The Grateful Dead is the debut album of the Grateful Dead. It was recorded by Warner Bros. Records, and was released in March 1967. According to bassist Phil Lesh in his autobiography Searching for the Sound: My Life with the Grateful Dead, the album was released as San Francisco's Grateful Dead.
The album was recorded primarily at Studio A in Los Angeles in only four days. The band had wanted to record the album in their hometown of San Francisco, but no good recording studios existed in the area at the time. The group picked David Hassinger to produce because he had worked as an engineer on the Rolling Stones' "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" and Jefferson Airplane's Surrealistic Pillow album (on the latter of which Jerry Garcia had guested as well having suggested the album's title).
Demands by Warner Bros. resulted in four of the tracks, originally longer, being cut short. Phil Lesh comments in his autobiography that "to my ear, the only track that sounds at all like we did at the time is Viola Lee Blues. ... None of us had any experience with performing for recording ... although the whole process felt a bit rushed." The album was seen as "a big deal in San Francisco." Even though this was true, it did not see much air play on AM radio stations outside San Francisco. It would be a couple of months before free-form FM radio stations began to take shape. Warner Bros. threw the band a release party at the Fugazi Hall in North Beach. Joe Smith is noted for saying he is "proud that Warner Bros. is introducing the Grateful Dead to the world."
A remastered version with the full versions of five album tracks, plus six bonus tracks, was released by Rhino as part of the box set The Golden Road (1965-1973) in 2001, and as a separate album in 2003.
The song "Alice D. Millionaire" was inspired by an autumn 1966 newspaper headline "LSD Millionaire", about the Dead's benefactor and sound engineer Owsley Stanley.
In the original design for the album cover, the cryptic writing at the top read, "In the land of the dark, the ship of the sun is driven by the Grateful Dead", with the phrase "Grateful Dead" in large letters. At the band's request, the writing, except for "Grateful Dead", was changed by artist Stanley Mouse to be unreadable. According to fan legend, the saying is from Egyptian Book of the Dead.
The band used the collective pseudonym McGannahan Skjellyfetti for their group-written originals and arrangements. The name derived from a corruption of a character name in the Kenneth Patchen work The Memoirs of a Shy Pornographer.
The entire LP was remixed in the early 1970s by the Grateful Dead themselves—the original mix is found on LPs bearing the Gold (1967 stereo/mono) Warner Brothers label or W7/WB dark green Warner Brothers label (1968-1971). The remix (palm trees Burbank label) differs significantly from the original 1967 release.
The album was reissued for Record Store Day 2011 on 180g vinyl cut from the original analog/mono masters from 1967. This is the first time in 40+ years it has been released in this form.
The 2013 high definition digital remastered release features the edited versions, as released in 1967, of the four tracks which were extended in the 2003 Rhino release.