It will be 40 years this May that I attended my fourth Grateful Dead concert.
Was I a Deadhead? No. I did not "follow" them. I didn't own a van or travel from show to show. I did not ask for "Miracles," (a free ticket). But I did love their music and manage to see them nine times over the next 20 years.
I'm glad that my son discovered their music. I remember the moment, while driving north through West Virginia on a family vacation, when it was announced over the car radio that Jerry had died (8/9/95). It was a sad moment for me. My son was seven, my daughter, four. I had last seen the Dead in April of that year in Birmingham, AL. My son still reminds me that I should have taken him to the concert.
I made the trip in 1973 while in my junior year at the University of Missouri, majoring in Photojournalism. I was sitting around with some roommates and friends when one of them suggested we leave that afternoon and drive to DesMoines for the concert. It sounded like a reasonable idea.
We traveled in one of my roommates VW bug (I'm second from left). After midnight, too tired and directionally challenged, we pulled off the road in the middle of nowhere, Iowa, and crashed in a cornfield. The next morning we were up, refreshed and ready to go. It Mother's Day as it turned out. May 13, 1973.
The concert was, of course, amazing. It was held at the Iowa State Fairgrounds. The sky was threatening all day. We were groovin' to "Sugaree" when the skies turned suddenly darker. The Dead eased into "Looks Like Rain" and a jam. I'll never forget when the skies parted and revealed a rainbow off to the east. Without missing a beat, the Dead segued into "Here Comes Sunshine." The crowd went nuts, responding with an ovation that lasted for a good ten minutes.
One year later, as a summer intern for the DesMoines Register, I volunteered to cover the Grateful Dead. No other staff photographer wanted to get involved. "Let the kid cover it," suggested a staffer. So this time I had a Press pass. The concert wasn't the same, although the photographs I made are probably better.
I'm still finding gems like these as I go through my archives. Luckily, I kept much of my early work. I know I photographed the band at least four times. I hope you enjoy these photos. Strange trip, indeed.