Rock Scully, the manager of the Grateful Dead from their early Haight-Ashbury days up until 1985, passed away December 16th at a Monterey, California hospital. He was 73. His brother Dicken Scully, who also once worked for the Dead as their merchandise manager, told the New York Times that Rock Scully died following a long battle with lung cancer. San Francisco Gate adds that one of Scully’s vocal cords collapsed in September, leaving him unable to speak.
“We bowled ahead and made history together – the kind people write books and make movies about. Rock was a big part of it all,” Grateful Dead guitarist Bob Weir wrote in a tribute to Scully. “He put in the miles with us. He knew the words to all the songs. He knew the right things to say, to tell people, to let them know what we were all about without ever actually explaining anything, because he knew it couldn’t be explained.”
As legend has it, LSD pioneer Owsley “Bear” Stanley introduced Scully to the band – who had just changed their name from the Warlocks – following one of Ken Kesey’s acid tests in 1965. It was Scully that first secured the Dead concerts at the legendary Fillmore; much more high-profile gigs at the Monterey Pop Festival and Woodstock soon followed. Scully also helped the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame group ink their first record contract with Warner.
“When last we spoke, [Scully] was as full of wonder and curiosity as when we first met him back at the Acid Test,” Weir wrote. “His mischievous sense of adventure made him a perfect candidate for the position of manager for a band with similar sensibilities and an equally similar disregard for the way things were supposed to be done.”
As the New York Times notes, Scully might have also had a hand in the ill-fated decision to hire Hells Angels members as security at the infamous Altamont Speedway Free Festival where one concertgoer was stabbed to death during the Rolling Stones’ performance. Scully’s memoir Living With the Dead, co-written with David Dalton, remains one of the most vital documents charting the Grateful Dead’s early years and history together.
“There was a central sweetness to him, and a commitment to the hippie ideal of great trips,” music historian Dennis McNally wrote for Dead.net. “If he conned you, a friend of mine said yesterday on hearing the news, it was almost always in the service of a higher ideal and for the best of reasons.”
Scully was fired as the Dead’s manager in 1984 after unsuccessfully battling drug addiction at the time. He spent his last years in his native Monterey, paying the medical expenses stemming from his lung cancer by selling rare Dead items from his own collection on eBay, the San Francisco Gate writes. A January 2015 benefit concert was in the works to help Scully pay off his bills at the time of his death.
Scully is survived by his daughter, a granddaughter and his brother. He was twice divorced; one of his ex-wives, Carolyne Christie, would later marry Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters. Scully’s son Luke died in the tsunami in Thailand in 2004.