Grateful Dead in Family Feud over Web

The band that built a cult following on good vibes is feeling a trifle dysfunctional of late. Grateful Dead bassist Phil Lesh is at odds with fellow bandmembers over how best to put the group’s 35-year musical archive on the Internet. Grateful Dead Productions has been consulting about the prospect of making their vault available for computer download with several Silicon Valley companies, many of whose executives are Deadheads eager to affiliate themselves with the legendary rockers by sponsoring the venture.

The idea of affiliation appeals to all the members except Lesh, who is adamantly opposed to "going corporate," according to a December 8 report by San Francisco Chronicle pop music writer James Sullivan. "The Grateful Dead have never accepted corporate sponsorship or venture-capital money, and I remain unalterably opposed to any deal that would lease, license, or otherwise collateralize the music in the vault," Lesh stated.

Lesh hasn't attended a board meeting for the group in more than a year, according to drummer Mickey Hart and guitarist Bob Weir. "By virtue of the fact that he hasn't been involved," Weir said of Lesh, "the information he has is necessarily going to be incomplete." Hart attributed Lesh's opposition to "hysteria," pointing out that he, Weir, and drummer Bill Kreutzmann have no intention of "selling out." Microsoft was one company that made an unsolicited offer, Sullivan mentions.

The band has been wrangling with what to do with the contents of its vault since the death this past August of staff archivist Dick Latvala, who since 1993 had overseen the release of Dick's Picks, a series of recordings of complete Grateful Dead concerts. Group members say they are in no hurry to get their stuff out on the Web. "Our extreme bias is toward quality rather than immediacy," said Weir. "If it means waiting longer until they standardize the audio format, then we'll hold out for that."