"Truckin'" is a classic from the Grateful Dead, the band that was headed for years by the late Jerry Garcia. A reshuffled version of the group -- complete with some familiar faces -- is the subject of our Summer Song. Anthony Mason has been watching the "new" Dead come to life:
As the Deadheads lined up outside San Francisco's landmark Fillmore Theatre, Dead & Company warmed up for the first gig of their summer tour.
The group includes three of the Grateful Dead's surviving core four: Mickey Hart, Bill Kreutzman and Bob Weir, joined by John Mayer ("I'm going in tonight, like a 1930s boxer," he exclaimed); former Allman Brothers bassist Oteil Burbidge; and keyboardist Jeff Chimenti.
If the lineup has changed, the catalog hasn't. The crowd is here to hear the Grateful Dead.
"We attract a certain kind of person who requires a little adventure in their lives," Weir said. "You can watch the faces over the years. The front rows stay the same age."
"That's got to feel good to you," Mason said.
"It's great! What we're doing musically is about constant revolution."
A revolution that in a way started at the Fillmore just over 50 years ago.
It was, Weir said, "the first big room we ever played," feels now, compared to then, "kinda like home."
Dozens of Dead posters line the Fillmore's walls, including one of the first gigs promoter Bill Graham ever booked at the venue: January 14, 1966.
"We had just changed our name from the Warlocks to the Grateful Dead 'cause somebody had copyrighted the name Warlocks," Weir said. "He wouldn't print the Grateful Dead."
So why wouldn't Graham print the name "Grateful Dead"? "He didn't like it."
The Dead are icons here. A giant photo of the late Jerry Garcia, who died in 1995, hangs in a stairwell: "They made this look like church almost," Mason noted.
"He'd hate that," Weir said.
When asked about the connection the musicians had, Weir said, "We kept each other amused. That was the secret sauce, you know? Whether it be intellectually, musically or just backstage."
"That's got to be pretty special."
"It was. Well, you know, it was all I knew for 30 years."
Weir joined the band when he was just 16. Drummer Bill Kreutzman was 18.
"Garcia called me up and said, 'Want to be in a band?' 'Ah, sure.' Really it was as casual as could be," Kreutzman said. "I was amazed."
Kreutzman then brought in another drummer, Mickey Hart. "He asked me to sit in one night, and that was that," Hart recalled.
Kreutzman said, "The most important thing about that night, I remember Garcia said, 'This is what the Grateful Dead sounds like.'"
In 1966, the band moved into a communal home in Haight Ashbury, which Hart remembers as being "really crowded."
Deadheads still carve tributes in the tree out front.
Hart pointed out the room where band member Ron "Pigpen" McKernan lived. "In those days, the buses used to come back and forth and say, 'This is the home of the Grateful Dead.' And he used to wake Pig Pen up. So Pig Pen just opened the window and he would just get a little moon out there, you know?"
And if that didn't work, Kreutzman said, "Bob Weir would be up on the roof with water balloons, and he'd be chucking water balloons."
In 1967, in the "Summer of Love," CBS went inside the house for a documentary called "The Hippie Temptation." Later that year, police raided the house, arresting two band members on drug charges.
"[He] actually planted two bricks in the house," He could've just looked right behind the file cabinet and found it!" Hart said.
"They left a kilo in the pantry up on the top shelf," Kreutzmann added, "so they'd have something to smoke when they came back!"
Last summer, on the Dead's 50th anniversary, the four surviving members played their "Fare Thee Well" tour -- five dates billed as their final concerts together -- before 365,000 fans.
- End of the Grateful Dead's "long, strange trip" ("CBS This Morning," 07/03/15)
- Gallery: The Grateful Dead: "Fare Thee Well"
"It was just pure love, if you ever imagine anything like that," Hart said. "I've never felt anything like that before."
With bassist Phil Lesh bowing out from touring, the others chose to go on as Dead & Company.
Weir describes it as a different venture: "Christ, I'm nowhere near done playing. There were some folks who were expecting, okay, after the Chicago shows, I was gonna work on my golf game or something."
"But you can't do that?"
"Yeah, I'm saving that for my Golden Years!"
Dead & Company came together last fall, and the younger members are still learning to keep up with the Dead's deep jams.
Mason asked Oteil Burbidge, "How often do you get that 'Where the hell is he going with this' feeling?"
"Oh, in this band, 'Where the hell am I going with this?'" Burbidge replied.
"There has to come a moment where it's time to play a guitar solo and I'm just playing the solo, and I'm not wondering what Bob thinks about it," Mayer said.
Weir says he feels that, "with some bemusement, yeah. The first time I played with with John Boy here, I ascertained that this guy can handle the chores."
Weir and Mayer connected when they played together on "The Late, Late Show" early last year:
"It was the only time I ever got nauseous with excitement," Mayer said.
During two weeks of rehearsals, Mayer lived out back of Weir's studio in San Rafael, in an RV parked next to Grateful Dead road cases -- a short commute. The 38-year-old singer has put his solo career on hold for the summer tour.
Mason asked, "What does it mean to you to be in this band now?"
"Oh man, I have so much more connection with my guitar now than I think I ever had," he said. "This solidifies musician over celebrity. It roots me in the thing I love the most.
"The reason I wanted to be in this band was to be able to interact with it live. It would be what I imagine an actor saying, 'I really wanna be in a scene with Pacino.'"
"You're Pacino, Bob! Did you know that?"
"You talkin' to me?" Weir quipped.
Actually, that's De Niro, but the 68-year-old guitarist has been thinking a lot about legacy.
On the road last year, Bob Weir had a dream that persuaded him the Dead's long, strange trip has a long way to go....
"We were on stage, and suddenly I found myself, like, 20 feet behind my own head looking at myself playing. And then I look over at him (Mayer). His hair is grey and it's 20 years later. And then I look back at myself. There's somebody with brownish-blondish hair in his late 20s. Not me. This is the music going on [without me]."
"How did it feel?"
"It felt altogether right. You know, okay, that's what I've been up to all my life."
For more info: