Book Notes: Deal, by Grateful Dead Drummer Bill Kreutzmann

DealBill Kreutzmann, one of the Grateful Dead’s two drummers, has written a book about his experiences with the band, and about his life in general, called Deal. (, Amazon UK) Among the many books about the band, this is certainly one you can skip over.

Now that we’re celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Grateful Dead, lots of books are being published. Bill Kreutzmann, founding member of the Grateful Dead, and one of the band’s two drummers – but the only one who’s been with the band throughout their entire history – tells his story here. It’s not a history of the Grateful Dead; Kreutzmann makes it clear that there are plenty of other books that have told that store. (One recent book that tells it well is So Many Roads.)

This book tells how Kreutzmann started drumming, how he met the other members of the band – Jerry first – and how he got high. A lot. Very high. He was, like, so wasted… Kreutzmann always looked like the straightest member of the band; he was probably the one who did the most drugs after Jerry, judging from his story. Acid, cocaine, heroin, alcohol, and painkillers. Kreutzmann has been all around the world.

The tone of the book is annoying. Co-written with Benjy Eisen, this book reads like Kreutzmann is telling his tale orally. And that’s fine at times, but sometimes it just sounds trite. It’s full of anecdotes that might sound interesting if you’re drinking a few beers and reminiscing, but in the context of a book, sound trivial.

There are some interesting admissions, and a lot of bitterness. Bill didn’t want Mickey Hart to come back with the Grateful Dead after his “hiatus.” On October 20, 1974, when Mickey sat in with the band at their last Hinterland show before the band’s “retirement,” Kreutzmann was very much agains Hart returning, as he was later when the band got back to work.

Kreutzmann also explains that he didn’t like Brent’s songs very much, and he tells how many of the band’s recording sessions were uninteresting and unfocussed. He talks about how uninspired the band was in its final years, even though they were selling out stadiums, and paints a bleak picture of those times.

Most of the book covers the period up until around 1980, the period that most Deadheads consider the good years. And there’s lots of interesting information, but there’s not much that hasn’t been told.

If you’ve read other books about the Grateful Dead, you’ll probably find that this one has little to offer. If you haven’t read any, then check out the recent One recent book that tells it well is So Many Roads, or any of the many books about the band that have been written. There’s a lot to say about the Grateful Dead, and Bill Kreutzmann doesn’t really say much.