Fifty years ago, the Grateful Dead began a fruitful career that resulted in 13 studio albums of cosmic folk-rock that sounded great on record but even better played live. The complete band stopped performing when frontman Jerry Garcia died in 1995, but countless cover groups from the around the country have helped keep the music – and the atmosphere that surrounds it – alive.
Earlier this month, we invited the singers from four New York-area groups to come together on the neutral turf of Rolling Stone's Manhattan office. The Jerrys – David Frankel of Shakedown, Michael Morrow of Pure Jerry, Mark Diomede of the Juggling Suns Project and Jason Smith of the Remnants – explained what it's like to perform the band's songs, competed against each other in a round of trivia and shared stories from their first Dead concerts.
"I remember taking way too much airplane hits," said Smith, recalling the moment he converted. "And I do remember them coming out of space ,and they started to go into 'The Other One.' I swear the entire stage turned into a vortex, and I thought we were all going right to hell. I was gonna hang on for the ride – and I never let go." Watch the full video above.
This summer, the Dead's "core four" will plays a "last stand" of anniversary shows fronted by their own Jerry replacement: Phish's Trey Anastasio. Rolling Stone's new cover story, on newsstands tomorrow, explores this reunion in new depth, tackling the surviving members' post-Garcia business issues and tours as well as providing new details from their often-secretive rehearsals.