It’s 1985 and Dead Heads are tailgating outside the Oakland Theater. Through the clouds of pot smoke, diehard fans, ticket holders, and troves of ticketless hopefuls hoping to score a sought-after ticket to the show float around the parking lot. Is tonight’s electric set going to last for four hours? Your average Dead Head carpooled to the venue, hitchhiking from state-to-state to catch the whole leg of the tour. Kinship was formed by Grateful Dead fans rooted in their love for the rock group, and nearly everyone was kicked into high gear for pregame mode before the show, outside the venue. Mushrooms and other drugs were passed around. Perhaps there would be a sing-along or two.
But what happens when Dead Heads fulfill their moniker and turn up, well, dead? Tenderfoot TV, Double Elvis, and Cadence13’s “Dead and Gone” investigates the murder of two devout Grateful Dead fans, and how their untimely deaths appear connected to other tragedies in the Dead Head community. There have been too many disappearances, deaths, and violent acts to go unnoticed. But how can we differentiate between pure coincidence and an active Grateful Dead-related killer on the loose? Listeners will find out over the course of the series.
When Mary Gioia and Greg Kniffin were beaten and shot in 1985 after attending a Grateful Dead concert, their bodies were found. Suspect Ralph Thomas was identified, convicted, and received the death penalty. Rumors have since spun that law enforcement convicted the wrong guy. Friends and other Dead Heads all have their own theories connected to the deaths, and speculate what happened. The podcast investigates the dark side of the Grateful Dead, that contrasts with its seemingly harmless ethos, and manifests as true crime in the Dead Heads’ community, as new leads are found and followed by the hosts.
Hosts Payne Lindsey and Jake Brennan will guide us through the rumors and investigate these strange cases. Payne also hosts the podcast “Up and Vanished.” Jake creates and hosts “Disgraceland” and “Blood on the Tracks.”
The first episode recaps the Grateful Dead’s history and culture. Payne speaks with Tennessee’s Todd Matthews, who considers himself one of the world’s first cybersleuths. In the 1990s, Todd began using the Internet to work on cold cases after first researching a Jane Doe case. He walks listeners through his investigation that leads to more Grateful Dead-related crime. In addition to a long list of deaths and the band’s mythology, we hear about fans buddying up with strangers and drug dealers to catch the entire tour.
Dozens of people went missing either while following the Grateful Dead on the road, or they were last seen leaving one of their concerts. A car en route to a show was found with unidentified bodies, and one was holding Grateful Dead tickets. Through the Dead Head grapevine, Payne learns the bodies’ identities and more pertinent information. By the third episode, we hear about a confrontation connected to Mary and Greg’s murders. The hosts speak with more Dead Heads by the fourth episode whose revelations guide Payne to witnesses who are willing to speak. Major breaks in the case appear by the seventh episode, and the investigation takes an unexpected turn.
All episodes are now available to stream, wherever you listen to your podcasts.