Grateful Dead Archivist to Speak at Fairfield March 28
Nicholas Meriwether, the archivist for all things Grateful Dead, is the keynote speaker for the University’s 3rd annual Celebrating American Studies Conference, a free, public event to be held on Saturday, March 28.
Meriwether will deliver “Archiving the Counterculture and Raising the Dead: The Grateful Dead Archive and the Legacy of the Sixties” at 4 p.m. during the conference, which runs from 12 to 6 p.m. in the University’s Aloysius P. Kelley, S.J. Center Presentation Room.
Students, staff, faculty and the public are invited to Meriwether’s talk or the entire conference, which will include presentations by undergraduate and graduate students and alumni on a variety of topics under the 2015 theme “Race, Protest and American Culture.” The conference is sponsored, in part, by the Humanities Institute of the University’s College of Arts and Sciences.
Meriwether is the founding Grateful Dead archivist at the University of California–Santa Cruz, where he curates the massive collection donated by the band to the university in 2008. He graduated with honors from Princeton and completed his MLIS with honors at the University of South Carolina. His work on the Dead has appeared in a variety of popular and scholarly periodicals, including “All Graceful Instruments: The Contexts of the Grateful Dead Phenomenon” (Cambridge Scholars, 2007), “Reading the Grateful Dead: A Critical Survey” (Scarecrow Press, 2012) and “Studying the Dead, An Informal History of the Grateful Dead Scholars Caucus” (Scarecrow Press, 2013), all of which he edited. His co-edited “Pirates and Devils: The Unfinished Novels of William Gilmore Simms” was just published by the University of South Carolina Press.
Meriwether was recently named series editor of “Studies in the Grateful Dead,” a scholarly series to be published by the University of California Press. His other scholarship includes articles, chapters, and edited books on Southern history, American literature and rock music, as well as the occasional short story.
Though founding guitarist Jerry Garcia died in 1995, ending the band’s thirty-year odyssey, the Grateful Dead remains one of America’s most popular bands and scholarship on all aspects of its legacy continues to grow. The band’s decision to re-form for a set of 50th-anniversary concerts this summer in Chicago has thrust them back in the news.
“The Grateful Dead’s appeal both to fans and scholars is rooted in their commitment to their craft, but it extends beyond their musical achievement,” Meriwether said. “The Dead provide a way of getting at a host of topics that interest academics in a wide variety of fields, and that interest continues to grow.”
In November 2014, 124 presenters from 22 states and three foreign countries were part of “So Many Roads: The World of the Grateful Dead,” a four-day conference exploring the band’s impact that Meriwether co-directed. Dr. Philip Eliasoph, professor of art history at Fairfield, chaired a session, “The Fine Art of the Grateful Dead.”
“Unquestionably the Dead are champs as America's most worshipped, highly influential, multi-generational road band, appearing in over 2,300 concerts over 30 years, criss-crossing big city stadiums to cow-town dance halls,” said Dr. Eliasoph. “It's really going to be a treat hosting Meriwether for our enriching American Studies conference. His illuminating slide talk – a hybrid of intellectual curiosity and appreciative awe – will resurrect the Dead's storied past. We will discover a matrix between Beatnik literary icons as Ken Kesey, Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg, the band's experimental, jam-improvisational legacy, and the electrified pulse of the San Francisco psychedelic scene defining the transitional zeitgeist of the Sixties. Our community audience is warmly welcomed to join us knowing there are loyal Deadheads out there woven deeply into Connecticut's remarkably resilient fan base.”
The American Studies conference will conclude with a reception and informal concert with The Phantom Pluckers, a band organized by bassist/composer Brian Torff, Fairfield’s director of jazz and popular music.
To register for the conference or Meriwether’s talk, visit www.fairfield.edu/asconference. A special memento will be distributed for the first 100 persons registered.