Grateful Dead Drummer: Jerry Garcia 'Wasn’t Really Happy Playing' at Band's End

Grateful Dead
Leaving the Grateful Dead behind in 1995 was as much a defining force in drummer Bill Kreutzmann's life as was forming the band with Jerry Garcia, Phil Lesh, Bob Weir and Ron “Pigpen" McKernan 30 years earlier. And, in some ways, he's still dealing with the fallout.

As Kreutzmann discusses exclusively with Rolling Stone, when the group disbanded following Garcia's untimely death, he took off for Hawaii and disappeared for awhile. Part of the reason for Kreutzmann's reclusive period was to honor his word to his fallen band mate and partly to get his health—and his head—back together. Surprisingly, he says that he believes the Grateful Dead were at the end of the line, even if Garcia had survived.

And while Kreutzmann toured off and on with Grateful Dead spinoff bands such as the Dead and the Other Ones throughout the following decade, it wasn't until much more recently that he finally found a musical project as satisfying as performing in the Grateful Dead proper.

Last year, Kreutzmann formed 7 Walkers with bluesman Papa Mali, bassist George Porter Jr. (the Meters) and keyboardist Matt Hubbard (Willie Nelson). Joined by special guest Steve Kimock on guitar—and featuring ample cameos from Karl Denson and the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, among others.

The group set sail on the high seas with Jam Cruise last week, performing a pair of shows on a sold-out ship bound for Haiti, Jamaica and all points jammed between. Between his sets with 7 Walkers and late-night appearances in the never-ending Jam Room, Kreutzmann sat down with Rolling Stone in the ship's wine bar to take a look back at yet another long strange trip.

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