Ron “Pigpen” McKernan Episode 1: Fueled by Thunderbird, Taught by a Nine-Fingered Wizard, and Saving Woodstock

34 minutes

Ron "Pigpen" McKernan was the primary figure and driving force at the core of the Grateful Dead's origin story. He was an old soul, a digger of deep moods, a devotee of biker chic, and a tireless student of the blues. His devotion to classic Americana kept the band grounded even when they found themselves lost in experimental improvisation. But as the Dead evolved and became more famous, Pigpen became more of an outlier. While the rest of the band dropped acid, he drank Thunderbird. While they looked to the future for a new strain of American music, he looked back to the past. And by the time he died in 1973 at the age of 27, the band that Pigpen had started all those years ago no longer had room for him.


A Long Strange Trip: The Inside Story of the Grateful Dead, by Dennis McNally

Searching for the Sound, by Phil Lesh

This Is All a Dream We Dreamed: An Oral History of the Grateful Dead, by Blair Jackson and David Gans

The Grateful Dead FAQ: All That’s Left to Know About the Greatest Jam Band in History, by Tony Sclafani

San Francisco Blues, by Jack Kerouac

5 Logistical Woodstock Nightmares We Can Learn From (Prevue Meetings)

The Grateful Dead at Woodstock 1969 (Bethel Woods)

Debunking Woodstock: What really happened? (Today)

The Grateful Dead (Woodstock Wiki)

The Dead At Woodstock (Dead Essays)

Grateful Dead at Woodstock (YouTube)

Owsley Stanley Interview (KPFA)

Grateful Dead Guide: Pigpen Solo (Dead Essays)

White people, blues music and the problem of cultural appropriation (Medium)

'Pigpen' McKernan Dead at 27 (Rolling Stone)

Jerry's Brokendown Palaces: Dana Morgan's Music Store

Bob Weir on meeting Jerry Garcia (Vimeo)

The Grateful Dead: Making the Scene in Palo Alto (Palo Alto History)

Live at Top of the Tangent

Fact-checking the Life and Death of Bluesman Robert Johnson (Mother Jones)

The Sad Story Of Robert Johnson (Radio Facts)

Robert Johnson: Murder or Bad Whiskey? (Criminal Element)

David “Honeyboy” Edwards on Robert Johnson and Mississippi Delta Blues (Chicago Magazine)

Robert Johnson: Unlock the guitar mysteries of the Delta blues great (Guitar World)

The Not-So-Mysterious Missing Grave of Blues Legend Robert Johnson (Atlas Obscura)

Greatest Stories Ever Told - "Easy Wind" (

For behind the scenes info and news on this episode, follow:

Instagram: @DoubleElvis @Disgracelandpod 

Twitter: @DoubleElvisFm @Disgracelandpod

Tik Tok: @Disgracelandpod

Pinterest: @doubleelvisfm 

Facebook: Double Elvis Productions

Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Amy Winehouse and many more musical icons all died at the age of 27. Scandalous, tortured, dramatic, and incredibly talented, these artists torched a wild path to their early graves and shifted and shaped our culture along the way. 27 Club tells their stories. 27 Club is hosted and created by Jake Brennan, host and creator of the award-winning music and true crime podcast DISGRACELAND. 27 Club is not a journalistic podcast. It is an entertainment podcast inspired by true events. For more shows like 27 Club, check out

See for privacy information.

More episodes from 27 Club

Presenting Disgraceland Season 11

Shootouts, drug running, crashing cars and planes, and walks on the wild side. It's almost here: find out which musical icons are featured in Season 11 of Disgraceland. New episodes drop …

Gram Parsons: A Stolen Body, Heroin, More Rolling Stones and Cosmic American Music

This episode of Disgraceland was previously exclusive but is now available wherever you get your podcasts. You can now listen to season 7 of Disgraceland in its entirety with episodes on …

Ron “Pigpen” McKernan” Episode 10: Good, Old, Grateful, and Dead

Ron “Pigpen” McKernan’s lifelong devotion to drinking wasn’t the cause of his medical issues – chalk those up to a genetic disease. But no matter how …

Ron “Pigpen” McKernan” Episode 9: Conquering Europe, Wasting Away, and Making a Last Stand

Against doctor’s orders, Ron “Pigpen” McKernan hit the road one more time with the Grateful Dead. The band’s 1972 tour of Europe is legendary. But at …

Ron “Pigpen” McKernan Episode 8: Turning off the Love Light, Long-Awaited Redemption, and a Deadly Diagnosis

A dark cloud of death hung over the Grateful Dead as they went into the studio to make what is arguably their masterpiece, American Beauty. Janis …

How you can listen to this podcast

You can listen to episodes right here on the website, or if you prefer, in a podcast app. Listening in an app makes it easier to keep track of what you’ve already heard, listen without using your data plan and many other conveniences.

Recommended apps
Start listening to Presenting Disgraceland Season 11
Start listening to Presenting Disgraceland Season 11