How the Grateful Dead changed concert sound systems forever

When we go to a show today, we expect the PA system to deliver proper sound, no matter how big the venue. That wasn’t always the case.

Take the case of The Beatles when they played Shea Stadium in August 1964. All they had were mics next to their amps, feeding the same public address system baseball announcers would use. If rock was to grow into a stadium-sized business, that just wouldn’t do.

Both the Beach Boys and (wait for it) Herb Albert and the Tijuana Brass commissioned bespoke sound systems for their tours. Then came festivals like Monterey and Woodstock that advanced the technology a little further. But there was still much work to the be done. Clarity, bass response, feedback–all these things needed to be addressed.

Enter the Grateful Dead and their custom-made Wall of Sound system, created by longtime associate Owsley Stanley. His goal was to make the band’s stage sound as clear as it was on their records.

Working with a band called Alembic, Stanley created something the world of live music had never seen before.

(Via Laughing Squid)

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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