Phil Lesh. (Photo by Getty Images)
Phil Lesh has seen a lot of life since the mid-60's when he got involved with a bunch of musical junkies that evolved into a cultural force called The Grateful Dead. And I say 'force,' because that band would stay in vogue with a huge cult following through decades and generations of ever-changing popular taste. Cruising through eras and continuing to be appreciated for its unique create-on-the-fly live shows, the Grateful Dead would birth a vibrant Jam-band scene that thrives with music fans fifty years on.
After the Grateful Dead folded in 1995 in the wake of Jerry Garcia's death, Phil Lesh kept on playing in a solo format, then took his Phil and friends lineups on the road. Eventually, the members of the parent band collected into The Other Ones, The Dead, and more recently Dead and Company, so even as this musician ages, he certainly hasn't retired!
Here are two interviews I conducted with Phil on WZLX in 2005. The first occurred that June in conjunction with his autobiography "Searching for the Sound" and the second, on November 29th, promoted an appearance with Phil and Friends at Boston's Agganis Arena. Here are some highlights:
Why a book? "I started having really vivid memories, flashbacks, of the early days of the [Grateful Dead].Extremely-detailed, colorful, memories. Nobody's ever told it from the inside before."So, it's a flashback in a good sense? "Yeah! (laughs) Mine usually are!"
Was it painful to revisit and write about the end of the band? "It was sad and it was hard, but at the same time, that's what happens. "[Writing about it] is a blessing for me because I feel like I've dealt with it."
Phil Lesh now has another musical family - his own. "Both of my sons play guitar and they just sat in with my band at a benefit we did for their high school. I just played at their senior farewell concert; we did 'Touch of Grey' and 'Baba O' Riley!' The Lesh Brothers and Dad!"
November 29th, 2005
Lesh had recently played an outdoor festival in Las Vegas that also featured the group in a smaller setting inside at the Hard Rock Hotel. "We actually played all night. The show ended at 5:15; we walked out the door and the sun was coming up! Just like the old days."
The musician's future longtime association with John Mayer was foretold in this interview as Lesh talked about playing San Francisco with his friends for a trio of nights leading up to New Year's Eve. "I'm going to have John Mayer opening up and John is going to sit in for our midnight set. It's going to be an interesting three days of music!"
Lesh's book "Searching for the Sound," pictured the Grateful Dead as just another bunch of local guys starting out in music. "It was just a bunch of kids.; we knew each other from parties and stuff. I knew I always wanted to play with Jerry, but I never thought I'd have a chance because I was into a different kind of music. Well, he sort of came in my direction and sort of went in his."