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Dead Letters: The Very Best Grateful Dead Fan Mailby Paul Grushkin
Synopses & Reviews
Whether or not you've heard every song in their catalog, spent countless hours learning the chords to "Casey Jones," or were one of millions lucky enough to have seen them live, odds are the Grateful Dead are not complete strangers to your world.
Rock 'n' roll's seminal jam-band, the Grateful Dead were one of the planet's most successful touring rock bands to ever set foot on the stage. Formed in 1965 and disbanded after the death of Jerry Garcia, their lead guitarist, in 1995, the Dead entranced countless rabid fans with a mind-altering mix of no-rules songwriting, feel-good harmonies, and musicianship that took a backseat to no band.
At the core of the Grateful Dead experience was the world’s most devoted fan base: Dead Heads. Addicted, in the best possible definition of the word, to the music and the experience, Dead Heads went to extraordinary, often inspiring, lengths to get their hands on concert tickets by mailing the band and its staff. After all, the only way to get tickets for the Dead was to go directly to the source. Most often, this took the form of letters (and envelopes) with personalized Dead artwork the likes of which the U.S. Postal Service had ever seen.
Since the band's earliest days, Grateful Dead staff saved tens of thousands of decorated ticket-request envelopes sent to them by Dead Heads hoping to capture the ticketing staff’s attention with their mind-bending designs. These envelopes are inspirational and hugely insightful, not to mention brilliantly illustrated and unique within the world of rock. Now, for the first time in print, these unique pieces of art have found a home.
From author, rock historian, and the Dead Head of all Dead Heads, Paul Grushkin, Dead Letters: The Very Best Grateful Dead Fan Mail collects more than 300 of these mind-blowing envelope masterpieces, all presented in 14 thematic chapters. Fully authorized by the Grateful Dead, Dead Letters also includes, for further historical context, many rare historical photos and memorabilia, all creating a trip, as it were, down memory lane. A foreword from basketball legend (and supremely dedicated Dead Head) Bill Walton rounds out this one-of-a-kind package.
The end result is a portrayal of the Grateful Dead as related by those who loved them the most — a love song from fan to artist, all sealed with a stamp.
Dead Letters is the fully-authorized collection of insightful and brilliantly illustrated letters and envelopes from Deadheads reflecting on concerts and requesting tickets, saved by the Grateful Dead from their earliest days.
“Dead Freaks Unite!”
This simple exhortation, printed in the gatefold of the Grateful Dead’s 1971 “Skull & Roses” double LP, opened the floodgates. Soon the band was blessed with a constant flow of fan love via the U.S. Post. But among all the mail the Dead received daily, the envelopes bearing ticket requests were easily the most remarkable. As the band blazed a path for DIY ticket sales, fans began tucking their money orders into wildly imaginative hand-drawn, hand-painted, and otherwise hand-decorated envelopes. Each hoped to capture the attention of the Dead’s inner sanctum and thus secure those increasingly elusive passports to The Show.
Of the hundreds of thousands of ticket-request envelopes the band received over the years, some 15,000 have found their way into The Grateful Dead Archive at the University of California, Santa Cruz. With Dead Letters, bestselling Grateful Dead author Paul Grushkin (Grateful Dead: The Official Book of the Dead Heads) has combed this archive to come up with a fantastic survey of nearly 400 Grateful Dead ticket-request envelopes. Arranged by Dead themes, such as the band’s rich iconography, song interpretations, concert locations, and more, the envelopes are accompanied by essays and archival photography that provide a rich historical context for a subject that—like the Dead Heads themselves—is truly unique in the realm of rock. In addition, a final chapter includes a selection of envelopes from the archive of Grateful Dead Ticket Sales TOO, bringing the story from the 1995 passing of Jerry Garcia to the present.
At once inspirational and hugely insightful, the works featured on the pages of <I>Dead Letters<M> truly are objets d’art, brilliantly and lovingly illustrated. Perhaps more significantly, they offer an unprecedented look at a storied love affair between a legendary rock band and its equally legendary fans.
Dead Letters is the fully authorized portrayal of the Grateful Dead according to the world’s most devoted fan base: Deadheads. Beginning in their earliest days, the Grateful Dead saved tens of thousands of letters sent to them by Deadheads reflecting on the spectacular concerts they’d attended and requesting tickets. These letters are inspirational and hugely insightful, but more significantly, the envelopes in which they arrived are brilliantly illustrated and unique within the world of rock. This book collects hundreds of those envelopes, as well as a selection of letters, all presented in thematic chapters. Also included for further historical context are rare historical photos and special reminiscences creating a trip, as it were, down memory lane.
About the Author
Paul Grushkin’s Grateful Dead: The Official Book of the Deadheads (1983) is the most successful book about the Grateful Dead to date and one of the longest in-print rock music histories (24 years, 16 U.S. printings). He lives in Pinole, California.
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