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Grateful Dead Roadie: "I Took My Job as a Sacred Task"

November 4, 2008 2:32 PM ET

The Grateful Dead biopic adapted from Home Before Daylight already has a shortlist of hot directors including Oliver Stone, Sean Penn, Jonathan Demme and Larry Charles. "Those are the guys that would really knock it out of the park," producer Stephen Emery tells Rock Daily.

But like any business these days, the film industry is taking a kick in the groin. "Hollywood is in a freeze like the rest of us in this country," says the book's author and longtime Dead roadie Steve Parish. "It ebbs and it flows. But the wheels are in motion. It could happen any day."

Several musicians, including Jefferson Airplane, Neil Young and Bob Dylan, have already signed on for the soundtrack, with guitarist Bob Weir as the music director. "I'm very proud to have Bob on board," says Emery. "He wants to write new stuff for the film, too."

Out of all the books on the Grateful Dead, few cut close to the bone like Parish's book — it goes deep and gets personal. He not only knows where the skeletons are, but where the bodies are buried. That happens after 35 years hauling gear for Jerry Garcia and the band. He's seen a lot — maybe too much. So, it's a miracle that he remembers enough to get it down in ink, let alone bring it to the screen. "Jerry was just such an amazing guy," Parish says. "We hung out together, played together and partied together."

"I thought it was a great story crewing for the grateful Dead," Parish says. "I realize now we broke all all the rules. There were no PAs. We went all around around the country dealing with the unions. All they knew was Broadway. We were long hairs and different from them. But Jerry had a huge respect for the working man." But Parish held his own. "Fuck, I'm a pretty big fella."

As pitched, the film concentrates on the band's early years and arcs over a decade."It was a great time for the band and the country," Emery says. "It goes from 1967, when Steve signed on with the band, and runs through the next ten years. It has all the pain, love, and the brotherhood. I don't want to get into the heroin problems and darker responsibilities that happened later."

As Parish puts it, life with the Dead was tender and heart-felt. "Garcia was a brother to me," he says. "And I took my job as a sacred task." One evening, Parish got word his wife and daughter died in a car wreck. "I was out of control, It was just an incredible world. We always had a connection with death, and it made you tougher. The band literally moved in with me. They took care of me. But it was dangerous."

Humor, no doubt, will play a part. "I can tell you without reading it that it might make a funny movie," says Grateful Dead lyricist John Perry Barlow.

Garcia, Parish says, would likely approve of the flick. "Jerry always talked about movie making," he says. "We always talked about doing projects. Jerry was really into movies. He loved films, old ones, strange ones."

"Bob and I are waiting," Parish says about studio negotiations. "It's like standing on ice blocks."

Related Stories:
Still Truckin': Behind the Grateful Dead's Reunion For Obama
The Dead Reunite For Obama at Scorching Penn State Gig
The Dead Rock the Pyramids
Fortieth Anniversary: How the Grateful Dead Came to Life

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