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‘THE VERY BEST OF THE DEAD LETTERS’ – Grateful Dead fan-mail

‘THE VERY BEST OF THE DEAD LETTERS’ – Grateful Dead fan-mail

Paul Grushkin
Voyageur Press 2011 – Hardcover, 208 pages, Dimensions: 11″ x 9.4

There is an apparently endless stream of Grateful Dead merchandise appearing in  every corner of the world.  This is this the collective story of a love affair between this seminal roots band and its fans. Author Paul Grushkin recently revealed that he was on a mission to get “inside” of the Dead world way back in the 1980s. He worked for  promoter Bill Graham, and also co-authored a similar thematic The Official Book of the Dead Heads. Grushkin cleverly colors each chapter with fact-filled trivia, which adds  to this fascinating book. Its full of  appealing drawings and sketches from fans who were trying to gain the attention of the Dead’s ticket office in hopes of catching the decision makers’ eyes- using colorful pictorials and pithy phrases.

This book is gorgeous and is typical of Voyageur Press books. The outer cover is attention-catching, rich and lush; there’s even a small windowpane that opens to show off a skeleton; it’s truly a one-off. The book is entirely printed on very high-quality paper stock, and the whole book is of superior quality, it is a high-quality construction, top-shelf paper stock, and the content collected is personally enhanced by Grushkin.

Although  some may say the Dead declined decades prior to when Jerry Garcia passed on over fifteen years ago, no one can doubt the consistent and current popularity of the band. Rhino records (via continues its mission to offer four previously unreleased concert multi-disc CDs per year. Additionally, last autumn they released a limited-edition seventy-three-disc box set of each and every performance (twenty-plus shows) from their 1972 tour of Europe in 1972. Apparantly Phil Lesh had said this was a project he wanted to see completed before he went daisy pushing. Rhino sold out all 7,200 copies (not cheap) in a few days! So the buzz about the Grateful Dead continues, as evidenced by this intriguing book. This is an radically alternative way of  commemorating a band, being (for the most part) from the Dead’s adoring fans, so this is more of a behind-the-scenes publication, as opposed to an offering by an authors individual viewpoint. It is fascinating.

The book is essential to anyone with real interest in the Grateful Dead and the sub-culture attended them. On opening, you will be faced with what is really a book of illustrations with some narrative,t is the illustrations that the book is all about. The pictures consist in the main of the envelopes sent to the Grateful Dead’s ticket office, and what envelopes these are, some so elaborate that they must have taken many hours to create. In fact the artwork must be seen to be believed. It ranges from expressionist & impressionistic styles, through sharply defined drawings to almost primitive child-like drawings. Most are full of color, the rest are sometimes finely drawn pen and ink impressions, or shaded pencil sketches. In the best of these drawings, the more you look the more you see

There’s also a forward and appreciation by Bill Walton, and a preface a letter written by Jerry “Cap’n Trips” Garcia. Every one of the 14 chapters is aimed at a different area of mail to The Dead (“Dead Freaks Unite”, “Ticket Sales”, “Song Interpretations”, “Concerts and Tours”, “Band Members”, “The Second Set” (where the drawings take a decided bent), etc. and each chapter has a short essay on that particular topic, this sets set the scene for the following artwork . There’s also a 2 page list of the all the peeps who worked in mail order ticket sales-that’s a nice touch.


If you don’t know about Paul Grushkin,  well he is the author and co-author of four best-selling rock & roll histories, collectively selling over one million copies.

His books include

ROCKIN’ DOWN THE HIGHWAY: The Cars and Stars that Made Rock Roll
Voyageur Press/MBI Publishing (October, 2006)

ART OF MODERN ROCK: The Poster Explosion
co-authored with Dennis King
Chronicle Books (2004)

co-authored with Joel Selvin
Rare Air (2000)

THE ART OF ROCK: Posters from Presley to Punk
Abbeville Press (1987)

co-authored with Cynthia Bassett and Jonas Grushkin
Wm. Morrow (1983)

Paul Grushkin is a graduate of Stanford University (1974) and  resides with his family in Northern California.


There’s a real treasury of stuff about the Grateful Dead on-line

For starters try  and

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