bands the Hoodoo Gurus and Paul Kelly and is currently a presenter on Sydney radio stations 2SER and FBi Radio. He's also known for his writing as a reviewer of crime fiction for the Sydney Morning Herald and for founding the Australian crime fiction magazine, Mean Streets.

I wrote...

Roadies: The Secret History of Australian Rock'n'roll

By Stuart Coupe,

Book cover of Roadies: The Secret History of Australian Rock'n'roll

What is my book about?

This is your backstage pass to the hidden side of the music industry - the tantrums, the fights, the tensions, the indulgence, the sex, the alcohol, the drugs. The roadies see it all, and now they are sharing their secrets. Roadies are the unsung heroes of the Australian music industry. They unload the PAs and equipment, they set it all up, they make sure everything is running smoothly before, during, and after the gigs. Then they pack everything up in the middle of the night, put it in the back of the truck, and hit the road to another town - to do it all over again. They know everything about the pre-and post-show excesses. They bear witness to overdoses, the groupies, the obsessive fans. They are part of - and often organise - all the craziness that goes on behind the scenes of the concerts and pub gigs you go to.

From The Rolling Stones to AC/DC, Bob Marley to Courtney Love, Sherbet to The Ted Mulry Gang, INXS to Blondie - the roadies have seen it all. And now they're stepping onto the stage and talking.

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The books I picked & why

Garcia: An American Life

By Blair Jackson,

Book cover of Garcia: An American Life

Why did I love this book?

This is a big, sprawling biography of the heart and soul of The Grateful Dead - guitarist, songwriter, and troubled musical genius Jerry Garcia. Jackson did his research, interviewing over a hundred people including Garcia, his friends, lovers, and bandmates. Plus he went through thousands of source material documents and probably listened to thousands of concert tapes and recordings. He knows the Dead. He loves the Dead. And he captures the essence of Garcia superbly. It’s been called a definitive portrait and it is.

By Blair Jackson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Garcia as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Examines the life and times of Jerry Garcia, capturing the psychedelic world of the musician and songwriter, his relationship with members of the Grateful Dead, his battle with drug addiction, and his lasting influence on popular music.

Book cover of Living with the Dead: Twenty Years on the Bus with Garcia and the Grateful Dead

Why did I love this book?

As good a history of the Dead as you’re likely to find. Scully spent nearly two decades as close to the band as you could get without actually being a member. Great stories and anecdotes and a wonderfully drawn and evocative history of the band from their very early acid-drenched days in the 1960s through to their evolution as one of the most important and loved bands in American music history.

By Rock Scully, David Dalton,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Living with the Dead as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

As a manager for the Grateful Dead, Rock Scully was with the band from its early days in San Francisco to the years it spent touring the globe as one of the most enduring legends in music history. In Living with the Dead , Scully gives a complete account of his outrageous experiences with the band, during years that saw the Grateful Dead transform from a folksy revivalist band to psychedelic explorers of outer space. In addition to close-up portraits of band members Jerry Garcia, Bob Weir, Pigpen, Phil Lesh, Micky Hart and Bill Kreutzmann, Scully brings into the story…

Book cover of Fare Thee Well: The Final Chapter of the Grateful Dead's Long, Strange Trip

Why did I love this book?

A controversial book amongst Deadheads as Selvin takes a critical and insightful look at the machinations of the post-Garcia band and things don’t always come up smelling roses. Selvin’s not a card-carrying member of the Dead Fanclub – but he can write superbly and has dug very deep and uncovered all sorts of fascinating maneuvering and powerplays between the key participants in the band. It’s not always pretty but it’s certainly fascinating. If you don’t want to know then maybe look away.

By Joel Selvin, Pamela Turley,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Fare Thee Well as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A tell-all biography of the epic in-fighting of the Grateful Dead in the years following band leader Jerry Garcia's death in 1995The Grateful Dead rose to greatness under the inspired leadership of guitarist Jerry Garcia, but the band very nearly died along with him. When Garcia passed away suddenly in August of 1995, the remaining band members experienced full crises of confidence and identity. So long defined by Garcia's vision for the group, the surviving 'Core Four,' as they came to be called, were reduced to conflicting agendas, strained relationships, and catastrophic business decisions that would leave the iconic band…

Book cover of Home Before Daylight: My Life on the Road with the Grateful Dead

Why did I love this book?

Researching a book on the lives and work of road crew was a fascinating, eye-opening, and thoroughly enjoyable, and enlightening experience. It also made me realise how few of those people have told their own stories. In fact, not nearly enough of them start writing road crew folk! But this book was a delightful revelation – a road crew guy, with a great way with words and insights – and telling us about his experiences with one of my favourite rock’n’roll bands of all time. What’s not to like. This may not be the easiest book to find – but like a Grateful Dead show, the reward is often the journey and what you find at the end.

By Steve Parish, Joe Layden,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Home Before Daylight as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This is a look at one of America's legendary rock bands: The Grateful Dead. It is the tale of a man who lived the dream, rising from roadie to manager. It tells a story of music, friendship and redemption, and is filled with stories of memorable shows and the sometimes insane life on the road.

Book cover of Deal: My Three Decades of Drumming, Dreams, and Drugs with the Grateful Dead

Why did I love this book?

The subtitle tells you all you really need to know. Kreutzmann was a founding member of the Grateful Dead and there for the whole long, strange trip and – to date – the only band member to pen an insider’s account of exactly what it’s like to be a member of The Grateful Dead. He tells a good story and if the Grateful Dead loom as large in your life as they do mine – well, just image a memoir written by Ringo Starr or Charlie Watts. Drummers sit there doing their stuff – and they see everything.

By Bill Kreutzmann, Benjy Eisen,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Deal as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Grateful Dead are perhaps the most legendary American rock band of all time. For thirty years, beginning in the hippie scene of San Francisco in 1965, they were a musical institution, the original jam band that broke new ground in so many ways. Bill Kreutzmann, one of their founding members and drummer for every one of their over 2,300 concerts, has written an unflinching and wild account of playing in the greatest improvisational band of all time. Everything a rock music fan would expect is here, but what sets this apart is Bill's incredible life of adventure that was…

5 book lists we think you will like!

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