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" (

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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

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