Skeleton Key: A Dictionary for Deadheads is 400 pages of lore, history, interviews, and thoughts on the "Meaning of It All" from what guitarist Jerry Garcia calls "the Grateful Dead outback" — the diverse global community that is nourished by the music of the Grateful Dead and the shared experience of Dead shows.
Skeleton Key is a labor of love and "deadication" by Deadheads David Shenk and Steve Silberman, published by Doubleday/Main Street Books in 1994. Skeleton Key celebrates the magic, humor, and significance of the Deadhead community, while it investigates the history of the Long Strange Trip — from the days of be-bop jazz and the Beat Generation writers whose literary adventures inspired many Deadheads' own on-the-road journeys, to now, when Deadheads swap tapes and tales around the virtual campfires of Deadhead cyberspace.
1995 marks the 30th year of the Dead's experiment in improvisational telepathy. Skeleton Key is the first detailed road map of the culture and lifeways of Deadheads, featuring interviews with hundreds of fans and family, including Elvis Costello and Bill Walton, and thoughts on the music and community by people like Dead lyricist Robert Hunter, mythographer Joseph Campbell, and Grateful Dead Hour host David Gans.
Skeleton Key features a foreword by John Perry Barlow, Dead lyricist and co-founder of the Electronic Frontier Foundation. The psychedelic lettering on the cover is by Alton Kelley, one of the original San Francisco poster artists, who also designed the covers for the Dead albums American Beauty and Europe '72. The icon on the cover of Skeleton Key is a 200-year-old Tibetan thangka used for meditation, of skeletons dancing in a cloud of fire, an image of enlightened consciousness awakening even in the midst of death.
We hope that whether you are a committed Deadhead, or just a curious Websurfer, you'll poke around this site and get a taste of the beauty, joy, humor, and mystery of Deadhead life. Feel free to pop on a tape and make yourself comfortable as the first notes sing your blues away, and you enter the Skeleton Zone...