The Grateful Dead’s run of final “Fare Thee Well” shows in June and July will feature the surviving longtime members of the band alongside no shortage of musical assistants — including Phish’s Trey Anastasio, journeyman keyboardist Jeff Chimenti and veteran Dead moonlighter Bruce Hornsby. It’s worth noting that the Dead have had a long, strange and fruitful history with onstage guests. Here’s our pick of the hottest drop-in appearances from the tape vaults.
Jerry Garcia’s fellow Bay Area guitar guru sat in with the Dead a few times (see “Iko Iko” and “All Along The Watchtower” at the Calaveras County Fairgrounds in 1987). The most memorable, despite a dubious sound mix, was this latter-day appearance in the Nevada desert. It features a 17-minute, first-set “Bird Song” (with a tease of “The Other One,” which surfaces in set two) that really kicks in around the 12-minute mark, with Santana matching Garcia and raising him, gently. A shame he never played more with the band — here’s hoping he turns up in Chicago.
Stephen Stills joined the Dead for a two-night run at New Jersey’s Meadowlands in ’83 that included a fierce cover of “Black Queen” from the guitarist’s self-titled 1970 solo LP and a hoarsely joyous “Love The One You’re With,” which has the entourage sounding like a super-baked garage band. But his first session with the group was the best. This five-song L.A. melee in 1969 included an unusually spiky “Morning Dew,” a strutting “Good Morning Little Schoolgirl” with Pigpen wailing on harp and a nearly 12-minute “Black Queen” eventually skidding into “Lovelight.”
9. Jorma Kaukonen
University of Rochester, Rochester, New York
November 20th, 1970
Listen at Archive.org
Serendipitously, the Jefferson Airplane were playing the War Memorial in Rochester, New York, the same 1970 evening that the Dead were doing a college late-nighter. So after his band’s gig ended, Airplane guitar pilot Jorma Kaukonen headed over to campus to join the Dead for a hot take on the Bobby Womack-via-Rolling Stones nugget “It’s All Over Now,” some smoking blues jams (both country and Chicago-style) and a rocking rendition of the old folk standard “Darling Corey.” Sketchy sound on the surviving bootlegs, but fiery playing.
Performing at a tribute concert to longtime promoter/mentor/booster Bill Graham following his death, John Fogerty fronts the Dead for a bunch of Creedence gems, including a kicked-back “Proud Mary,” which turns out to be a Dead natural, and “Green River,” which makes you wish Pigpen was still around to chime in. As a capper, Neil Young steps up to lead the band in a version of Dylan’s great benediction “Forever Young.” It never blossoms into the jam it might’ve been, but Young’s warbling tenor gilded with Garcia’s rippling guitar filigree is a memorable sendoff.