“It all happened really fast,” recalls Rosie McGee of shooting the Dead in 1969. In September of that year, Warner Bros. was getting ready to release the Live/Dead album, culled from two Fillmore West shows earlier that year. At the last minute, the label called the Dead’s headquarters, urgently requesting a band photo for the interior of the album.
“I was watching the rehearsal, probably rolling joints and just hanging out with my boyfriend,” laughs McGee who, at the time, had been dating Phil Lesh for several years. “It was lucky for Warner Bros. that I was there and had my camera with me.”
She quickly ran outside to check the light conditions and find a location. She found the abandoned car, determined it well suited for her needs and ran back inside to interrupt the band’s rehearsal as the sun had already started to set.
“Once I’d settled the band into their positions, Jack Casady threw himself face down into the dirt to be part of the first couple of photos,” says McGee of the Jefferson Airplane bassist who happened to be on hand. “Then, I made him move so I could ‘get serious’ and take more photos, including this one.”
Warner Bros. ended up using an image with Casady in it, converting it to black and white, eventually using it as an official PR image as well. This picture is an outtake from that session. Among the objects on display are the original paintings of the album’s front and back covers done by Bob Thomas, who, at the time, was living at the band’s headquarters in a loft in return for being the facility’s night watchman.
“I was the girl with the camera,” says McGee of her youth and early days being around the band. “What people appreciate about my photos of that era are their intimacy and candid nature.”