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

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

5.0 4
by Bill Kreutzmann, Benjy Eisen

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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. From the music to their live concert sound systems and fan recordings, they were forward-thinking champions of


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. From the music to their live concert sound systems and fan recordings, they were forward-thinking champions of artistic control and outlaw artists who marched to the beat of their own drums.

In Deal, 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 at the heart of the Grateful Dead experience. This was a band that knew no limits and Bill lived life to the fullest, pushing the boundaries of drugs, drums and high times, through devastating tragedy and remarkable triumph.

But at this book's beating heart is the music--theirs and others. Some of the greatest musicians and concerts were a part of the Grateful Dead's career, from sharing the stage with Janis Joplin, Bob Dylan, and The Who, to playing in the Acid Tests, The Monterey Pop Festival, Woodstock and Altamont. Bill's life is a chronicle of American music and pop culture history and his epic personal journey is one of sonic discovery and thrilling experiences.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
When Kreutzmann was 16, in the early 1960s, he saw Jerry Garcia play bass in a band called Mother McCree's Uptown Jug Champions. He decided then and there that he was going to follow Garcia forever. A couple of weeks later, Garcia called Kreutzmann and asked him to join a band, which they first called the Warlocks and then the Grateful Dead. Like one of the Dead's meandering, free-form jams, Kreutzmann's memoir wanders capaciously from one moment to the next, never settling for long on any particular aspect of his life. Kreutzmann recalls his introduction to Mickey Hart, who eventually joins the band and teaches him the rudiments of drumming. He provides his own history of the Dead through chronicles of the band's albums and the personnel involved in making them; he explains that 1970's Workingman's Dead was all about discovering songs, and American Beauty, from the same year, is all about having the harmonies to sing the songs. Kreutzmann offer his take on each band member, recalling many of his long, strange trips on various hallucinogens, as well as the ups and downs of his personal life. When he met his wife, Aimee, it changed his life. He concludes that his book is really simple love story about letting your heart guide you through an incredible journey, but his rock-and-roll memoir never really achieves emotional transcendence. (May)
From the Publisher

“Like any formidable memoir from a counterculture veteran, Deal: My Three Decades of Drumming, Dreams, and Drugs with the Grateful Dead is heavy on sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll. You know the kind I'm talking about: hotel after-parties that snap into orgies, acid trips that trail across decades and more than 2,000 concerts that begin in small clubs and lead to gigs alongside the Great Pyramid of Egypt.
But Bill Kreutzmann, founding drummer of the Grateful Dead, has produced more than just a tourist's guide. What emanates, maybe more than he intended, is a testimony to friendship and profound sadness when it abruptly ends.... The book is dense with acid trips and capers on both coasts and overseas. Dead fans will enjoy juicy stories. [Deal] reads like Kreutzmann is on the next barstool slapping your back between laughs.” —Chicago Tribune

"A frank and revealing look at the group's touring adventures, complex interpersonal relationships and equally intricate music-making, and at Kreutzmann's own life, including his drug and alcohol issues, the inspiration of Native American chief Rolling Thunder and his mother's tragic suicide death." - Billboard.com

"Kreutzmann doesn’t mince words or pull any punches." - The San Diego Union-Tribune

"[Deal] offers plenty of insight, opinion, observations and analysis that are unique and of great interest to fans." - Houston Press

"A candid, freewheeling autobiography." - Philadelphia Daily News

"Admitting that Bill Kreutzmann will give equal space to the drugs along with the drums and dreams captures in a nutshell what made the Grateful Dead such a precious commodity all those years: they told the truth and didn’t try to hide anything. And that’s just what drummer Kreutzmann does, from page one." - The Morton Report

"What is different from other rock biographies . . . is Kreutzmann’s everyman observation. . . . It is a personal tale of universal intention told with humor and the sense of fun that was crucial to the experience of a Grateful Dead concert and the counterculture itself. Like the daily lives of every hippie freak (or an acid trip), it wasn’t always easy street, but it was always an adventure." - Counterpunch.org

"Kreutzmann is casual, matter-of-fact, unaffected and down to earth in a way that makes you feel you've known him for a long time. He can be blunt and brutal at times, but he always feels honest, which for me is the key to a memoir like this. He doesn’t sugarcoat and doesn’t make excuses. Being in the Dead meant lots of drugs, sex and mayhem, and the pages are laced with all of it." - VintageRock.com

"His informal style lends itself well to the increasingly fast pace of his life as he discovers the pleasure of music, his passion for playing and his abiding devotion to the Dead as they coalesced in the mid-Sixties." - GlideMagazine.com

Library Journal
Angry, defensive, often inarticulate, this memoir by the Dead's founding drummer is frustrating to read. Much of it appears to be barely edited transcripts of Kreutzmann talking. It can be assumed that his collaborator, Benjy Eisen, assembled the manuscript, but if he did any fine tuning, it is not readily discernible. Kreutzmann's accounts of his drug use and abuse are constant and tiresome, and, though he has gone through rehab twice, there is little insight into what this process was like, or why he used drugs in the first place. The book's last 40 or so pages, which recount Jerry Garcia's death and its aftermath, are tremendously moving, and here the work finally hits its stride. This leaves the reader wishing that the rest of the story had been told with as much emotion and understanding. VERDICT Deadheads, by the very nature of their dedication, will not want to skip this, in spite of its problems. Casual fans and others won't have much reason to pick it up. [See Prepub Alert, 11/10/14.]—Derek Sanderson, Mount Saint Mary Coll. Lib., Newburgh, NY
Kirkus Reviews
"[Jerry] Garcia got Captain Trips. I got Bill the Drummer."Readers dropping into Grateful Dead drummer Kreutzmann's stream of memory may be surprised by only one overriding theme: namely, the frequency of bitter episodes of discord, always roiling under the surface of a good-time psychedelic jug band that slowly emerged as a stadium-filler. Kreutzmann himself isn't shy of dishing and of sharing wounded feelings. Whereas the late, lamented, outwardly thuggish Pigpen "was the sweetest guy anybody had ever met," the band tensions were sufficient that he didn't bother attending keyboardist Keith Godchaux's funeral ("Brent [Mydland] was our hot new keyboard player and we couldn't have been happier about that"), and he was incensed when Mickey Hart, the more inventive percussionist of the ensemble, was slated to turn up for a farewell concert, a moment of enmity that Kreutzmann doesn't sufficiently explain—just as some of the patently evident bad blood between him and bassist Phil Lesh goes without comment. Much of the bad behavior, especially once the band started earning real money, Kreutzmann ascribes to cocaine ("cocaine has its place…but it's a detrimental drug, make no mistake"), painkillers, booze, and, in Garcia's case, heroin. Drugs, the reader will not be surprised to learn, form another overriding theme: "So, for the record, the drummer from the Grateful Dead smokes weed and thinks it should be legal," he writes. "Is that any surprise?" Not in the least, and the chief problem with this unenergetic memoir is that there are no surprises, just a kind of grandfatherly "let me tell you, kid, back in the day we…" approach to events, repetitive, fuzzy, full of dropped names (Dylan, Belushi, Joplin), and mostly good-natured—though sometimes surprisingly peevish. Die-hard Deadheads will be curious though not richly rewarded for their troubles.

Product Details

St. Martin's Press
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Product dimensions:
5.70(w) x 8.90(h) x 1.20(d)

Meet the Author

BILL KREUTZMANN co-founded the Grateful Dead in 1965 with his musical cohorts Jerry Garcia, Bob Weir, Ron "Pigpen" McKernan, and Phil Lesh. As the drummer in that band for all 30 years until they disbanded in 1995, he performed more than 2,300 concerts and played on every one of their albums. He continues to play music in various bands including Billy and the Kids. He lives on an organic farm in Hawaii.

BENJY EISEN has written for Rolling Stone, Esquire, Relix and so on. He lives in San Francisco, where he is at work on a novel. Upon completion of Deal, he cut a deal with Kreutzmann and is now his manager.

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Deal: My Three Decades of Drumming, Dreams, and Drugs with the Grateful Dead 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Just completed this book and thought it was an outstanding read. Kreutzmann's honest memoire of his life as a  founding member of The Grateful Dead is a must read for all 'Deadheads' and mere music lovers alike. I felt like I was on the road with the band experiencing it's success's, Excess's and heartbreak alike. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and was pleased at where it left things. 
pudgeEG More than 1 year ago
I've read a lot of Dead related books and this one beats all! Bill writes in a conversational style and appears to be very forthcoming. You will enjoy this book. :-)
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago