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GRATEFUL DEAD BLOGS:A TOUGH ACT TO FOLLOW
BY GLENN A SEGAL

Ron "Pigpen" Mc Kernan

Date of Birth: September 8, 1945

Birth Name: Ronald Charles McKernan

Born in San Bruno, California

Died March 8, 1973 Corte Madera, California

Who was one of three, founding members of the Grateful Dead?

A dynamo who powered the early evolution of the band. The hard edged blues front man, capable of laying down righteous vocals then breathing a heart wrenching measure or two on the harp.

That’s right Ron McKernan-‘Pigpen’

The original keyboardist for the Zodiac’s, Mother McCree’s Uptown Jug Champions, which evolved into The Warlocks. He was the son of an R&B Disk Jockey. Grew up emulating black bluesman such as Howlin Wolf, Rev. Gary Davis. Played guitar for wine on the streets of Palo Alto.

He soon found a kinship with the biker image and lifestyle which influenced the way he acted and dressed. He rather drink than smoke reefer, or trip. He had an ongoing fear that he would be dosed or give LSD without his knowledge and always drank from his own guarded bottle.

He was born Sept, 8 1945. At an early age his voice sounded mature. It resounded with hard edged experience. He taught himself piano. He observed pain and disappointment—translated it into a harmonica’s wail. As a blues vocalist and harmonica aficionado, few could compete with his range, or match the passion of his performances.

His inside did not match his rough exterior which harbored a sensitive individual. He took the changes of the band’s approach to heart, felt threatened by Tom Constanten and then Keith Godchaux. Never slowed the pace of a life that was destined to expire too early. By the beginning of the seventies his consistent abuse of alcohol started to ravage his liver.

They contributed to an ill fated set at Woodstock. Played the organ on the European tour of 72. By the time they arrived home he seldom left his house except on a few rare occasions. The last concert he played was June 17th 1972. On March 8th 1973 he succumbed to liver disease. He died in his home in Corte Madera, California.

He contributed to an ill fated set at Woodstock. Played the organ on the European tour of 72. By the time they arrived home he seldom left his house except on a few rare occasions. The last concert he played was June 17th 1972. On March 8th 1973 he succumbed to liver disease.

He died in his home in Corte Madera, California. You can still feel his energy at every concert his band mates participate in. He started the Grateful Dead down a road paved by the R&B heroes of another era. From those roots the Dead’s legacy emerged, combining, blue grass, reggae, jazz, country, blues and rock influences, into a vehicle that burst the boundaries of contemporary music. He was certainly one of a kind, and is still missed by his adoring fans.

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