Grateful Dead fans are legendary for their Dead-ication to the band and its enduring legacy of freewheeling musical exploration. The Grateful Dead Scrapbook
collects rare removable memorabilia and evocative images culled from the Grateful Dead Archives at the University of California, Santa Cruz, including never-before-published photos, flyers, fan letters, and other ephemera. To accompany the eye-popping visuals, renowned journalist Ben Fong-Torres draws on his personal knowledge of the San Francisco music scene in a rich text that conveys the Grateful Dead's story in a fresh way, centering each chapter on a pivotal song that encapsulates a certain era of the group's songwriting, performance, and community. An attractive slipcase and an audio CD* round out the book's beautiful design, delivering a richly illustrated volume as colorful as the band itself.
*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.
About the Author
Ben Fong-Torres is the author of 6 books. He began writing for Rolling Stone with its 8th issue in 1968, and his writing has been published in numerous other magazines. He contributed the main biography of Jerry Garcia for People Magazine's tribute issue on the occasion of the singer's death in 1995. Ben lives in San Francisco.