25 Years After Jerry’s Passing, The Dead Remain Touring Legends

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– Jerryworld
Jerry Garcia and guest John Cipollina perform with the Grateful Dead at the Greek Theater in Berkeley, Calif., May of 1983.
When The Grateful Dead’s Jerry Garcia died 25 years ago this month on Aug. 9, 1995, it marked the end of one of the greatest rock ensembles and touring bands of the 20th century. The group that formed in Palo Alto, Calif., in 1965 ranked among the top five grossing tours in Pollstar for nine consecutive years – 1987-1995 – and twice at No. 1 (1991 and 1993).
Boxoffice figures paint a picture of the group’s prominence as a live entertainment powerhouse with data that stretches back to 1981. Even with sales tallies from just the last half of the group’s three-decade career, the numbers remain impressive. Results of 889 performances from the 1980s and ‘90s stored in the archives show more than 16 million tickets moved for an overall gross of $346 million, a sum that would easily be valued at over a half-billion dollars today.
With the unprecedented growth of touring revenues since 1995, one wonders what potential earnings might have been for The Grateful Dead if they could have continued touring another 25 years. A glance at boxoffice results for subsequent tours associated with the group’s surviving members gives us a clue. Sales data reported since 1995 for all performing entities by Grateful Dead members shows an overall gross near the $600 million range from almost 10 million sold tickets. 
These numbers include many shows at smaller venues as well as the sheds, arenas and stadiums that hosted the band in its heyday. Steady touring through the years at major venues would easily have catapulted Grateful Dead over the $1 billion threshold in ticket revenue – and that’s just from the 1980s and beyond.
But even without playing the “what-if” game, boxoffice excellence has been substantial for the band’s members during the years with Garcia and after. One of the greatest success stories was the 2015 “Fare Thee Well” trek that featured a reunion of original members Bob Weir, Phil Lesh, Bill Kreutzmann and Mickey Hart along with Trey Anastasio, Jeff Chimenti and Bruce Hornsby. 
Five shows that summer at two American stadiums – Chicago’s Soldier Field and Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif. – produced a $52.2 million haul from 361,933 tickets.
Then Dead & Company was formed the same year on the heels of “Fare Thee Well” and includes Weir, Hart and Kreutzmann along with John Mayer, Oteil Burbridge and Chimenti. 
Boxoffice sales reported to Pollstar have ranked the band among the top 100 tours every year since its beginning. So far, Dead & Company has grossed $250 million from 2.4 million sold tickets at 141 reported concerts.
Among the groups created by the original members following Garcia’s death were The Other Ones and The Dead that toured in the late ‘90s and early 2000s. Lesh and Weir formed Furthur in 2009 while Hart and Kreutzmann headed up the band Rhythm Devils. Bob Weir’s RatDog and Phil Lesh & Friends both toured extensively throughout the years with evolving lineups. Weir also toured more recently with Wolf Bros.
A glance at the vintage boxoffice archives shows the first Grateful Dead show reported was a May 4, 1981, event at the Spectrum in Philadelphia. With ticket prices of $9 and $11, the gross was $164,903 from 15,774 tickets. The final concert with Garcia, a two-night stand on July 8-9, 1995 at Soldier Field, grossed $3.6 million from 113,327 tickets. 
The largest gross was just $53,089 higher than that, however, but from nine shows. New York’s Madison Square Garden hosted The Grateful Dead for nine nights in September 1991, raking in $3.7 million with attendance logged at 163,932, the highest on record for the band.