March 2, 2021
On May 5th, 1965, a young drummer named Bill Kreutzmann took the stage two days before his 19th birthday with a new little jug band called The Warlocks for their first-ever gig at a pizza parlor in Palo Alto, CA. That band would eventually change its name to the Grateful Dead and go on to become one of the most musically and culturally influential bands of all time. Today, as we celebrate Kreutzmann’s birthday today, we take a look back at some of our favorite Billy moments from years past.As one-half of the Dead’s legendary two-piece rhythm section (along with Mickey Hart), Kreutzmann helped define the role of the jam band drummer by both propelling the full band’s improvisations and taking the audience on a percussion-only journey with a nightly “Drums” segment. Check out this video of one of our favorite “Drums”, from Halloween 1980 at Radio City Music Hall.[Video: Music Vault]Though many years have passed, Bill and Mickey—also known as the Rhythm Devils—are just as creative and inventive as ever. If you need proof, take a listen to this mind-blowing “Drums” from Dead & Company’s July 30th, 2016, show at Shoreline Amphitheatre with help from Oteil Burbridge and a famous fan—NBA legend Bill Walton.[Video: MrTopdogger]Even since Jerry Garcia’s untimely passing in 1995, Kreutzmann has continued to tour heavily, keeping the spirit and music of the Grateful Dead alive with a variety of outfits including The Other Ones, The Dead, The Rhythm Devils, and Dead & Company. Watch Kreutzmann perform with one of his newest solo project creations, Billy & the Kids, at Red Rocks in 2015.[Video: Samwise Gamgee]Bill has also been known to make surprise appearances when the mood strikes him, from inconspicuously joining a street performer’s drum jam in San Francisco to jumping in with an unwitting Wes Williams Band for an emotional performance of “Scarlet Begonias” in New Orleans.In addition to his musical prowess, Billy has proven to be a highly entertaining historian for the band. In his 2015 memoir Deal: My Three Decades of Drumming, Dreams, and Drugs with the Grateful Dead, Kreutzmann goes into gritty detail about the band’s long, strange trip. Ever hear about the time they dosed the camera crew with LSD during the taping of their guest appearance on Hugh Hefner’s “Playboy After Dark” show? Watch Bill tell the hilarious story on Conan.[Video: Team Coco]Happy birthday, Billy! Here’s to many more years worth of music and memories!