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If you were a music fan between 1965 and 1995, be it country, rock and roll, jazz, or reggae, then odds are there was something for you to like about the Grateful Dead. Known for having an eclectic style and knack for improvising throughout their live performances, word-of-mouth quickly spread as a loyal fan base grew for the beloved rock band.
With their growing popularity naturally came wealth among its most beloved members and a career worthy of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
They dominated the rock world for 30 years and remain one of the most popular groups in history.
Who are Grateful Dead? What is Grateful Dead’s net worth? Find out that and all sorts of other fascinating facts below.
When Was The Grateful Dead Founded?
The Grateful Dead first formed in 1965 in Palo Alto, California, during the upswing of the counterculture movement of the decade.
The Grateful Dead’s Members
Like many bands, the Grateful Dead when through many members.
Its founding members were lead guitarist and vocalist Jerry Garcia; rhythm guitarist Bob Weir; Ron “Pigpen” McKernan on vocals and harmonica; bass guitarist Phil Lesh; and finally, Bill Kreutzmann on drums.
Two years after the group’s founding, drummer Mickey Hart and lyricist Robert Hunter joined the band.
This core group, with a few exceptions (McKernan until his death in 1973 and Hart’s brief time away from 1971-1974), would be the staples of the group’s 30-year-long career.
Other temporary members of the Grateful Dead over the years included keyboardist Tom Constanten (1968-1970), lyricist John Perry Barlow (1971-1995), keyboardist Keith Godchaux (1971-1979), vocalist Donna Godchauz (1972-1979), keyboardist and vocalist Brent Mydland (1979-1990), and finally, keyboardist Vince Welnick (1990-1995).
Bruce Hornsby, who provided accordion, piano, and vocals, occasionally joined the band for tours from 1990-1992.
Grateful Dead’s Net Worth
To determine the Grateful Dead’s combined net worth, we must consider the individual net worths of each of its members.
In this case, we’ll focus on the original founding members who remained with the group throughout its career.
What was Jerry Garcia’s net worth when he died in 1995? While his estate was worth about $15 million, $50 million in claims took much of it, making the final number $9.9 million.
His third wife, Deborah Koons, received Jerry Garcia’s estate.
As of 2023, Bob Weir’s net worth has grown to approximately $60 million. The same goes for Phil Lesh’s net worth.
Bill Kreutzmann’s net worth is just under Weir and Lesh at $50 million. Mickey Hart’s is at $50 million, too.
Robert Hunter comes next in line with an estimated net worth of $12 million, followed by Ron McKernan, who is worth an estimated $3 million. Hunter amassed a decent amount of wealth as a co-writer with Bob Dylan in the 2000s and 2010s.
Even though those numbers also reflect any outside endeavors the various members undertook, it gives an estimated $200 million as the collective answer to the question of Grateful Dead’s net worth.
Related: 27 Fascinating Facts About Bob Dylan
How Did the Grateful Dead Get Rich?
The Grateful Dead can thank their riches on their massive sold-out tours, singles, and albums that were hits among fans throughout their 30 years of making music.
How Much Does the Grateful Dead Make Per Show?
The Grateful Dead completed approximately 2,325 shows during their 30-year reign. In that time, their 22 million ticket sales generated a revenue of $393 million. That comes out to roughly $169,000 per show.
How Much Were Grateful Dead Tickets?
Back in the day, it would be a pretty steep price to pay to see the Grateful Dead in concert, but it’s no wonder since fans were anxious to see their known improvisation that meant you never knew what was coming from one show to the next.
Decent seats ran upwards of $230.
Who Owns the Rights to the Grateful Dead Songs?
From 2006 to 2016, the Grateful Dead was under a ten-year licensing agreement with Rhino Entertainment. The company was in charge of the band’s business interests, including everything from releasing music and merchandise to handling marketing.
The Grateful Dead kept the creative control and ownership of their catalog of music.
Grateful Dead’s Early Career
When the band first formed in the 1960s with its founding members, they were known as the Warlocks and spent their time playing in various ensembles.
After changing their name to the Grateful Dead just a few years later, they soon started playing at various venues around California.
By 1967, the group started to get their feet off the ground with their first significant performance of the year at the musical event Mantra-Rock Dance at the Avalon Ballroom in San Francisco.
They also released their first four albums, The Grateful Dead (1967), Anthem of the Sun (1968), Aoxomoxoa (1969), and Live/Dead (1969), which saw moderate success.
Then, 1970 came, and things were about to heat up quickly for the “Casey Jones” band.
How Did the Grateful Dead Become Famous?
The Grateful Dead’s big break came in 1970 when they released their albums Workingman’s Dead and American Beauty.
Part of what made these two Grateful Dead albums so famous was the traditional song structure and laid-back acoustic sound of the music, creating a signature sound that fans, affectionately known as the Deadheads, still love today.
Grateful Dead’s Career
Fresh off the high of success from their two 1970 albums, the group continued to find success, even when they lost Ron “Pigpen” McKernan in 1973 following his tragic death.
They had slight changes in membership, like when Mickey Hart briefly left after his father, an accountant, took off with the band’s money.
During this time there were several Grateful Dead tours, such as the Europe 72 tour, which saw the release of the Europe ’72 album in 1972, which would prove to be Pigpen’s last.
Not long after Pigpen’s death, with the addition of new members, Ron Rakow, the band’s manager, helped them form their own record label called Grateful Dead Records, which produced their next album, Wake of the Flood, in 1973.
The jazz-influenced sound proved to be their biggest success commercially in their career, and they didn’t waste time taking advantage of the success, releasing their next album, From the Mars Hotel, in 1974.
Although the “Friend of the Devil” group took a break from touring for a few years after that, they did perform a series of concerts in October 1974 at the Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco, which were filmed and later released as the feature-length concert film The Grateful Dead Movie in 1977.
By 1976, the they returned to touring after the release of their eighth studio album, Blues for Allah, in September 1975.
Though they had their own record label, they signed with Arista Records that same year, which led to their first release for them,Terrapin Station, in 1977.
That led to a tour that is most highly regarded by fans, with their May 8, 1977, performance at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, considered one of the band’s best performances over their 30-year career.
For 15 more years, the Grateful Dead continued to dominate, releasing eight more studio albums like Go to Heaven (1980), Dead Set (1981), Built to Last (1989), and their final album, Without a Net, in 1990.
Their biggest success during this time came with 1987 mega-hit “Touch of Grey.”
Who knows what would’ve happened if their lead guitarist, Jerry Garcia, had not met his demise, ultimately leading to the group’s disbandment?
Grateful Dead Reunions
Even though the band unanimously called it quits in 1995 after the death of their bandmate and friend, the surviving members have played several reunion shows, along with pursuing their individual endeavors.
Fans had a chance to get some members of their favorite band back together when Bob Weir, Phil Lesh, and Mickey Hart came together to form the Other Ones in 1998. After releasing a few albums and embarking on a couple of tours, they changed their name to the Dead in 2003.
Other groups formed by members have included the Rhythm Devils, which included Hart and Bill Kreutzmann.
Perhaps the best reunion amongst the members came in 2015 when they honored the Grateful Dead’s 50th anniversary with five concerts split between Levi’s Stadium in California and Soldier Field in Chicago. Pegged as “Fare Thee Well: Celebrating 50 Years of the Grateful Dead,” it became the final time Bob Weir, Phil Lesh, Hart, and Kreutzmann would perform together.
Which Grateful Dead Members Are Still Alive?
Of the seven original Grateful Dead members, only four remain alive – Bob Weir, Phil Lesh, Bill Kreutzmann, and Mickey Hart.
Ron “Pigpen” McKernan died not long after the band first started to achieve fame. Years of alcohol abuse began to affect his health, and on Mar. 8, 1973, at the age of 27, he was found dead in his California home from a gastrointestinal hemorrhage.
Jerry Garcia died on Aug. 9, 1995, of a heart attack while he was at a rehabilitation clinic for his drug addiction.
Lyricist Robert Hunter was the most recent death in the Grateful Dead family.
In his final years, Hunter experienced health problems, including a procedure to remove an abscess from his spinal cord in 2012. Seven years later, he died at his home on Sept. 23, 2019.
Although no cause of death was released, it’s believed a surgery he had just weeks before his death may have contributed.
Grateful Dead’s Awards and Recognitions
Although Grateful Dead doesn’t have nearly the chart-topping performance as other groups of their era, such as The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, they have still earned their status in rock and roll history.
It all began with their induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1994. In 2007, Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzmann accepted a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award on behalf of the band.
In 2011, Rolling Stone listed them as number 57 on their 2011 “100 Greatest Artists of All Time” list. One year later, a recording of their performance at Cornell University’s Barton Hall from May 8, 1977 was added to the Library of Congress’s National Recording Registry in 2012.
In 2017, the band was immortalized when GoodFellas director Martin Scorsese released his four-hour documentary film, Long Strange Trip, about the Grateful Dead, which he produced with Amir Bar-Lev serving as director. The four surviving members of the Grateful Dead gave new interviews for the documentary, which took nearly three years to complete after the project was announced in Oct. 2014.
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