Tag Archives: drumming

Happy Birthday, Bill Kreutzmann


Bill Kreutzmann is a drummer. He was one of the two drummers for the Grateful Dead. (Mickey Hart was the other one.) The band’s keyboardists came and went. Mickey Hart left the band for several years. There was even a period when the rest of the band kicked out Pigpen and Bob Weir because they didn’t feel those two were taking their jobs seriously. But Bill, Bill was there through thick and thin. Oh, he might have been high as a kite, but if you hear a drum being played in a Grateful Dead song, you can bet Bill was on board.

According to Wikipedia,

Kreutzmann was born in Palo Alto, California, the son of Janice Beryl (née Shaughnessy) and William Kreutzmann, Sr. His maternal grandfather was football coach and innovator Clark Shaughnessy.[3] Kreutzmann started playing drums at the age of 13.

At the end of 1964 he co-founded the band the Warlocks, along with Phil Lesh, Jerry Garcia, Bob Weir, and Ron “Pigpen” McKernan. Their first real gig was May 5, 1965, two days before Kreutzmann’s nineteenth birthday. In November 1965, the Warlocks became the Grateful Dead.

Kreutzmann remained with the Grateful Dead until its dissolution after the death of Jerry Garcia in 1995, making him one of four members to play at every one of the band’s 2,300 shows, along with Garcia, Weir and Lesh.[6]

Bill is currently playing with his band Billy & the Kids, which includes

Aron Magner on keys, Reed Mathis on bass, and Tom Hamilton on guitar, with additional special guests and surprises along the way.

Bill’s Wikipedia page also says,

Kreutzmann’s memoir, Deal: My Three Decades of Drumming, Dreams, and Drugs with the Grateful Dead, was published by St. Martin’s Press on May 5, 2015.[25]

[amazon template=image&asin=1250034000]I read the book last summer. Here’s the review I wrote of it:

This book is an absolute must-read for any Grateful Dead fan. (If you just like a celebrity tell-all memoir, it’s good as that too.)

In this book, Bill Kreutzmann–the first, last, and every time drummer for the Grateful Dead–tells his stories from his days with the band. It feels like he holds nothing back. He tells of the drugs. (It’s kind of a wonder Bill can remember anything at all, after all the drugs he took over so many years.) He tells of the sex. (Thirteen ladies in one night, and I won’t spoil the surprise by telling you which sexy revelation made me scream out loud.) And of course, he tells of rock-n-roll.

Bill doesn’t stand behind the door to say which Grateful Dead songs were his favorite to play, which ones he most liked to listen to, and which ones he didn’t care for. He offers his two cents on the debate about Donna Jean’s singing. He’s not shy about saying which keyboardists he thinks were truly members of the band and which ones were just filling in. He tells how he felt when Mickey returned to play drums with the Grateful Dead, and what he thought of the related bands that came along after Jerry died and the Grateful Dead disbanded. I don’t agree with Bil on all counts, but I sure enjoy knowing his opinions.

The stories in the book are told in more or less chronological order. In lots of cases Bill tells a story, then says, “that reminds me of the time…,” then tells about something that happened years before or after the original event. It works though. It’s like listening to your grandpa’s stories (if your grandpa were involved in one of the best rock-n-roll bands in history): the telling might be rambling, but the stories are so good, you barely notice.

At the end of the book, the reader realizes this whole story is a love letter to Bill’s wife Aimee. It’s also, of course, a love letter to all the Grateful Dead fans. And it’s even a love letter from Bill to the other members of the Grateful Dead, his brothers, Bill calls them many times throughout the book.

This book has an index, which I find super sexy. (Oh! How I love a rock-n-roll index.)

Happy Birthday, Bill, and for all our sakes, I hope you have many more.