*The audio CD contains interviews & press conference recordings.
Q&A with Ben Fong-Torres, Author of The Grateful Dead Scrapbook
When did you first become interested in The Grateful Dead?
I first saw the Dead at the Fillmore… or maybe it was the Avalon Ballroom, and knew them from the beginning as part of the fabric of the still-evolving San Francisco scene.
Do you have a favorite Grateful Dead album? What is it, and why is it a favorite?
Workingman’s Dead. The surprise factor. Acoustic; gorgeous harmonies on beautifully-crafted songs that chronicled both the Dead and their times. I played cuts from that album and American Beauty endlessly on my Sunday show on KSAN.
What is the most interesting thing that you learned about the Grateful Dead as you were writing the book?
I enjoyed learning the stories behind some of the best-known Dead songs and relaying them in the book; I was fascinated how the members all got together, coming from widely varied strains of music, thus explaining the band’s eclectic, ever-changing musical offerings. But the most interesting thing--the saddest, too--was to learn how many health difficulties Jerry went through over the years, and how his passion for music drove him on through many of his ailments.
Are there any Grateful Dead reproductions that didn’t make in into the book that you wish had?
Hmm…A life-size Pigpen stand-up would’ve been nice. No, I can't say there are, since I have access to various fave Fillmore & Avalon posters in other books. I think the Scrapbook offers a nice trove of GD treasures.
You write in the bibliography of The Grateful Dead Scrapbook that "The Grateful Dead were a journalist's dream (and, on occasion, a nightmare; it was a matter of when you caught them)." How were the Dead dream subjects to you as a journalist?
All the guys were/are bright, articulate and passionate about their music and about life. They knew exactly what they were doing and the impact it was having on the larger community. They took their responsibilities as artists seriously. And they always were striving to something different every time out; to surprise their audiences and to surpass themselves--no matter how long they’d been doing it. That’s true artistry.