"The hardest part of being the Grateful Dead's publicist was convincing the media that Dead Heads were diverse, thoughtful, and not infrequently accomplished. If I'd just had a copy of Peter Conners' Growing Up Dead, I could have simply handed it out. The Dead Head subculture was rich and fascinating, and this book is a terrific documentation of it."
--Dennis McNally, Grateful Dead publicist and historian author of A Long Strange Trip
Told against the backdrop of the American landscape of the late '80s to the mid-'90s, Growing Up Dead is the story of Peter Conners's journey from straight-laced suburban kid to touring Deadhead. Peter discovered the Grateful Dead in 1985, at the age of 15, through friends who exchanged bootleg tapes of live Grateful Dead concerts. A teenager living in the suburbs of Rochester, New York, he became exposed to an entirely new way of life, and friends who were enjoying more freedom and less parental guidance. At the age of 16, he attended his first Grateful Dead concert on June 30, 1987 - he was hooked. Between 1987 and 1995, Conners would attend Dead 'shows' all over the United States. He traveled with a makeshift 'family' of other Deadheads in a Volkswagen camper, selling drugs and whatever else would provide gas money to the next concert. His hair was a wild, unkempt bush and baths were infrequent. In short, he had progressed from suburban kid, to Grateful Dead fan, to full-blown Deadhead. Chronicling this progression, which culminates with the 1995 death of Jerry Garcia, Conners reveals the truth behind Deadhead culture and history. The result is a riveting insight into the obsessive fandom that made The Grateful Dead the most successful touring band of all time, as well as a cultural phenomenon.
"Poet and editor Conners (Emily Ate the Wind) offers a perspective often missing from other Dead chronicles: that of one of the suburban teens in the late 1980s and early 1990s who dropped out of high school and/or college to follow a band whose members were 30 years their senior. Unlike most Dead fans (and rock critics) from the 1960s and 1970s, the band’s music wasn’t the most important thing to Conners and his Gen-X companions—the focus was on “becoming and living as a Deadhead outside the Grateful Dead concert.” So while Conners offers some earnest and often hilarious chapters about his teenage stoner life (“One of the problems with teenage drug abuse is that you never get to know what your adult brain would be like without it”), his most inventive chapters offer second-person accounts of what really went on at a typical Dead show in the 1980s. “You are thrilled. You score acid. You smoke the Indica. You eat some mushrooms.... The situation is post-verbal.”"
--Publishers Weekly, January 2009