Branford Marsalis on Deadheads

Good follow-up to my previous post: jazz saxophone legend Branford Marsalis, a frequent guest player at Dead shows, gives his insights into the Dead community.

From a 1996 interview:


“When I was playing with Sting, the Sting fans would come to [my] jazz shows, and kind of sit through it and go ‘What the hell is this?’

They’d come backstage and say ‘Yeah, I loved you with Sting. Good night.’

The Dead fans, who… you can pretty much tell they’re Deadheads when they come in…

We’re playing jazz and all of the sudden you see people in the audience, [dances] ‘Woo!’, screaming, you know, and they’re like, talking about the records that they bought since they heard me with Jerry and the boys …

And every now and then you hear somebody in the back of the room say, ‘Dark Star, dude!’

When they really like you… they take you in.”


“Do you feel like it really opened them up musically? Like it turned them onto, say, your stuff, or other stuff that they might not normally have gotten to?”

“It’s not that it opens them up musically, because they’re pretty open to begin with.

That’s one of the things you notice at a Dead show that’s completely different. The opening act at a Dead show is actually listened to. Whereas in other concerts it’s just something going on as background …

They actually sit down and they listen to the opening act, no matter how many of them there were. That’s the first thing that caught me… ‘Wow, they’re actually listening to what we’re playing!’

We played a New Year’s show with the Dead once, with this band that I put together for it … It was all this music that Kevin [Eubanks] and I wrote in, like, the late 70s when the fusion thing was really big … we called the band the X-Men after the comic book …

We started playing all this music, this really wild-sounding stuff that’s really like that Mahavishnu bridge between, like, jazz, and like, advanced harmony …

We never played it again! And I still have Deadheads coming up and saying, ‘Man, that music you guys played at that show… when is that coming out on record?’

And they have the tapes. That’s one of the things that I always did like about the Dead.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *