Hear Grateful Dead's Sublime 'Wharf Rat' From First-Ever Red Rocks Run

Track appears on upcoming boxed set, 'July 1978: The Complete Recordings,' drawn from legendary Betty Boards tapes

A new boxed set features five never-before-released Grateful Dead shows from July 1978, including the band's first appearances at Red Rocks. Credit: Keith Stieduhar

Last year was a monumental one for the Grateful Dead. In June and July, the band both celebrated its 50th anniversary and marked the ostensible end of its live-performance career with its series of Fare Thee Well shows. Then in August, three members of the Core Four teamed with John Mayer to form Dead & Company.

This year is another busy one for the legendary group. In June, Dead & Company hit the road again, and as always, the band's vast archives continue to pour forth new treasures from the past. On May 13th, the band releases a new boxed set, July 1978: The Complete Recordings — available for preorder now — focused on one very prolific month from a pivotal year, during which the band also recorded their Shakedown Street LP and performed in Egypt near the Great Pyramid of Giza.

The 12-CD set features full-concert recordings from five Midwestern shows, including performances in Kansas City, St. Paul and Omaha that have never been in circulation, as well as the band's first ever appearances at Morrison, Colorado's Red Rocks Amphitheatre. (The complete July 8th, 1978, Red Rocks show will also be available as a separate three-CD set.) Each show in the box is drawn from the legendary Betty Boards, soundboard recordings made by the band's former engineer Betty Cantor-Jackson — July 1978: The Complete Recordings will be the first official Grateful Dead release sourced from Betty Boards master recordings. Sample the collection with this exclusive stream of "Wharf Rat" from the July 8th show.

Grateful Dead archivist David Lemieux offers context on the new set. "To many ears, mine included, 1978 is considered one of the best years in Grateful Dead history, keeping the momentum going from the excellence of 1977 Dead," he told Rolling Stone. "These five shows are from one of the best weeks of the one of the best years in the Grateful Dead's 30 years performing career. From the opening 'Bertha' to the closing 'Werewolves of London,' this box features nearly 100 tracks of phenomenal, inspired playing, all of which is previously unreleased.

"The first three shows in this boxed set are completely uncirculated in soundboard format, and this boxed set will give the world its first taste of these three magnificent, previously thought-to-be-lost Grateful Dead concerts. Each show is presented in its entirety, in pristine recordings by long-time Grateful Dead engineer Betty Cantor-Jackson. Add to these three show the first two Grateful Dead performances at Red Rocks in Colorado, a run widely considered the best of the year, and you have one of the most compelling boxed sets the Grateful Dead have ever released.

"'Wharf Rat' had its highest moments in 1978, and this boxed set features three versions of this Garcia-Hunter epic song, played at the box's first, third, and fifth shows. The final show of the tour, and the boxed set, includes plenty of crowd-pleasing songs, including this spectacular version of 'Wharf Rat.'"

The 12-CD version of July 1978: The Complete Recordings — featuring artwork from renowned comic-book artists Paul Pope — is limited to 15,000 numbered copies and is available via dead.net. The three-CD release of the July 8th Red Rocks show will be available at all physical and digital retailers on May 13th.

Dead & Company's summer tour kicks off June 10th.

The National's Aaron and Bryce Dessner have unveiled the full details of their massive Grateful Dead all-star tribute album 'Day of the Dead'. Watch here.