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Bill Kreutzmann, c. 1975
|Birth name||William Kreutzmann Jr.|
May 7, 1946|
Palo Alto, California
|Origin||San Francisco, California|
William Kreutzmann Jr. (// KROYTS-mahn; born May 7, 1946) is an American drummer. He played with the Grateful Dead for its entire thirty-year career, usually alongside fellow drummer Mickey Hart, and has continued to perform with former members of the Grateful Dead in various lineups, and with his own bands BK3, 7 Walkers and Billy & the Kids.
Kreutzmann was born in Palo Alto, California, the son of Janice Beryl (née Shaughnessy) and William Kreutzmann Sr. His father was of German descent. His maternal grandfather was football coach and innovator Clark Shaughnessy.
Kreutzmann started playing drums at the age of 13. At first he practiced on a Slingerland drum kit lent to him. As a teenager, practicing drums alone in a large building at his high school, Aldous Huxley and another man walked in. Huxley told Bill he'd never heard anything like it, and encouraged him in his drumming – despite the fact Bill had been told by his sixth grade music teacher that he could not keep a beat. Kreutzmann continued to practice a great deal. His earliest enthusiasm was for the music of Ray Charles and other R&B musicians. He has explained that later he learned some advanced technique or tricks from Mickey Hart.
Kreutzmann listened to jazz groups in clubs when he found an opportunity for an under-age guy to get in. After joining the Warlocks (later called the Grateful Dead), bassist Phil Lesh introduced him the work of one of the top jazz drummers of the time, Elvin Jones.
At the end of 1964 Kreutzmann co-founded the band the Warlocks, along with Phil Lesh, Jerry Garcia, Bob Weir, and Ron "Pigpen" McKernan. Their first gig was May 5, 1965, two days before Kreutzmann's nineteenth birthday. During the band's early days, Kreutzmann sometimes used a fake draft card with the name "Bill Sommers" to be admitted to bars where the band was playing, since he was underage. In November 1965, the Warlocks became the Grateful Dead.
Meeting fellow percussionist Mickey Hart in the fall of 1967 had a big impact on Kreutzmann's career. Hart soon joined the Dead, making it one of the first (and few) rock bands to feature two drummers. The combination of their playing was an important part of the band's sound and earned them the nickname "the Rhythm Devils" (the name being quipped to them by Francis Ford Coppola). Their lengthy drum duets were a feature of nearly every show from 1978 to 1995, and are documented in a number of recordings by the band.
Kreutzmann remained with the Grateful Dead until its dissolution after the death of Jerry Garcia in 1995, making him one of four members to play at every one of the band's 2,300 shows, along with Garcia, Weir and Lesh.
In 1998, former Grateful Dead members Bob Weir, Phil Lesh, and Mickey Hart formed a band called the Other Ones, which played a number of shows as part of the Furthur Festival. The band did not play live in 1999. Then, in 2000, Kreutzmann joined The Other Ones.
In 2003, they changed their name to The Dead. The Dead played a number of live concerts in 2003, 2004 and 2009. Kreutzmann collaborated with Journey guitarist Neal Schon, Sy Klopps, Ira Walker, and Ralph Woodson to form the Trichromes in 2002. They released an EP, Dice with the Universe, and an album, Trichromes.
During 2006, Kreutzmann teamed up with fellow Grateful Dead drummer Mickey Hart, Phish bassist Mike Gordon, and former The Other Ones guitarist Steve Kimock to form the Rhythm Devils. The band features songs from their respective former bands as well as new songs written by Jerry Garcia's songwriting companion Robert Hunter. The Rhythm Devils played their first tour in 2006, which ended at the popular Vegoose festival in Las Vegas, Nevada over the Halloween weekend. In 2008 they released a DVD called The Rhythm Devils Concert Experience.
In 2009, Oteil Burbridge was replaced by former Neville Brothers and longtime Bonnie Raitt bassist James "Hutch" Hutchinson. Hutchinson had performed with Kreutzmann, Papa Mali and keyboardist Matt Hubbard earlier in the year at a New Year's Eve concert in Haiku on the island of Maui. Some 2009 shows also featured Donna the Buffalo singer/instrumentalist Tara Nevins. In February 2010 the trio played several concerts with Burbridge again assuming the bassist role. On August 2, 2009, Kreutzmann played with Phish during most of the 2nd set at Red Rocks Amphitheatre.
In 2010, Kreutzmann formed a new band, called 7 Walkers, with guitarist Papa Mali, multi-instrumentalist Matt Hubbard, and bassist Reed Mathis. They toured the southern U.S. in the spring of 2010, with George Porter, Jr. playing bass while Mathis toured with Tea Leaf Green.
In October 2014, he announced he had formed a new band, called Billy & the Kids, which would begin performing live in December. The other band members are Reed Mathis on bass, Aron Magner of the Disco Biscuits on keyboards, and Tom Hamilton Jr. of American Babies on guitar and vocals.
Kreutzmann's memoir, Deal: My Three Decades of Drumming, Dreams, and Drugs with the Grateful Dead, was published by St. Martin's Press on May 5, 2015.
Starting in 2015, Bill Kreutzmann formed Dead and Company with former Grateful Dead members Bob Weir and Mickey Hart, with other members including Jeff Chimenti, Otiel Burbridge, and John Mayer. They toured in late 2015, 2016, 2017 and have tours scheduled in 2018 as well.
In 1995, Kreutzmann produced a film called Ocean Spirit. The film is a documentary about the six-week expedition that involved a 3,000-mile ocean voyage from San Francisco to the Revillagigedo Islands, 400 miles southwest of Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. Kreutzmann is featured in the film and was the executive producer. Wesley C. Skiles, noted underwater filmmaker, wrote and directed the project. "We went with no preconceived notions," says Kreutzmann, "except that we were committed to the concept of nonintrusive interaction. We were seeking a way to go beyond our own boundaries as human beings, to meet with the creatures of the sea on their terms. And I hoped somehow to combine film and music to capture that moment of contact." The film has a strong environmental message and "exquisite photography", wrote John Metzger of the Music Box.
Kreutzmann also does work as a visual artist that began in 1993 when he acquired his first computer, a Powerbook 540C with Photoshop installed. Jerry Garcia, already a proficient computer artist, taught Kreutzmann the basics. In 2001, he began releasing limited edition reproductions of his digital artwork. His work can be found at Walnut Street Gallery.
Kreutzmann's son Justin is a film and video director. Justin Kreutzmann directed Backstage Pass, a 35-minute Grateful Dead music documentary video that was released in 1992, and Dead Ringers: The Making of Touch of Grey, a 30-minute documentary released in 1987. In 2001, Justin assisted in the early stages of An Ox's Tale, a documentary about the late John Entwistle, bassist for The Who. Currently he maintains a blog called "Rock and Reel", which covers rock history and his current projects. Already having worked on numerous projects with Pete Townshend, he is the chief cameraman for Townshend's partner Rachel Fuller. Justin's recent works include Rock 'n' Roll Band, a concert film of the music group Tea Leaf Green, and a film, Fragments, a documentary of The Who's 2006–2007 tour. He is a producer of a documentary film about the Grateful Dead called Long Strange Trip, released in May 2017 by Amazon Films, with Martin Scorsese as an executive producer.
On October 29, 2010, Bill Kreutzmann endorsed Proposition 19, which would have legalized marijuana in California. Kreutzmann made the endorsement on the California Marijuana Report radio show. "I smoke marijuana and I'm not a criminal; please vote Yes on 19", Kreutzmann told Eric Brenner, the show's host. "Jerry Garcia would have voted Yes," he added.
As band leader
With other artists