In this video clip filmed at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio – where he was inducted in the Class of 1994 – Grateful Dead drummer Mickey Hart discusses the first time he caught the band live, before he was a member. “I didn’t even know the Grateful Dead,” says Hart. “They had just changed their name from the Warlocks.”
Founding drummer Bill Kreutzmann bonded with Hart over drum talk one night and invited him to swing by a practice session at the band’s rehearsal studio in Sausalito, just north of the Golden Gate Bridge. Hart got lost on the way there and eventually gave up. But when Kreutzmann invited him to check out one of the band’s actual shows, at the Straight Theater in San Francisco, Hart found his way all the way up to the stage. The band rounded up a second drum kit and encouraged Hart to sit in during the second set.
“I had never heard their music,” says Hart. “And then we started playing and hours later it stopped . . . And Jerry [Garcia] said, ‘We could take this around the world. This is the Grateful Dead!'”
In other words, Hart passed the audition, even though – in typical Grateful Dead fashion – it was never even supposed to be an audition. After that night, the Grateful Dead had two drummers and were onto a new kind of sound. “That was the beginning,” says Hart.