Mayer teams up with Dead & Company

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The magic and legacy of original Grateful Dead frontman Jerry Garcia is something that every Dead fan holds near and dear to their heart. Somewhere along the band’s long, strange trip, the music became something bigger than the guys on stage and the fans took hold of it. When Jerry passed on 21 years ago, everyone wondered if the music would keep going. And it did, through various projects such as Further, The Dead and RatDog, amongst others. But there was always a wariness from the fans as if to say, “Don’t you mess with the music too much, or mess anything up.”

This wariness comes through especially with the many musicians who have come onboard to take on the role of lead guitar. It was expressed towards Warren Haynes when he played on various projects, and it was expressed to Trey Anastasio in the 2015 “Fare Tee Well” celebration of the remaining members in Chicago. The skepticism has never been stronger, however, than it was for John Mayer, who just over a year ago was announced to be a member of Dead & Company, the new incarnation of three of the four surviving original members.

This skepticism was kind of warranted, though. After all, was the guy who sings “Your Body Is a Wonderland” really the most qualified musician to be taking the reigns of and singing on songs that mean so much to so many? And, if we’re being honest, Mayer has come off as a grade-A jerk for much of his career, in stark contrast with the love that the Dead have always spread. I know I was personally quite skeptical of the idea of this working, but was willing to hear it out.

And then we did just that, hearing something truly beautiful coming from the stage. And immediately, all doubts and fears vanished. John knew exactly what he needed to do in his role, and he knocked it out of the park. It wasn’t a cover band, it was a living, breathing tribute to the original members who have come and gone. And all of a sudden, John was making the other guys on stage, from Bob Weir to Mickey Hart, play at a level they hadn’t in years. Somehow, those guys knew that it was going to be pure magic on that stage, and it was going to immediately convert the fans. And before I knew it, this summer I was awaiting the live recordings from the previous nights’ show, jumping to hear how the guys became one solid entity on that stage—and road-tripping to experience the shows in the flesh for two beautiful nights at Alpine Valley in Wisconsin. And I believe that John summed this magical feeling up best on an Instagram post the night the Dead & Company Summer Tour wrapped up:

“This Dead and Company tour was magical. Tis band flourished in so many ways. To learn each others’ moves as people and musicians, so as to support each other on stage and off made every night a beautiful adventure. I grew up a lone wolf in a bedroom practicing my guitar, and all I ever really craved was community. The community I feel now between my brothers and sisters in this band and crew, and the connection between everyone in the audience from the front row to the back, to those who listened from couches and cars, to those who come up to me and say more with their eyes than their words in their attempt to tell me what this means to them – I will never forget it, because I will never stop feeling it. We’re together now. I’m honored to be one of many musicians in the larger community of the GDEU (Grateful Dead Extended Universe.) And it must be said – to Jerry: what a light you are that I could bask in your shadow.”

And with that post, it was confirmed that this was not the John Mayer that was once known to the public, this was a man who had done a ton of growing and had finally found peace in the best way possible, through the Grateful Dead. And now he is prepping a solo release aimed for early 2017. And Deadheads all around the country are eagerly awaiting a John Mayer solo album, a sentence that would have never been uttered even two years ago. Whether or not Dead & Company get together for another tour remains to be seen, but we can only hope that John Mayer’s tenure with the Dead has only just begun.