Grateful Dead Days

Grateful Dead, Tie Dye, Magic & Consciousness

  In the early days the Grateful Dead experience was all about the magic and the consciousness of a new era. I was fortunate to come onto the scene in those magical times, and can now share a part in Rock History. There was a renaissance of consciousness about living a lifestyle that was in tune with Mother Earth. It was about seeking out one's own spiritual path and living in an awareness of a better way. Love, Peace and freedom was the theme. All us hippies had an aliveness and awareness beyond our times. We were untouched by social stigmas, we felt free!  Music, marijuana, LSD, harmony with nature were our influences and love was in the air!

  My psychedelic tie dye art reflected that magic we all were experiencing. Our creativity was at a peak with the flux and flow of this cosmic consciousness riding in on the waves of the music, and colour.

  I was commissioned to dye speaker fronts for the Bands stage speakers and my work was soon a hit with the Grateful Dead fans as well. Tie dye was hip. We were an enigma for sure to the straight society we grew up in, and were loving every minute of our differences. We were truly the new Counterculture of our time and that movement still exists today.

I did speaker fronts for the Grateful Dead stage and Mandalas and Tie dye shirts for just about everyone in the G.D. family and scene in those early days of the 70's.


Grateful Dead at the Greek - 1981

  Later I was commissioned by Bill Graham Productions to create entire backgrounds for the stage such as this one at the Greek Theatre Berkeley in 1981. I did this tie dye backdrop in about 200 hours work, sometimes going non-stop with just cat naps to get it completed in time for the shows. There were 16 panels individually dyed and sewn together to create the backdrop. After the concert I sold each panel separately to people who had come to me during the concert wanting a piece of history, they paid for them on the spot. I got $300 a piece for each panel, which was a good payday for those days.


  I had a tie dye set up going outdoors during good weather. I would work non stop for days at a time when I had a project or commission to fulfill. The backdrop panels were dyed at the dye set featured in this photo. This was at my dear friend's house Downtown Deb and Alan Trist's house in San Anselmo, Marin county, California.

  Many friends from the Grateful Dead would come by. I remember our old friend Peter Monk was there, and Alan would be around quite often. I would tie at night and dye outside in the daytime. It was a wonderful setting out in the sunshine, creating a kind of Alchemical magic with fabric and dyes. I would make these Mandalas and backgrounds for the stage in a Zen, meditative state, focusing on Universal Source and calling on my higher presence to bring in the beauty of the light, colour and mystical to create something magical.

Read The Long Strange Golden Road Chapter 1: Courtenay's introduction to Grateful Dead and the stage sets first commission.