Growing Up Dead (Paperback)

The Hallucinated Confessions of a Teenage Deadhead

By Peter Conners

Da Capo Press, 9780306817335, 274pp.

Publication Date: March 31, 2009

List Price: 15.99*
* Individual store prices may vary.


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.

About the Author

Peter Conners is author of a collection of prose poems, Of Whiskey and Winter, and a novella, Emily Ate the Wind, as well as editor of an anthology of avant-garde writing, PP/FF: An Anthology. He is founding co-editor of the online literary journal, Double Room: A Journal of Prose Poetry & Flash Fiction. His writing appears regularly in literary journals, magazines, and anthologies. He lives with his wife and three children in Rochester, New York, where he works as Editor and directs marketing for the non-profit literary publisher BOA

Praise For Growing Up Dead: The Hallucinated Confessions of a Teenage Deadhead

Publishers Weekly, 1/26/09
“Offers a perspective often missing from other Dead chronicles: that of one of the suburban teens who dropped out of high school and/or college to follow a band…Earnest and often hilarious…What really went on at a typical Dead show in the 1980s.”

Kirkus, 2/1/09
“Insightful and entertaining.”

Dennis McNally, author of A Long Strange Trip
“The hardest part of being the Grateful Dead’s publicist was convincing the media that Deadheads were diverse, thoughtful, and not infrequently accomplished. If I’d just had a copy of Growing Up Dead, I could have simply handed it out. The Deadhead subculture was rich and fascinating, and this book is a terrific documentation of it.”

Library Journal, 3/1/09
“Part memoir, part social history…[Conners has an] engrossing personal story and breezy style…Recommended for Dead followers and rock music fanatics.”

David Gans, host of the Grateful Dead Hour
“This is a very important addition to the Grateful Dead bookshelf: an honest, articulate, celebratory, and inspiring account of life on Dead tour in the 1980s. Peter Conners does a great job of describing the magic.”

Tucson Citizen, 4/9/09
“[Conners] attended nearly 100 Dead shows nationwide, traveling from place to place in a Volkswagen camper and, amazingly, lived to write about it.”

New York Post, 4/12/09
“[Conners] tells of his ‘long, strange trip.’”

The Onion (A.V. Club), 4/16/09
“What’s most valuable about Growing Up Dead is how easily Conners delineates the Deadhead mindset…He’s also good on the many, sometimes subtle ways this seemingly formless scene forms its own definite hierarchies…Growing Up Dead is a mixed bag, but an admirable one, not unlike The Grateful Dead itself.”

Albany Times Union, 4/16/09
“Part memoir, part music appreciation.”

Rochester Democrat & Chronicle, 4/24/09
“Isn't that a great title?...Anyone who ever loved any band or musician with a deep passion will identify with much in Conners' story…Also an entertaining look at a subculture.”

Augusta Metro Spirit, 4/29/09
“Stunning narrative…A must have for Deadheads, art fans, and cultural fiends.”

PopMatters, 3/30/09
“A Quick read precisely because Conners does not skimp on the riveting, less-than-flattering details…The narrative is exciting…As a personal memoir, Peter Conners’ Growing Up Dead is readable and honest, revealing…A pretty, good story.”

Rochester City Newspaper, 5/13/09
“The terms ‘Grateful Dead’ and ‘memoir’ don't usually mix, but in Peter Connors new book the two become synonymous…The book also tackles the psychedelic culture of love, music, and drugs.”

Princeton Record Exchange blog
“Fun and fascinating book…Written with intelligence, insight and humor, here’s a book that music buffs of any and every stripe can enjoy and appreciate.”

Relix, Aug/Sept 2009
“[An] honest, thoughtful, and an entertaining read.”

NPR: All Things Considered “Three Books” segment, by teacher writer Will Layman
“No music fan is more invested than a follower of the Grateful Dead. Peter Conners' new memoir, Growing Up Dead, chronicles the exhilaration of falling in love with music as if nothing else in life even remotely matters. Conners was an aimless 16 year old when he first heard the whirling, improvised rock of his heroes. He describes guitar runs that send "sparkler streams across the arena" and writes that the sound of a keyboard "swirls down your cochlea, expanding into warm chocolate behind your eyes." Music fans will understand: That's not LSD imagery but just the way music sounds when your surrender has no limit.” 

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