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.

The books I picked & why

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Garcia: An American Life

By Blair Jackson,

Book cover of Garcia: An American Life

Why 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.


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

By Rock Scully, David Dalton,

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

Why 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.


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

By Joel Selvin, Pamela Turley,

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

Why 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.


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

By Steve Parish, Joe Layden,

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

Why 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.


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

By Bill Kreutzmann, Benjy Eisen,

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

Why 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.


5 book lists we think you will like!

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