Keith Godchaux

The intricate and varied musical and personal relationships that formed in the late-'60s/early-'70s cultural scene spewed forth plenty of fertile collaborations. However, as unmystical as it sounds, it was merely a matter of timing in the case of Keith Godchaux and the Grateful Dead as their then keyboardist, Ron "Pigpen" McKernan, was about at the tail end of the physical ravages of alcoholism. Born July 19, 1948, in San Francisco, CA, Godchaux grew up in Concord with a father who was a professional pianist and singer. Godchaux was trained in classical music at a young age, but spent his teen years performing at country clubs and in various bands; his earlier musical attempts tended to lean more toward jazz than rock & roll. While bumming around the California music scene in 1970, he met Donna Jean Thatcher and they married shortly afterward. Plenty of musical opportunities abounded during that time and Godchaux made the rounds. He was drawn to one band in particular -- the Grateful Dead -- and one day decided he wanted to be in the band. Not knowing the band's own keyboardist, Ron "Pigpen" McKernan, was falling ill, his timing was sadly convenient for both parties. He joined on to play keyboards and sing and soon after, his wife was asked to join as well, and they stayed on from October 1971 to February 1979. The band, at the time, consisted of Jerry Garcia (guitar, vocals), Bob Weir (guitar, vocals), Phil Lesh (bass), Bill Kreutzmann (percussion), Mickey Hart (percussion), and the ailing Pigpen (keyboards).

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