[15][46] Ironically, McKernan was arrested and fined after the cannabis bust on November 9, 1967, at 710 Ashbury Street, the Dead's communal home, even though he did not use the drug. Year: 1973. The cause of death was undetermined. The son of one of the first white rhythm and blues disk jockeys, McKernan grew up around music. Born on September 8, 1945 in San Bruno, California as Ronald Charles McKernan, the musician grew up listening to R&B and blues courtesy of his DJ father, Phil McKernan. In contrast, though, McKernan was always encouraged to sing material live and left the group due to ill health, while Jones was fired. This included two songs recorded in 1964 with future Jefferson Airplane guitarist Jorma Kaukonen. A lifetime of alcoholism combined with hepatitis he contracted during the band's 1972 European tour severely damaged Pigpen's health. He was a member of the rock band Grateful Dead, in which he sung and played the keybord. Pigpen had a close relationship with Janis Joplin, with both preferring booze to drugs at the time. One day in February 1973, Ron “Pigpen” McKernan got out of bed in his apartment in Corte Madera, California, where he’d recently been spending most … [4] During the band's first year when they played straightforward blues, McKernan performed the majority of lead vocals, attracting an early audience that came specifically to see him sing and play harmonica. [49], In the early years of the Grateful Dead, McKernan was easily recognisable by his biker image, making him a minor celebrity. Road manager Jon McIntire commented that "Pigpen was relegated to the congas at that point and it was really humiliating and he was really hurt, but he couldn't show it, couldn't talk about it. Pianist Keith Godchauxwas subsequently hired and remained a regular member of the Grateful Dead until 1979. Via rollingstone.com. On the bootleg, McKernan played acoustic guitar and piano, instruments he seldom used with the Dead. As Beacham Journal reports, the young musician taught himself piano, guitar and harmonica while slowly growing a record collection of old blues 78s. McKernan sang, and played organ and harmonica. [29][30] Unlike fellow vocalists Garcia and Weir, he sang lead without playing any instrument except harmonica and actively interacted with the audience, occasionally walking out into the crowd. [3] Onomastician Adrian Room has suggested McKernan was given the name due to his untidy and unclean habits[8] and band biographies say he got the nickname owing to his similarity to Pig-Pen, the permanently-dirty character in the comic-strip Peanuts. Ron ‘Pigpen’ McKernan Ron McKernan, better known as Pigpen, was born in 1945 in California. But despite Pigpen's musical accomplishments, by 1971, the musician's health was severely compromised by alcoholism and resulting liver damage, prompting doctors to advise him to stop touring altogether, per Rock Scully's biography Living with the Dead: Twenty Years on the Bus with Garcia and the Grateful Dead. [11][12], The Dead's early sets centered around blues and R&B covers chosen by McKernan. One day in February 1973, Ron “Pigpen” McKernan got out of bed in his apartment in Corte Madera, California, where he’d recently been spending most … Founding vocalist and keyboard player Ron ‘Pigpen’ McKernan, a heavy drinker, died of liver failure in 1973. Ron “Pigpen” McKernan. "[34][35], McKernan was not a prolific songwriter, preferring to concentrate on blues covers and improvised lyrics. In light of the horrible tragedy in Little Rock on Sunday with the death of a young man of 24 years of age, I wanted to warn other young people of the dangers of alcohol and drugs. ", The Tragic Death Of Ron 'Pigpen' McKernan. Voice Type: Baritone Vocal Range: E♭2-E5 Associated Acts: Grateful Dead (1965-1972) Ron McKernan better known as his nickname "Pigpen" was the cofounder, organist and occasional percusionst from american band Grateful Dead since the beginning until his death at just 27 years old (It's considerate he belongs to "The 27 Club" too, altough not so famous as other musicians from that age … One joined the “27 Club” and the other left the drugs behind when he put his faith in Christ. Following a hiatus, he resumed touring with the group in December 1971 but was forced to retire from touring altogether in June 1972. Discover the real story, facts, and details of Ron Pigpen McKernan. [15] By the early 1970s, he also began to experience symptoms of congenital primary biliary cholangitis, a rare autoimmune disease which was unrelated to his use of alcohol. His father was a rhythm and blues disk jockey, so Pigpen got exposed to that type of music at an early age. The son of one of the first white rhythm and blues disk jockeys, McKernan grew up around music. The band’s members also included Jerry Garcia, Bill Kreutzmann, Phil Lesh, and Bob Weir. [27] During Tom Constanten's tenure with the group, McKernan occasionally played his bandmate's double-manual Vox Super Continental on select songs (most notably "Death Don't Have No Mercy") through May 1969. About Ron "Pigpen" McKernan Ronald Charles McKernan (September 8, 1945 – March 8, 1973), known as Pigpen, was an American singer and musician. [55] Though his contributions to the band had slowly diminished over the years, the other members were devastated at his death. He was a founding member of "Grateful … [6], McKernan began spending time around coffeehouses and music stores, and worked at Dana Morgan's Music Store in Palo Alto with Garcia. McKernan struggled to keep up with the changing music, causing the group to hire keyboardist Tom Constanten, with McKernan's contributions essentially limited to vocals, harmonica, and percussion from November 1968 to January 1970. Producers Terry Allen Fraser and Diana Raquel Sainz are embarking on a feature film about the music and life of Ron “Pigpen” McKernan. [4] As a youth, he taught himself blues piano, guitar and harmonica[5] and developed a biker culture image. After he was hospitalized in August 1971, doctors requested that he stop touring indefinitely. But unlike Joplin, Pigpen's passing was actually due to congenital biliary cirrhosis, a rare autoimmune disease that is unrelated to alcohol use. At the height of the Grateful Dead 's breakout success in the early 1970s, Ron "Pigpen" McKernan served as a driving force behind the jam band's legendary acclaim. Pigpen was born Ron McKernan on September 8, 1945 in Palo Alto, California, where he also grew up. Pigpen also made a name for himself by speaking directly to the audience during live shows, sizing up to be much more of a traditional frontman than Jerry Garcia. Ron "Pigpen" McKernan played keyboards and harmonica until shortly before his death in 1973 at the age of 27. Cause of death Respect to the player but I thought he was an alcoholic as hinted at in the text. "[57], Weir later became influenced by McKernan's ability to work a crowd and improvise lyrics. On March 8, 1973, Ron McKernan died at age 27. "[21] He began to take Hammond organ lessons and learned how to use the various drawbars and controls. A new feature film about the life of Grateful Dead founding member Ron “Pigpen” McKernan, "Pigpen…a blues singer," is in the works. [17], After McKernan's death, a number of recordings were found in his apartment, which have appeared as the bootleg recording The Apartment Tapes. [38], McKernan was close friends with American singer-songwriter Janis Joplin due to common musical influences and lifestyles, particularly a shared love of alcohol over other drugs;[39] a poster from the early 1970s showed them together at 710 Ashbury. 45 years ago today, Ron “Pigpen” McKernan took the stage with the Grateful Dead for the final time. Cause of death: alcohol. [50] Pianist Keith Godchaux was subsequently hired and remained a regular member of the Grateful Dead until 1979. The combination of Crohn's and alcoholism would make a lot more sense than an otherwise healthy 27 year old drinking himself to death. Bassist Phil Lesh joined soon after, and they became the Grateful Dead. Pigpen's love of the blues was equaled only by his love of alcohol, a demon he couldn't shake. Little is known about his family or early life. [40][41] Joplin joined McKernan on stage at the Fillmore West on June 7, 1969, with the Grateful Dead to sing his signature "Turn On Your Love Light",[42] reprising this duet on July 16, 1970, at the Euphoria Ballroom in San Rafael, California. Ron “Pigpen” McKernan was an American, singer, songwriter, and musician. [19][20] Following his discharge from the United States Air Force in November 1968, Constanten officially joined the band, having only worked in the studio while on leave up to that point. The couple introduced themselves to Jerry Garcia at a concert in August 1971; coincidentally, ailing keyboardist/vocalist Ron "Pigpen" McKernan (who would go on to play alongside Godchaux from December 1971 to June 1972) was unable to handle the rigors of the band's next tour. (The Dead's website extrapolates on its meaning, insisting that the nickname came from his "funky approach to life and sanitation."). [17] He went from contributing to every song and singing lead on all of side two of 1968's Anthem of the Sun to little more than sporadic appearances on the following year's Aoxomoxoa. [22], After Constanten's departure in January 1970 over musical and lifestyle differences, McKernan nominally resumed keyboard duties. Ron “Pigpen” McKernan and Barry McGuire fell into these traps. A new feature film about the life of Grateful Dead founding member Ron “Pigpen” McKernan, "Pigpen…a blues singer," is in the works. Find a Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com: accessed ), memorial page for Ronald C. “Pigpen” McKernan (8 Sep 1945–8 Mar 1973), Find a Grave Memorial no. The combination of Crohn's and alcoholism would make a lot more sense than an otherwise healthy 27 year old drinking himself to death. Ron ‘Pigpen’ McKernan Ron McKernan, better known as Pigpen, was born in 1945 in California. At the height of the Grateful Dead's breakout success in the early 1970s, Ron "Pigpen" McKernan served as a driving force behind the jam band's legendary acclaim. [19] According to Garcia biographer Blair Jackson, McKernan missed three Dead shows before vowing not to "be lazy" any more and rejoining, while Kreutzmann objected to replacing McKernan and said the event never happened. The band's earliest sets centered around blues and R&B covers chosen by McKernan. McKernan played his final concert at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles on June 17, 1972. The younger McKernan grew up in what was designated a Black neighborhood, and thus developed a love for Black music and culture (which undoubtedly helped to inspire the Dead's blues-infused melodies). His love for gospel and blues led him to be one of the founding members of the Grateful Dead. He also revived the 1960s standard "Big Boy Pete", originally sung by McKernan, as a one-off in 1985. In 1970′s he had first stage of biliary cirrhosis. The Contra Costa County coroner's office said an autopsy would be performed today and the results would … Steve Parish claims Pigpen and his brother both died from complications of Crohn's disease. Today would have been Ron “Pigpen” McKernan’s 74th birthday had the founding Grateful Dead member not died in 1973 at the age of 27 due to complications from Crohn’s disease. Garden Aud., Vancouver Canada, Robert F. Kennedy Stadium, Washington, D.C., July 12 & 13, 1989, Pacific Northwest '73–'74: The Complete Recordings, Pacific Northwest '73–'74: Believe It If You Need It, Playing in the Band, Seattle, Washington, 5/21/74, The Warfield, San Francisco, California, October 9 & 10, 1980, Skeletons from the Closet: The Best of Grateful Dead, Dead Zone: The Grateful Dead CD Collection (1977–1987), All the Years Combine: The DVD Collection, Dead Ringers: The Making of Touch of Grey, Bob Dylan and the Grateful Dead 1987 Tour, Deadicated: A Tribute to the Grateful Dead, Fare Thee Well: Celebrating 50 Years of the Grateful Dead, The Music Never Stopped: Roots of the Grateful Dead, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Ron_%22Pigpen%22_McKernan&oldid=991542684, Wikipedia articles with MusicBrainz identifiers, Wikipedia articles with WORLDCATID identifiers, Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License, This page was last edited on 30 November 2020, at 16:37. Pigpen's love of the blues was equaled only by his love of alcohol, a demon he couldn't shake. [35] "Turn On Your Love Light" was revived in 1981, with Weir singing lead. [27], McKernan sang lead on several standards he wanted the Dead to cover, such as Otis Redding's "Pain in My Heart" and Wilson Pickett's "In the Midnight Hour", with the latter serving as one of the band's main improvisatory vehicles from 1966 to 1968. McKernan's developing passion for music eventually landed him a job at Dana Morgan's Music Store in Palo Alto, where, age 14, he met Garcia. Buried: Palo Alto, CA. But unlike Joplin, Pigpen's passing was actually due to congenital biliary cirrhosis, a rare autoimmune disease that is unrelated to alcohol use. He was initially nicknamed "Blue Ron" before settling on "Pigpen". Steve Parish claims Pigpen and his brother both died from complications of Crohn's disease. [54] He subsequently broke off all personal relationships with the band, explaining "I don't want you around when I die. Official Sites. Official Sites. After the pair had played in various folk and jug bands, McKernan suggested they form an electric group, which became the Grateful Dead. Ron McKernan — better known as “Pigpen” — was born on Sept. 8, 1945, in San Bruno, Calif. His father was one of the first white rhythm and blues disc jockeys, and so McKernan grew up amidst black music and culture, which would influence him later on. Even with their tendency toward wild experimentation, he kept those blues roots strong. Name: Jim Morrison. Ron was the son of Esther Elvera (Nelson) and Phillip Charles McKernan, a disc jockey. In 1969, the band's record company, Warner Bros., ran a "Pigpen Look-Alike Contest". He was a member of the rock band Grateful Dead, in which he sung and played the keybord. Year: 1973. During the band's early days, he was considered its heart and soul. Bob Weir and Bill Kreutzmann were eventually inducted into the lineup, which led to the band rebranding as The Warlocks. [vimeo 122619353 w-1000 h=680] In honor of the founder of The Dead, Ron “Pigpen” McKernan, and my all-time favorite song by the man himself, Two Souls in Communion (or more relatively referred to as The Stranger), I merged a tribute video created by Marmalade Sky with my favorite recording of the song from their Amsterdam gig during their European tour of ’72. 'Pigpen' McKernan lived up to his name but he died at 27 of alcohol abuse Garcia was paid $125,000 by Ben and Jerry’s ice cream for the use of ‘Cherry Garcia’ By Caroline Howe For Dailymail.com Using his trusty Hammond organ, the musician helped the Dead attract mass attention. Grateful Dead keyboard player Ron "Pigpen" McKernan, a founding member of the band, dies at age 27. [43][a], He developed a close friendship with fellow keyboardist Tom Constanten based on their mutual aversion to psychedelics[22] and eventually served as best man at Constanten's first wedding. [33] Even as his instrumental contributions waned, McKernan's vocal performances remained an integral part of the band's live set; by early 1971, their cover of the Rascals' "Good Lovin'" (initially performed by the group as early as 1966 and featured at shows at the Fillmore East later released as Ladies and Gentlemen... the Grateful Dead) began to emerge as a secondary showcase of his improvisatory talents alongside "Love Light. Musician. '"[25], While in the Grateful Dead, McKernan sang and played blues-influenced organ and harmonica. [10] Drummer Bill Kreutzmann was added and the band evolved into the Warlocks. [40], McKernan's alcohol abuse had begun to affect his health by his mid twenties. [17] He continued to front the band for long stretches during their live performances and suggested new material for the Dead's concert repertoire, including Redding's "Hard to Handle" and James Brown's "It's a Man's Man's Man's World. The Alta … (4) Ron “Pigpen” McKernan was born Sept. 8, 1945 and died from alcohol abuse on March 8, 1973. (Redirected from Ron McKernan) Ronald Charles McKernan (September 8, 1945 – March 8, 1973), known as Pigpen , was an American singer and musician. [37], Tony Sclafani has compared McKernan's role in the band, initially strong and pivotal but gradually declining, to that of Brian Jones in the Rolling Stones, particularly since both men were primarily influenced by the blues over rock 'n' roll and died aged 27. "[18] Weir promised to improve, but McKernan was more stubborn. [2][3] Ronald grew up with African American friends and enjoyed black music and culture. Band: Grateful Dead. Ronald Charles McKernan (September 8, 1945 – March 8, 1973), known as "Pigpen", was an American singer and musician. [54][b] Garcia spoke at his funeral, saying "After Pigpen's death we all knew this was the end of the original Grateful Dead". Even with their tendency toward wild experimentation, he kept those blues roots strong. Better known as Pigpen, he was considered by many to … About Ron "Pigpen" McKernan Ronald Charles McKernan (September 8, 1945 – March 8, 1973), known as Pigpen, was an American singer and musician. Charlie." McKernan was found dead of a gastrointestinal hemorrhage on March 8, 1973, aged 27, and is buried at Alta Mesa Memorial Park in Palo Alto. A lifetime of alcoholism combined with hepatitis he contracted during the band's 1972 European tour severely damaged Pigpen's health. The band’s members also included Jerry Garcia, Bill Kreutzmann, Phil Lesh, and Bob Weir. Ronald Charles McKernan, nicknamed "Pigpen" (September 8, 1945 – March 8, 1973), was a founding member of the Grateful Dead. On March 8, 1973, Ron McKernan died at age 27. Ron “Pigpen” McKernan, the influential co-founding member of the Grateful Dead, sadly died on this date in 1973. [51] McKernan rejoined the band in December 1971[25] to supplement Godchaux on harmonica, percussion, and organ. [14][15] In 1967, drummer Mickey Hart joined the Grateful Dead, followed by classically trained keyboardist Tom Constanten in 1968, further changing the group's style. He had a liver problem, but it was a burst doudenal ulcer which caused his death from internal bleeding. Although manager Rock Scully alleged that McKernan passed out in front of his Hammond organ at one show during this period, Garcia biographer Blair Jackson has lauded the quality and frequency of his instrumental contributions on the Europe '72 tour. When Phil Lesh joined, the five-piece solidified as the Grateful Dead. [62], McKernan was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1994. He plays the harmonica, Hammond organ, singer, percussion and sometimes he plays the guitar. Ron “Pigpen” McKernan was an American, singer, songwriter, and musician. By the early 1970s, he also began to experience symptoms of congenital primary biliary cholangitis, a rare autoimmune disease which was unrelated to his use of alcohol. Ronald Charles McKernan (September 8, 1945 – March 8, 1973), known as Pigpen, was an American singer and musician. Like his one-time love interest Janis Joplin, Pigpen died at 27. Whatever the cause may be, Winehouse was an unbelievable talent who was taken from the world far too soon. He was in bad shape in the months leading up to his death, as Dead.net reports; health issues forced a leave of absence from the band. Hart later said "Pigpen was the musician in the Grateful Dead. Discussion on rec.music.gdead about all this By mid-1972, his health had deteriorated to the point that he could no longer perform, as told in A History of the 27 Club. [36] Several new songs emerged from a creatively fecund period coinciding with his health problems in 1971, most notably "Mr. Charlie", a collaboration with Dead lyricist Robert Hunter. https://www.geni.com/people/Ron-Pigpen-McKernan/6000000034842914770 [16], In October 1968, McKernan and Weir were nearly fired from the band after Garcia and Lesh believed their playing was holding the band back from lengthy and experimental jamming. On March 8, 1973, Ron McKernan died at age 27. [27] With the exception of select acoustic sets in 1970 in which he played acoustic upright piano,[28] he used the Hammond exclusively thereafter. McKernan grew up heavily influenced by African-American music, particularly the blues, and enjoyed listening to his father's collection of records and taught himself how to play harmonica and piano. He started playing blues organ, harmonica, and providing vocals, beginning with the Zodiacs and Mother McCree's Uptown Jug Champions, as Beacham Journal tells us. He composed the infrequently performed "Operator" for 1970's American Beauty. 1724, citing Alta Mesa Memorial Park, Palo Alto, Santa Clara County, California, USA ; Maintained by Find A Grave . Charlie." There have been rumors that his death was a result of his excessive drinking, but in fact, his real cause of death was a rare and unrelated disease, as reported by Ultimate Classic Rock. The Bay Area native … From his biker good looks to his gruff, dusty voice, Ron "Pigpen" McKernan managed to work that combination into one of the '60s most encompassing jam bands. As years went on, The Dead adopted a different musical tone after Pigpen's death, something that leaned closer to jazz. He was a founding member of the San Francisco band the Grateful Dead and played in the group from 1965 to 1972. [56] McKernan was buried at the Alta Mesa Memorial Park in Palo Alto, California. Ron McKernan was born on September 8, 1945 in San Bruno, California, USA as Ronald Charles McKernan. He began socializing around the San Francisco Bay Area, becoming friends with Jerry Garcia. Ron "Pigpen" McKernan was the first member of the Grateful Dead to pass away. [32] When the Grateful Dead appeared at Woodstock, the band's set (which was marred by technical problems and general chaos and described as one of their worst shows) ended with "Turn On Your Love Light". I think he would have had at least as much success as like a Dr. John or something with a Ron "pigpen" Mckernan band a la Jerry Garcia Band. Today would have been Ron “Pigpen” McKernan’s 74th birthday had the founding Grateful Dead member not died in 1973 at the age of 27 due to complications from Crohn’s disease. He improvised lyrics over the band's accompaniment, using phrases he had heard from African American friends, such as "rider" (slang for "lover"), "she's got box-black nitties" (referring to female underwear) and "boar hog's eye". At the height of the Grateful Dead 's breakout success in the early 1970s, Ron "Pigpen" McKernan served as a driving force behind the jam band's legendary acclaim. Ron “Pigpen” McKernan and Barry McGuire fell into these traps. [23] While Garcia expressed frustration at McKernan's missed rehearsals and his inability to keep up with new material,[24] Lesh was more forgiving, opining that "it was okay for Pigpen to lay out ... we kept wanting Pigpen to be there because he was 'one of us. Afterward, he broke off all personal relationships with the band, explaining, "I don't want you around when I die.". While he was a very heavy drinker (the rest of the group preferred getting high, per Ultimate Classic Rock), McKernan had given up alcohol by 1972 as his health declined. One joined the “27 Club” and the other left the drugs behind when he put his faith in Christ. Although Pigpen was no longer a member of the Dead, it's safe to say that his former bandmates were devastated. No cause of death has been listed, but Wales suffered a medical emergency on December 6th and was rushed to the hospital where he died on the 7th. In light of the horrible tragedy in Little Rock on Sunday with the death of a young man of 24 years of age, I wanted to warn other young people of the dangers of alcohol and drugs. I'm not sure how many brothers and sisters he had, but I know he wasn't the only child. "[55], On March 8, 1973, aged 27, he was found dead of a gastrointestinal hemorrhage at his home in Corte Madera, California, by his landlady. Ron McKernan was born on September 8, 1945 in San Bruno, California, USA as Ronald Charles McKernan. No cause of death has been listed, but Wales suffered a medical emergency on December 6th and was rushed to the hospital where he died on the 7th. By 1971, his health had been affected by alcoholism and liver damage and doctors advised him to stop touring. Would have been a great outlet for the more edgy blues the boys got back into in the 80s. Cause of death: alcohol. Born in San Bruno, California, he was a vocalist, organist and harmonica player best known for being a member of The Grateful Dead. Remembering Ron ‘Pigpen’ McKernan With 10 Early Grateful Dead Performances. Above: Ron ‘Pigpen’ McKernan (1945-1973) photographed in 1972 (Image credit: Getty) The 80s began with new keyboard player Brent Mydland replacing Keith and Donna Godchaux, and the release of the patchy Go To Heaven album, whose cover made the group look like ageing New Romantics. ... Two years after her death, her brother came out to the public stating that he believes it was her eating disorder that killed her. Producers Terry Allen Fraser and Diana Raquel Sainz are embarking on a feature film about the music and life of Ron “Pigpen” McKernan. [7] One night Garcia invited McKernan on stage to play harmonica and sing the blues. A founding member of the band The Grateful Dead, Ron McKernan, known affectionately by the band and Deadheads alike as “Pigpen,” was a piano and harmonica player on the San Francisco music scene. Like his one-time love interest Janis Joplin, Pigpen died at 27. He took on early management duties in the band, ensuring they would be paid and promoted properly for gigs. Unlike the other members of the Grateful Dead, McKernan avoided psychedelic drugs, preferring to drink alcohol (namely whiskey and flavored fortified wine). 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