Birth Name: William Kreutzmann Jr
Born Palo Alto, California
Kicked out of sixth grade music class by a teacher who said “Billy can’t keep a beat”. He hopped on his bike and headed into downtown Palo Alto to find a drum instructor. He spotted a sign on a house that belonged to Lee Anderson. Kreutzmanm became a fixture in a neighborhood populated with bohemians. Ken Keesey was writing ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s’ Nest” nearby. During breaks he met an assortment of interesting folk hanging out at a nearby club called the Chateau.
In High School one fine day, Billy met Aldous Huxley who encouraged him to keep on drumming. He knew what he wanted to do. In 1964 he played in a band called ‘The Legends’. By the end of that year he met Jerry Garcia at Dana Morgan’s Music Store. Jerry bought an old banjo from Billy’s father. Before his 19th birthday he joined ‘The Warlocks’, which morphed into the Grateful Dead.
In the early days he used a fake draft card as ID so he could play in bars. He enjoyed the blues oriented music with Pigpen singing lead and getting the audience involved. He was free to experiment with syncopated rhythms and numerous time signatures. He improved as a drummer and musician in the company of his bandmates. Yet soon, he would meet someone that would alter his cosmic journey, and his career, Mickey Hart.
In the fall of 1967 Kreutzmann and Hart met. Mickey attended a concert at the Matrix and found the music stimulating. He talked to Billy after the set and before long joined the band. Two drummers in the rock world were a novelty. Along with The Allman Brothers and Traffic, the Grateful Dead were one of the few bands to feature two drummers. Using each other as a sounding board they achieved a level of synchronicity that was astounding. From 1978 until 1995 they contributed lengthy jams that earned them the nick-name ‘Rhythm Devils.’
Kreutzmann performed at every concert from 1965 to 1995. After Jerry’s demise, he kept a promise he’d made to Garcia and moved to Hawaii, where he lives to this day. He spends a good deal of his time in the ocean, growing amazing flowers and enjoying his family. Since the break -up of the Grateful Dead, Billy has formed a number of bands including ‘Backbone’, ‘Rhythm Devils and 7 Walkers. He also played in BK3 and House of Spirits. Billy is enjoying the sun and is still banging the drums.
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