The Glee cast has done it again, and also defied the expectations of their fans – except a small subset of their fans, Grateful GLEEk’s. After the huge success of their star themed shows, including Madonna, Elton John and Lady Gaga, the cast of Glee will be singing an episode that is chock full of songs written by the songwriting duo of Jerry Garcia and Robert Hunter – songs that have primarily been performed by the legendary psychedelic San Francisco band, the Grateful Dead. The episode is slated for the 2011-2012 season.
Glee executive producer of music Adam Anders said that the entire production is really excited about this short strange trip into uncharted space. “We wanted to do something different, go a little further than we’ve gone before” said Anders in an exclusive phone call with DHL, “And the answer was around the corner just waiting to meet us. A fan group wrote a letter, and Viola! We we’re searching for a sound. It feels like a stranger… but Glee will survive!”
Anders explained that there is a group of Glee fans called the Grateful GleeKs, and they even have their own Facebook group where they track the “set lists” of each episode of the show.
The group was started by Lindsay Weir, who is not related to Grateful Dead rhythm guitar player Bob Weir. Weir is a single mom who works as an ER Nurse, and she is also a self proclaimed Deadhead and GleeK.
“I discovered the music of the Grateful Dead in high school,” shared Weir, “I even ran off on Dead tour one summer in a Volkswagen bus, though my parents thought I was going to scholars camp or something like that! I was turned onto the Dead by my guidance counselor of all people – he was an old hippie, kind of a geek, but cool, and a good influence on me. I love how on Glee, music is shared between the teachers and students, everyone get into the act, and explore different genre’s of popular music. It reminds me of my high school years, except we listened to more hard rock. At least my friends did, though I think we were kind of the freaks of our school.”
Lindsay says the Deadhead style of keeping track of the set lists was her inspiration to start her Grateful Gleek’s page, and while most of the fans of the page are not Deadheads like her, they share her enthusiasm for knowing what songs were played each night Glee is on. Deadheads for many years have written down and shared set lists of the music their favorite band played. With every Grateful Dead concert being a different set list than before, these set lists were each unique, and Deadheads would actively want to know “what the boys played last night”.
“I started keeping set lists, because it is something to do, I almost always have a pen and a little notepad handy. I write down set lists for everything, any music I see, and even song lists from movies and TV shows.” While she admits to this being a little obsessive, Weir giggled that the habit helps her “get her space together to enjoy the show.”
Glee is a phenomena similar to the Grateful Dead – in that there are obsessive fans, called GleeK’s, who love everything the show and it’s cast does. Lindsay started watching the show with her young daughter Monet, but admits it immediately became her favorite show. “I think I wrote out the set list for the first episode, and I realized there was a simple profundity to it; the order of the songs meant something. After a few weeks, I started my Facebook group to share the set lists with other Grateful GleeK’s.
“When they started doing episode’s based on individual artists, I so wanted them to do some Garcia/Hunter tunes. There are so many good songs, and I couldn’t wait to hear Finn do ‘Sugaree’ or Rachel do ‘It Must’ve Been The Roses’. I really want to see Puck do ‘Black Peter’ too. I started a petition, “Please do an episode of Glee featuring the songs of Jerry Garcia and Robert Hunter”, and then it started to snowball like 900,000 tons of steel coming down the track! Well we didn’t get that many signatures, but I knew one way or another… I knew it had to give. Sure didn’t know what I was going for… maybe going on a feeling.” Weir stated that she much prefers the songs of Garcia and Hunter to those of her namesake, Bob Weir, who wrote songs with John Barlow for the Grateful Dead.
While most of the cast is not familiar with the songs, cast member Jane Lynch (Sue Sylvester on the show) has actually been to a few Grateful Dead concerts in the past. When asked what her favorite Garcia/Hunter tune was she replied “ “Scarlet Begonia’s"” of course!” She thinks the song “Foolish Heart” could also be a great one, perhaps sung by her character to Will Schuster (played by Mathew Morrison).
Mark Salling, who plays “Puck” the mohawked football player turned Glee Club singer, says that he is not a big fan of the Grateful Dead. But he hope’s this will open a door to some other music. “I love Widespread Panic. I hope they let us do some Panic at some point. ‘Love Tractor’ is a great song. And I really like to watch Dave Schools play bass; he has the coolest hair too!”
Asked how Deadheads might respond to this episode, producer Anders was certain that the episode will honor the spirit of the Grateful Dead, and that he hopes the fans start to watch his show. “If the Deadheads get into it, we hope the Glee cast tours can go on and on, and the fans of the band can follow us”.
When asked if it was hard to make the deal go down, Anders said that while there was no easy answer, the Estate of Jerry Garcia was waiting for a deal like this to come around. “I can’t tell the future, just looked at what was in my hand.”