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Issue Date: April 2012

Road Trip

The newest exhibit at the Rock Hall looks inside the Grateful Dead on tour.
Erick Trickey

There aren't many signposts in Grateful Dead: The Long, Strange Trip. The exhibit, opening April 12 at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, isn't a linear journey through landmark albums and milestone concerts. The Grateful Dead were better known for their tours than their albums, so the Rock Hall's curators have organized the show like a caravan.

Fans who followed the Grateful Dead join the procession. So do tapers who collected recordings of shows. Fellow traveler Ken Kesey organizes "acid test" parties where the band played. Neal Cassady, inspiration for Jack Kerouac's On the Road, appears at a listening station, performing a rap in 1967 with the band's backing.

Like a touring van, the exhibit is packed full of instruments and gear, including eight guitars.

"The Dead's fans had a very deep personal connection to the band," says Rock Hall curatorial director Howard Kramer. "When they saw them, they were on stage performing with these instruments." The exhibit's guitars evoke moments in the band's development and the sound each musician wanted to create.

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